48

In Harry Potter, when a witch or a wizard is 11 they go to Hogwarts and their first major experience is their own Sorting. In front of the Great Hall, each new student goes to the stool, sits down, and puts on ye olde Sorting Hat. After anywhere from just a moment to over five minutes, the hat yells out one of Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin. And from then on that student belongs to that house.

But is that really it? Does the Sorting Hat's decision represent the house someone would belong to their whole life? Of course, you can't literally switch from one house to another while you're at school, but in spirit (which is what the Hat is meant to consider), can your house change?

Suppose some witch is sorted into Hufflepuff. More than that, suppose she is a true Hufflepuff, the most loyal, hard-working, and honest kind of person you'd find anywhere. Would it be possible, say fifteen years later, for her to go through some serious event in her life and come out not quite as loyal or hard-working, but so brave, chivalrous, and reckless that she'd suddenly be a true Gryffindor? Sure, she can't be re-Sorted, but if this were possible, then if you were to put the Hat on her it say she should be in Gryffindor.

So can this happen, or is it impossible for someone's character to change such that their house changes? Or, if this were possible, would the Sorting Hat have actually already known that fifteen years later the witch would become a Gryffindor, and so would have Sorted her into Gryffindor from the start?

  • 4
    We know that all five heads of houses we meet during the series were in the same house when they were students. This is another evidence that the house of a wizard rarely changes. – b_jonas Dec 15 '12 at 16:26
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    Actually, my college sorted us into houses and I did switch houses Junior year so I'm not sure why you say, "Of course, you can't literally switch from one house to another." Rowling doesn't say yes or no to that for Hogwarts in the seven books anyway. – balanced mama Jan 12 '13 at 17:09
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    I think Hogwarts houses are less relevant for adult wizards. They might have a sentimental fondness for their old houses, but they are no longer sharing classes, dormitories, recreation, etc. with members of a single house. Instead they are in the adult wizarding world, interacting with wizards from all Hogwarts houses or none. Except perhaps at school reunions, they are no longer involved with their houses in any official capacity. (Of course, Hogwarts teachers are an exception.) – Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 20 '14 at 16:14
  • Question of the month (y) – Rajan Jul 2 '14 at 16:52
30

It is highly unlikely. Labels affect our personalities, especially during the teenage years.

If, for example, Hermione had been in Ravenclaw, she would have thought of herself as such and those qualities would have further been drawn out of her. Her group of friends would've also been more likely to challenge her in different ways, cementing those aspects of her personality, and turning her into a true Ravenclaw, instead of a true Gryffindor.

While I don't doubt the Sorting Hat is using their current personalities to determine what house they'd fit best in, it doesn't predict the future. The labels associated with each house affect how the students develop, mentally and emotionally, and 7 years of that makes it stick through adulthood. It's hard to change yourself that drastically, but not impossible - as the image added in DVK's answer implies.

26

Strictly speaking, we don't know. There is no direct evidence (canon examples, interviews etc...) of anyone switching houses, BUT there is also never any mention of a rule prohibiting such a transfer.

Having said that, we can make a guess (and hope that, like Dumbledore's, it's a good one):


Q: Has the sorting hat ever been wrong?
JKR: No.
(src: Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. "The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Two" The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005)

Now, we know that the hat may seem to be wrong initially, but in all those examples, the final result vindicates the ruddy headwear. Neville ended up to be a True Gryffindor, so were Harry, Hermione and Ron, who by rights seemed to be more suited to Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff if you analyze them properly in their early years.

From this, we can infer that the hat is always right in long term.

Therefore, a situation where someone changes to match a different house, the hat clearly puts them in the "correct for the final situation" house right away.

The famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat gives an account of its own genesis in a series of songs sung at the beginning of each school year. Legend has it that the hat once belonged to one of the four founders, Godric Gryffindor, and that it was jointly enchanted by all four founders to ensure that students would be sorted into their eponymous houses, which would be selected according to each founder's particular preferences in students.

The Sorting Hat is one of the cleverest enchanted objects most witches and wizards will ever meet. It literally contains the intelligence of the four founders, can speak (through a rip near its brim) and is skilled at Legilimency, which enables it to look into the wearer's head and divine his or her capabilities or mood. It can even respond to the thoughts of the wearer.

