Eleven-year old Fred and George Weasley stood in front of the Head table in the Great Hall, feverishly whispering to each other, while they were waiting for Professor McGonagall to call out their names.
"Oh, Forge, is this Sorting Ceremony never going to end? I'm hungry," Fred complained in a small voice, causing George to nod.
"And I'm so tired, Gred. Why did we spend half the night sorting through our joke notes? We could have done that later, up in our dormitory in Gryffindor."
"Is this boring," they whispered concurrently, letting out simultaneous yawns, noticing that most of the other first-years had already been called.
"Weasley, Fred," Professor McGonagall finally read from her list, causing Fred to throw a last glance at his brother and walk over to the professor, who would shortly be his Head of House.
'Oh, this is difficult,' a faint voice suddenly penetrated his mind, soon after the professor had placed the Hat on his head. 'I'm not going to sort any more Weasleys into Gryffindor, so where am I going to put you?'
'If it's not Slytherin, I don't care as long as I'm together with my twin,' Fred replied in surprise. They had been sure to end up in the lions' House, since their three older brothers were all Gryffindors.
'Well, if you don't care, let's make it...' the Hat quieted for a moment, before it shouted aloud, "Ravenclaw."
Fred stumbled towards the Ravenclaw table, throwing his brother an anxious look, glad when George gave him an encouraging nod, before he approached the Hat.
'Well, let's take the other option this time,' the Hat whispered into George's head, and before the boy could reply, it called out, "Slytherin."
"No, uh, wait..." George spluttered out, "I mean, you can't mean that..."
"The Sorting is over, Mr. Weasley; please head over to the Slytherin table," Professor McGonagall admonished him in a firm voice.
George headed to the Slytherin table, glad when he found a seat back-to-back with his brother at the Ravenclaw table.
"Thank God you're at least near-by and not in Gryffindor," Fred said in complete annoyance.
"Such a git," George agreed. "Look Fred, let's meet in the entrance hall after once entering our House to hear the password. Then we can look for an empty classroom, where we can spend our time together."
Fred agreed immediately, and the twins spent the Welcoming Feast chatting together or with the students nearby, turning to the Slytherin table and the Ravenclaw table in turns.
Two hours later, the twins met in a dark alcove near the entrance hall. "I suggest we look for an empty classroom, where we can spend our free time together, and where we can sleep during the nights. I'm definitely not going to stay in Ravenclaw without you," Fred said angrily.
"You're right," George agreed immediately. "I wonder if Charlie would help us. As a sixth-year he should know many spells that would help us to change an unused classroom to a room for the two of us."
"Do you think we'll manage to hide for seven years though?" Fred queried, his expression slowly getting doubtful.
George sighed. "Hmmm, I'm not sure, because..." he began thoughtfully, before he interrupted himself. "No Fred, we don't have to hide for seven years. I know what we're going to do. We'll destroy that annoying filthy piece of cloth AKA Sorting Hat, so they'll have to give up their stupid Sorting system, and then we'll ask Professor Dumbledore to let us stay together."
"Ah, Forge, you're the best," Fred breathed in relief, flinging his arms around his twin's neck.
Trial, Error and Unexpected Help
The twins spent the next hour searching for an unused classroom that was far enough from everything else to reduce the danger of being detected to a minimum. Finally, they found an adequate room at the very end of an extremely dusty and obviously unused corridor shortly behind the entrance to the hospital wing.
"This is just perfect," Fred told his brother.
"Exactly, considering the toilets are just next to it, and this looks like an unused bathroom," George agreed as he opened another door.
Unfortunately, by the time they had reached the classroom, their clothes were white from the dust, and they were both coughing badly.
"Oh George," Fred coughed, "we have to do something against the fog in here."
"Exactly. Do you remember any of the spells Mum always uses?"
"Evanesco?" Fred queried.
"No, that was when she brewed the fever reducer for Ronnie that suddenly turned pink."
The twins remained silent, deep in thoughts, for a moment.
