The Sorting Hat’s Mistake

Why on earth would the Sorting Hat put Percy Weasley into Gryffindor?

Let’s back up a step. Sorting Hat? Percy Weasley? Gryffindor? If these terms are confusing to you, you must be a Harry Potter neophyte. Don’t worry; I’m not judging you. Frankly, I’m amazed you’ve managed to live this long without succumbing to the utter happiness that the HP series would most certainly bring you. Well done.

I’ll try to briefly explain. If you already know what these terms mean, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs. Warning: there are massive spoilers throughout this article!

In the HP universe, we Muggles, or non-magical people (called No-Maj in America), have no idea that there are magical people living among us or in their own communities. They have their own governing bodies that enforce strict laws about keeping magic a secret. Young magical people in Great Britain attend a boarding school called Hogwarts to help them develop and control their latent magical abilities. Within this school, students are sorted by personality into one of four “houses,” and students live, take classes with, and hang out with their houses most of the time. Gryffindor, as mentioned above, is populated with students who have a proclivity or potential for bravery; Ravenclaw is for people who value learning above all else; Hufflepuffs are determined and loyal, unafraid of hard work and never seeking undue glory; and Slytherins are ambitious and willing to make sacrifices to achieve their goals. The bewitched Sorting Hat is placed on the head of every new Hogwarts student, which then proceeds to read their minds and determine to which house each kid will belong to for the next seven years until they graduate.

house bookmarks

Hogwarts House crests, with the Sorting Hat’s descriptions

Within the magic community at large, there are two major factions: the Nazi-esque group who think pure-blooded magical people are better than wizards/witches with one or more Muggle parents, and the non-Nazis, who constantly fight to make sure the Nazi type people don’t pass terrible laws or come to power. Percy Weasley is the third child of the Weasely 7 children (all Gryffindors) and from one of the 28 pure blood families in England. The Weasleys are the only family of the 28 who aren’t uber-Nazis, so they’re much looked down upon by the others. Percy is, according to his brothers, “the world’s biggest prat,” always tattling on everybody and bragging about how amazing he is and how much respect those in authority give him.

(Fabulous Percy portrayal by Chris Rankin, by the way)

I find Percy to be a fascinating character. Though Lord Voldemort is the book’s official antagonist, all fans of the series unanimously unite in our passionate hatred of Dolores Umbridge. The number two most-hated spot, according to a conversation with many of my HP-nerd friends, is hotly debated. I vote Percy, though others vote Draco Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, or Bellatrix Lestrange.

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Percy is the most goal-oriented person in the books other than Lord Voldemort himself. All he cared about in school was acquiring awards and prestige, and that attitude followed him into his career as a government lackey. He worships his boss, Barty Crouch, Sr., and looks down on less ambitious superiors of his, including his own father.

slytherin

Let’s take a look at how the Sorting Hat describes the House of Slytherin: “Those cunning folk use any means to achieve their ends.” A common misconception about Slytherin is that only evil people end up there. This isn’t true; however, many future evil overlords end up in Slytherin because they have ambitions of great power. Good people who are exceptionally motivated to prove themselves, such as Harry Potter’s second son Albus, also end up in Slytherin.

Percy is not evil; he never displays any hint of pure-blood superiority. He is, however, willing to “use any means” to rise up the ranks in the government. When Voldemort rises to power, Percy is completely willing to disown his family and the known greatest force for good in their world, Albus Dumbledore, in order to stay in the good graces of the Ministry of Magic. He uses his influence to discredit both Dumbledore and Harry Potter–the best friend of his brother and the guy who single-handedly saved his sister’s life.

Percy knows all too well that Harry Potter and Dumbledore are to be trusted, yet he’s willing to turn his back on his morals. A Gryffindor’s “daring, nerve, and chivalry” would never allow them to do such a thing, especially only a year after serving as Dumbledore’s Head Boy of all of Hogwarts. In the entire series, I never see a hint of Gryffindor in Percy. Every occasion his character is present in the series is marked with a distinct, disgusting, sycophantic tone, and even his own brothers can’t stand to be in the same room.

I know the Harry Potter series is just a fun experience for kids to have. I know all the glaring plot holes, and I forgive them because they allow the series to be so vibrantly absorbing. I know J.K. Rowling has admitted that Ron and Hermione shouldn’t have ended up together and that Lily should have come out of Voldemort’s wand before James, and I don’t care.

But my disdain of Percy Weasley is so strong that I want answers. Why was Percy sorted into Gryffindor? Was it only to highlight Ron’s sense of inadequacy around his brothers, to show how much pressure he was under to be amazing? Even whiny little Neville Longbottom grew up to be a true Gryffindor, bravest of the brave. Why does Percy never show, for even a second, that he is willing to stand up for what he knows is right?

I have two guesses. The first is that he chose Gryffindor as ardently as Harry Potter, himself, did. Harry was famously almost sorted into Slytherin, but as a result of a battle of wills with the Sorting Hat, he was placed in Gryffindor. I think Percy might have felt the same pressure that Ron did. After all, his two older brothers were impressive.

sorting hat

Harry’s sorting: “Not Slytherin! Not Slytherin! Not Slytherin!”

My second guess is that Hogwarts changed Percy. The kid grew up poor, and many of the other kids mock the Weasleys mercilessly for their hand-me-down robes and used schoolbooks. He’s the only one of the seven without either the scintillating wit or a close-knit group of friends to help him through it. In this case, Percy was simply sorted too soon. Eleven does seem a young age at which to brand a person for life, and the wizarding world does judge people by their houses all their lives.

Weasley

Weasley Family

I need to stop this thinking. I love hating Percy. No Mercy for Percy!

Written by a Ravenclaw.

What House are you in? Who do you think deserves the title of #2 most hated character?

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