I felt that my soul and his soul were “one soul in two bodies,” and therefore was my life a horror to me, because I would not live halved. And therefore perchance I feared to die, lest he whom I had much loved should die wholly.
-Saint Augustine, Confessions, Book IV
Arms crossed over his chest, seventeen-year old Tom Marvolo Riddle carefully watched the old leather Hat, perched upon it’s stool at the head of the Great Hall. Candlelight flickered across it, the folds of the ancient thing nearly resembling skin. Riddle’s face, he knew, betrayed nothing of his thoughts. His thoughts were his and his alone. Slowly, he pressed the pads of his fingers gently together.
“Looks like old Merrythought’s about to expire,” Avery, sitting across the table from Tom, muttered to Macnair. The latter, a sallow boy with dark circles on his eyes, smirked unpleasantly.
“Two Galleons says she kicks it before the end of the year,” Macnair retorted to his friend, then glanced across the table to see if Riddle was listening. Riddle spared a thin-lipped smile for his yearmate, who looked gratified. Impatiently, Riddle turned away from the boys and returned to studying to Sorting Hat, silently cursing the puzzled herd of first years clustering in front of it.
It was a most peculiar object, Riddle decided. He burned steadily with the desire to get closer, to lay his hands upon the ragged thing, to understand the magic that drove it. He twitched with sudden irritation towards Avery and Mulciber, who were elbowing each other as prefect Walburga Black strutted by. She was pretty, perhaps, Riddle noted indifferently. Strong-willed, certainly. That alone, he admired about her.
The first years started as the Sorting Hat opened it’s strange mouth widely and began it’s song, amplified voice echoing throughout the Great Hall. Riddle leaned back in his chair, feeling the reassuring pressure of his leather-clad journal in his robes pocket.
In this very castle, with candles all aglow,
There stood the Founders Four, of them you’re sure to know.
With cleverness and guile, they began this wondrous school,
And left me to sort the children, for I’m rather hard to fool.
I read what’s in your mind, and from what you let me see,
I’ll know of the great House in which you’re meant to be.
Of Gryffindor are those without hesitation or fear
When guarding those within their hearts and that which they hold dear.
Of Ravenclaw, it’s said, they are the clever ones,
Their wisdom handed down from mother through to sons.
Of Hufflepuffs we know, that they are kind and true,
Such loyalty and honesty is rather rare and few.
And then of the Slytherins, they never lack ambition,
In defense of their ideals they’ll make the right decision.
I sat upon old Godric’s head and his loyalty I impart
Of Slytherin I remember well the noblest of hearts.
Within the Founders Four those two were the very best of friends,
Their tombs they lie side by side, they met again in the end.
So enjoy this year at Hogwarts, the noblest of schools,
Learn some spells and cast some charms, try not to bend the rules!
The Hall clapped dutifully, and Riddle watched as the first years began to be sorted. His cold eyes did not leave the Hat. I must get hold of it somehow, he vowed to himself. Understanding the Hat is the key.
He remembered his own Sorting: indeed, he had no inkling at the time of what truly sat on his head! If only he had known then, he could have demanded that the Hat answer his questions, that it concede to his demands. Indeed, the Hat had remained silent in his mind, bellowing out ‘SLYTHERIN!’ the moment it grazed his dark hairs.
But the Sorting Hat: an article of clothing that could compose song, that survived with renewed life over the centuries, a mere hat that retained a personality and autonomous thoughts. Most importantly, an object with power, an item that could look into the minds of humans. Riddle both admired it and thirsted for it. He must understand.
Tom Marvolo Riddle was pleasant, mild, and burned with a bright, quiet intelligence. His face, pale, handsome and regal, was usually arranged in an expression of polite disinterest. Top of his class, Head Boy, he had most of the teachers eating from the palm of his hand, whether they realized it or not. He was a model student, an idol for his adoring peers, a sharp mind and a humble demeanor. Professor Dippet, Headmaster of Hogwarts, therefore never thought to suspect Tom Marvolo Riddle when the Sorting Hat went missing after the Feast.
