Harry Potter battled with the Sorting Hat over his desperation not to be placed in Slytherin. Years later, his son Albus arrived at Hogwarts with similar preconceptions. Meanwhile, Neville Longbottom was so intimidated by Gryffindor that he nearly became a Hufflepuff.
All of which is to say: each Hogwarts House comes with a certain reputation, and for some students, those reputations create misgivings.
But, as we all know, the Sorting Hat is not overly bothered about individual misgivings. And more often than not, it does get these things right – so let’s focus on the positives.
If you’ve landed in Slytherin and are concerned about its reputation for turning out bad witches and wizards, take a leaf out of Scorpius Malfoy’s book and use those qualities of pride and cunning in more positive ways. We are here to tell you, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. On the contrary, if you channel those skills into your schoolwork and friendships like Scorpius did, you’ll see real benefits.
Besides, it really doesn’t follow that everyone from Slytherin is evil, or that every non-Slytherin is good. Severus Snape, Regulus Black and Leta Lestrange were all Slytherins, and while they made some (in certain cases, terrible) mistakes, they were also brave. Because being cunning is not intrinsically bad: without it, Snape would never have successfully fooled Voldemort for all those years. It just depends how you apply it.
Anyway: Peter Pettigrew was a Gryffindor, for goodness’ sake.
Hufflepuff’s reputation as being full of “‘duffers’” (thanks, Hagrid) is provably false, but it’s true that some people seem to think its students are less intelligent. Still, if a person thinks being the most accepting House automatically equates to being the least clever house, doesn’t that say more about them than about Hufflepuff?
And Hufflepuffs are very much not duffers. They’re patient and hard-working. They can be Hogwarts Champions, like Cedric Diggory; Aurors, like Tonks; world-saving Magizoologists like Newt Scamander. Do these sound like the professions of inferior people? No, they don’t.
Personally, we think a House that prioritises loyalty and kindness sounds like a pretty positive place to be a student.
Given Ravenclaw’s reputation for wit and intelligence, if you’re placed in this House you might be concerned about coming across as self-important. Don’t be, because most Ravenclaws aren’t (with the obvious exception of Gilderoy Lockhart.)
This is because Ravenclaws know a love of learning isn’t just about academic achievement. Sure, they have some of the cleverest witches and wizards, but they also have some of the most eccentric, creative and entertaining. You certainly wouldn’t define Professor Trelawney, Cho Chang or wandmaker Ollivander by their exam results alone.
No, you don’t have to be top of every class to be in wise old Ravenclaw. Maybe your wisdom lies in your ability to see the world in a different way – you know, like Luna Lovegood.
Over the years, Gryffindor provided more than its fair share of pop-culture and actual heroes: almost every member of the Order of the Phoenix; Hermione; Ron and all the Weasleys; obviously Harry himself. It’s a lot to live up to.
Plus, there’s their reputation for being a little... arrogant. Certainly Harry, with his ‘“saving-people-thing’” (Hermione’s description, not ours) had a tendency to jump right in without thinking about the consequences. And yet, you don’t have to be reckless or hot-headed to be a Gryffindor. Hermione wasn’t. Professor McGonagall wasn’t. Neville Longbottom certainly wasn’t.
You can be brave without needing to be the centre of attention. You can be determined, and also thoughtful. In short: you don’t need to be constantly charging off to save people at the drop of a hat. Courage doesn’t always roar, after all.
In Harry’s fifth year, the Sorting Hat reflected on whether Sorting was a good thing:
“‘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…’”
The events that followed really proved the Sorting Hat’s point: as once-friendly rivalries gave way to all-out war, preconceptions about each House became more entrenched, and, arguably, left students feeling they had to choose an allegiance – especially Slytherins. These preconceptions were still an issue years later, when Albus Potter arrived at Hogwarts and became a Slytherin; the very thing his father had pleaded with the Sorting Hat not to do to him.
And yet, as the Sorting Hat implies, many students are not expressly one thing or the other. Slytherin could have helped Harry on the way to greatness. Hermione might have been in Ravenclaw. Kind-hearted Scorpius Malfoy seemed perfect Hufflepuff material; famous Hufflepuff Cedric Diggory was as brave as any Gryffindor, as was Ravenclaw Luna Lovegood. Even Dumbledore himself displayed Slytherin-levels of cunning when it came to his plans for defeating Voldemort.
The point is, you can be in any House and have the qualities of another. So there’s no need to be disappointed. Each House is great in its own way, but wherever you end up, your Hogwarts colours don’t say anything about your character.
Besides, not even the Sorting Hat gets it right every time (two words: Peter Pettigrew.)