As most fans will know the school was created by Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin, all of whom were considered to be the greatest witches and wizards of the age. The four built the school around in 993 AD as a place to teach young witches and wizards, whilst safely hidden away from muggles. Since then Hogwarts has enjoyed it’s reputation as one of the best wizarding schools in the world, and has produced a number of extremely famous and powerful wizards such as Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, and Voldemort.
The Quill of Acceptance and the Book of Admittance:
Students are selected for admission into Hogwarts by the ‘Quill of Acceptance’ and ‘The Book of Admittance’, the two of which work together to detect and catalogue magical children. The book and quill haven’t been touched since the founders of Hogwarts finished building the castle.
Although the quill will attempt to write up the name of a prospective student as soon as it detects magic from the child, the book is a little more particular and refuses to be written on until a considerable show of magic is demonstrated. This comes in particularly useful when ‘squibs’ (people who were born of magical families but show now abilities themselves) retain a little magic from their parents. Even now the book/quill duo has never made a mistake with who it does/doesn’t let into Hogwarts.
The Hogwarts Express:
In order to get to school students must board the Hogwarts Express, a magical train that takes travels from LondonKings Cross station up to Scotland, and eventually to the only fully wizarding village in Britain; Hogsmeade (which is only a short walk from the school).
Although now the Hogwarts Express is the only way to travel to the school, there was a time in which it was up to the students (and their families) as to how they got there. Some rode brooms, others used magical carts or carriages, some attempted to apparate (which didn’t work to well considering the anti-apparition charms), whereas others rode a range of magical creatures.
Students made their own way to the school up until International Statute of Secrecy in 1692, where it became clear the annual sightings of various magical objects and creatures headed to the Scottish highlands might not be the best idea. The ministry thus arranged a series of Portkeys, but this resulted in a huge number of students (around a third) missing their allowed time (with the Portrays being too difficult to find), and many of those who did make it succumbing to ‘Portkey-sickness’, resulting in a very full Hospital wing throughout the beginning of term.
Eventually Minister for Magic Ottaline Gambol realised the potential of the Muggle invention of trains. Although it’s never been definitely proven one way or the other the exact origin of the Hogwarts Express, J.K points out that “there are secret records at the Ministry of Magic detailing a mass operation involving one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest ever mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain.” The story adds that the day after the alleged mass memory wipe, Hogsmeade residents were confused by the appearance of a bright red Train at a train station no one had ever noticed before.
The Sorting Hat and the Hogwarts Houses:
Whilst at Hogwarts each student is sorted into a particular house, whilst at the school your house acts as your ‘family’, you attend classes with your housemates, as well as all live in the same dormitory together. In order for each student to be sorted into one of the four houses (one for each of the schools founders) they must be wear the ‘Sorting Hat’ which will determine which house the student is best suited for.
Originally belonging to Godric Gryffindor the Sorting Hat was enchanted by each of the four Hogwarts founders, and holds their combined intelligence, the hat is able to work out which qualities the student possesses and relate that to a founder, and thus place them in the correct house. Gryffindor favoured the bold and brave, Ravenclaw the intellectuals, Slytherin the determined (and purest of blood), and Hufflepuff didn’t discriminate, wanting to ensure every young witch or wizard received a proper magical education. Through the Sorting Hat the legacy of the founders lives on, and plays a huge part in how the school functions centuries later.
As J.K reveals in her Pottermore post on the School subjects (and from what we could partly work out in the books) we know that first year students start their time at Hogwarts by taking seven subjects; Astronomy, Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, History of Magic, Potions, and Transfiguation, in addition to these seven lessons (seven of course being a pretty prominent number throughout the franchise) students also take flying lessons in their first year. After their second year at Hogwarts students pick an additional two subjects from; Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, Muggle Studies, and Study of Ancient Runes.
Hogwarts stands out as the most haunted place in Britain (which itself is the most haunted country in the world), and somewhere that welcomes ghosts, rather than fears or shuns them. The school is in fact ‘pro-ghost’ enough to allow each of the four houses to have their own official ghost.
Gryffindor has Nearly Headless Nick, Slytherin has the bloody Baron, Hufflepuff has the Fat Friar, and Ravenclaw has the Grey Lady. Other notable ghosts at Hogwarts include Moaning Myrtle, a girl who died at the school and now (mostly) remains in the bathroom she died in, constantly crying, and Professor Binns, the History of Magic teacher who woke up one day (when he was very old) and simply left his body behind.
Although painting look like and to a degree are copies of their subjects, the actual adaptation depends on both the power of the subject, as well as the interpretation of the artists. For example Sir Cadogan and the Fat Lady are almost charcuteries of the originals, as a result of the artists own ideas and opinions.
For the Headmaster/Headmistress paintings however there is a considerably more to it. Once the painting is completed the headmaster/headmistress will keep the painting under guard, and will visit it to impress upon it abetter idea of who the person is. They can tell them secrets, memories, and knowledge for the paining to retain and retell at a later date, often to consequent headmasters/headmistresses.