The Sugar Quill
Author: Andrea13  Story: Voyages of the Thinking Cap  Chapter: default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

This is a slightly more serious (and much longer

This is a slightly more serious (and much longer!) prequel to my "The Thinking Cap" and "The Thinking Cap Returns" that is mostly the brainchild of Persephone and Alan. I was involved in the writing of it, but they deserve most of the credit! ;) Feedback is always appreciated at ra_1013@yahoo.com , persephone_kore@yahoo.com , and rexlapinii@aol.com

Voyages of the Thinking Cap

By Andrea13, Persephone_Kore, and Alan Sauer

The Founders had all been delighted when the spell to create the Sorting Hat had succeeded, duplicating their minds and ensconcing one copy of each in Godric's hat for all time so that they could always choose their students. The four inside had known at once; those outside had each tried it on and exclaimed delightedly at the five voices -- their own, which only they four could hear, and the one wrought especially for the students that belonged to the Hat itself.

It had been a little disconcerting, of course, to rifle through the mind inside the head they were sitting on and realize that the other three were going to get a good look at one's own. Still, that did give some excellent material for conversation... and it soon became apparent to the Four within the Sorting Hat that conversation material was something to be prized, because while they certainly had no one to blame -- the decision had after all been theirs mutually, even if Godric had worked most of the spell itself -- they soon realized that they hadn't quite taken into account just how little else there was to DO as a disembodied mind and voice in a hat.

Still, it was done and they still agreed that it had been a good idea, so they settled in and found ways to pass the time -- ranging from philosophy to word games to thinking up improvements to the spells, which they suggested whenever one of their counterparts put on the Hat for consultation. This rather startled Godric the first time.

Particularly since they'd had quite a while to think about it and, inspired by the plan to sing to the students each year, presented the idea in four-part harmony to the tune of a favorite song. Well, they'd tried. Salazar had started laughing halfway through at the astonishment emanating from Godric's mind, and the whole thing had rather fallen apart, forcing them to start again with the fifth verse after a period of minor chaos.

The outside "set" had taken up providing updates and other potentially interesting items after that, in an attempt to alleviate the high potential for boredom. (In the process there were four separate conversations to the point of "Stop feeling guilty...but don't stop trying to make things interesting; we appreciate it.") Rowena was so far having the most success; along with the general news and so on, she tended to insert carefully enchanted scrolls for them to read and all the intellectual problems and puzzles she wished she had time to work out but knew she never would finish -- which made her counterpart in the Thinking Cap nearly ecstatic over the opportunity to act as the term would suggest.

Of course, some of the other physical items placed in the hat were a bit strange -- but those were a source of humor at the very least, and they all looked forward to settling onto a head, whether one of their own or that of a student so small they nearly fell all the way over the shoulders. (That one had actually become stuck; they spent the better part of the next week analyzing exactly how they'd managed to let her back out once she'd started into the space where everything else was stored.)

The anticipation as they landed on Godric's again was as cheerful as ever -- which only made it a greater shock when his thoughts announced icily and nearly shaking with anger, \\There is to be no Slytherin House from this time forward. You are not to place any students there at the next Sorting.//

"Why not?" Salazar asked, reasonably enough. "They stop raising ambitious, cunning children out there?"

Anger flared up in a fierce spike at his voice, stabbing into the darkness of the hat. Rowena winced, but they all traced it easily enough, following it back to the source -- an argument that ended very, very badly.

"Now, I'm sure we can work this out," Helga said placatingly. "And you *know* there are some students that would be miserable in any House but Slytherin."

"Surely," Godric began. He was interrupted by the memory of his other-self -- who didn't seem to agree.

*"They leave or I do." Salazar, on Muggle-born students.

Godric's voice alone was a measure of how far the quarrel had gone this time. Those who didn't know him or had just begun to, expected him to roar when angry. Those who knew him well knew that at his most dangerous he was nearly silent. "Well, then," he said softly and evenly. "How soon can you be packed?"*

\\And I have no interest in arguing the matter with you *further*,// Godric spat -- and then he tore the hat off his head and they landed softly back on a shelf with no mind to read bigger than a dust bunny's.

"Well," Salazar said, sounding shaken, "I think we can safely say that didn't go well. We aren't really going to stop Sorting to Slytherin, are we?"

"I think you -- your other self, that is -- has left already," Rowena told him. In the memory she and Helga had been standing...off to the side, somewhat, but clearly and implacably with Godric.

"I can't possibly have meant that literally!" he protested.

"You shouldn't have *said* it, then," Godric snapped. But he, too, sounded unsettled beneath the irritation.

"I didn't say it. You *must* have realized by now we've diverged a bit from our outside selves. Not that I don't agree about the Muggle-borns, but *I* can see your point of view as well. Having been inside each of *your* outside selves' heads. And you didn't answer my question."

"Who's going to look after them if we don't stop?" Helga asked. "He *left*."

"Which I still think is preposterous. He's having one of our temper tantrums. But even if he really *did* leave, there are plenty of eligible candidates for successors. It's not like the other three aren't going to have to name them eventually. This just happened . . . sooner."

"I'm fairly sure he actually left," Godric put in quietly. "And I don't think he's going to be back." A pause. "Whether he likes it or not."

"Not if *your* outside self is going to stay that angry, no."

"He's not going to give in even when he calms down. If he does."

"All right. So what are we going to do about it?"

"Well, obviously we can't throw you out," Rowena said dryly. "Nor can you go off to sulk -- well, I suppose you could stop speaking to us, or vice versa. Neither seems particularly desirable."

"I'm not spending the rest of eternity sitting idly by and watching you three have all the fun, that's for sure. *I* think we need to get the rest of the story. Godric wasn't exactly objective."

"We saw exactly what happened and we've had the same argument *how* many times?" Godric snorted. "Don't tell me you can't fill in the rest of your side...."

"Well, he probably could, but it couldn't *hurt* to try for another perspective," Helga suggested.

"Like theirs." Salazar managed to give the impression that, if he had hands, he'd be using them to indicate Rowena and Helga. "They didn't leave, and they *looked* like they were on Godric's side, but unless Salazar did something dreadful to them as well, they've got to be a *little* more neutral."

"Well, we *do* agree with him about the Muggle-born students," Rowena pointed out. "Helga's the one who's been suggesting adaptive measures since day one. Still, we've generally been a bit calmer about it -- most of the time."

"Calmer than white-hot rage and incoherent demands to eliminate one-quarter of the student population? I should hope so." Salazar's tone was dry enough to mop floods with.

"To be perfectly fair," Helga said gently, overriding what was very possibly Godric's attempt to start saying something similar with more heat, "calmer than ultimatums and demands to eliminate about a third of it, as well."

