House of Cards
The Sorting Hat always did wonder why it made the choices it did. It supposed that it was an easy job - searching through the mind of an eleven year old, decide whether they were more brave, smart, cunning or loyal than anything else, and call out a name.
But it could never be that easy. The House you were sorted into made all the difference in late life. Gryffindors were good, Slytherins were evil, Ravenclaws only cared for studying, and Hufflepuffs were dumb.
Whatever House you were in changed everything.
You were looked down on for being a Slytherin - if you were a Gryffindor, you were scorned for being anything less than an Auror - Ravenclaws were ridiculed for wrong answers - and Hufflepuff was where you were put if you weren't really anything.
All in all, the Sorting Hat made a lot of wrong choices.
Its first mistake was Albus Dumbledore. Albus was a cheery boy with the world on his shoulders and a wise head far too old for his years.
Hufflepuff was the first House that sprang to mind. Just - perhaps. Loyal - definitely. Hard-working - without a doubt. Hufflepuff would've been good for the auburn-haired wizard whose eyes seemed to betray so much. But Dumbledore insisted that his mother would be appalled, and that Hufflepuff simply would not do. And no; somehow the House did not suit young Albus.
The next choice was Gryffindor. First of all, the Sorting Hat disregarded this option with little more than a fabricated thought.
Albus Wulfric Percival Brian Dumbledore wasn't particularly brave above all others and he was anything but reckless. He might've been loyal and courageous, but the Sorting Hat insisted something else.
Years later, people would've scoffed at the thought of Albus Dumbledore residing in the House of the Snakes, the image of their Headmaster wearing silver and green. But to the Hat, at the time, it seemed like a perfectly suitable idea.
He was ambitious, most definitely, and cunning. He wasn't evil, no, but bordered on spiteful.
However, the eleven-year old seemed insistent that Slytherin was not the House for him. He used some out-of-the-box excuse that green just simply wasn't his colour and silver didn't help his complexion.
The last option was Ravenclaw. He was smart, witty and different - he would do well with the Eagles. He would've done great things there. However, Albus was adamant that Gryffindor was the House for him, without question.
But the old Sorting Hat, still in its prime, had to respect the wishes of the Sort-ee, and so placed the boy already with silver streaking his hair into the House where dwelled the brave at heart. Even then, the Sorting Hat wondered if it had made its first mistake.
The second, least visible mistake was made on September 1st, 1971. After a group of young Gryffindors, it seemed tedious to have another.
Severus Snape was a young boy with a hooked nose, a pale complexion and dark, slick hair. He had an air of looking down on those around him, scorned anyone who dared to get in his way, and promptly announced that if the Sorting Hat didn't put him in Slytherin, it would wish it were a common sock.
Naturally, the Sorting Hat presumed the boy was a Snake, and didn't hesitate. It wasn't even sure it touched the boy's head before he called out "SLYTHERIN!"
However, if it had just delved a bit deeper into the mind of the boy who craved to be called Prince, it would've found a lot more than simple Slytherin there. It would've found bravery, and loyalty, and more love than possible to give to one person alone.
It would've found a need to work hard, a wise head on young shoulders and a boy that wasn't really Slytherin at all.
But the Hat saw only the boy's smug smile as it sent him on his way to greatness, and didn't ponder about the eleven-year-old named Severus Snape for a long time.
By the time it did, it was far too late to change.
The third was a young boy named Percy Weasley. A Weasley, of course, usually instantly went to Gryffindor - all the redheads seemed to favour bravery.
If the Sorting Hat had spent a little more time atop Percy's head, it would've realised that the boy was not really amazingly Gryffindor at all. He was brave, yes, but not reckless by any means. The most obvious other choice would've been Ravenclaw - he was smart, of course.
Instead, however, the third Weasley child would've suited Hufflepuff a lot more.
He was loyal, just, trustworthy and hard-working. Maybe he made a few bad choices in later years - his loyalty may have swayed - but he always returned, bounced back.
Percy's talents weren't chess, or Quidditch, or pranking, or being a "social butterfly." He wasn't so amazingly smart. But he had to work for that - work until his hand would shake with effort just trying to beat his brothers at something - if not at their own game.
It was a hard existence, being the Gryffindor swot, being announced Prefect and then Head Boy, because he wasn't the first or the last.
Percy Weasley was not overly kind, nor was he overly witty. He was not especially brave, and he was not especially cunning. Percy Weasley was a conundrum, but a conundrum that would've made an excellent Hufflepuff nevertheless.
But his mother was proud, and he did right in the end, so maybe Percy wasn't a mistake after all. But the Hat could've help but wonder.
The last mistake was quite possibly obvious. To his close friends, the fact that Harry Potter could've been a Slytherin was not a shock, nor was it a hindrance.
The Sorting Hat sometimes wished that Harry had not met Draco Malfoy or Ron Weasley before the Sorting, because then his views wouldn't have been tainted. Slytherin would just be another House, and he'd simply think how lucky he was to be a wizard in the first place.
It wished more than anything that it could've put the Boy-Who-Lived in with the Snakes.
Not because it would've been good gossip and entertainment for when the Hat was locked in the Headmaster's office all year round, but because Harry really would've thrived there.
The Sorting Hat had not been lying when he said that Potter would've truly been great - his pride and his thirst to prove himself were evidence of that. He was more Slytherin than Gryffindor, but he would always and forever be the Gryffindor Golden Boy.
And that always made the Hat a little bit sad.
So, maybe 4 evident mistakes in over 1000 years was a good track record. Maybe what it said changed the world for good. But it didn't mean that good was right.
Because the Sorting Hat could not help but wonder what might've happened if Albus Dumbledore had been placed in Ravenclaw, or if Severus Snape had been put in Gryffindor where he belonged. It pondered what might've been if Percy Weasley had gone to Hufflepuff, or if the great Harry Potter had truly been a Slytherin.
But the Hat had to deal with the cards it was dealt, and so went on knowing that it had only been four little mistakes. But it wondered...
Maybe, one day, somebody would tell a story.
The story of a Gryffindor who was really more Ravenclaw, and of the bravest Slytherin it had ever had the opportunity to sort. A tale of a red-headed, Weasley Hufflepuff, and a Gryffindor Golden Boy who was more Slytherin than not.
It would be a strange tale, one of mixed thoughts and prejudices, but the Hat would've liked to read it.