Dippet thought privately to himself that he had enough strife during his reign as Headmaster to last for a century. The unfortunate incident of the Chamber of Secrets was all but in the past, though Dippet had heard rumors that the ghost of the Muggleborn girl who died still haunted the girls’ toilets. Personally, Dippet preferred not to recall those troubled times, and avoided that particular toilet at all costs. He had a school to run, after all, and thought to himself that most likely some prankster had decided to make off with the Hat. Bilius Weasley, resident prankster of Gryffindor House, was a strong contender. Dippet sighed to himself. He would deal with the matter in the morning, by which time the Hat would probably be hung from the Astronomy Tower accompanied by a pair of girls underpants.
While Professor Dippet sat in his nightshirt reading the Daily Prophet (Flamel: Philosopher or Phony? Previously acknowledged crackpot alchemist may have succeeded in creating Philosopher’s Stone), Tom Riddle was walking swiftly through the tunnel leading to the Chamber of Secrets, the Sorting Hat held firmly in his hands.
If there was one thing Tom Riddle felt it worthy to fear, it was death. For his might was so great that he could be nothing lower than immortal, his identity no less than an avenging rebel angel content to rule in hell, as long as that hell was one of his own making.
Ignoring the crunch of the bones of small creatures, Riddle entered the Chamber, pausing to take comfort in this most secret of refuges. Miles beneath the castle, the Chamber was his birthright, his space where he could truly be himself as he was born to be. He cast aside the shell of Tom Riddle, shedding the poised, handsome young man like a rotting skin. Here, he called himself Lord Voldemort. My past, my present, my future.
From the corners of his consciousness Riddle could feel the basilisk stirring, snug and hibernating in the pipes that surrounded the chamber. Masssster… but he would not rouse the great snake tonight. The risk of Hogwarts closing was too great. Hungry… feed…
Ignoring the snake’s whispers, Riddle smoothed his hands over the Sorting Hat. Carefully, gracefully, he pulled it upon his own head.
Impatiently, Riddle tapped the Hat with his wand.
Speak to me, magical object. I command you to do so.
As if stirring from a long sleep, the Hat seemed to respond. The gesture reminded Riddle of an animal uncoiling.
I command you to acknowledge me! Lord Voldemort requires it!
Is that what the children call you these days? The Hat replied. The voice echoed in his head, and Riddle could not help but wince and resist the urge to hurl it from his head and curse it into shreds. The idea of another conscious mind being near his own, even an object like the Sorting Hat, was repulsive to him.
What are you? Riddle demanded the Hat. What is your nature?
I am the Sorting Hat, the Hat replied, a little drily. I was enchanted by Godric Gryffindor to be his vessel and to Sort the students of Hogwarts into their respective Houses.
Riddle’s hand clenched around his wand, as if the power concealed in the phoenix feather could bring him the patience he rarely required.
But you and I know that you are more than that. No single article of clothing could survive this long, could retain your intelligence and agency. You are… other.
Riddle could sense the Hat’s confusion and something else-something frantic, a hint of panic? He pressed on.
You will tell me, or I shall force you. Bending his mind to his will, he pushed through the barriers of the Hat’s mind-and what a curious kind of mind it was. Penetrating the Hat was like swimming downwards through thick sludge, away from the air and towards an uncertain end. But Riddle’s mind was set, and his rage cool and concentrated. With a burst he entered the Hat’s final defense. If you will not tell me, then you shall show me your secrets.
The memory began with two boys, and ended in death.
For when were there two great friends as Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin? The first: a boy of shining gold, reckless and loyal and wild. His friend, quiet, bright, quick of wit. Together, they were a perfect match, the intertwining of the wisdom and glory. The people of the area never saw one without the other: talking animatedly, Gryffindor’s heavy arm slung casually about Slytherin’s shoulders, poring over a lesson plan in the city tavern, the two heads, gold and black, tucked closely together, or thrown back in carnivorous laughter.
It was true, that Slytherin’s cunning and his set ways often made him enemies, but the noble and respected Gryffindor was his great defender. Wherever Slytherin went, he was always checking over his shoulder for his friend. One could hardly go a day without the other, sending frequent correspondence, little gifts and jests that one found funny, or ideas for new spells that would revolutionize magical teaching.
Two small boys, playing Gobstones in the dirt. Two young men, handsome on their horses, the fine leather wizard’s Hat perched upon the golden head. Two scholars, grinning proudly across a room filled with excited students. Two halves of a perfect whole. Two friends, who would be each other’s downfall.