"Granted. If *you'll* grant that eliminating significant fractions of the student body is unsupportable for any reason."

"Granted," Godric said with rather unexpected firmness. After a pause, he added casually, "Of course, *technically* I'd imagine the idea is merely to re-Sort them elsewhere."

"You're not headhunting any more of my students, Godric. And *certainly* there aren't to be any re-Sortings. Can you imagine what that would do to them?"

"It certainly makes more sense than removing them from the school entirely!"

"But not as much sense as finding a successor to head Slytherin House."

"I hate to point this out, but *we* can't exactly do that, now can we?"

"I can think of half a dozen former students just off the top of my spiritual essence that would do an excellent job. All we need is to get some of the outside set on our side."

"Before asking how we're planning to do *that*," Helga suggested, "perhaps we should make sure that we are in fact *on* the same side?"

"As long as Salazar *isn't* demanding we get rid of the Muggle-born students, I don't see why not," Godric

pointed out. "Granted with his refusing to claim them we're already practiced at Sorting students into our Houses when they're otherwise best suited to his, but getting rid of it altogether would be ridiculous -- and nobody actually *wanted* him to leave."

"I'm not about to apologize for my prejudices, which I earned fairly--but I'm not exactly situated to dictate school policy, am I? We can hash out the particulars of the argument some decade when we're bored. Right *now,* Godric-outside is on a crusade against my students."

"No, he is *not*. He has nothing against *them*," Godric said irritably. "But if you'll stop flinging absurd accusations, I'll admit that his current plans aren't best for them. And not best for the school, either. But how are we supposed to get in contact with anyone outside from here unless they *do* put on the hat? Wait for them to pass by and then leap on their heads?" He paused and the hat-brim twitched experimentally. "Actually, I suppose that might work...."

"It *would* be nice to get the other viewpoints on the argument, too," Helga added. "Even Salazar's, if that were possible."

"Maybe one of you ladies' alternates will consent to sneak us into his house. I can probably explain how to get through the wards."

"Would she be able to *find* it? I seem to recall you taking quite a bit of delight in hiding things."

"Yes, but unless he's moved I know where the house is. Or at least where the Apparition relay starts, since I'd rather not give full disclosure in case it gets back to Godric."

"Oh, honestly, Salazar! What do you think I'd do, hunt you down?" A pause. "Them, I mean."

"The sound of my voice was enough to get him angry enough that if I had a head I'd have a headache. You tell me."

There was another pause and then a sigh without breath. "If he'd been going to attack it would have been on the spot," Godric said finally. "I wouldn't wait and stalk an enemy, much less a friend, without far more reason than that."

"Unless you thought a former friend was plotting against the school, maybe."

"What reason would I have to think that?" There was an edge to Godric's voice.

"Who knows why you think anything?"

"As I'm fairly familiar with how *I* think, I'm more worried about the idea coming to your mind!"

"Enough, you two!" Helga barked. "I *seriously* doubt Salazar is plotting against the school, *or* that Godric actually suspects him of it."

"Well, I know *I'm* not," Salazar grumbled. "The only mad hairy thing I ever set on the students was Godric."

Godric snorted. "I didn't think *you* were, but as you pointed out, the other Salazar was in something of a temper himself, and if you thought of the possibility perhaps he would have thought of it more seriously. I'd think better of him, though, even if he *is* spiteful to some of the M--." Godric broke off and added more quietly, "Was, I suppose I should

say. Blast."

"So," Rowena broke the silence after a moment, "should we wait for someone to come put us on, or go looking for them?"

"Go looking for them," Salazar answered firmly. "If Godric-outside thought to yell at us, he may already have announced it to the students. We need to squelch this idiotic notion of his right away."

Amidst some further bickering, they started off. There were a few hitches -- at one point, for instance, they were slightly mauled by a cat and only managed to get rid of it when it happened to stick its head inside and fled upon hearing an

excellent imitation of a lion's snarl from the hat's voice.

But they could sense, in a general way, where their counterparts' minds were -- so after an exciting moment when Godric stalked past them without looking down, they managed to find Helga and Rowena together in the same room.

"Would one of you ladies please put me on?" the Hat's voice said. "I believe there are questions that need answering."

After a moment, they were picked up and vigorously dusted before settling onto Helga's head. \\Hello....//

"What is Godric doing trying to get rid of Slytherin House?" Salazar asked with some heat. "We saw the argument, but that doesn't justify taking it out on the students!"

\\Well, the House will still exist until the current students finish,// Helga told them quietly. \\As Salazar's left, however,// and that thought tasted bitter with indignation and betrayal, \\he clearly won't be taking on any more students.// Her tone changed startlingly to wistfulness. \\We *have* missed you, though.//

Godric's voice vibrated with disbelief. "Wait just a minute. The memory didn't feel that old -- *how long* has he been gone?"

\\Nearly a fortnight. Not so very long, I suppose, but it's very strange.//

"And none of you thought to ask about a successor?" Salazar's tone was carefully even. "You just thought you'd shuffle my House neatly under the rug and forget about us, hmm?"

\\He is the one who decided he couldn't stay in a school with Muggle-borns. If he wishes to start his own I suppose he might as well.// The thought was cold.

"Helga, really!" the disembodied Helga remonstrated, rather startled by her other self's attitude. But then, she had hardly been able to believe he'd actually *go* herself, at first....

"Well, if you're going to eliminate my purpose in this Hat, then, I'm surprised you haven't come by to destroy me by now." Salazar took the disembodied voice equivalent of several deep breaths. "No, sorry, I've been out of sorts since Godric put on the Hat, but it's not fair taking it out on you either."

\\We couldn't, you know,// she thought at them softly. \\And then, we can't much blame you for being out of sorts; I think all three of us have been since the argument, truth to tell.//

Three.

"You've already cut him off completely, then, if you don't even *think* 'four' anymore." Salazar sighed. "Not that I can entirely blame you, either, from what I saw. Much though I'd like to. Will you at least *consider* finding a successor for Slytherin? If you and Rowena both agreed, you'd have Godric outvoted no matter how furious he is."

\\Salazar... I don't *know* what he's thinking. He's *not here*.// A soft sigh. \\But I suppose he is too.// She didn't answer the other.

"Helga, couldn't --"

"Listen." Helga interrupted Salazar and descended firmly on her other self's mind. "I know you see it as a betrayal that he left; I do too -- but you know how much he's done for the school. It wouldn't be right to cut off the House as well. At least think about it -- and may we talk to Rowena?"

"Thanks," Salazar murmured to Helga below the threshold of the public conversation. "Sorry I was being a git."

"It's all right. I can't blame you for being annoyed -- it wasn't *your* fault. But I can't entirely blame her for reacting as if you were the one who left, either. If it helps at all...she'd be entirely on his side, in this, if Godric had been the

first to suggest he go."

