The Sugar Quill
Author: peachpicker  Story: Sorting It Out  Chapter: Default
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Sorting It Out



Author's Note: Many thanks to J. K. Rowling for carefully not noticing what we do to her characters while her back is turned. Further thanks are due to Lisa (NightZephyr) for her excellent beta reading. In this story you will find a three-paragraph quote from the first Harry Potter book that all of you should recognize. If you can't spot it, shame on you!

The first time they met was only a few years after He-Who-Can-Now-Be-Safely-Named was killed for the last time.

It started with a casual suggestion from Ginny Potter, and like most vague but good ideas, it grew and grew with each input from those who heard of it. After wresting the planning from Hermione Granger, who was going spare from trying to do it all perfectly, everyone in on the planning simply passed the word. Additionally, Harry Potter paid for an ad in The Daily Prophet upon his wife's intense urging. A reunion of Dumbledore's Army was being held in a meeting room above The Leaky Cauldron. Buy your own drinks from the bar. Casual dress. Seven-ish, the third Friday evening in June. Dates and spouses were welcome.

Ginny Potter was pleased to see how many people had arrived by eight. She and Harry had just gone through a final intense period of advanced training at Saint Mungo's and they both had needed this break. The two of them wandered from group to group and listened to everyone chatting about the stuff of post-Hogwarts life: babies, jobs, Quidditch, the idiots at the Ministry, who was dating whom, and on and on.

In one group, several people were talking about the Hogwarts Houses, and how they were not a very good predictor of what careers were later followed.

Blaise Zabini gestured toward the couple. "Take the Potters here. Both Gryffindors. Both fought What's-His-Name. Yet instead of being Aurors, both are healers now, even though most people think Hufflepuffs would be the most natural to be healers. Who would have guessed it back at Hogwarts?"

Harry Potter grinned. "You know, I could have ended up in Slytherin instead of Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat almost put me there."

"No! No way!" Blaise looked at him in disbelief.

"The Sorting Hat and I had a discussion about it. I think it put me in Gryffindor just because I insisted that I didn't want Slytherin. Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if I hadn't resisted Slytherin so."

"Why would you resist?" Blaise asked. "I thought you had no idea what the Houses and Hogwarts were about when you first came to Hogwarts. Raised by Muggles and all that, y'know."

Harry grimaced. "I had just met Draco Malfoy, who was sold on Slytherin, and for some reason that biased me." Harry had a wry smile. "I suppose it was due to the instant and total dislike we had for each other."

Amusement rippled through the group. The enmity between Draco and Harry was almost legendary.

After Harry had described his conversation with the Sorting Hat, Neville Longbottom looked surprised. "So I'm not the only one who talked with the Sorting Hat about what house to go in?"

Hermione looked speculative. "I also had a talk with the Hat, Neville. I'd love to hear your story, but wait just a moment. There may be others who have stories, too."

Hermione tried to get everyone's attention but was having no success. It was just too noisy.

Ginny said, "Allow me," and then cupped her hands together as if holding a large mouse, carefully parted her thumbs a little, and blew at an angle across the small opening between her thumbs. A piercing note filled the air, and she flipped a little finger away enough that the non-existent mouse could have stuck one paw out. The second note was higher pitched and just as loud.

In the surprised quiet that followed, a grinning Ginny called out, "Anybody else have Sorting Hat stories, like Harry and Neville? They argued with the Sorting Hat about which house to go in." Several curious people wandered over and enlarged their group.

"I wish you hadn't done that, Gin." Harry sighed. "I'll just have to tell the story all over again."

"So?" Ginny, Ron and Hermione chorused, and then looked at each other and broke up laughing.

"Honestly, Harry," Hermione said with a small smile, "we have to do something to break through your extreme shyness."

"Yeah, mate, then you might be ready to take a leadership role some day of some sort." Ron shrugged, keeping a straight face. "Can't imagine what sort, though."

