DISCLAIMER: All herein are the property of J K Rowling the Magnificent. I will return them in good condition when finished with.
CENSOR: G. All good clean fun.
The boy was short with red hair and freckles and an engagingly mischievous grin, and the Sorting Hat watched with interest as he approached. The Sorting Ceremony was almost over now - just two students left - and the Hat found itself hoping that they wouldn't take long. It had just despatched 'Warrington, Clive' to Slytherin with almost indecent haste, and was already sizing up this new student.
The boy reached the stool and picked the Hat up, before sitting down on the stool, placing the Hat carefully on his head at a precariously jaunty angle.
The Hat harrumphed meaningfully. It had to be worn properly to work. How was it supposed to sort anybody when all it could see was one none-too-clean ear? The boy was too busy grinning at the people around him, and took no notice.
"You need to put me on properly or I can't sort you."
"Oh. Okay then." The boy shifted his head slightly, so that the Hat slid down until it covered his eyes and ears.
"Now that's better - I can see what I'm doing now." It concentrated for a second, preparing to deliver its verdict. "Well, well! You really are a Weasley, aren't you? You'll be an easy one."
"I will?" the boy said, in tones of mock-disappointment. "Not another Gryffindor in the family? Oh, the shame of it!"
"Hmmm... yes." The Hat took advantage of the brief silence to evaluate its wearer. Courageous, and determined, definitely a risk-taker, loyal, and with an honourable streak he'd probably rather die than admit in public. "Well, there's definitely plenty of Gryffindor traits there. Now let's see-"
"Oh please! Why don't you do something original for once. How about Hufflepuff - home to the plodders. That's me - careful and reliable, hardworking. Well, maybe not, actually. And definitely not Ravenclaw - It'd ruin my reputation." The Sorting Hat made a squawk of protest, but the boy ignored it. "Fred Weasley, the boffin! I'd never live it down. Which just leaves - of course! Slytherin! There's never been a Weasley in Slytherin before - ever. I bet I'd make a brilliant Slytherin, you know. I'm cunning, ruthless, devious - I'd be a natural."
"There's far more to being a Slytherin than that. Trust me - it wouldn't suit you," the Hat said disapprovingly. It was distinctly aware that it was losing the initiative. Normally, 'sortees' were in enough awe of it not to interrupt. This one, it appeared, had to be different.
"Yes it would - you can see how evil I am. I can be pretty sneaky, too. Go on - put me in Slytherin, I dare you. Double dare you."
"Will you be quiet? I'm trying to sort you." This was not how it was supposed to go.
"Oh, come on! Do something unexpected for once in your life - you'll enjoy it."
"Look, this is not a game. I am trying to make a decision that will affect the rest of the whole of your life. I mean the whole of the rest of your life." The Hat sighed. It was starting to feel distinctly rattled. "You don't want this to take all night, do you?"
"You know, that's a great idea. What's the longest time you've ever taken? I bet I can beat it."
"Now look here -"
"Oh - and while I'm here - you need a new songwriter. I mean, fancy rhyming 'Gryffindor' with 'great valour'. And the bit about the Slytherins didn't scan at all. I could have done better myself. How about this: Now Gryffindors are foolhardy,/ And Hufflepuffs are thick,/ and Ravenclaws are dead boring,/ and Slytherins are sick. Okay, so it's not very good, but it's more honest than all that guff about courage and loyalty."
Very briefly, the hat contemplated spontaneous combustion. "Listen, kiddo, I've been doing this for over a thousand years. You try coming up with something new every year."
The boy changed his tune without so much as hesitating. "Wow! You wrote that? Brilliant! Particularly the bit about 'great valour.'" His tone was mocking, but the Hat could read the slight tinge of guilt behind the words. "Kiddo indeed. So what should I call you? Sortikins?"
If the Hat had teeth, it would have gritted them. "Over my dead body. Now look, I really have got to get you sorted."
"Okay, okay. I apologise. So how are we doing for time? Have I broken any records yet? Suppose not. Oh well - did you hear the one about the troll, the hag and the leprechaun?"
The Sorting Hat could feel desperation setting in. It was now feeling distinctly out of sorts. Time for drastic measures - measures that its old owner, Godric Gryffindor, would definitely have frowned on. "Okay, you've convinced me. You're definitely nasty enough to go to SLYTH-"
"Stop! Hang on - I didn't mean -" The boy spluttered, shocked. He clearly hadn't expected the Hat to call his bluff. "You couldn't! I mean, mum would kill me. She'd absolutely slaughter me."
The Sorting Hat smirked inwardly. Gotcha. "Well, you did want to be in Slytherin."
"I've changed my mind. Just hurry up and sort me." He waited for the Hat to speak, and when it didn't, he added as an afterthought, "And if it's Slytherin I'll come back and find you later - with a pair of scissors."
The Hat chuckled softly. For a moment it felt tempted to let the boy sweat it out for a while before sorting him, but decided regretfully that it would be cruel. "Okay, kid. I'm starting to have my doubts about your suitability, but for what it's worth ... GRYFFINDOR!"
The boy took the hat off and sauntered away towards the Gryffindor table, grinning from ear to ear. He stopped in front of the Slytherin table and stuck his tongue out, rolling his eyes at them before heading over to join the Gryffindors.
The Sorting Hat gave a heartfelt sigh of relief. Quite apart from the constant chatter, the kid had had a mind as unpredictable and vivid as an arsonist's firework party. It grimaced painfully: it could definitely feel a hatache coming on. Still, only one more to go, and then it was all over for another year. Things could only get better now.
Standing at the back of the hall next to the one final candidate, Professor McGonagall consulted her list. "Weasley, George," she proclaimed, and the Sorting Hat watched warily as its final sortee approached him.
The same red hair and freckles, the same mischievous grin. Identical.
Very quietly, the Hat began to whimper.
A thousand thanks (as usual!) to my Beta, Earthwalk, for finding all my typos, & generally providing encouragement, feedback and moral support.
This started life as a drabble, but then got ideas above its station, so I just let it go where it wanted to. It got written over the course of one night, which is very fast for me. I'm afraid if anyone wants a sequel called Sorting George, they will have to write it themselves.
To anyone waiting for ch. 4 of The Long Road to Damascus, it should be out some time in the next few days.