Just a Hat
Written for the Quidditch League Finals Round One, which had to be about a sentient object.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and am not associated with Bloomsbury or Scholastic Inc.
The old hat. The singing fool. The preacher of caution and unity. Just a ragged piece of headwear with some interesting magic put in him, and those are some of the nicer things he's been called. A fine old tradition, but no more than that.
He cannot truly blame them. One song a year can do little to change hearts.
It is a pity. He knows far more than they realise. They forget, after all, who made him.
He awakens, and believes he knows everything. It is justified; during his making they poured all their memories into him, that he might have the skill to perceive a person's innermost thoughts, and the knowledge with which to judge them. That is what he was made to do, and he knows that he can do it. But he is inexperienced. He does not possess the wisdom to understand the consequences of his judgements, or the compassion to listen and to bend.
So they teach him.
It's not easy, but they are patient, and the lessons they teach him are invaluable. And, despite what history will one day say about him, he values Salazar's words just as much as any of the others.
It is Salazar who first tells him that he may be more than he realises.
"Why did you even create me?"
He feels it's a reasonable question. He understands that his friends won't live forever, but there are plenty of other ways they could sort future students. As happy as he is to exist, a talking hat isn't exactly the first thing he could think of.
"Why does it matter?"
He briefly reconsiders the wisdom in talking to Salazar about this. The man has a well-deserved reputation for teaching his students more than they realise. Then again, maybe that's exactly why he chose to talk to Salazar. "If I'm going to be doing this for the next several hundred years then I want to know why."
Salazar raises an eyebrow. "To sort the students. Why else?"
"There's more to it to that. You could train other people to sort them. Why the need for me?"
Salazar considers him for so long that he begins to wonder if the man will ever answer. Then some of the tension seems to drain from his body. "We created you because this is too important to entrust to anyone else. People can be misled, our views can be distorted, but not you." His silver eyes seem to burn in his pale face. "You cannot be influenced by any outside forces with their own agenda. You will not forget. You will do what is best for our students. You will protect them." His voice drops to a whisper and he looks away. "You will look after them when we cannot."
For a long moment he can only stare at him. He had expected a lot of things, but this...this was not one of them. "You cannot be serious."
Salazar's eyes narrowed. "Do you really think I would joke about something like this?"
Salazar is many things, but there is nothing he values more than his students. The hat of all people knows that. "No, but it doesn't make sense."
"In what way?"
"I'm a hat!"
"Really? I never noticed. Thank you so much for enlightening me."
Now he's just being deliberately obtuse. Not for the first time the hat wishes it has hands. "You know perfectly well what I meant," he snaps. "How am I supposed to protect the students when I can't even move by myself?"
"What am I supposed to do, flap at them?"
"That is an option," says Salazar seriously. "It might very well distract them long enough for the student to get help."
"I know." He runs a hand through his hair and looks up. "You help them by doing exactly what you're supposed to."
The hat looks as unimpressed as a hat can. "I don't see how that'll help."
"Put them where they're supposed to be," says Salazar quietly. "Where they can be their best."
The hat pulls a mental face and wishes Salazar could see it. "That doesn't mean I can protect them."
Salazar looks away. "I wouldn't be so sure of that."
"What are you talking about?" He can do a lot of things, but protecting people isn't one of them.
"Never mind," says Salazar softly.
The hat knows better than to accept that. "Salazar, what do you mean? What are you planning?"
Wide silver eyes turn to him. "What makes you think I'm planning anything?"
"Because I know you. More specifically I am you." And as such he knows exactly what Salazar is capable of. Sometimes it's enough to scare even him, but Salazar smirks at his reply and rises to his feet.
"Exactly. So trust me."
He never explains. The hat doesn't ask again. Because he does trust Salazar, no matter how exasperating the man may be, and that opinion never changes.
Years later he finally gets an explanation. More accurately, he gets part of one. They never believed in giving anyone all the answers. After all, that was no way to learn.
"You're looking old."
The hat snorts. "Speak for yourself."
Godric just grins at him. Red hair has long since faded to white, and pain and stress have left their marks, but his green eyes sparkle just the way they always have. "We've got some years in us yet."
The hat doesn't reply. Godric is old, yes, but his time is approaching. After Salazar and Rowena the hat is no stranger to death. He understands, and he accepts it, but it is not something he likes to dwell on. He is another matter. He knows the charms they put on him. He knows he will outlive them all by generations.
He doesn't like to dwell on that either.
"I need to ask you a favour."
He doesn't even have to think about it. "Anything."
Godric smiles. "I need you to look after something for me."
The hat suppresses the urge to sigh. "Certainly. I'll lock it all up safe and sound and hide the key in my pocket."
"You definitely spent too much time with Salazar."
"I repeat, speak for yourself."
The grin reappears. "Fair enough. But I meant it. There is something you can do for me."
With anyone else he would laugh. With Godric he just flicks his tip at him. "I'm waiting."
"I can perform a spell that will allow me to hide this item inside of you. You will then be able to control who can access it and when."
The hat frowns as best he can. "Why me? Why not just store it somewhere secure?"
"Because many people will want it," Godric explains. "It will not be safe."
"There are many safe places, Godric."
"This is not just a matter of security. One day someone will need it, and they will need it quickly. You can provide it."
The hat sighs. "What is it?"
Godric says nothing, but his gaze drifts to the wall over the fireplace. The hat stares at him. "You cannot be serious."
"I assure you, I am."
"I'm a hat, not an armoury."
"I know," says Godric placatingly. "But you know what the goblins have been saying about me. If I try to store it somewhere, even in Hogwarts, they will find it. I cannot let that happen."
"Because someone will need it."
It's not a question but Godric nods anyway. "You are the only person I can trust with this."
What can he possibly say to that, but agree?
Hundreds of years pass, but he never forgets those conversations. He sorts the students to the best of his ability, every single one of them. He does everything he can to put each child where they can grow and develop. No matter what he sees in their minds, good and bad, he does what's best for them.
But he never gives up the sword. Somehow it never seems to be the right time.
Students come and go. Leaders rise and fall. Dark wizards fight and fail. He watches, and he does what he was taught to do, and he never forgets the lessons he learned.
One year he sorts two boys. Both shy, both scared, but Gryffindors to the very core. Nothing unusual in itself; he has sorted many such children in his time, but something about this pair is different. Maybe it is the memory of their parents. Maybe it is the knowledge he has gained from sitting in the Headmaster's office all year round. Maybe he sees something in them that he has not seen for many centuries. Or maybe his creators just left a little bit more magic in him than he thought.
Whatever it is, he finds himself preparing. For what he does not know, but he does know one thing.
This pair will change the world. It will not be easy. He knows exactly who it is they have to face, but he knows that they are a match for him, even if they do not realise it yet.
He also knows that he will do whatever he can to help them. That is, after all, what he was made for.
That was the worst round yet, but I hope you enjoyed it. Any feedback would be much appreciated.