"Expulso?" George tried.
"No, that was when she chased the rabbit out of the kitchen."
"Ah, maybe that could work," George replied thoughtfully. "Let's try it out."
Within the next hour, they managed to get rid of the dust and dirt, moved all the tables and chairs to one side of the room and opened the windows in order to let some fresh air in.
"Now we only need to get two beds," George breathed, letting himself sink onto the floor next to his brother.
"Let's ask Charlie. As a sixth-year he'll probably know how to transform something into a bed. We can look out for him tomorrow at breakfast. Tonight, we'll just have to sleep on the floor," Fred replied dully.
"Hmmm, we could try to use this 'Conjuresco' spell Mum always uses to conjure things."
"Oh right, go on then, Forge," Fred replied tiredly as he recalled how his mother had grabbed a thermometer out of thin air when he had felt unwell a week ago.
George stood up and waved his wand while he tried to remember how their mother had moved hers last week. Unfortunately, the effect was not exactly what the twins expected. Instead, Fred suddenly groaned in agony, holding his head.
"I don't know what you did wrong, but it hurts," he mumbled as he curled up on the floor, pressing both hands against his temples.
"I'm so sorry, Fred," George said, horrified as he observed his brother beginning to shiver violently.
"George, I don't feel good. You should have turned away from me before casting that. I wonder if we'll manage to destroy the Hat in time to be sorted properly. Oh, George, why is it so cold here?"
After two minutes of listening to his brother's continuous babbling, George tuned out. "Fred, I think I have to take you to the hospital wing. Something seems really wrong with you." With that he helped his twin to scramble up from the floor and gently steadied him as they walked through the now dust-free corridor to the hospital wing, where George complimented Fred to the first bed.
An Unexpected Ally
Madam Pomfrey appeared in the blink of an eye, throwing the boys a surprised glance. "What happened, gentlemen?" she queried, recalling that they weren't even in the same House.
Fred, who had anxiously stopped babbling as the Mediwitch appeared, happily began to tell the witch everything that had occurred since the Hat had shouted his decisions into the Great Hall, causing the Mediwitch to smirk.
"Well, boys, I can understand your problem well, and I promise to keep your secret and help you if I can. Now, Fred, your brother apparently cast a faulty spell at you, causing you to come down with the 'Ridiculous Disease.' It causes a bad headache along with a high fever and makes the person who caught it talk permanently. I will give you two potions, and then you'll sleep over it, and you'll probably be fine by tomorrow morning." She bustled away, only to return a minute later with two phials.
Fred obediently gulped down the potions and sighed in relief as he felt the immediate effects. "Lie down and sleep," the Mediwitch told him as he tried to get up and gently pushed him down. "You may stay with him," she said softly, pointing to the next bed. "So far, I don't have any other patients. If you excuse me for a few minutes, I'll go and have a look at the room you're working on."
Seeing that Fred was already asleep, George quickly followed the Mediwitch out of the hospital wing. They turned into the unused corridor, and Pomfrey stopped dead in her tracks. "You cleared the dust in here, didn't you?"
"Yes, because we could hardly breathe," George admitted.
"Very well, but if it looks so clean, people will surely come to look what's in here," the Healer replied, before she waved her wand around the corridor, causing a white mist to appear.
"It looks like dust, but it isn't. What is it?"
Pomfrey smirked. "Well, I merely made the air visible, so it looks as if the hall was dusty like before."
"Perfect, that's absolutely brilliant," George breathed in complete amazement, deciding that he liked the Mediwitch a lot.
As they reached the room, Pomfrey changed the room into a bedroom for two children, complete with two four poster beds, two desks, two wardrobes, and everything the twins would need to live in the room for an indefinite amount of time.
"How's that?" she queried, looking at George.
"Brilliant," he cheered.
"You need to promise me that you won't tell anyone that I helped you."
"I promise! Thank you so much, Madam."
"I also need you to promise that you'll come to me if you ever need help or are in trouble."
