The Difference

A Hogwarts story

Characters, concepts © J. K. Rowling

Dear Sirs,

I hope my owl is the first one you'll get, because things might be a bit complicated if it's not. School owls are slow, though. You'll probably know what this letter is about, but I'll recount it anyway, just in case.

A girl from a long family line of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws came to the Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry. She fully expected to be put in either house with her siblings. However, she was sorted into House Slytherin. Two months into the first term, she committed suicide, specifying this as the reason.

Now, I'm not writing to complain about how people think Slytherins are that bad, because I know from experience that they are. I'm writing about a whole different reason.

I'm sure that in a while, the Ministry of Magic will be flooded with owls from parents questioning the Hogwarts sorting tradition, the need for it or the need for the Houses at all. They might be right, all these parents. They're afraid similar things will happen to their children, and maybe they have a good reason. After all, the Hogwarts sorting does reveal things to the person that they may not want to discover.

A kid may come to Hogwarts convinced of his intellect, march happily to the Sorting Hat and find himself thrown in Gryffindor – which I belong in, but which isn't exactly famous for its students' wits, I'm sorry to say. Or they may come – and I've seen it happen – thinking themselves all very innocent and get sorted into Slytherin, which would be a nasty blow, really. I've seen kids my age sure they're devious and ambitious and completely collapse when put in Hufflepuff. I've seen it all.

We all have illusions about who we are and where we fit in in this world, and when something comes along that shatters them, our reactions may vary, but they're never satisfied ones. We need the comfort of knowing, I guess. We don't take to surprises too well when it comes to our own selves.

I understand all this, and I understand that the Sorting may force a person to confront parts of themselves they'd rather not let anyone, least of all themselves, know about. I respect these people's need to know; even if what they know is false. So I genuinely see why people may want the Sorting canceled or changed. It is a bit old-fashioned and strange and maybe a bit too difficult for children our age. Maybe they're right. Maybe there are things about ourselves we don't need to know.

But I've seen people told all their lives that they're stupid Sorted into Ravenclaw and starting a new life. I've seen people unable to stand one moment for themselves Sorted into Slytherin and start living for real. I've seen people who never bothered about others Sorted into Hufflepuff and start caring. And I've seen… I've seen cowards Sorted into Gryffindor, and I've seen that inside every person there lie things they *must* find out, and better sooner than later. They *must* find out, or they'll be missing out on the truth. They'll be missing out on life. They'll be missing out on themselves.

I don't know what your final decision will be. I have little doubt that the Sorting will remain as it is. But the chance exists, and many people would like to seize it. Please don't listen to them, they're afraid. They lived their whole lives in a lie and now they're too comfortable with it to allow anyone to see the truth. Don't make us like them. Please let something make the difference for us.


Neville Longbottom