J.K.Rwling >> Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix (page 27)

In times of old when I was new 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 jighting

And the clash of friend on friend

And at last there came a 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 / must fulfil my duty

And must quarter everv 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.

The Hat became motionless once more; applause broke out, though it was punctured, for the first time in Harry's memory, with muttering and whispers. All across the Great Hall students were exchanging remarks with their neighbours, and Harry, clapping along with everyone else, knew exactly what they were talking about.

'Branched out a bit this year, hasn't it?' said Ron, his eyebrows raised.

Too right it has,' said Harry.

The Sorting Hat usually confined itself to describing the different qualities looked for by each of the four Hogwarts houses and its own role in Sorting them. Harry could not remember it ever trying to give the school advice before.

'I wonder if it's ever given warnings before?' said Hermione, sounding slightly anxious.

'Yes, indeed,' said Nearly Headless Nick knowledgeably, leaning across Neville towards her (Neville winced; it was very uncomfortable to have a ghost lean through you). The Hat feels itself honour-bound to give the school due warning whenever it feels -

But Professor McGonagall, who was waiting to read out the list of first-years' names, was giving the whispering students the sort of look that scorches. Nearly Headless Nick placed a see-through finger to his lips and sat primly upright again as the muttering came to an abrupt end. With a last frowning look that swept the four house tables, Professor McGonagall lowered her eyes to her long piece of parchment and called out the first name.

'Abercrombie, Euan.'

The terrified-looking boy Harry had noticed earlier stumbled forwards and put the Hat on his head; it was only prevented from falling right down to his shoulders by his very prominent ears. The Hat considered for a moment, then the rip near the brim opened again and shouted:


Harry clapped loudly with the rest of Gryffindor house as Euan Abercrombie staggered to their table and sat down, looking as though he would like very much to sink through the floor and never be looked at again.

Slowly, the long line of first-years thinned. In the pauses between the names and the Sorting Hat's decisions, Harry could hear Rons stomach rumbling loudly. Finally, 'Zeller, Rose' was Sorted into Hufflepuff, and Professor McGonagall picked up the Hat and stool and marched them away as Professor Dumbledore rose to his feet.

Whatever his recent bitter feelings had been towards his Headmaster, Harry was somehow soothed to see Dumbledore standing before them all. Between the absence of Hagrid and the presence of those dragonish horses, he had felt that his return to Hogwarts, so long anticipated, was full of unexpected surprises, like jarring notes in a familiar song. But this, at least, was how it was supposed to be: their Headmaster rising to greet them all before the start-of-term feast.

To our newcomers,' said Dumbledore in a ringing voice, his arms stretched wide and a beaming smile on his lips, 'welcome! To our old hands - welcome back! There is a time for speech-making, but this is not it. Tuck in!'

There was an appreciative laugh and an outbreak of applause as Dumbledore sat down neatly and threw his long beard over his shoulder so as to keep it out of the way of his plate - for food had appeared out of nowhere, so that the five long tables were groaning under joints and pies and dishes of vegetables, bread and sauces and flagons of pumpkin juice.

'Excellent,' said Ron, with a kind of groan of longing, and he seized the nearest plate of chops and began piling them on to his plate, watched wistfully by Nearly Headless Nick.

'What were you saying before the Sorting?' Hermione asked the ghost. 'About the Hat giving warnings?'

'Oh, yes,' said Nick, who seemed glad of a reason to turn away from Ron, who was now eating roast potatoes with almost indecent enthusiasm. 'Yes, I have heard the Hat give several warnings before, always at times when it detects periods of great danger for the school. And always, of course, its advice is the same: stand together, be strong from within.'

'Ow kunnit nofe skusin danger ifzat?' said Ron.

His mouth was so full Harry thought it was quite an achievement for him to make any noise at all.

'I beg your pardon?' said Nearly Headless Nick politely, while Hermione looked revolted. Ron gave an enormous swallow and said, 'How can it know if the school's in danger if it's a Hat?'

'I have no idea,' said Nearly Headless Nick. 'Of course, it lives in Dumbledore's office, so I daresay it picks things up there.'

'And it wants all the houses to be friends?' said Harry, looking over at the Slytherin table, where Draco Malfoy was holding court. 'Fat chance.'

'Well, now, you shouldn't take that attitude,' said Nick reprovingly. 'Peaceful co-operation, that's the key. We ghosts, though we belong to separate houses, maintain links of friendship. In spite of the competitiveness between Gryffindor and Slytherin, I would never dream of seeking an argument with the Bloody Baron.'