"I promise," George replied gratefully, resolving to keep his promise.
Pomfrey closed the door behind her and conjured a small portrait with a tall witch in Healer's clothing on it. "This is my grandmother's portrait," she explained on George's curious look. "Granny, George and his twin brother are going to live and hide in this room. Please let him set a password, and don't let anyone in except for the twins and me."
"I'll watch over them, Poppy," the old Healer said gently, turning to George. "Password?"
"The Hat's Demise," George replied, smirking.
Classes or not?
"Now, let's look at the bathroom," Pomfrey said and stepped into the bathroom. With a few flicks of their wand, the room was as good as new. "You're lucky to have a prefects' bathroom nearby. Touch the door with your wand hand, please."
George did as he was told, throwing the Healer a curious look. "Now only you and your twin brother can get in. The door is charmed to your touch, and since Fred is your twin, it'll also work for him."
On their way back to the hospital wing, Pomfrey said thoughtfully, "I can understand why you want to get rid of the Hat, and if you ask me it is an annoying filthy piece of cloth; however, it is an old Hat that was charmed by the Founders and as such it won't be easily beaten. Anyway, I wish you good luck. Now, lie down and sleep. I'll wake you up in time for classes."
Throwing the Mediwitch a grateful glance, George fell asleep the instant his head came to lie down on his pillow, not even noticing that Pomfrey gently tucked him in.
In the morning, Madam Pomfrey woke the twins up and released Fred just in time for breakfast, instructing him to take it easy for a day. "I'm only releasing you, because it's the first day of classes; otherwise I'd keep you here for a few more hours," she said as she made Fred drink two more potions.
On their way to the Great Hall, George quietly filled his brother in about what the Mediwitch had done for them the previous night.
"You mean we're having an ally among the adults?" Fred asked in disbelief. "That's absolutely brilliant!"
They quietly entered the Great Hall, once more choosing seats, where they could sit back-to-back, so they could speak with each other during breakfast. "Oh no, George, we don't even have classes together," Fred groaned in absolute annoyance, fiercely rubbing his forehead. "I really can't say I like Hogwarts."
"I hate it," George agreed, throwing his twin a concerned look. "Are you feeling all right, Fred?"
"No, I don't feel well, I'm not hungry, and the thought of attending classes without you makes me want to throw up," Fred snapped, ignoring the snickers and confused looks their House mates shot them.
"Why don't you just stick to one time table and attend classes together?" one of the Slytherin third-years suggested. "If you continuously do that from the beginning, maybe the teachers won't even realise that something is wrong."
"In that case, you'd have to attend the Slytherin-Gryffindor classes though, because Snape would surely notice," another Slytherin boy threw in.
"That's a good idea," George agreed. "Well, Fred, then just accompany me to my classes. In the worst case someone will throw one of us out, but they won't know which of us is which anyway."
The twins were lucky. None of the teachers commented to the fact that there were two of them in class, and that they were absent in their other classes. "Let's skip History of Magic and head to the library," George told Fred before their last afternoon class, knowing from his older brothers' tales that the ghost wouldn't miss them anyway, and realising that his twin was still feeling under the weather.
Fred agreed, and the twins cautiously entered the library. "Now, Gred, I thought of something," George spoke up. "Let's look for a spell to set something on fire. Then we can visit the Headmaster, ask him to speak with the Hat once more and fire the spell at the stupid piece of cloth."
Guessing the Password
Fred agreed, and the twins spent the next thirty minutes eagerly scanning the Charms bookshelf. "It should be 'Tutelam Inflammarae'," Fred suddenly said, pointing at a page in the old tome he was just skimming.
"That sounds good, Gred. Let's go and try it out then," George replied, throwing his brother an enthusiastic smile.
The two boys slowly made their way to the gargoyle guarding the Headmaster's office, knowing that the last afternoon class was only just about to finish.
"Password?" the gargoyle queried, causing the twins to stop dead in their tracks.