At the urging of several of the latecomers to the group, Harry told his Sorting Hat story again.

"Hmm," said a small voice in his ear. "Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, oh my goodness, yes - and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting. . . . So where shall I put you?"

Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, not Slytherin, not Slytherin.

"Not Slytherin, eh?" said the small voice. "Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that -- no? Well, if you're sure -- better be GRYFFINDOR!"

"Now, was that so hard, Harry?" Ginny had a challenging look in her eyes.

Harry grinned at her and whispered something in her ear. Ginny flushed a bit and said in a low voice, "Well, you can try..."

"Hey, you two stop flirting with each other and let's get on with it."

"Oh, yeah. Now tell us your story, Neville," Ginny urged.

"Well, I was leaning toward Hufflepuff, what with Gram telling me all the time about how that's the only place I'd fit in. Then the Sorting Hat was put on my head..."

"So you would like Hufflepuff, I see. Why is that?" Startled by the sudden voice in his ear, Neville did not answer at once.

After a thoughtful pause, the voice continued. "I sense that you would be comfortable there and that you would fit in. But what about Gryffindor, where your parents went?"

Neville finally gathered up sufficient courage to reply to the odd little voice in his ear. "Look where that got them. Tortured by Death Eaters until they went mad. I would rather not, if you don't mind."

"You need not become an Auror just because you have courage. There are all sorts of courage, young Longbottom." Neville had no answer to that. "I sense a potential within you that you do not believe in as yet. The House that would best bring that out is GRYFFINDOR!"

"I didn't know that about your parents, Neville," Parvati said softly. Several others agreed.

Neville grimmaced. "There was a time when I wouldn't have told anyone about it. Too afraid of embarrassment. Got that from Gram too, I think. She'd never talk about what the Death Eaters did to my parents. I misunderstood why, and I thought she was ashamed of them. It took me years to realize that it just hurt her too much to even talk to me about it."

"My Sorting Hat experience was a lot like yours, Neville," Hermione said. "It looked like Ravenclaw was a good fit for me, but  I suppose that the hat realized that was the easy road for me, and I needed to develop in other ways..."

"I see that you would do well in any of the Houses." The voice in her ear startled her. "You have considerable intellect and the drive to succeed by using it, wherever you are placed. Do you have a preference?"

Hermione gave her almost automatic response, "Ravenclaw, I should think. I want to learn everything I possibly can at school."

"Yes. Ravenclaw would give you the most room for intellectual growth, there is no doubt of that. However, do you realize that there is more than learning from books?"

Hermione was puzzled. "Well, there is learning from experience. I understand that many of the classes have hands-on work, like learning spells and charms and..."

The Sorting Hat interrupted her. "Classwork is not the sort of experience I mean. You would not reach your full potential if you could always fall back on your intellect. The best house for you to learn other ways of dealing with life is GRYFFINDOR!"

"Huh." Neville was rather amused. "Anybody else have arguments or discussions with the Sorting Hat?"

"I did," Cho Chang answered. "I didn't really know a lot about the Houses. Dad was in Hufflepuff and Mum was in Gryffindor. I had relatives in all four houses and never heard them talk much about it. To them, family was a lot more important than House. So I was leaning toward Slytherin because my favorite cousin went there. Then the Sorting Hat realized that I was not looking at it the right way..."

"Ah, yes. Another who can easily adapt to several different houses. Do you have a preference?"

Cho had heard that the hat sometimes talked to you before sorting you into a house, so she was not greatly startled by the small voice in her ear. "My cousin is in Slytherin. She is like a sister to me and so..."

" would like to be in her house. Is there any other reason to choose Slytherin?"

Cho began to realize that she didn't know.

"You learn easily, certainly enough to get by. However, you need to be challenged to think more, and that you will be, in RAVENCLAW!"

