A few seconds later, Professor McGonagall placed a three-legged stool on the ground in front of the first years and, on top of it, an extremely old, dirty, patched wizard’s hat.
Everyone looked at it, and for a moment, there was silence in the Great Hall. Then a long tear near the brim opened wide like a mouth, and the hat broke into song.
This time, the Sorting Hat described the story of the Four Founders co-founding Hogwarts, the qualities of the four of them, and the different virtues they valued, and that a young witch or wizard should have.
Gryffindor was looking for unparalleled bravery. Ravenclaw was seeking cleverness. Hufflepuff valued hard work more than anything.
Slytherin, on the other hand, looked for young wizards who were ambitious and hungry for power and strength.
The lyrics were very cleverly designed, and no one knew how the Sorting Hat came up with them.
The Great Hall rang with applause as the Sorting Hat finished.
Professor McGonagall immediately unrolled a large scroll of parchment and looked seriously at the young wizards in front of her.
“When I call out your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool.” She told the first years. “When the hat announces your House, you will go and sit at the appropriate table.”
Under the chairmanship of Professor McGonagall, the nervous first years were successively divided into four Houses.
As soon as they put on the hat, it immediately shouted out the name of the House the young witch or wizard should go to.
This year’s Sorting ceremony was going very well, and Evan remembered that it took him a long time.
As a legendary magic item, the Sorting Hat had a part of the thoughts of the Four Founders.
It could use a spiritual spell to instantly see the hidden thoughts of a young wizard and judge accordingly.
Evan suspected that if a young wizard mastered a mental protection Charm such as Occlumency, and was stronger than the Sorting Hat, then its magic would not work. Of course, so far no such young wizard had appeared.
“Creevey, Dennis!” shouted Professor McGonagall.
Tiny Dennis Creevey staggered forward, tripping over Hagrid’s moleskin, just as Hagrid himself sidled into the Hall through a door behind the teachers’ table.
About twice as tall as a normal man, and at least three times as broad, Hagrid, with his long, wild, tangled black hair and beard, looked slightly alarming, giving a misleading impression to the new children.
But everyone familiar with him knew that Hagrid actually had a very loving heart.
He winked at Evan as he sat down at the end of the staff table, and watched Dennis Creevey putting on the Sorting Hat.
The rip at the brim opened wide and shouted, “GRYFFINDOR!”
Colin heaved a sigh of relief and began to lead the hard clapping.
Under the applause of everyone, Dennis, beaming widely, took off the hat, placed it back on the stool, and hurried to join the other.
“Colin, I fell into the lake!” He said shrilly, throwing himself into an empty seat. “It was brilliant! And something in the water grabbed me and pushed me back in the boat!”
“Cool!” said Colin, just as excitedly. “It was probably the giant squid, Dennis!”
“Wow!” said Dennis, as though nobody in their wildest dreams could hope for more than being thrown into a storm-tossed, fathoms-deep lake, and pushed out of it again by a giant sea monster.
If he knew that Evan was about to go to the lake to communicate with the Merpeople, how excited would he be?
The Sorting continued; boys and girls with varying degrees of fright on their faces moving one by one to the three-legged stool, the line dwindling slowly as Professor McGonagall passed the L’s.
“Oh, hurry up,” Ron moaned, massaging his stomach.
“Ron, the Sorting is much more important than food,” said Nearly Headless Nick discontentedly.
“Of course it is, if you’re dead,” snapped Ron!
Nick looked a little unhappy, not answering his words, but instead whispering to Evan.
Finally, the Sorting ended as Kevin Whitby was assigned to Hufflepuff.
Professor McGonagall picked up the hat and the stool and carried them away.
Professor Dumbledore had gotten to his feet. He was smiling around at the students, his arms opened wide in welcome.
“I only have two words to say to you,” he told them, his deep voice echoing around the Hall, “Tuck in!”
In the next second, the empty dishes in front of everyone suddenly filled magically.
Every young wizard began to eat a lot, and Nick watched mournfully as they loaded their plates.
Ron’s words seemed to be very touching to him. He had not tasted food for hundreds of years.
“You’re lucky there’s a feast at all tonight, you now,” Nick stared at the big steak in front of Evan. “There was trouble in the kitchen earlier.”
“Why? What happened?” asked Harry, his mouth full of food.
“Peeves, of course,” said Nick, shaking his head, which wobbled dangerously. He quickly pulled his ruff a little higher up on his neck. “The usual argument, you know. He wanted to attend the feast… Well, it’s quite out of the question. You know what he’s like, utterly uncivilized. He can’t see a plate of food without throwing it. We held a ghost’s council, and the Fat Friar was all for giving him the chance, but most wisely, in my opinion, the Bloody Baron put his foot down.”
The Bloody Baron was the Slytherin ghost, a gaunt and silent specter covered in silver bloodstains, indicating the horrible experience before his death. He was the most powerful of all the ghosts, and at Hogwarts, only he could really control Peeves.
“No wonder, we thought Peeves seemed hacked off about something, he tried to thow water balloons all over us in the hallway.” Ron said sullenly, “What did he do in the kitchens?”
“Oh, the usual,” said Nick, shrugging. “He wreaked havoc and mayhem. He threw Pots and pans everywhere. The place was swimming in soup. He terrified the house-elves out of their wits…”
Hermione had knocked over her golden goblet. Pumpkin juice spread steadily over the tablecloth, staining several feet of white linen orange, but Hermione paid no attention.
Evan felt secretly bad. Now that Hermione knew that Hogwarts had house-elves, she would surely bring up her ideals of treating the elves well again.
Hermione had spoken to Evan about it every now and then, and she thought she needed to do something for the house-elves.
Hermione’s ideas couldn’t be claimed to be wrong, but they were absolutely impossible, and Evan didn’t know how to persuade her.
When Hermione made up her mind to do something, she wouldn’t change easily, and will certainly stick to it, no matter how difficult the road ahead was.
Evan knew this very well and knew that it was useless to try to persuade her to give up. He could only choose to support her.
“There are house-elves here?” said Hermione, staring, horror-struck, at Nearly Headless Nick. “Here at Hogwarts?”
“Certainly,” said Nick, looking surprised at her reaction. “There are more elves here than in any dwelling in Britain. There are over a hundred.”
“I haven’t seen any of them!” said Hermione incredulously. “I thought Dobby was the only one…”
“Well, they hardly ever leave the kitchen by day, do they?” Nick said. “They come out at night to do a bit of cleaning … see to the fires and so on … I mean, you’re not supposed to see them, are you? That’s the mark of a good house-elf, isn’t it, that you don’t know it’s there?”
Hermione stared at him, her eyes widening, as if Nick had said something terrible.
“But they get paid?” she said. “They get holidays, don’t they? And, they have sick leave, pensions, and everything?”
Nearly Headless Nick chortled so much that his ruff slipped and his head flopped off, dangling on the inch or so of ghostly skin and muscle that still attached it to his neck.
“Sick leave and pensions?” he said, pushing his head back onto his shoulders and securing it once more with his ruff. “House-elves don’t want sick leave and pensions!”
Hermione looked down at her hardly touched plate of food, then put her knife and fork down upon it and pushed it away from her.
“Slave labor!” Her breathing became very heavy, and she said disgustedly, “That’s what made this dinner. Slave labor! I just know what’s going on. It turns out that what we eat every day is shameless!”