"Except I *wouldn't* have --" Godric began.

"I don't know about that. Can you be certain, in the same heat, that you never would have suggested if he was so opposed to the Muggle-borns perhaps he should go instead?"

".....Not certain, no. But at least *if!*"

And then they were set on Rowena's hair instead. \\I understand you wanted to speak to me?//

"I've also been kind of speaking for all of us, and I--oh, hello, Rowena." This last was in public mode, although still subdued. "Godric's just been by, and he's...rather angry."

\\I'm aware of that.// The hat was shifted slightly as Rowena rubbed her temples. \\Let me guess: you don't want your House removed?//

"Not if it can be avoided. It would be very hard on the students. And I'd be . . . well, stuck in here for eternity with nothing to do, and while Godric might enjoy that prospect at the moment I'm rather hoping you've a more objective outlook."

\\Godric will calm down eventually to the point of *not* flaring up again when you're mentioned... I think. I don't know about keeping the House when...Salazar has left the school himself, though perhaps we'll reconsider.//

"Perhaps you should at least appoint an interim Head for Slytherin?" Godric broke in. "Helga mentioned the current Slytherin students would remain; it hardly seems fair to them or the...three of you to leave them without their own supervision."

"I'd imagine some of them have already started to, ah, express their disapproval," Salazar said with a hint of a chuckle in his voice. "We had to detour around a few puddles getting here."

\\Oh, dear. I suppose I'd better go see to --//

"Actually," Rowena said quickly, "we were going to ask you for transportation."

\\...I gather this is something other than putting you back on your shelf?//

"We'd like to visit Salazar as well."

\\I'm afraid I don't know where he *is* -- oh. You would, wouldn't you?//

"Yes. Or, I know where you can send us that will get us to him. Preferably attached to a snake, otherwise I don't know how we'll activate the Portkeys."

\\You don't make these things easy, do you?// Rowena asked dryly. \\Well, will a conjured one do?//

"Easy is no fun. And it ought to do, if it lasts long enough."

\\Do you need it for more than two days?//

"I shouldn't think so!"

\\Good, then.//

"And even if we do, I can convince my other self to send us back direct."

\\Unless he decides to keep you there out of spite or some such. Now *that* should be interesting to explain.//

"He won't," Salazar said confidently. "And if he does, we'll just act like a badly-behaved cat until he can't stand it anymore."

"We'll do *what*?" Godric asked somewhat later, in a bemused undertone, as Rowena was attaching them carefully to a Serpensortia-conjured snake. It was, entertainingly, blue and bronze.

"We're already planning to leap on his head from behind, aren't we? Maybe we can't piss in his shoes, but we can lurk, pounce, and sing."

"...I thought *I* was the one who's supposed to be annoyed with him here."

"You are. But if he doesn't send us back, I will *become* very annoyed with him. And I believe in planning ahead."

"And you are planning to act like a cat. Got it. ...Ah, we're going."

They bounced through a series of Portkeys, Salazar directing the snake from inside the Hat, and ended up in a small windowless room furnished as an entrance hall. "Quick, we need to get out of sight," Salazar said. "We won't have registered, as a technically inanimate object, but the snake will have sounded alarms."

"Do we also need to get the snake out of sight?"

"No, it'll be fine. We like snakes, remember? And they occasionally stumble across the Portkeys."

"In that case," Godric asked in exasperation as the hat clambered energetically up the wall, "and if we don't register, what is the point of getting out of sight? We *are* planning to let him know we're here."

"How likely is he to just put us on, given that this hat used to be yours? Just let's hang on to the doorframe here and we'll ambush him when he comes to find the snake."

"I hope he won't think we're a Lethifold," Helga remarked as they prepared to pounce.

"I'm going to yell 'We're not a Lethifold!' as soon as I see hair."

"Well, that should be convincing," Godric said dryly. "Why WOULD he think we're a Lethifold? They're hardly native."

"Probably because we're cloth-like and pouncing from above. I don't think he'd automatically jump to the conclusion that the Sorting Hat was ambushing him."

"Well, no, I suppose we are a bit improbable. I think I hear him."

"Right. On three." They jumped. "We're not a Lethifold, we're the Sorting Hat, don't blast us!"

"Salazar, the only effective defense against a Lethifold is a Patronus and that wouldn't do a thing to us!" Rowena pointed out in an undertone.

The other Salazar, whose head they were clinging firmly to, did not seem to find his other self's reassurance particularly reassuring. Possibly he hadn't recognized that it was his own voice; at any rate, he froze for a moment and gave

them all just enough time to register the alarm in his mind before trying to tear the hat off.

It probably wasn't all that reassuring to have the brim clench firmly and refuse to be removed either, but it seemed to be a reflex.

"Hey! Hey! Easy on the seams, you git!" Salazar-in-the hat shouted. "Not like we're not already ripped, you know."

"I think we scared him," Helga muttered, "despite not being a Lethifold. Salazar, we aren't attacking -- Godric! Tell him we're not attacking him!"

"We're not attacking you," Godric informed the head obligingly.

There was a concentrated mental howl of fury, and Salazar redoubled his efforts to remove the Hat.

"I could have told you that wouldn't work," the Salazar in the Hat said dryly. "Remember how Godric reacted to me?"

There was a muttered apology from Godric and Helga both; Rowena sighed loudly into everyone's mental ears and remarked very calmly, "Your hair is wet." Which it was, although this did not seem especially relevant.

There was a longish pause. \\I was walking in the rain,// Salazar said eventually.

He also stopped wrestling with the Hat, which was a great relief to everyone inside it -- and possibly to him as well, since this allowed the Hat as a whole to relax and sit on his head properly. It really wasn't made to grip anything, much less fit properly while doing so. Rowena, having been the most successful so far, took it upon herself to continue. "Any particular reason?"

\\It relaxes me. How did you get here?//

"What, you forgot I knew how to, just as well as you did?" Salazar asked with a snort. "We had a snake bring us -- it should still be in here someplace."

\\I'll see it has food and a way home if it wishes one--and mostly I was unaware you could...well, perch in doorways and leap. Has *he* been teaching you new tricks?//

"What, I don't have a name now?" Godric muttered without letting the words escape the Hat. He restrained himself from saying anything *to* Salazar again yet, however, and kept quiet through Helga's response.

"I assume 'he' would be Godric, particularly the outside one -- in which case I suppose you could say he *inspired* us to learn new tricks, as he decided to stop by and make announcements with entirely too little explanation. So we went looking for the rest of you, you see."