"We don't know the password, but we urgently need to speak with the Headmaster," Fred replied in total annoyance.
"No password, no entrance," the gargoyle muttered, remaining unmoving.
"Well, let's just try to climb over it. I want to get over the whole matter as quickly as possible," George sighed and tried to climb the old stone.
Unfortunately, he didn't make it very far, before the gargoyle moved to make the boy heavily drop down onto the stone floor, not opening the entrance to the Headmaster's office the tiniest bit.
"Ouch," George groaned as he scrambled up from the floor, holding his head.
"Stupid gargoyle," Fred muttered angrily. "I think all these old things here have just gone nuts. Let's return to our room and write to Mum and Dad. We can tell them we don't want to attend Hogwarts."
"Yeah, let's do that," George agreed, before he groaned, "I'm going to be sick." With that he quickly turned around emptying the content of his stomach all over the gargoyle.
"You're brilliant, brother," Fred laughed, looking at the disgusting looking gargoyle, before he turned back to his twin in concern. "Are you all right though?"
"No, I want to return to our room and lie down. Let's think about what to do next after a nap," George replied and looked up in fright as they suddenly heard quick steps coming from the other side of the passage.
"Let's run," Fred whispered, pulling George with him back to their room.
"Hello, I am Theresa," the portrait in front of their room greeted them gently. "So far, I only had the pleasure to meet one of you. Who is who?"
"I'm Fred, and this is my twin brother George," Fred explained quickly. "Would you please let us in quickly? We'd like to take a nap."
Theresa threw the boys a strange look as she queried, "And the password is?"
"The Hat's Demise," George replied, stumbling into the room as soon as the door opened.
"Wait a moment," the Portrait suddenly said, turning to Fred. "May I borrow your wand for a moment?"
In the Hospital Wing Again
Fred hesitantly handed his wand over. "All right, but whatever you want to do, please hurry up. We have both bad headaches and want to lie down for a while."
"She's Madam Pomfrey's grandmother," George spoke up. "Sorry, I forgot to tell you that."
"Well, I'm going to fetch my granddaughter for you. You're both running a temperature, and you," she pointed to George, "have a slight concussion." With that she vanished from her frame.
A few minutes later, the current Mediwitch entered their room, throwing them a disapproving look as she waved her wand over George and consecutively over Fred. "Explain what you did today? How can you come back from class with a concussion and in a condition worse than it was when I released you in the morning?"
While she spelled two potions straight into George's system, Fred explained about their adventure, not realising that the spell from the evening before made him say more than he wanted.
"Very well, I'm going to take you with me to the hospital wing. Although Granny would be well able to look after you, it could be that one or the other Head of House wonders where you are and comes looking for you. I'm sure you don't want me to take any teacher here."
"No, of course not," Fred agreed and watched as the Mediwitch put George on a stretcher for the short way to the hospital wing.
Only when they were both tucked in the beds they had already occupied the previous night, Poppy made Fred drink his potions and instructed him to sleep.
"Madam Pomfrey?" Fred asked sleepily. "Could you perhaps tell us the password to the gargoyle? We won't do anything bad, we just want to speak with the Headmaster and if possible with the Hat once more."
Pomfrey sighed, not believing a word. "He just informed us he changed the password to 'stomach calming liquorice kittens'," she then replied with an exasperated expression. "Now go to sleep. This time, I will only release you if you're completely well in the morning."
To the twins' chagrin Madam Pomfrey only let them leave in time for dinner on the following day.
"Are you hungry, George?" Fred queried as they left the hospital wing.
"No. Shall we go and pay the gargoyle another visit then?"
"Do you have an idea how to get around it then?" George asked doubtfully, causing a mischievous smile to appear on Fred's face.
"No, but I know the password. I asked Madam Pomfrey."
"You're the best! Let's go. What are we waiting for?"
"Stomach calming liquorice kittens," Fred told the gargoyle.
"The Headmaster is absent at the moment."