The Hat seemed to shudder with a resurgence of energy: Riddle felt it repel his Legilimency, shoving against his intruding mind. Grinding his teeth, Riddle retracted then tried a new tactic: instead of forcing his way into the Hat’s memories like a battering ram, he focused his mind to become smaller, sly. He wormed his way through the Hat’s flustered defenses, a snake slipping through the cracks.
The quarrels began, and neither friend knew how to make the other see reason. Desperate, they were. Slytherin, witness to the witch hunts and cool brutality of the Muggles, argued for the preservation of blood purity at Hogwarts. Gryffindor argued that to do so would only further divide wizards and Muggles. He was an idealist. He did not approve of Slytherin’s interest in the Dark Arts, in his alliances with banshees, Dementors and phantoms, in his interest in mind control and his obsession with Horcruxes. After a fierce quarrel, in a fit of rage, Slytherin left his friend, storming up and down the coast of Scotland in isolation, hating himself.
It was two years when he returned, steely and determined to reclaim his school and force the other founders to see reason. He was sure that his great friend Gryffindor would see sense. But before he met his old friend, Slytherin locked his familiar, the mighty monster of the basilisk, hidden down beneath the school. Just in case.
Their duel was terrible to behold. Witnesses later said that it was impossible to identify who delivered the first blow, or who exactly cast the curse that killed. Two mighty contenders, evenly matched, privy to the knowledge of the other’s mind. Slytherin hissed as Gryffindor cast a spell at his head, recognizing it as one they had practiced together. For they had been the best of friends: Gryffindor was the godfather of Slytherin’s son. Slytherin’s curse hit the Hat off of his old companion’s head, to the floor where it limply lay. Each one’s heart cried out even as the calculating minds prepared their next assault.
When the duel had finished and the last of the lights faded, Slytherin lay dead at his best friend’s feet.
Wailing internally with the memory, the Sorting Hat tried again to force Riddle out. But the young man was cold and intent. Here, at last, he was so close to the answer that he sought, the answer that the pathetic Potions Master could not give him. He found himself trembling in anticipation, his mouth gone cold in expectation. He remembered his father’s body, staring sightlessly at the ceiling, and felt the familiar loathing sweep through the gaps between his bones. He had preserved the memory of that death, the essence of it, tucked deep within himself. Death made him hungry, and this truth would free him.
You will show me, he vowed. The Hat, were it human, would have been screaming in agony now. The force of Tom Riddle’s mind was unrivaled. He knew it, like he knew he was Lord Voldemort. He was the greatest Legilimens the wizarding world would ever see.
Alone with a corpse, Gryffindor wept. He put his great shaggy head over Slytherin’s silent heart. His own heart beat irregularly: for it had been broken with the death of his friend, and his own guilt was shattering. Gryffindor felt a great flame rip through his chest, for his soul itself had been split. His hands heavy, he lifted his leather wizard’s Hat, and let the shattered piece of him, the part that had loved Salazar Slytherin, that little piece of soul sew itself into the fabric.
Riddle watched, hardly breathing with excitement, and withdrew his mind, not stalling to watch how Gryffindor and the Hat-the Horcrux- made a covenant to protect and guide the students of Hogwarts, to be clever in the name of Slytherin and wise in the name of Gryffindor. No, for he had needed only to see the creation of the Horcrux.
You’re a Horcrux, he murmured softly in his mind, his thoughts caressing the memory. The Hat, seeing what was in his mind, drew upon it’s sense of wisdom.
You would do well to abandon these dark ambitions of yours, it cautioned Riddle. For once a Horcrux is made, a soul is split, the soul is no longer whole.
But Riddle did not pay attention. He removed the Hat, respectfully, as befit a great relic of Hogwarts, an essence fabricated from the soul of Godric Gryffindor and the death of Salazar Slytherin. Tomorrow, he would return it, and none of the fools would be any the wiser.
But tonight, there was work to be done.
Lord Voldemort reached into his pocket and removed his diary, running his fingers over the smooth bound leather. He took his wand out, and pointed it at his own head. The dull, dead eyes of his father swam before him, and he seized the memory, eyes blazing with the glory of it, soul searing inside of him.
That night, he took his first step on the road to immortality.
A/N: This idea just sort of came to me, and I’d love to know what you think of the Sorting Hat being a Horcrux. Was the idea believable? What did you think of the characterization of Voldy, and the tale of the Founders, and most important of all, the sorting hat’s song?! I’d absolutely love to know. Anything you recognize belongs to JK Rowling.