\\I am no longer the rest of anyone but myself, though I admire the amount of effort it must have taken to reach me. I'll just send you back directly.//

"Not yet you won't!" Godric burst out, only to be frantically shushed by the other three as Salazar reached up to seize convulsively on the Hat again. Concluding that the damage was done by that point, he ignored the shushing and charged verbally ahead. "We came here to talk to you and are not leaving without doing so --"

Salazar's thoughts were filled predictably with rising fury again, and somewhat more oddly with rising alarm. \\We've talked, and I have no interest in --//

"Having the argument over again? I hope not, I don't want to either. And calm *down*, won't you? I don't particularly blame you for being angry with me, but what in earth and sky do you think we're going to *do*?"

"We could probably give him a nasty bump on the head with some of the junk in the storage space, I suppose," Salazar mused absently. "But I add my vote to not repeating the argument. We just want to know your side."

"And don't try to tell us we saw the words and your other-self should know the thoughts perfectly well," Godric added almost cheerfully, "because we went over that *before* we came here."

\\And I suppose you aren't about to let go until you're satisfied,// Salazar said acerbically. \\Did you leave word where you were going, or shall I expect Godric to track you, break through my wards, and remove you at my jawline?//

"Given your current state of mind," Godric retorted, "I'm going to take it as a compliment that you assume he could break the wards and ignore the fact that you should know us better than to expect *that*."

\\No ward is infallible. And I don't know Godric anymore.//

A soft but heavy sigh. "I suppose I can see why you'd think that; both of you gave us something of a shock, I admit. But I still know my other-self reasonably well -- and you still know me, I think."

\\If you're offering yourself as an arbiter, there is... nothing left to arbitrate.//

"Actually I was trying to convince you that we aren't about to get you tracked down and killed... or drop things on your head, for that matter. I'd prefer to have you come back, yes -- but at the moment you're listening to me better than

Godric was, so I'm not certain how much good I'd be able to do if you did."

\\Well, I won't be going back. But I should hope I have better command of my temper than Godric does.//

"I have to say I'm sorry about the response if not especially surprised, but if you tell me 'They leave or I do' was a well-thought-out comment...." Godric said dryly.

\\I said I had *better* command of my temper, not that I had absolute command of it.//

"Fair enough. But what were you *thinking*..?"

Helga winced, half-expecting this to kindle Salazar's temper again, but hoped he'd see that the question was far more pained than accusatory by this point.

\\I suspect neither of us was thinking by that point,// Salazar answered dryly \\My own line of reasoning was fairly simple; I do not trust the Muggle-born, Godric refused to see things from my perspective, and so I left. If they turn on him, it will be just what he deserves.//

"Not that most of them trust you by now either," Godric retorted, "and I *can* see things from your perspective at this point, and still disagree with you, and despite *that* still feel the school's not complete without you. Just for the record." Another sigh. "Helga and Rowena said they've missed you, by the way."

\\Nothing's stopping them from coming to visit.//

"I'm afraid my own other-self still feels your leaving to be a betrayal," Helga put in gently, "but aside from that, do they know how to get here? We didn't."

\\Of course she does. Godric all but throws me out and *I'm* the traitor.// Salazar snorted. \\Although that is a point...but even so, they *can* contact me through the fire.//

"Well, you did suggest it -- and you needn't have thrown down an ultimatum, but then Godric needn't have taken you seriously. You're both ridiculously stubborn," she declared. As Helga's own determination (or obstinacy, if one wished to be less diplomatic) was approaching legendary status in her own time, this statement was met by four throat-clearings -- or at any rate one, and three disembodied semblances thereof. "But there is the fire, that's true, and perhaps they will."

\\I won't hold my breath. Obviously they'd rather side with Godric. Was there anything else you wanted, or do I get my head back?//

"To tell you we'll still be sorting into your House, I suppose," Rowena said.

\\I hadn't realized that would be a question. Good old Godric.//

"*Thank* you," said Godric. "You're making it very tempting to drop things on you after all, actually. But there will be no question now." Somehow, without a face or even a mouth, Godric conveyed the feeling of an impish grin. "You all *did* bind yourselves and the rest of the school to abide by our decisions."

\\So we did. I rather wish I could see Godric's face when you remind him of the fact.//

"I'm afraid you'd have to be there."

Salazar sniffed. \\Not likely.//

"It's not as if you haven't seen him completely frustrated and bewildered before. Several times, in fact," Salazar-in-the-hat said.

\\True enough...//

"And I can't even drop anything on *you*," Godric muttered to the disembodied Salazar with little real rancor.

"And doesn't that just frustrate and bewilder you?"

"I'll grant that it's frustrating, but as I *made* the Hat I certainly have no reason to find it bewildering," Godric countered as the outside Salazar shivered slightly and finally went looking for a towel.

"Yes, well, continuity of phrase. Besides, I *like* being immune from retaliation. Might be easier if we could shut our counterparts up in a room somewhere until they learned to behave."

"Rowena," Godric said immediately, "any ideas?"

"Not when all we've got to work with is a hat," Rowena said thoughtfully. "I told you we should have empowered a chair."

\\Why do I suspect you're only saying that to put me off guard?// Salazar grumbled.

"No, that would be if *I* were saying it," Salazar-in-the-hat replied with the impression of a grin. "Rowena's more likely to treat it as a straight intellectual exercise."

\\If YOU said it I'd know to be suspicious -- so it's only logical to have someone else do so.// He sniffed again, and they caught the thought that he had perhaps spent a little too *long* walking in the rain.

"Well," Godric told him in a very serious tone, "you should have worn a hat."

\\Ha, ha.//

"We should have arrived sooner," Helga suggested mischievously.

\\I can still remember when you used to just be Godric's old hat and you got wet. I do not want that smell lingering in my house, thank you.//

"It was not that bad," said Godric indignantly.

"Yes it was," said both Salazars in unison.

"It really was," Rowena said, "and not at all relaxing. I always wondered what you'd got it into."

"Somehow I don't think we're exactly relaxing in general," Helga murmured.

"We're not supposed to be relaxing," Salazar pointed out, "we're supposed to make life-changing decisions for eleven-year-olds. And sing."

"I only meant we'd probably defeat the purpose of walking in the rain in the first place."

"Oh, well, yeah, probably. Pity, that, I like a good walk in the rain."

\\Since you *can* walk, sort of, could you take a walk in the rain sometime and then hide somewhere in Godric's office until the walls turn brown?//

"No," said Godric firmly. "Sorry."

\\Drat. Worth a try.//

"*You* should go sit by a fire," Helga said severely, "and we should have told you to do so in the first place instead of having you stand about and drip -- though you ought to remember that sort of thing for yourself, too. You used to remember to warm up properly after that sort of thing." She paused. "And anyhow, isn't it *February*?"

