I got into this huge monologue with my sister this morning about how I recently discovered that, contrary to my initial belief, I would never, ever be sorted into the Gryffindor House.
I read Harry Potter for the first time twelve years ago, at the vehement prompting of my "baby"cousin, who happens to be one my all-time favorite humans (he is still my "baby" cousin, though he is turning twenty-three in a couple of weeks). I loved it from page one, plunging into the series with a hunger I don't think I've since experienced while reading a book. Not even for the Hunger Games, which has the word "hunger" right in it. JK Rowling had managed to make real for me something my college professor had once said about poets and scientists. He'd said, "They both believe there are things, real things that matter and affect us all the time, happening right in front of us that we can't sense because we lack the ability to know it's there." Hello, Muggles. Nice to meet you.
Anyway, I think I fell into the same group as all other readers when I confidently believed that just as it'd happened for Harry, of course the Sorting Hat would have placed me in Gryffindor House. I think it is owed to the fact that JK Rowling created characters so really alive that all of their actions seemed so understandable and true. I assumed I would have totally done the same thing in any of those situations.
But if you know me, do you think I would really take on a troll? Or not run screaming from Voldemort?
This year, Joey and I have been reading the series together. This makes it almost like reading brand new books, because I am seeing the story through the eyes of my six-year-old. It also means I'm re-reading details I've long forgotten, and noticing things that in my first, second, and third readings I overlooked because I was caught up in the plot. But when you read to children, you tend to scan words, phrases, and ideas as you go to be sure they will understand. (Don't you?) And as I did so, the constitution of a true Gryffindor began to fan before my eyes like the perfect hand of poker I've never had.
First of all, if my best friend was trapped in a bathroom while a troll was loose in a school, what would I really do? I would go find Professor McGonagall, that's what. I'd say, "Professor, I think Hermione is in the bathroom!" and then I would dutifully head off to the Common Room.
Also, if I mysteriously received an Invisibility Cloak for Christmas, I'd immediately suspect it were poisoned or some sort of threat. After a two-week waiting period, if nothing had blown up or caused a dark plague, I might try the thing on. But no way would I sneak out of anywhere to go solve a school mystery. Quite honestly, I would be so completely fine with the way the school was running on the surface, I probably wouldn't even notice that there had been a return of a Dark Lord.
If my name had accidentally or inexplicably been entered in a tournament that could result in death, I would be very relieved when teachers stepped forward to say that it didn't count. If Dumbledore tried to make it happen, I would respectfully decline, thank you.
When the students of Hogwarts were under strict curfews because Dementors were combing the the grounds, I would have reported to the Common Room five minutes early, every night, just to make sure I got a good seat in front of the fireplace to read my book or chat with my friends. I would not be late. I would not be investigating the Restricted Section of the library (especially not with that Mrs. Norris about, who I'd totally befriend and feed catnip to, even though I hate cats). And I would write my dear friend Hagrid a polite but regretful note that read: "Dear Hagrid, I'm sorry I won't be able to visit you for awhile. You understand. It's this new curfew rule. Hope you're well."
My six-year-old son is a deep and pensive kid when he wants to. I wasn't surprised when I marked our page one night and found him looking at me thoughtfully. He asked, "Mom, would YOU be a Gryffindor?"
I want him to think I'm brave and smart and true, all of the things that I love most about Harry and Hermione. But I also think he knows me better than that. So I sighed and admitted, "I think I'd be a Hufflepuff."
He nodded, frowning. "You might be a Ravenclaw," he said generously. Then he added, "But at least you wouldn't be a Slytherin. That's for sure."
But Joey? Joey's got it all. He'd be a Gryffindor before the Sorting Hat touched his hair. :)