The First Attempt
"I know, but we were told to leave a message on his desk," George lied easily, sighing in relief as the gargoyle finally opened.
"He probably just only went to dinner, so we have to hurry up," Fred said as they entered the Headmaster's office.
"No problem," George replied, suddenly noticing the beautiful phoenix sitting on his perch watching them with apparent interest. He had already met the bird a few times, when he and his siblings had accompanied their parents to Dumbledore's office, and he knew that Fawkes was a very gentle bird. "Hello Fawkes. I hope you don't mind us having a fight with that stupid old piece of cloth over there."
Fawkes let out a happy trill that sounded amazingly like, "He's an annoying busybody anyway."
"All right then," Fred spoke up and pointed his wand at the Sorting Hat that sat on the shelf all by itself. "Tutelam Inflammarae," he shouted, before he cried out in pain as the spell backfired and his right arm felt as if it was burning.
"How stupid do you think I am? I am a thousand-year-old piece of magic," the Hat hissed at the boys, causing the twins to look up in horror.
"You all right, Fred?" George asked worriedly.
Before his brother could tell him that he felt anything but all right, Fawkes flapped his huge, beautiful wings and jumped down onto Fred's left arm, bowing his head towards the right arm.
"Hey, he offers to heal you," George said excitedly, causing Fred to roll up his sleeve, revealing his completely red, burning arm.
Fawkes leaned over the raw flesh and gently let a few tears drop on the wounds, causing the arm to heal in the blink of an eye.
"Oh Fawkes, thank you so much," Fred blurted out in utmost relief. "I will never forget what you did for me today!"
"Thank you, Fawkes," George echoed, shutting up terrified when all of a sudden the voices of Dumbledore and McGonagall could be heard in front of the door.
"Oh no," Fred whispered, "that will clearly be the end of our young lives," causing his brother to nod mournfully.
Another Valuable Ally
Before the twins could even think about what to do, Fawkes hovered in front of them, clearly inviting them to grab his back feathers like they had seen Dumbledore do before, and the boys didn't hesitate to follow the phoenix' kind invitation. Seconds later, they found themselves back in their room. Fawkes let out a beautiful melody, before he flashed away in a small flash of flames.
"That was amazing," Fred said, still trying to stomach what had happened during the last ten minutes.
"Are you all right? Did Fawkes completely heal you?" George asked worriedly, causing Fred to once more roll his sleeve up, revealing a completely healed arm.
Feeling utterly exhausted by their recent adventures, the twins decided to wait a few days until their next attempt to attack the Hat. They didn't have much time anyway as they needed to keep up with their homework.
"If magic doesn't work, we'll have to try it the Muggle way. We need scissors," George said in determination as they approached the gargoyle on Friday evening as soon as they had seen Dumbledore leave for the Great Hall.
"Stomach calming liquorice kittens," Fred told the gargoyle; however, the annoying old stone didn't move the slightest bit.
"The password has been changed," it snarled. "Go away."
Knowing that there was no way to pass the gargoyle, the twins solemnly returned in the direction of their room, running straight into Charlie, their older brother.
"Charlie!" they blurted out happily, throwing themselves into his arms.
"Hey, what's wrong?" he asked gently, looking worriedly in their sad faces as they finally let go.
"Can you promise..."
"... to keep our secret?"
"I promise," Charlie laughed, glad that his brothers were still up to their usual antics.
Fred and George quickly filled the astonished Gryffindor in, ending, "and now we can't get into the Headmaster's office anymore, and we can't ask Madam Pomfrey about the password every other day."
"Well, don't tell anyone that I told you that, because it's forbidden, but if you go to Hogsmeade, you can take the Floo from The Three Broomsticks straight to the Headmaster's office. Normally, as a prefect I'm aware of the password, but recently the Headmaster is changing it almost daily, and McGonagall doesn't always have time to inform me before he changes it again."
"Thank you, Charlie," George replied gratefully.