\\Yes, but it's not that cold,// Salazar said rather mutinously. \\We're a good deal further south than the school, you know.//

"Which is, I'm sure, why it isn't snowing instead."

\\Exactly. And I'm not *dripping,* I'm just rather thoroughly damp.//

"And we should have let you get by a nice fire and dry off instead of keeping you so through a long chat."

\\I don't mind damp. Sudden shocks are rather a different story.//

"Right then. So if we visit again, you'll put us on voluntarily so we don't have to pounce on you?" Godric suggested amiably.

\\Are you planning to? Visit again, I mean?//

They technically *hadn't* been, up to that point, but after a second's startled silence there was a murmur of agreement and Godric replied, "I think we could manage it, so yes -- if you like."

\\If it doesn't get you in trouble with the other three...no, I wouldn't mind the occasional visit. You remind me of what it was like before we mucked it all up.//

"Rowena conjured the serpent who brought us here," Helga said warmly, "and really, there's not much they could do about it *except* refuse to help."

\\Or keep you locked in a box between Sortings, or alter the spell that binds you to the hat to make you more pliable.//

"We could get out of a box, I think," Rowena said consideringly.

"And that last one *won't* work," Godric added. "I should know."

\\Not one sealed by magic.// He paused at Godric's words. \\That's good to know, though. That was one of the first things I wondered about after I left.//

"Our personalities would be next to impossible to change unnaturally. And as for a sealed box...I did build in a fair amount of resistance in case of anyone ever trying to steal us. Granted my other-self knows perfectly well what all of them are, but...it still wouldn't be easy to get around them."

"And Rowena's and mine would likely help us get free -- assuming Godric's *did* try to seal us up. I don't think he's really happy about your being gone either."

"Furniture-breakingly furious, but technically not happy, no," Salazar-in-the-hat added wryly. "I for one am quite glad the Sorting takes place out in public where a scene would be awkward."

\\What, you think that will stop him?//

"No, I think Helga and Rowena will. They'll be sitting right next to him."

"Such a pity you'll miss it if they decide to cast a Body-Bind," Godric said blandly. "Are you sure you don't want to come watch?"

\\You aren't funny, and I would glare at you if you were visible.//

"Doesn't have to stop you. I'm glaring at him and *neither* of us are visible. Rather spoils the effect, but it's the thought that counts."

\\I suppose...On that note, not that I'm complaining, why *haven't* the other three of you aligned with...the three of them?//

"Partly because I haven't been...rash enough to draw any lines in the dust, as it were. We're rather stuck with one another."

\\That hardly forces any of you to come look for me.//

"We wanted to talk to you," Helga said patiently. "There was some argument involved over whether to try looking for anyone, actually, but certainly no coercion."

"Of course, it doesn't hurt that around the time the Hat was made we all essentially got to read each other's minds. Yours, technically," Rowena added to clarify, "but there hadn't been time for much divergence then."

\\I suppose that would tend to promote understanding.//

"As your other-self pointed out. I suppose you should know we *are* angry with you as well, at least some of us -- simply not as much."

"And they know they'll have me to kick around for the foreseeable future, so they don't have to take it out on you," Salazar added helpfully.

"There's not that much point in *us* taking it out on either of you, really," Godric remarked. The towel brushed against the brim of the Hat, and he sighed. "Just out of curiosity, if I were to join Helga in suggesting you go sit by the fire,

would it double the length of time it takes you to get there?"

\\Possibly triple.// Salazar's tone was definitely amused. \\If I were to get into the habit of doing things because Godric Gryffindor told me to, I'd have to start with several things that are anatomically impossible even for a Transfiguration expert.//

"So *not* doing something because I suggest it outweighs, say, doing it because it might make sense? *Now* you tell me."

\\The deciding factor tends to be which alternative would irritate you the most. I thought you said you'd read my mind.//

"I did. It was very surprising; I had always thought I must be overestimating how much of a priority you put on being annoying."

\\It's one of the few unmitigated joys in life. Although I must say it wouldn't be nearly as much fun if you weren't so easy. I *will* miss that.//

"If you make yourself sick in the effort I shall laugh at you, actually. And probably tell the tale next time the other Godric puts on the Hat."

\\Damn. You *have* been reading my mind.// Salazar hung the towel over one shoulder and walked briskly into the sitting room, where a roaring fire was already going. \\Satisfied, you horrible blackmailer?//

The Sorting Hat snickered at him in multiple voices. "Well, *I* am," Helga said a bit smugly. "Much better."

\\I am quite good at nursing myself through a head cold, you know.//

"That's hardly a reason to court one."

\\Have to keep my hand in somehow. Snakes don't really get colds.//

"Now there's an odd image."

\\What, a snake with stuffed-up sinuses? It happens very occasionally, and they get quite vocally irritated.//

"As do some humans I could name." Helga sounded as if she should be grinning.

\\Yes, well, count yourself lucky you don't have to decipher phlegm-filled hissing.//

"We'll keep that in mind."

Salazar sighed. \\I suppose you'd best be going... soon, at any rate. You'll be missed.//

"Here or there?" Rowena shot back lightly; he winced a bit, and she added less flippantly, "It's not *that* much of a rush; Rowena knows we're not lost. Fairly soon, though."

\\Not lost, perhaps, but I'd rather not lead them to believe I've taken you hostage...no matter how well-defended you are.//

Rowena chuckled. "Well, she asked if we'd need the conjured serpent to last for more than two days, so I don't think she'll start worrying *too* quickly."

\\Did she?// Salazar smiled. \\I'm glad she still thinks me so trustworthy.//

"I'll admit, though, that you should have heard Salazar's contingency plans just in case you *did* try to keep us here. During which Godric, curiously, did not mention his own precautions...."

"I was a bit distracted."

\\Now I'm rather curious. What *were* the contingency plans?//

"Well," said Salazar from the Hat, "what would *you* have planned?"

\\As a mobile but not overly-strong hat that can talk? Hm. Probably hide somewhere and be irritatingly noisy.//

"I think any attempts to hide would be nullified by the noise, actually, but other than that close enough. Pounce on you at odd moments, sing, that sort of thing. Much like an ill-behaved if unfortunately declawed cat."

\\It would depend on the hiding spot. There are a few places around here where the acoustics would be deceptive. Pouncing's workable in this case, but I wouldn't treat it as a universal tactic--you might not know the next one as well as you do me.//

"Naturally not. We rather *had* to leap on you at least once, of course; I can't imagine you'd have put on the Sorting Hat voluntarily, at least without a long argument first."

\\Oh, I might have, if only to find out how you'd gotten here. Once I'd made certain you weren't a trap, of course.//

"Fair enough. Apologies for alarming you, in that case, though it *was* quicker."

