Professor McGonagall meets them and takes them through a huge stone and marble entryway into a tiny waiting room. She welcomes them and says that before they join the banquet, they will be sorted into their houses, which will be like their families inside Hogwarts.
She says each of the houses – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin – has great qualities and people.
All year, the good stuff they do will earn their houses points, and the bad stuff will lose points. Each year is a competition to win the House cup.
McGonagall says they'll be Sorted soon and that they should get ready. Then she leaves.
Ron and Harry are worried about being Sorted in front of everyone, and Harry is really nervous.
They hear screams and turn around to see ghosts gliding through the room. The ghosts seem preoccupied with their own dramas but welcome the students and talk of their own houses.
McGonagall comes back and tells them to follow her to the Great Hall, where they see all the other students and teachers. She puts out a stool and an old wizard hat.
The hat starts to sing a song, saying that they should put it on and it will tell them what houses to go in.
Ron's relieved, but Harry's still nervous.
McGonagall says they will be called up one at a time, and she begins calling students in alphabetical order. As the students are Sorted, Harry gets more and more nervous.
Hermione goes, and is put in Gryffindor, as is Neville. Malfoy gets put in Slytherin.
Finally, it's Harry's turn. Everyone starts gossiping immediately at the mention of his name.
The hat talks to Harry about where he should go, and he thinks, "Not Slytherin, not Slytherin" (7.68), so the hat puts him in Gryffindor.
Harry relaxes a little as he joins the Gryffindors and looks around. He sees Hagrid at the high table with Dumbledore and Quirrell. He sits by one of the ghosts.
Ron's one of the last people sorted and is super relieved to be a Gryffindor.
Harry realizes he's hungry.
Dumbledore welcomes them all with a silly speech, and Percy tells Harry Dumbledore's the greatest wizard ever.
The table is suddenly covered with magical food, everything Harry likes. He's never been able to choose what or how much to eat before, and it's really exciting.
As he eats, he talks with the ghost, who says he can't eat anymore. Ron recognizes him as Nearly Headless Nick. Nick tells them how he became Nearly Headless and says he hopes they'll get the house cup.
Dessert is served and the first-years talk about their families. Sean is part Muggle, and Neville was raised by his magic grandmother, even though everyone in his family was worried he wouldn't be magic enough to qualify for Hogwarts.
Percy and Hermione are talking about studying and subjects.
Harry feels tired. He looks up at the teachers' table and sees Quirrell talking to someone else. When the man looks at Harry, he feels a pain in his scar. He asks about him and finds out that's Snape, the Potions Master.
Dumbledore concludes the meal with another speech. No one's allowed on the grounds, they shouldn't use magic in the halls, they can try out for Quidditch teams in week two, and they must avoid "the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side" (7.118).
Then, they all sing the school song, each of them to their own melody, and then are dismissed.
They separate by houses and go to their individual parts of the Castle.
The Gryffindors run into Peeves, the poltergeist, and get past him with difficulty. They end up by a painting of a fat lady who asks for their password. Percy gives it and they're let into their dormitory. They end up in a cozy series of rooms and are separated by gender.
Harry and Ron are so tired they go to sleep almost immediately. Harry has a terrible dream about Quirrell trying to put him in Slytherin and Malfoy turning into Snape, but he doesn't remember it the next day.