Then looking at the crowd, Cho hesitantly said,  "I can tell you what the Sorting Hat told Cedric, too, if you like. I'm sure he wouldn't mind now, wherever he is." Several assured her of their interest. Cho took a sip from her drink and then began...

"Ah, yes. If all the students were like you, we would not need Houses. Your courage is as well developed as any Griffindor's, your ambition would make you a good Slytherin, you are as intelligent and studious as any Ravenclaw, and you are as helpful and cooperative as any Hufflepuff. So the question for you is: What do you want to do?"

Cedric was a bit taken aback, but answered immediately, "I want to make a difference, but I don't know how."

"Very good, then. I will place you in the house that most needs your ability to make a difference, if you will promise me one thing."

"What is that?"

"I see that you have both a liking and a talent for Quidditch. Try out for the Quidditch team as soon as you are allowed to do so, no matter how good or bad the team may be."

Cedric almost laughed out loud. "Sure. I promise."

"Your new house needs the leadership and morale boost that you eventually will provide. Welcome to  HUFFLEPUFF!"

Cho shook her head wonderingly and paused for another sip of her drink. "I thought Cedric was joking about the Quidditch, but he convinced me that he wasn't. At first, he thought it very strange that the Sorting Hat cared about Quidditch. Then once he was in Hufflepuff for a while he realized that the Sorting Hat actually was concerned about the morale of the House, not just the Quidditch team."

Hermione added, "Many of the songs the Sorting Hat sings are about caring for friends and House and School. It's been that way for hundreds of years." No one bothered to ask Hermione how she knew this, realizing that she probably would refer them to a book like Hogwarts, A History.

Ron Weasley, Hermione's long-time fiance, grinned a little. "I don't think any of us Weasleys would have a story to tell. That hat barely has to touch us and it yells out 'GRYFFINDOR.' Same for some of the Slytherins, like Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle. Boring, eh? Anybody else have a good sorting story?"

"The hat and I had a nice little chat," Luna Lovegood said off-handedly. A number of people perked up, anticipating an unusual story.

"Hmm. You have an interesting mind. Quite creative and unfettered by conventional attitudes. Do you have a preference for a House?"

"Not really. Do you?" Luna was curious, "Which house would you want to be in, if you sorted yourself?"

"I have never been asked that before." The Sorting Hat seemed to be amused. "I would favor each house equally, and ideally I would be in all of them. So you do not have a preference?"

"Oh, no. They all take the same classes and use the same library, you see. I had thought that you would do the sorting by some mysterious process. I didn't expect that we students might have a choice. Or do we?"

"Ultimately, your choice of House comes from your previous and potential life choices. In practical terms, most often I place students in their houses based upon their needs, rather than their preferences. Hmm," the Sorting Hat paused thoughtfully. "I see an admirable capacity for fun in you, a need to explore, and  a tendency to go your own way. Your greatest need is to gain a better understanding of how others think. Therefore, I am placing you in RAVENCLAW!"

When Luna finished her story, Ron laughed. "I can't believe that you asked the Sorting Hat how it would sort itself."

Luna shrugged. "It's hardly your everyday, ordinary hat, you know. I've not met many other hats that show so much intelligence, and I wanted to know what it would say. So I asked and it answered."

No one else had a Sorting Hat story. Since everyone carefully avoided asking Luna what other intelligent hats she had encountered, the former Hogwarts students began to drift into multiple conversations and further reminiscences about their time at Hogwarts.

Hermione looked over at Luna and sighed in frustration. "I had the beginnings of a theory about the Hat and how it sorted, and Luna just blew it out of the water." Hermione shook her head, then a gleam of speculation appeared in her eyes. "Wait a minute. Other intelligent hats? Luna! A word with you, please?..."


Author's note: My father could do a loud whistle like Ginny did. He used it to call cows, dogs and kids. I've often regretted never mastering the technique myself. It would have been useful for calling dogs and kids. I've never had any cows, which is something I don't regret.
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