\\Well, and undoubtedly more effective; I'd still be running hex tests if you'd waited for me to make the first move.//

"Then we *would* have needed more than two days," said Godric.

"Why do you think I suggested we pounce on him?" Hat-Salazar asked. "We tend to be a bit paranoid."

"A bit?"

\\Well, Godric really is out to get us, so less than usual.//

Godric made an indignant noise.

\\All right, all right, the other one -- I think.//

"Although technically *this* one is the one that's jumped on your head," Hat-Salazar pointed out.

"Would be much more uncomfortable if the other one did," Helga murmured.

"No argument here."

\\This one's also being...somewhat more reasonable, however.//

"Well, *I* was as surprised as the rest of them when he put us on and ranted at us."

\\At least you weren't his target.//

"No, that's true." Godric paused. "It was...a bit of an eye-opener for me, though, target or no. Never been an outside observer to my own fits of temper before."

\\Shouting or quiet this time?//

"Shouting, at us. We saw the other, though."

\\Mm. I think that was the first time he'd gone quiet with *me.* It probably should have been a warning sign, but I was well off on my own by then.//

"I noticed," Godric said regretfully. "It probably should -- but then, it seems that particular level of anger isn't nearly as clear as I usually felt it was, either. At least not when directed at someone who shouldn't actually *be* an enemy."

\\It's noticeable enough when he uses it on other people. I wasn't expecting it; we used to just scream at each other until we ran out of energy, then find a way to compromise.//

"I remember."

\\Well...it was fun while it lasted. I suppose eventually I'll have to find something to do with the rest of my life.//

That silenced the Hat for a bit; even to the most practical it seemed a little unreal to think that Salazar truly never would be back at the school. Finally Godric replied, "I'm sure it will be very...will it make you feel better if I say

spectacular or annoying?"

\\Mm. I was actually considering research, or basilisk breeding. Something quiet and restful. But I appreciate the thought.//

"...Basilisks are restful?"

\\For a Parselmouth. Not as restful as, oh, garden snakes, but I don't want to be bored.//

"Breeding basilisks could probably be called spectacular," Rowena said thoughtfully, "but I somehow doubt it would be most people's first choice of adjective."

\\Which only makes it a more attractive prospect, you know.// He sighed. \\I don't know. Well, if all else fails, I can try settling down and having a family.//

"I wouldn't recommend it if it sounds like that gloomy a prospect to you," Helga said, sounding rather bemused.

\\It's not, really. I've thought about it, but I never had the time...I was just thinking, well, I do now.//

"True -- you'll keep me updated? Well, I suppose that's another reason to visit." The Hat-Salazar sounded interested in the prospect.

\\You expect me to gossip with...myself...about my love life?// Salazar asked, one eyebrow arched. \\It is another reason to visit, though, yes.//

"Well, you have to admit I have reason to be interested, but if it's too surreal for you I suppose you could think of it as talking to Godric."

Godric laughed. "I don't think that's going to help!"

\\Just for that, I *may* insist on sharing my confidences solely with the Hat's own consciousness, and letting the rest of you go hang.// He grinned. \\A moot point, for the near future, however.//

"No one in mind, then, I see."

\\No one in particular, no.//

"Ah well... just curious."

\\Why, do you?//

"No, or I'd have asked about her by name already. I don't even know for sure what witches might have moved in or out of the area by now...."

\\No more do I, not having lived here full-time for these past years. Bears investigation.//

"Look out she doesn't mind the basilisks."

\\Getting her not to mind me will be the first hurdle. It's been a busy fortnight at the rumor mill.//

Helga definitely winced. "Oh dear. Should I ask?"

\\Apparently I'm suspected of...rather unsavory practices.//

"Dark Arts? Or not so drastic?"

\\Necromancy, unethical experiments...probably inappropriate attentions to goats, next, I shouldn't wonder.//

"You'd better start socializing right away if you haven't yet. You'd have to come across better in person even if you *were* trying to be irritating."

\\You're probably right. I *was* rather enjoying my sulk, though.//

"Oh, no *wonder* you're causing rumors," Godric said with some disgust. "You caused rumors *at* Hogwarts when you were in a foul mood, though obviously much less sinister ones."

\\Well, excuse me for not throwing a party every night. I'll thank you to remember I'm not the only one to blame--not that I'd expect *you* to do so.//

"If you --" Godric broke off the angry response, paused, and then said calmly, "I do and I've *said* so, and I'll thank *you* to remember that I'm not the one of us you were arguing with...and if I were, I wouldn't have much room to talk about foul moods at the moment. For that matter, if you were happy about this I'd be worried. But you *do* tend to emanate gloom when you sulk -- and I can imagine that air being, ah, misinterpreted."

Salazar sighed and rubbed his temples under the brim of the Hat. \\Points taken. I suppose I've been self-indulgent long enough.//

"Mm. Well, one or another of us usually wound up distracting you from it, I believe, so I suppose it's a good thing we finally got here."

\\Heh. More incentive to find a nice witch, that; I can't count on you always coming round.//

"Between that and the basilisks, one could start to feel sorry for her," Rowena said teasingly, "though of course we *would* come if we could and knew when we might be needed."

\\Ah, you'll have your metaphorical hands full with my counterpart, I suspect. Toss him a few of the borderline students now and then, will you?//

"We'll see what we can do."

"Now and then?" Hat-Salazar muttered.

"As if you won't put in a good showing on every last one of them," Godric told him brightly. "Not really a question of tossing them."

"Well, yes, but you'd think my originator would have a bit more confidence."

\\Well, how often does one get the fun of self-deprecation *combined* with poking fun at someone else?//

"Well, by all means," said Godric, "if you two *want* to make fun of one another, go right ahead."

\\Did being in the Hat for so long affect your memory, Godric? I TOLD you I'll only do what you tell me to if I know it will ANNOY you. Watching us make fun of each other would just make you laugh.//

"You could make an exception just this once?" Godric suggested wistfully.

\\Now why would I make an exception I don't profit from?//

"Who says you don't profit? It was, after all, your own idea," Helga put in cheerfully.

"Yes, a moment ago you were extolling its advantages," Rowena added.

\\That was *before* Godric piped up. I've recalculated the advantages.//

"I wish we'd known about this before," Rowena murmured musingly. "If we want you to do something, we just have to have Godric suggest the opposite?"

\\I wonder if arguing with all four of us combined always gives a person a headache, or if it's just me...//

"I don't know," Godric said thoughtfully, "but now I think you should definitely stay here...."

"We know *that* one doesn't work," Salazar muttered.

\\He's right. Although I *could* go for another walk, it's still raining.//

"Wear a hat this time, please," Helga suggested, then added mischievously, "You could wear US and we promise to be at least a little damp when we next see Godric."