"Oh, Charlie, by the way," Fred just remembered something. "Do you know where I could get some treats for Fawkes? You know, I want to thank him for what he did for me the other day."
"Ah, that's easy. Do you know where the kitchens are?" Seeing his brothers shake their heads, he sighed. "Well, we're just missing dinner anyway. Let's go to the kitchens and ask the house-elves for dinner. They will also give you treats for Fawkes."
When the twins returned to their room an hour later, they happily grinned at each other. "We aren't even here for a week, but we already have gained three allies, Pomfrey, Charlie and Fawkes," Fred spoke up. "That's not too bad."
"You're right. Let's try to take the Floo to Dumbledore's office tomorrow morning. You know Charlie said he often leaves for the Ministry on the weekends. He'll probably be away then."
Fred agreed, and on Saturday morning, the twins hurriedly left the castle and ran down the street to Hogsmeade, glad when they didn't meet anyone on their way. They quickly apologized to Madam Rosmerta, who knew them from former visits together with their parents and allowed them to grab some Floo powder.
George stepped into the fireplace first, shouting, "The Headmaster's office, Hogwarts."
When Fred stumbled out of the fireplace, he knew immediately that something had gone wrong. George was talking to someone!
"Ah, there is the other half," Dumbledore said gently, offering him a lemon drop, which Fred politely declined.
"As I said, Professor, we heard that you had so much work, so we thought we might be able to help you," George offered, causing Fred to secretly admire his twin for his fast reaction.
"That is indeed very kind of you, gentlemen. However, why not just come though my office door but through the Floo, hmm?" Dumbledore queried in disbelief.
"Because it was faster to walk to Hogsmeade..."
"... and take the Floo from there," Fred completed George's sentence, before they continued together.
"... than to guess your password, sir."
They watched anxiously as the edges of Dumbledore's mouth pulled slightly upwards, before the professor finally couldn't help laughing.
"Very well then, boys, you may help me every night between dinner and curfew for the next two weeks," he decided, causing huge smiles to appear on the twins' faces. "In case I won't be here, I'll leave some work for you to do on the small table over there," the Headmaster said, pointing to a table by the window. "While you work for me, the password will be 'Twix'."
When the twins entered the Headmaster's office for their first 'detention' that evening, Dumbledore was absent. "Thank God," Fred muttered and stepped over to Fawkes, emptying a small bag of phoenix treats onto his perch. "The house-elves told me they were your favourite, and I want to thank you for your help the other day," he said, gently petting the bird's head feathers.
Fawkes thanked the boy with a delighted trill.
"Let's see what we have here," George spoke up, taking the Sorting Hat from the shelf.
Be Aware of the Hat's Magic
However, as soon as he set to cutting the cloth with the scissors, the Hat emerged from his grip and straightened itself, before the air around the Hat whirled around, leaving George crying out in utmost pain.
The twins slowly turned their eyes to the shelf, realising that the Hat had returned to its usual place. "Uh, that's gross," George whispered, "and it hurts terribly."
"You all right?" Fred asked in concern, noticing that his brother's face had turned white, while beads of sweat were forming on his forehead.
"No, but we have to do our work," George replied, pointing to the pile of parchments on the small table.
Fred sighed. "You just sit there on the chair and rest, and I'll do the work," he offered, helping his brother into the chair.
Two hours later, the Headmaster returned to his office, thanked the twins for their help and dismissed them for the night.
The twins slowly returned to their room, feeling very grateful towards their House mates, who had been covering up for them the whole week, so their Heads of House hadn't noticed their absence from their Houses yet. "Are you all right, George, or do you need to see Madam Pomfrey?" Fred asked as they passed corridor in front of the hospital wing.
"I'm not sure," George replied, feeling absolutely miserable, and unconsciously leaned into the cold touch when his brother firmly placed his hand on his sweaty forehead.
"You're feverish. Let's go and ask her to check on you," Fred decided, leading his brother into the hospital wing.
