I was a Harry Potter kid. I got the first book when I was eleven and devoured it with a ferocity one might only dub as alarmingly intense. From there on out, the rest were pre-ordered. I was all about J.K. Rowling’s world.
Then something happened. That something was the fifth book—you know, the one in which Harry’s hormones catch up with him and he suddenly turns into a whiny little bitch. I just didn’t understand what was happening, but for the first time, I seemed to be reading a Harry Potter book and not enjoying it. I didn’t even know that was possible, but I just couldn’t get behind this Harry—he was not the protagonist I had come to love and root for. True, it got better. The sixth and seventh books were improvements.
But somehow, I never quite recovered. I still loved Harry Potter, but not with the fervency of so many of my friends. It always made me a little sad—to know that Harry Potter and I had grown a little apart when my friends seemed to have no trouble maintaining such a close relationship. The movies, for me, were no substitute. I saw all of them in theatres, once. Once was enough.
Then, I found out about Pottermore. Aha, I thought, one last chance to reconnect! All my friends were playing. I figured why not give it a go. At best, it would make me feel a little closer to the series I had loved so much. At worst, I’d get bored and do something else. At least nothing could happen that would make the situation worse, right?
Plus, I’d get to have my own wand and be sorted into one of the four houses! I’m not going to lie, I got way too excited about that prospect—a chance to situate myself within this magical world! What better way to cure my uncomfortable estrangement?
So, I got my username (WalnutOwl—how baller is that?), I got my email verified, and I signed into the game. I played through the opening chapters patiently, reading everything I could find, diligently searching for hidden items in every scene. Finally, I made it to Ollivander’s.
I took my personality quiz, and I got assigned my very own wand: ebony with a unicorn hair core, an unbending 12 1/4 in. The softness of the unicorn hair balances the harshness of the ebony—pretty cool. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.
Encouraged, I raced ahead to the Sorting Ceremony. This was it: the moment of truth. Like every Harry Potter kid, I had my own theories about which house I belonged in. I figured Ravenclaw or Griffindor for sure. But which one it might be, only the Sorting Hat could resolve.
Then again, I figure this is probably what most people expect for themselves because Griffindor and Ravenclaw are the only houses that you can be placed into without feeling personally insulted in some way. I don’t know what Rowling’s thought process was there, but I like to imagine her drawing up the four houses and thinking, “Now, there’ll be one that’s for the gutsy heroes, who are basically the coolest kids ever. Then I’ll make one that’s almost as good, but for smart kids who aren’t quite as memorable. Just for funsies, I’ll add one that’s needlessly evil, which Hogwarts inexplicably continues to cultivate despite the fact that it’s a thinly veiled breeding ground for every villain in the series. That’s four, isn’t it? Oh, wait, that’s only three, but I like even numbers. What the hell: Hufflepuff, where lame-o’s go to die. Bam. Four.”
Just look at the house mascots: a lion, a raven, a snake, and a badger. Oh, wait, sorry, what was that last one? Did you say a badger? Really? Okay, just checking. I thought you said badger, but then I thought that was too stupid to be what you actually said. It was, though? Cool. That fits right in with the others. Nothing says inspiring like “badger.”
Now, before rabid Harry Potter fans jump down my throat, I’m putting out there that is an oversimplification. And you can argue all you want that Slytherins are sly and loyal and not by definition evil, but that doesn’t change the fact that they wind up being evil way more than you might expect for a house that is actively encouraged to exist. And as for Hufflepuff? Sure, it could be cool to be hard-working and trustworthy, but it isn’t in this series. There’s a stigma to Hufflepuff, and there’s no getting around it. I mean, for Christ’s sake, it’s called Hufflepuff! How is something supposed to be cool when you name it Hufflepuff and slap a big badger on it? It’s like a challenge to every student that gets sorted into it: no, go ahead, try and maintain your self-esteem. Hogwarts dares you to look around at the other houses and somehow justify the existence of your own as anything but the house that talent forgot.
I know the houses are technically supposed to be equal, but I never saw it that way. Secretly, I’ve always wanted to be a Griffindor. Yes, I’m admitting it. I wanted the Sorting Hat to think that much of me. I could accept Ravenclaw, though—that would make sense to me, too. I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t matter if I wound up in Ravenclaw, or even Slytherin (though I would feel like a worse person). I could make it work.
So, I sucked it up and I took the quiz, trying to answer as honestly as possible. The questions were harder for me to decide than I thought they would be and I was often torn between different answers, but I did the best I could. Without even realizing it, I was holding my breath when I submitted the final answer and waited for the results to load. The question I’d been asking myself since I was eleven years old was about to get a definitive answer.
Then my computer screen loaded and I got my answer. And that answer was:
I stared at the screen for a good thirty seconds before I even knew how to react to that. Was this a joke? What had I answered wrong? Could I go back and retake it? The one house I thought for sure that I was safe from. And, coincidentally, my worst nightmare.
It’s like the Harry Potter equivalent of that dream where you realize you’re standing in the middle of the room, stark naked. Except that this is way worse, because this time, you come to in the middle of the Great Hall, a Hufflepuff, and there’s no escape—you’re not going to wake up.
I mean, get serious. Twizzlers are to candy as Hufflepuff is to a Hogwarts house—and I think I’ve made my sentiments on Twizzlers abundantly clear in the past.
Anything thing else I could have handled, but this… oh, god, this…
SORTING HAT, YOU DON’T KNOW ME. YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.
And then I began to think very dark thoughts. What if the Sorting Hat was right? What if I was the one who didn’t know me, and I’d secretly been a Hufflepuff all along? Is there any way this could be a good thing?
I don’t know about badgers, but the honey badger is pretty cool, right? That honey badger knows what’s up, and it doesn’t take shit from anyone.
“Keep it together, Ann,” I told myself. “Honey badger don’t care. Honey badger don’t care.”
Rocking back and forth in my chair because if I let myself get into the fetal position, I’d never get out of it, I started chanting my new mantra and kept playing the game.
The game informed me that now that I’d been sorted, I could earn house points in various ways. I noticed immediately, with absolutely no surprise that Hufflepuff was in last place of the four houses, lagging significantly in the point count. So I tried to be a good sport and earn my house all the points I could, but every time I collected a hidden Galleon, I saw my point counter tick up, and I thought, “That’s another point for Hufflepuff. Dear god, I’m helping Hufflepuff. My victories count only for Hufflepuff!”
And I just couldn’t do it. I don’t want to help Hufflepuff. I can’t even look at Hufflepuff anymore.
Honey badger do care, ya’ll. Honey badger is having an identity crisis now.