Some content in this article is derived from information featured in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and, as such, spoilers will be present.
Houses at Hogwarts were both the living and learning communities for its students. Each year's group of students in the same house shares the same dormitory and many classes. The houses compete throughout the school year, by earning and losing points for various activities. The house with the most points wins the House Cup. Each house also has its own Quidditch team that competes for the Inter-House Quidditch Cup. These two competitions breed rivalries between the houses, the greatest of which is that between Gryffindor and Slytherin.
In the early days of Hogwarts, the four founders handpicked students for their Houses. When the founders worried how students would be selected after their deaths, Godric Gryffindor took his hat off and each "put some brains" in it, creating the Sorting Hat to choose future students for each house. At the beginning of each school year, the magical Sorting Hat is placed on each new student's head during the Sorting ceremony. The Sorting Hat announces the house the student is to join. Before beginning the Sorting ceremony, it sings a short song about the founding of the school and the four Houses; the Sorting Hat's songs are different every year, and the Hat is said to take all year composing the next one (according to Ron Weasley, at least). Every so often it would sing of mortal peril at the school. The students say that it picks up tips from Dumbledore's office.
It is unclear if the Sorting Hat tended to place students based on qualities they valued or rather qualities they exhibited. One example of the former is Peter Pettigrew, who was sorted into Gryffindor but ultimately turned out to be quite cowardly, self-serving and corruptible. He may have been placed there because, at the time, he admired strong, brave individuals like James Potter and Sirius Black. Other examples include Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, who despite being stupid and rather lazy, were placed in Slytherin, the house of the clever and ambitious. They flocked around Draco Malfoy, who they admired and who exhibited the traits of Slytherin.
The Sorting Hat could detect nascent qualities in a student and place them in the House that would challenge them and put their character to the test. Case in point, Neville Longbottom was sorted into Gryffindor because the Hat sensed that he was capable of demonstrating bravery and leadership during his time at Hogwarts. However, these qualities did not fully surface until Neville learned to believe in himself.
The Hat also appeared to take the students' wishes into account, considering how one's personal choices are very much of a reflection of the qualities that they valued in themselves. Just because someone was placed in a certain House did not mean that they could not display characteristics of other Houses. Harry Potter, for instance, embodied many of the traits that were appreciated by Salazar Slytherin. He was clever, resourceful and cunning, yet the Sorting Hat made him a Gryffindor because the very fact that he asked not to be in Slytherin showed that he did not belong there. A true Slytherin would not have had any doubts about whether or not it was the right House for them.
One of the biggest examples of this was Severus Snape. At one point, Albus Dumbledore observed that his loyal, courageous nature was much more befitted to Gryffindor. However, as a child, Snape's sadism, disdain for Muggles, and sheer cunning and ambition may have led to his being sorted into Slytherin when he first came to Hogwarts.
The four houses are rather separate entities. Each has its own Common Room and dormitory, its own table in the Great Hall, and students mostly share lessons with classmates of their same house. There is no rule against students from different houses mingling, but in practise, a good majority of social interactions occur within the same house. Each house had one teacher who acted as its Head of House. Each house also had a house ghost. The function they serve (if any) is unknown, although they might be like house mascots. Each Head of House and house ghost was previously a pupil within that house.
A great deal of rivalry exists between the houses, not always friendly. This rivalry was demonstrated in the Quidditch matches and the annual school competition for the House Cup, which was determined by the number of points earned or lost by each member of the rival houses. These points were awarded or taken based on students' conduct throughout the school year. All members of the faculty and the Head Boy and Girl have the authority to grant and deduct points as they see fit in each instance. Some, like Severus Snape, the former Potions master, tended to favour their own house, but that does not seem to be against the rules. He was despised by many students, other than those in Slytherin, where he was very popular. It was not known how much favouritism the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw Heads showed, although it can be deduced that it was minimal or non-existent, as both Professor Filius Flitwick, Head of Ravenclaw, and Professor Pomona Sprout, Head of Hufflepuff, were kind, lighthearted people, who obviously wanted to win the House and Quidditch Cups but were not as vindictive as Snape in going about it. It is known that Professor Minerva McGonagall, the stern head of Gryffindor, did not show much favouritism towards her house. In fact, she deducted 50 points apiece and awarded detentions to three students in her house (Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Neville Longbottom when they were caught out of bed after hours in Harry's first year), and supported Professor Snape wholeheartedly in giving Harry detentions for the rest of the school year, even on overlapping Quidditch matches, after Harry used the Sectumsempra spell on Draco Malfoy in Harry's sixth year.
According to Rubeus Hagrid, "There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin," (though this is, for the most part correct, there are a few exceptions, former Gryffindor Peter Pettigrew the most notable of them). None of this necessarily means, however, that all Slytherins are evil, such as Horace Slughorn, Regulus Black, Andromeda Black, and Narcissa Malfoy for example. Slytherins were chosen for their cunning and ambition. Although founder Salazar Slytherin favoured pure-blood students, it was not a condition of being sorted into Slytherin House as both Tom Riddle and Snape were Half-blood Slytherins.
It has also been said that all four houses must band together and fight as one if Hogwarts is to stand. It must be remembered that all of the Houses had their virtues and flaws: none were inherently good or evil. Slytherins may have earned their reputation as evil because they showed such contempt towards Gryffindor, the protagonist house. They also did not show much generosity towards other houses either, whether those in them were pure-blood or not.