The Sorting Hat is notorious for refusing to admit it has made a mistake in its sorting of a student. On those occasions when Slytherins behave altruistically or selflessly, when Ravenclaws flunk all their exams, when Hufflepuffs prove lazy yet academically gifted and when Gryffindors exhibit cowardice, the Hat steadfastly backs its original decision. On balance, however, the Hat has made remarkably few errors of judgement over the many centuries it has been at work.
"The Sorting Hat" on Pottermore, by J. K. Rowling

  • 2
    Hmm... what about Snape? – commando Dec 14 '12 at 4:03
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    @commando - Snape was a true Slytherin. Simply being brave doesn't mean you can't be in other houses. Witness Luna – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 14 '12 at 4:05
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    Yes, this. Dumbledore does say to Snape, "Sometimes I think we Sort too soon ..." but that's just an opinion. I think it's in the chapter The Prince's Tale in Deathly Hallows. Speaking for myself, my house has never changed ;)))) – Slytherincess Dec 14 '12 at 4:05
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    I added the Pottermore image (because I'm tired and didn't feel like typing it out) to DVK's answer. It's interesting because it doesn't say -- even though JKR does -- that the Sorting Hat is never wrong. It says the hat doesn't admit it might have been wrong. "Remarkably few" is not "none" -- it's possible the Sorting Hat has made mistakes. As far as I know, in canon, no one has ever been switched from one house to another. I can't think of a single instance of that happening or of JKR discussing such a thing in any of her interviews. – Slytherincess Dec 14 '12 at 4:33
  • 1
    The Sorting Hat's song in Goblet also says “I've never yet been wrong.” – b_jonas Sep 15 '13 at 14:51
14

I don't believe that the house you get sorted into is the house you fit forever.

Dumbledore tells Snape:

“No,” said Snape, his black eyes on Fleur’s and Roger’s retreating figures. “I am not such a coward.”

“No,” agreed Dumbledore. “You are a braver man by far than Igor Karkaroff. You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon. . . .”

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (The Prince's Tale)

So this leads me to believe that the Sorting Hat sorts you into the house which you fit at the time of sorting (for the most part).

7

After completing the "sorting hat" activity on Pottermore you cannot change house. The FAQ states that you can retake the test only if you create a new account.

This, along with JKR's assertion about the abilities of the Sorting Hat,

Q: Has the sorting hat ever been wrong?
JKR: No.

and the fact that we don't see anyone change house in the books would strongly suggests that it's impossible to change house for trivial reasons.

That said, the details of what the school would do if there were exceptional circumstances that made remaining in a house impossible (for example, if one student had been assaulted by another) is not made clear but we do see that Dumbledore has occasionally gone to great lengths to accommodate a "special" student so I'm guessing some exception could theoretically be found and that Dumbledore (as Headmaster) could re-sort a student if he saw fit to do so.

  • That looks like someone answering a question on their tumblr (without reference). Do you have an actual link to Pottermore? – Izkata Apr 20 '14 at 15:19
  • @Izkata - Alas, it's behind a payment gate. This article about sorting percentages would seem to bear out the implication that once your pottermore account has been sorted, you can't redo the sorting hat; expatronum.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/… – Valorum Apr 20 '14 at 15:29
1

The Sorting Hat certainly seems to consider a student's future when choosing the house they will be put in. As per Harry's sorting...

Sorting Hat: You could've been great in Slytherine!

And it's entirely possible this is true...but he would have also likely been miserable, and it certainly considered Harry's feelings on the matter there.

This seems to indicate that it bases the choice, at least partially, on what house would be best for the student's future growth along with their current desires. So, while a student's heart may change, the sorting hat's job is not to read their future heart, but to determine what would best shape the student's education.

-2

I've always assumed that the Hat sees what POTENTIAL you have, before sorting you. Meaning that everyone has a core to their personality that doesn't change even if everything else changes. It's that core that made the Hufflepuff faced with problems come out looking like a Gryffindor, instead of a weeping mess. Generally we react from that "core" when faced with extreme situations, and those are whenour real selves shine through. For Neville, he obviously always had the potential for great bravery inside of him, and THAT's what the Hat saw when it named him a Gryffindor. Same for Hermione, who of course gets into trouble also because of who she wound up befriending in Gryffindor - but if she didn't have a natural inclination for heroism in her CORE, she never would've followed Harry and Ron around after the troll incident. So... Yeah. I don't think the Hat sees the future, but the "real you". And I think it sorted Snape well, too. That was a silly thing for Dumbledore to say.

  • I agree with everything but your last sentence. All Dumbledore was saying is he thinks they sort too soon; and more specifically that Severus was extremely brave. And he was. It's also an opinion: but I don't think he was saying that he thought Severus should have been in Gryffindor and if he had e.g. put the hat on never being sorted that he would now be Gryffindor. He just ponders the fact that people show more as they develop and that's the complete truth. Oh and he says 'sometimes' which means 'not always'. – Pryftan Apr 17 '18 at 21:20

protected by Community Aug 10 '18 at 3:44

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