\\It never seemed to bother *him* nearly enough.//

"Well, there ARE several charms you could try...not that I'm suggesting you DO, of course!" Rowena concluded hurriedly. "Ahem. Never mind."

\\Somehow I don't think magically sabotaging his Hat is a prudent move at this point.//

"It's all right," Godric said comfortingly, "it probably won't work anyway."

\\Is that a challenge?//

"Is anyone else offended at being called *his* Hat?" Helga sniffed. "We're our OWN Hat by now, certainly, even if the source material belonged to Godric."

"Salazar, you're slipping. I think you just insulted everyone in here *except* me."

"He'd probably see it that way in any contest with Salazar, though, you have to admit," Hat-Salazar said. "Not as if he's exactly rational these days."

"We are, technically, still affiliated with the school," Godric noted, "despite a certain amount of confusion regarding the boundaries of authority."

"In which case, I'll just get my OWN counterpart to cast the appropriate charms if a, er, stink attack ever becomes necessary," Rowena replied serenely. "We'll send you a recording, Salazar."

\\Thank you. Much appreciated.//

"I doubt it will, though." Helga's voice was very firm.

"Does it have to be *necessary,* exactly?" Salazar mused. "Fun is necessary. And it'd give us new material for the songs, you know, 'Gryffindor with head of skunk . . .'"

Godric replied dryly, "If you can find a decent rhyme for 'skunk', I say go for it."

"'It served him right, the great big lunk?'" Rowena suggested with a grin.

"Godric is for some reason trying too hard to be nice," Helga declared. "We should not forget that Salazar did not *have* to leave."

\\Yes, I did.// Salazar's voice was very quiet and very sad. \\By then, I did.//

"It depends on when you mean by 'then,'" said Helga sternly, but then she relented and added in a gentler tone, "I know, there didn't seem to be much else for it. I think Godric would have backed down if you had, even... then, but I'm sure you've been over every possible recrimination by now."

\\Twice. I'm afraid it's an insoluble point."

The four personalities in the Hat were silent and sober for an uncharacteristically long time as they considered Salazar's words. "I...suppose you'd know better than anyone," Helga said at last. "I don't want to think about Hogwarts without you there, though." She sighed heavily. "But sometimes what's done is done, I suppose..."

\\And I *do* want to think about it?// Salazar shook his head. \\But I have to. Slytherin House will need a new Head; should I send Rowena or Helga my list of recommendations?//

His other-self gave a slight cough from within the Hat. "Well, they *could* ask me, though you might care to give an update if there's anyone I might not know about. That might go over better than correspondence." A pause. "And Rowena. Definitely."

Salazar nodded. \\A few of the first crop of students might do. I'll have to think about it. Quickly.//

"Very. I have a feeling the students are quite confused by now, and I doubt my other-self is helping any," Godric sighed.

\\I suppose you could go about and leap on all of them and try to be reassuring, but....//

Godric sounded as if that had drawn a slight grin. "We *could* speak aloud, for that. They can only hear the Hat's voice anyway. I suppose it couldn't hurt."

Hat-Salazar's voice was filled with dread. "I know that tone, Godric. You're planning on singing again, aren't you?"

"Well, why not?"

Salazar rolled his non-existant eyes and said long-sufferingly, "I NEVER should have agreed to the songs in the first place."

"And yet you did," Rowena said mischievously. "Still . . . it does seem a bit flippant given the subject matter."

"That would depend on the song," Godric pointed out. "And Salazar, I thought you liked singing."

"I was obviously still adjusting to being a disembodied mind in a hat," Salazar replied loftily. "I was clearly out of my head."

It turned out that four voices laughing hysterically into one mind from a hat was a highly contagious state of affairs.

*****

Despite the absence of one of its Founders, Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry continued on for the rest of the term with classes, exams, student life, and no more explosions than was usual. (Really.)

By conveniently not mentioning its source, Helga and Rowena were able to push Salazar's recommendation through Godric, bringing one of Slytherin House's first graduates back as temporary Head. He had his hands full throughout the summer planning coursework and learning about his new students, and if the occasional owl arrived with information and advice marked with a simple "S.S."...well, no one mentioned it to Godric and everyone was happy.

Time passed quickly enough for all involved. Even with the new House Head, the remaining three Founders had their hands full taking up the slack from Salazar's departure. Soon it was autumn again, with a new cluster of almost painfully-excited students standing in the Great Hall as the Sorting Hat was brought in...

The Hat was placed on a stool in front of the assembled students and shook itself slightly before the rip in the brim opened and it began to sing.

"Not so many years ago

Atop a starlit hill,

Four wizards joined together

To cast their founding spell.

Gryffindor, with voice raised strong,

Wove walls to ever stand,

For shelter and protection

Of students from all lands.

Ravenclaw, with noble mind,

Brought knowledge now to share,

To teach young minds and bodies

Of magics old and rare.

Slytherin, of cautious heart,

Gave spells of craft and guile,

So this school would always save

Students who faced harsh trials.

Hufflepuff, to join them all,

Filled this fortress of stone

With warmth, happiness, and love

To make the school a home.

Thus Hogwarts School here was formed

By these four friends so true,

And each year more student come

To learn their magics new.

And so each year as I look

Into your hearts and minds,

I put you where you belong,

And none doubt what I find!

You may fit in any House,

For all are worthy here,

Try me on now to begin

Our newest Hogwarts year!"

Applause rang out and the Hat bowed to all. There was a long moment of expectant silence, then Professor Ravenclaw coughed and directed the first student to the Hat. The young boy sat, nearly bouncing with eagerness, as the Hat poured over his mind and weighed out the qualities he possessed. Professor Gryffindor was wearing a thunderous expression that only eased when the rip opened again and shouted out, "GRYFFINDOR!" for all the Hall to hear.

Two more students went to join Gryffindor's table, two to Ravenclaw, and one to Hufflepuff before the Hat took an inordinately long amount of time considering the fate of one blonde girl. The students were starting to rustle impatiently in their seats, Professors Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff exchanging significant looks. Then the Hat's mouth opened once more and shouted out:

"SLYTHERIN!"

The table on the far left burst into wild applause as they welcomed their newest member, but she cast a worried look at Professor Gryffindor before trotting over to join them. He was sitting stock-still in his seat, jaw clenched and one eye twitching in what any who knew him would recognize as absolute fury.

Deep inside the Hat, a quiet voice whispered, "I think we're in trouble."

*****

"It worked!" Salazar shouted happily after the last student had been Sorted. Approximately one-quarter had gone into Slytherin House, to be educated with their cunning and ambitious brethren under the supervision of the new Head of House. None of the students appeared to think anything was wrong. Godric, however, had continued glaring at the Hat for the remainder of the ceremony.