'Only because you're terrified of him,' said Ron.

Nearly Headless Nick looked highly affronted.

Terrified? I hope I, Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, have never been guilty of cowardice in my life! The noble blood that runs in my veins -'

'What blood?' asked Ron. 'Surely you haven't still got -?'

'It's a figure of speech!' said Nearly Headless Nick, now so annoyed his head was trembling ominously on his partially severed neck. 'I assume I am still allowed to enjoy the use of whichever words I like, even if the pleasures of eating and drinking are denied me! But I am quite used to students poking fun at my death, I assure you!'

'Nick, he wasn't really laughing at you!' said Hermione, throwing a furious look at Ron.

Unfortunately, Ron's mouth was packed to exploding point again and all he could manage was 'Node iddum eentup sechew,' which Nick did not seem to think constituted an adequate apology. Rising into the air, he straightened his feathered hat and swept away from them to the other end of the table, coming to rest between the Creevey brothers, Colin and Dennis.

'Well done, Ron,' snapped Hermione.

'What?' said Ron indignantly, having managed, finally, to swallow his tood. 'I'm not allowed to ask a simple question?'

'Oh, forget it,' said Hermione irritably, and the pair of them spent the rest of the meal in huffy silence.

Harry was too used to their bickering to bother trying to reconcile them; he felt it was a better use of his time to eat his way steadily through his steak and kidney pie, then a large plateful of his favourite treacle tart.

When all the students had finished eating and the noise level in the Hall was starting to creep upwards again, Dumbledore got to his feet once more. Talking ceased immediately as all turned to lace the Headmaster. Harry was feeling pleasantly drowsy now. His lour-poster bed was waiting somewhere above, wonderfully warm and soft:

'Well, now that we are all digesting another magnificent feast, I beg a few moments of your attention for the usual start-of-term notices,' said Dumbledore. 'First-years ought to know that the Forest in the grounds is out-of-bounds to students - and a few of our older students ought to know by now, too.' (Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged smirks.)

'Mr Filch, the caretaker, has asked me, for what he tells me is the lour-hundred-and-sixty-second time, to remind you all that magic is not permitted in corridors between classes, nor are a number of other things, all of which can be checked on the extensive list now fastened to Mr Filch's office door.

'We have had two changes in staffing this year. We are very pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons; we are also delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.'

There was a round of polite but fairly unenthusiastic applause, during which Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged slightly panicked looks; Dumbledore had not said for how long Grubbly-Plank would be teaching.

Dumbledore continued, Tryouts for the house Quidditch teams will take place on the -'

He broke off, looking enquiringly at Professor Umbridge. As she was not much taller standing than sitting, there was a moment when nobody understood why Dumbledore had stopped talking, but then Professor Umbridge cleared her throat, 'Hem, hem,' and it became clear that she had got to her feet and was intending to make a speech.

Dumbledore only looked taken aback for a moment, then he sat down smartly and looked alertly at Professor Umbridge as though he desired nothing better than to listen to her talk. Other members of staff were not as adept at hiding their surprise. Professor Sprout's eyebrows had disappeared into her flyaway hair and Professor McGonagall's mouth was as thin as Harry had ever seen it. No new teacher had ever interrupted Dumbledore before. Many of the students were smirking; this woman obviously did not know how things were done at Hogwarts.

Thank you, Headmaster,' Professor Umbridge simpered, 'for those kind words of welcome.'

Her voice was high-pitched, breathy and little-girlish and, again, Harry felt a powerful rush of dislike that he could not explain to himself; all he knew was that he loathed everything about her, from her stupid voice to her fluffy pink cardigan. She gave another little throat-clearing cough ('hem, hem') and continued.

'Well, it is lovely to be back at Hogwarts, I must say!' She smiled, revealing very pointed teeth. 'And to see such happy little faces looking up at me!'

Harry glanced around. None of the faces he could see looked happy. On the contrary, they all looked rather taken-aback at being addressed as though they were five years old.

'I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all and I'm sure we'll be very good friends!'

Students exchanged looks at this; some of them were barely concealing grins.

'I'll be her friend as long as I don't have to borrow that cardigan,' Parvati whispered to Lavender, and both of them lapsed into silent giggles.

Professor Umbridge cleared her throat again ('hem, hem'), but when she continued, some of the breathiness had vanished from her voice. She sounded much more businesslike and now her words had a dull learned-by-heart sound to them.

The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of vital importance. The rare gifts with which you were born may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed by careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the wizarding community must be passed down the generations lest we lose them for ever. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching.'

Title: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Author: J.K.Rwling
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