House rivalry was most seen between Slytherin and Gryffindor ("Gryffindor and Slytherin students loathed each other on principle"[HP6]). This rivalry likely goes back to the days of Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin after they founded Hogwarts because the Sorting Hat said that they were the best of friends before they founded the school. While it is not clear if there is a similar rivalry between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, it seems fairly unlikely due to the cheerful disposition of the Heads for said Houses, as opposed to the contempt of Professor Snape and the passion of Professor McGonagall. (Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff, however, once great friends, are documented as having had a severe falling out at some point by the Sorting Hat's song in 1996.) It was sometimes thought that there was some dislike between the members of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff due to the Ravenclaw students' reputation for boasting about their intelligence, which often annoyed Hufflepuffs, who were known for being modest, gentle and kind. As a whole, Gryffindors were thought to get on best with Hufflepuffs, whereas Ravenclaws were thought to be quite friendly with Slytherins. There are certain exceptions, however, such as Harry's friendliness with Cho Chang and Luna Lovegood, both from Ravenclaw, as well as Cho's relationship with Cedric Diggory, a Hufflepuff.
Usually, though not always, the other two houses appeared (in Harry's eyes) to support Gryffindor in its rivalry with Slytherin, which again is reminiscent of how Slytherin was in the end opposed by all three of the other founders. One exception to this occurred when Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin all initially supported Hufflepuff's Cedric Diggory instead of Gryffindor's Harry Potter in the Triwizard Tournament. Also in the first Quidditch match of 1996, it was said that many of the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws had "taken sides" in the Gryffindor vs Slytherin match but does not specify which Houses took which side.
The Four Houses of Hogwarts
Gryffindor values bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry. Its emblematic animal is the lion and its colours are scarlet and gold. Minerva McGonagall was the most recent Head of Gryffindor. Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, also known as "Nearly Headless Nick", was the house ghost. The founder of the house was Godric Gryffindor. Gryffindor corresponds to the element of Fire. The common room was located in one of the highest towers at Hogwarts, the entrance was situated on the seventh floor in the east wing of the castle and is guarded by a portrait of The Fat Lady. She permits entrance if given the correct password, which is changed numerous times throughout the school year. Famous Gryffindors include Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, and Celestina Warbeck.
Hufflepuff values hard work, dedication, patience, loyalty, and fair play. Its emblematic animal is the badger, and Yellow and Black are its colours. Pomona Sprout was the Head of Hufflepuff during 1991 - 1998, Sprout left the post of Head of Hufflepuff and Herbology Professor sometime before 2017 and her successor for the position of Head of Hufflepuff is currently unknown. The Fat Friar is its ghost. The founder of the house was Helga Hufflepuff. Hufflepuff corresponds to the element of earth. The Hufflepuff dormitories and common room are located somewhere in the basement, near the castle's kitchens. It can be accessed by tapping the barrel two from the bottom, middle of the second row in the rhythm of "Helga Hufflepuff" and is described as being a cosy and welcoming place with yellow hangings, fat armchairs, and underground tunnels that lead to the dormitories, which have perfectly round doors, similar to barrel tops. Famous Hufflepuffs include Hengist of Woodcroft (founder of Hogsmeade), Newt Scamander, and Artemisia Lufkin (first female minister for magic).
Ravenclaw values intelligence, knowledge, and wit. Its emblematic animal is the eagle, and its colours are blue and bronze. The Ravenclaw Head of House in the 1990s was Filius Flitwick. The ghost of Ravenclaw is the Grey Lady, who was the daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw, the house's founder. Ravenclaw corresponds to the element of air. The Ravenclaw common room and dormitories are located in a tower on the west side of the castle. Ravenclaw students must answer a riddle as opposed to giving a password to enter their dormitories. This riddle, however, can be answered by non-Ravenclaws. Famous Ravenclaws include Gilderoy Lockheart, Ignatia Wildsmith (inventor of Floo powder), and Garrick Ollivander.
Slytherin house values ambition, cunning and resourcefulness and was founded by Salazar Slytherin. Its emblematic animal is the serpent, and its colours are emerald green and silver. Professor Horace Slughorn was the Head of Slytherin during the 1997–1998 school year, replacing Severus Snape, who as well, replaced Slughorn as Potions Professor when he retired for the first time several years prior. The Bloody Baron is the house ghost. The founder of the house was Salazar Slytherin. Slytherin corresponds roughly to the element of water. The Slytherin dormitories and common room are reached through a bare stone wall in the Dungeons. The Slytherin common room lies beneath the Black Lake. It is a long, low underground room with rough stone walls and silver lamps hanging from the ceiling. Famous Slytherins include Merlin, Tom Riddle, and Dolores Umbridge.
Behind the scenes
- Each House represents one of the four classical elements: Fire (Gryffindor), Earth (Hufflepuff), Air (Ravenclaw), and Water (Slytherin). Each of these also represents one of the four states of matter: Plasma (Fire, Gryffindor), Gas (Air, Ravenclaw), Liquid (Water, Slytherin), and Solid (Earth, Hufflepuff).
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play)
Notes and references