A/N: Here's a little bit of background info to get you started: this takes place before Deathly Hallows, the morning of the day the Death Eaters killed Charity Burbage. It's from the point of view of the Sorting Hat (hence the title!). I know the Hat was male in the movies, but I decided to just use 'it'. Just to clarify. :)
27 August 1997
Being a hat, even the Hogwarts Sorting Hat, was the most boring job in the world. All day long, it sat on a shelf in the headmaster's office, humming tunes and creating songs for the beginning-of-term feast each year. It tried to draw inspiration from what it gleaned of the castle happenings based on what teachers said when they came in, but it still wasn't easy work.
At the moment, the Hat was sitting in its usual spot, watching the new headmaster pace around his study. The man was wearing a billowing black cloak and had lank, greasy hair. He kept muttering to himself, every so often glancing around the study as if nervous someone would overhear him, but no one was around to eavesdrop. The occupants of the paintings on the walls were asleep, and no phoenix occupied the perch in the corner any longer. The Hat shifted slightly on the shelf, causing the man to pause and look around, but after a moment, he apparently decided there was no danger and resumed his pacing.
The headmaster stopped again when there was a loud rap on the closed door. Stepping close to the polished wood, he placed a long forefinger on the handle and put his lips to the crack in the door. "Who are you? State your business."
"'S'me, Amycus," a voice whispered from the other side of the door.
The man pulled open the door to reveal a rather dumpy, squat wizard, a lopsided leer on his ugly face. As this new man stepped into the room, the Hat noticed Dumbledore's portrait peering at the newcomer with an expression akin to finding something particularly nasty on the bottom of his shoe.
"What brings you here, Amycus?" asked the black-cloaked man coldly, settling himself behind the desk.
"The Dark Lord sent Alecto and me to come teach here, Severus, that's what. He wants us on the inside, too—the more, the better," said Amycus triumphantly.
Severus's eyes narrowed, but he nodded curtly and said, "Very well. I am sure we can find an opening for your sister, but I believe Defense Against the Dark Arts is open for you."
"Bloody excellent," Amycus growled, rubbing his hands together gleefully. "And yer supposed to come to Malfoy Manor tonight, fer a meeting."
"Thank you, Amycus," said Severus. "I will see you then."
"G'bye," called Amycus as he stumped from the room.
The Hat watched as Severus rose from his desk, considering for a moment, before sweeping out the door after Amycus. Alone now in the empty room, it was free to return to its songwriting.
The song seemed to pop into being from nowhere, invading the Hat's cluttered thoughts and pushing all of them aside. It glanced around, checking to make sure it was quite alone, before taking a deep breath and bursting into song.
"When Hogwarts was started, the founders were four:
Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor.
They gathered together because of a yearning
To teach wizard children their magical learning.
Each founder was different, and so in the end
A House was created for each different friend.
Slytherin, cunning, the house of ambition;
the slithering serpents of pureblood tradition.
Ravenclaw, brainy, with brilliant minds
where those witty and clever can be with their kind.
Hufflepuff, loyal, where those good and true
use compassion and friendship to help them pull through.
Finally, Gryffindor, daring and strong;
where the brave and the bold find they'll best get along.
For a while, it seemed that the school would be fine,
until the founders' friendships went into decline.
Seeing no hope in staying, old Slytherin left,
leaving three friends behind him, torn apart and bereft.
I sit here before you to tell you this tale
because in these dark times, hope will always prevail.
But I'll warn you right now: if it doesn't exist,
then Hogwarts may slip away into the mist."