"Oh no, it's you again," Madam Pomfrey groaned in pretended exasperation, waving her wand over George. "Make yourself comfortable in that bed over there. You'll probably be fine by tomorrow morning. What happened, by the way?"
Carefully glancing around to be sure no one else would be able to listen in to their conversation, Fred told the Mediwitch what had happened, causing her to sigh.
"You better make a good plan how to beat the Hat. Provided we won't have an epidemic here tomorrow, I can teach you a few protective spells, so you'll at least be able to defend yourselves if you plan to molest the Hat again."
During the following two weeks, the twins tried several times to attack the Hat. They always brought treats for Fawkes and spent a few minutes petting the phoenix, before they sat at the table doing their work for Dumbledore. During their work, one of them would suddenly point his wand at the Hat that seemed to be sleeping all the time. However, not a single spell got through to the Hat. Instead, at least one of the twins was always hit by the Hat's revenge spell, injuring them more or less badly, so they ended up spending the night in Madam Pomfrey's care.
"What if we just take the stupid Hat with us and hide it somewhere?" Fred suggested one evening.
"No; Dumbledore would just send Fawkes out to fetch it," George replied in desperation. "I'm so sick of this."
Unfortunately, the twins couldn't come up with a proper idea, and even Charlie, whom they pestered about the matter, couldn't think of a good advice so fast. "Give me some time, and I'll think about it," he promised, causing the twins to groan, knowing they didn't have much time anymore.
Fawkes is the Best
Finally, it was on the last day of their two-week detention at the Headmaster's office, and the twins were waiting for an opportunity to ask the Headmaster, who for once was present, if they could continue helping him, glancing over to Dumbledore's desk every now and then.
"What's wrong with Fawkes?" George suddenly asked.
"He looks sick," Fred agreed.
Dumbledore looked up from the Daily Prophet he was just tearing piecemeal and explained, "He must be close to his burning day, the poor lad."
"Burning day?" the twins queried, glancing at each other in surprise, before they turned their eyes back to the phoenix, noticing that his colour was dull and he didn't wear the mischievous look they loved so much.
A few minutes later, Fawkes left his perch and hopped onto the shelf. Walking over to the Sorting Hat, he made himself comfortable on the Hat's large cramp, mere seconds before he burst into flames, causing the Hat to succumb to the flames, before Baby Fawkes appeared in the combined ash of his former self and the Hat.
Six years later...
The twins magically cleared their working space, before they turned to their Head of House, handing him a batch of a Healing potion.
"We're finished, Professor."
Snape placed the phials on the table, carefully sniffing at the green liquid, before he turned to the boys. "Thank you, boys; you may take this to Madam Pomfrey." He hesitated for a moment, before he continued, "I wish to suggest something to the two of you. I'd like to offer you the position of my apprentices. You would study for three years, before you'd be able to take your Potions Mastery. I've already spoken with Madam Pomfrey, and she would be willing to give you the Healing lessons required for the Potions Mastery. She must think very highly of you, because she never easily agrees to teach anyone."
The twins exchanged a confused glance. "Um... Would we still be able..."
"... to run our joke shop, sir?"
Snape threw them an irritated look, before he nodded. "Yes, provided that you give me the antidote to anything you might distribute within the castle." Seeing the twins nod in agreement, he continued, "I am proud of you. I'm glad the Sorting Hat didn't place you into Gryffindor like all the other Weasleys but chose Slytherin."
"No." The twins shook their heads. "Dumbledore put us in Slytherin, after Fawkes helped us get rid of the insufferable Sorting Hat."
"Oh right, there was something," Snape said pensively, absently waving his wand to extinguish the lights in the Potions classroom.
Epilogue 2 – The Alternate Ending
Albus Dumbledore sat in his office, sighing with relief. 'Finally a solution to this ludicrous and antiquated Sorting procedure; finally, I am the true Master of Hogwarts,' he thought, when all of a sudden a miniature Hat, you could almost say a Baby Hat, popped into existence beside Baby Fawkes in the ashes.