"Worked beautifully," Rowena added smugly. "I told you he wouldn't interrupt."

Godric chuckled. "Yes, indeed. And they're stuck with it now, whether they like it or no--"

They were interrupted by an incoherent roar of fury coming from the head that the Hat had just been yanked over.

"Um....hello, Godric. Lovely Sorting, wasn't it?" Helga asked with a sort of determined cheerfulness.

\\I... told... you....//

"Yes, well," the Hat-Godric interrupted, "we decided you were wrong."

\\WHO GAVE YOU THE RIGHT TO DECIDE?!//

"You did. You, Helga, Rowena, and Salazar."

The resulting blast of wordless fury made the entire Hat flinch. "If I confess I'm glad you're the one talking to him, Godric," Salazar muttered privately within the hat, "will you keep doing it?"

"You mean I had a choice?" he replied dryly.

"You did, until you spoke up," Rowena added. "I really think you're the only one who can deal with him right now."

"Right then. Squelch Salazar if he tries to interject."

"I'll keep to silent mutterings right now, thank you very much. I'm not sure if I CAN be removed from the Hat, but I don't really want your otherself to try!"

"I don't think it ought to be possible, but the attempt would definitely be uncomfortable." Godric turned his attention and words back to the fuming mind underneath the Hat. "Now, if you can get over the shock of my disagreeing with you enough to stop shouting, would you care for an explanation?"

Another blast of incoherent rage swept through the Hat.

Godric sighed. "Our temper is starting to embarrass me."

\\What...kind of...*explanation*,// the physical Godric finally ground out, \\could possibly explain you going against MY DIRECT ORDER?!//

"Let me see," the disembodied one shot back, "perhaps to begin with the fact that we are not actually under your authority? We're real enough, if arguably not precisely alive, and you should remember that quite as clearly as I do considering that we were still the same person while designing the Hat." Silence. "*That* established, neither you nor Salazar was thinking clearly during that argument, and I think that's done quite enough damage to the school already without our helping make things worse."

Another roar that nearly managed to deafen disembodied voices. \\I was thinking *perfectly* clearly!//

"Godric," Salazar said uneasily, "are you sure this is helping?"

"He's still wearing the Hat, isn't he?"

"...Are you sure that qualifies?"

"While he's wearing it, he's not spellcasting to remove us."

"Good point."

Godric sighed quietly into his otherself's brain. "You were angry. You were both angry, and you were both very stupid about it."

\\I was angry, yes, but the only one being stupid about it was HIM! He's the one who chose to leave. There's no reason to keep his House at this school. Let him found his own.//

"Don't try to tell me you've never made a threat you didn't really want to carry through. I was you, after all, and won't believe you. It was a foolish thing for him to say, but you didn't have to take it at face value, either."

\\If he hadn't meant it,// Godric replied scathingly, \\he could have said so.//

"Yes, he could -- and should have, but by then he didn't like to back down and didn't think you'd let him. You could have gone to stop him from leaving, too, but were too angry that he suggested it at all and didn't think he'd give in, did you?"

\\He suggested it, he has to live with it!// Godric roared again. \\Why should *I* go begging to bring him back? For that matter, why should I bother keeping his House in the school?//

"Because getting rid of it would be bad for the students, *that's* why! First of all it wouldn't be fair to the students who are already in it --"

\\I didn't suggest throwing them *out*--//

"No, just implying that they're somehow lesser by not Sorting any more students in their House. And not having a full complement of students WOULD give them fewer opportunities than the others. Do you really want to hurt the students?"

\\They could always be reSorted into the other three, but I think this is less disruptive.//

"But still disruptive. And really, irritating as I'll grant he is and always has been, Salazar *did* pick qualities that it's useful to cultivate. Slytherin House is worth having."

\\Is there any particular REASON you two decided to keep Sorting into Slytherin without TELLING me about it first? If you had reasonable arguments to make, we could have discussed them BEFORE the Sorting Feast!//

"For one, when have you ever been reasonable? And for another, it was the FOUR of us who decided."

"Well," Helga said in an undertone, "*sometimes* you're both reasonable."

\\Very well, then, the four of you. You could have mentioned this ahead of time!//

"We chose to present you with a fait accompli, as you didn't seem particularly inclined to listen."

\\Perhaps because I had perfectly good reasons to eliminate Slytherin House! You didn't even give me the option!//

"And you didn't give US one," Rowena snapped.

\\You seem to have taken it anyway.//

"We did read your mind," Godric pointed out. "We saw your reasons. I could have come up with them all myself, too. We still don't think it's a good idea, and we *are* where you placed the authority for Sorting."

\\PLEASE tell me I'm not nearly this annoying when I talk to people!// the physical Godric snarled.

"Worse," Helga, Rowena, and Salazar chorused.

\\...You're only saying that because he's agreeing with you.//

"You're frequently annoying, Godric," Helga said patiently. "Both of you. But you also have a great deal of positive qualities that make up for it. So try USING some of those, and realize that we're right." Her voice softened as she added, "When the four of us get together, we've always done wonderful things."

"And admit it," Godric added, "if you'd actually wanted him gone you wouldn't STILL lose your temper over his having offered to leave."

There was another wordless snarl, then nothing. After a moment, Salazar said incredulously, "Don't tell me he threw us OFF?! Honestly, Godric, you are the most stubborn man I've ever known."

"If he still had us on, we *would* be able to tell," Godric pointed out dryly. "And I don't see why you're surprised. He knows I'm right, though."

"I didn't say I was surprised. Now I suppose we'll just have to wait and see if he will admit what he knows. Knowing you, I'm not sure he will."

"Maybe in another year."

"...You don't think he'd try to keep us from next year's Sorting, do you?"

"He might. It won't work."

"I don't think mine or Helga's otherselves would agree with that," Rowena put in thoughtfully. "...Well, and for that matter, we can always take *ourselves* to the next Sorting. Once we're there, no one can prevent us from Sorting all the students. It's a binding magical contract."

"Rowena, are *you* misquoting terms? It's not only that -- technically no Sorting is official *unless* we're involved."

"There is also that," she replied with a definite grin. "Although I would just as soon not tempt Godric into having a year's worth of unofficially-Sorted students."

"Well, no." Godric probably would have shaken his head if he'd had one. "Honestly. Salazar was easier to deal with."

"Thank you," the man in question replied dryly. "Being more rational than you is usually NOT that hard, Godric."

"You want me to leave you to talk to him next time?"

"No thank you," Salazar replied quickly.

"Regardless of what Godric or *any* of our otherselves might think of the matter," Helga spoke up with uncharacteristic firmness, "*we* are not going to change our minds. Hogwarts was founded by the four of us, and no matter what *anyone* says, we are always going to be a part of its future."

And they were.

**The End**

//
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