Chapter 5 : Chapter V
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It was the end of the summer. The four friends were back at Hogwarts, making a few final preparations before all the students joined them there in a week. Already it seemed like this year would fare better, what with the new structure for classes to make their lives less stressful. They also would offer some new subjects this year, and had two new teachers. Over the past year, Helga’s husband Cador had been doing stonework in his village, and Godric’s wife Laudine had been fighting against Vikings, attempting to mend wizard-Muggle relationships in her community. Now they had both moved up to Hogwarts, where Laudine would teach about the stars, and Cador would teach classes on magical herbs and plants.
As the six of them sat at a table in the empty Great Hall, enjoying a meal, Rowena looked at the two happy couples who were discussing how wonderful it would be to live in the same place again and work together, and then her eyes drifted over to Salazar, who had been quite taciturn ever since Maeve left him. Rowena could imagine that the present company was not helping him cope.
She moved over to sit next to him, and gently put her hand over his, which was resting on the table. “I am so sorry, Salazar,” she said. “I know how much this hurts for you.”
Silently, Salazar looked at her hand on his, and then up at her face. Rowena hated to see the pain in his eyes. If only she could persuade him to love again, if only she could help him. But he didn’t want help.
At least the school term at Hogwarts was about to start. Salazar would have been miserable if the summer had lasted any longer; Rowena had heard that already Maeve was outspoken about the perils of witchcraft in the community. It was best that they were away from all that up here.
Rowena and Salazar sat in silence and watched the four laughing at the other end of the table. Godric had taken off his hat, which was sitting on the table in the middle of the group. As Rowena watched from afar, Helga picked up the hat and put it on her own head and started talking in a low, dramatic voice, which set the others laughing again. Rowena turned back to Salazar and shrugged.
But as soon as Rowena and Salazar had gone back to minding their own business, Godric and Helga approached them. “Why do you sit over here by yourselves?” Godric asked with a smile on his face. “I have just come up with a grand idea about how to Sort the new students.”
Rowena looked up. “Do tell,” she said.
“Well, this year we cannot just select the ones we know, obviously, because there are too many. That is why we could use my hat! We shall enchant it to select students for the Houses for us!”
“We do not have to accept that many students,” Salazar interjected, his eyes narrowed. “Perhaps we should be a bit more selective so the school does not get out of hand. I mean that we should accept pureblood witches and wizards, but not necessarily Muggle-borns. Muggle heritage can only mean trouble. We do not want any violence like what is happening everywhere outside Hogwarts…”
“Muggle-borns can be extremely talented wizards and witches, too, Salazar,” said Rowena. “If we are worried about numbers, we could admit only the ones with the most magical aptitude.”
“We decided ages ago that the purpose of Hogwarts is so that we can teach anyone with magical ability how to use magic,” Helga reminded them. “And the number of people who have heard of Hogwarts is much greater this year; we have gained a fine reputation and people want to learn. Why should we turn them away?”
Salazar was silent and glanced at Rowena. Rowena wasn’t quite sure what to say to Salazar; she had a feeling that most of his objections stemmed from the fact that the Muggle he loved had betrayed his heart, but that wasn’t really the issue at hand. He would eventually get over Maeve, and then this would not be a problem anymore. So Rowena directed the discussion back to the original point as she addressed Godric. “You mean we would merely have the new students put on your hat and that is all? The large number of students this year would not be a problem for it?”
“How would we know if it is dividing the students properly?” asked Salazar.
“Well,” said Godric, “I was thinking we could give the hat a piece of each of us, you know, let it see into our minds so it has the ability to pick students based on the skills and virtues each of us values.”
Rowena privately wished she had thought of the idea herself, but she nodded. “It is a great suggestion, Godric,” she said. “And it will make the Sorting process very simple, which is exactly how it should be.”
Salazar mutely nodded his approval as well.
So their next task was to enchant Godric’s old hat to see into the wearer’s heart and place him or her in one of four categories, depending on whether the wearer most displayed bravery and spirit, or fairness and loyalty, or ambition and pure-blood ancestry, or intelligence and wit.
After a long period of all four of them trying on the hat, a lot of complicated spellwork, charms and enchantments, the hat appeared to be sentient. As Rowena was transferring some of her feelings to the hat, she jumped in surprise when suddenly a small rip by the brim expanded as the hat gave a tremendous yawn.
“That’ll be enough of your feelings, Ravenclaw,” it said brazenly. “I’ve got enough for one hat to handle.”
Rowena gaped at the hat, then turned to face the others.
“It worked!” said Helga brightly.
“Yes,” said Rowena, “but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so… rude.”
“Rude?” exclaimed the hat. “Who’s being rude? You are the ones trying to fill my mind with your personalities. It is as if I have four other people in here! How do you think that makes me feel?”
“You are hollow,” said Godric. “There is nothing in there. So strictly speaking, you do not even have a mind!” He turned and addressed the others. “I had no idea it would be this talkative.”
“It’s your fault I am this talkative,” said the hat. “You were the reason I got sliced by a sword and got this tear in my brim. And you didn’t care about me enough to fix it up, so here I am!”
Godric looked surprised. “I never said I disliked you!”
“Don’t forget I have seen inside your mind, Godric Gryffindor. It’s all right though, I never liked you either.”
Salazar sighed. “Listen to you, arguing with your hat,” he said. “Can we not do something about it so it will not act smart with us all the time? This will get tiresome.”
“I’ll enchant it to sing or something,” said Rowena. “That’s always more cheerful to listen to. Assuming, of course, that it can carry a tune…”
“Maybe once it gets used to its new abilities, it will not be as angry at us,” suggested Helga. “It just needs time.”
“It is a hat, not a person,” Salazar reminded her.
“But it still has feelings,” said Helga. “Human feelings, now that we have done our enchantments.”
Rowena picked up the hat from the table. “Time to see if it worked,” she said. “It can talk, but were all those charms effective?”
She put the hat on her head, and it promptly said “RAVENCLAW!”
Godric smiled. “All right, it can tell who you are, at least. It says you belong in the Ravenclaw house, which makes sense. We should all try, just to make sure.”
After all four had tried on the hat with successful results, Rowena mentioned that maybe they should test it out on someone more objective, someone who had never been Sorted. This would be the situation the hat would be facing when it had to Sort maybe a hundred new students whose personalities weren’t already in the hat. So she gave it to Godric’s wife Laudine.
Laudine tried on the hat, and sat at the table for a few seconds while nothing happened. Rowena began to worry that the charms only worked as far as getting the hat to recognise the four founders, and that anyone new would confuse the hat. But her worries were alleviated when the hat opened its brim and said “SLYTHERIN!”
“Slytherin?” cried Godric and Salazar in surprise, looking at each other, and then they both laughed.
“I would have thought it should sort me as one of your house, Godric,” said Laudine as she took the hat off. “But it said I am ambitious and resourceful and that I exemplified the qualities of Slytherin House.”
“I am surprised it was so kind,” said Rowena. “Nothing snide in there at all?”
“It talked to you?” asked Godric. “We heard not a word.”
“That’s because it had nothing to do with you,” said the hat.
“Nothing to do with me? She is my wife!”
“Stop it, you two,” said Rowena.
“It sounded like it was just thinking out loud,” said Laudine. “It was considering what house to put me in, and just told me what it was thinking. That is probably what will happen with all new students.”
And with that, Hogwarts’ second year had begun. The dormitories were magically expanded to accommodate more people, and then many students arrived the following week, with a ceremony in the main hall for Sorting everyone. The hat seemed to work well as a Sorting tool; it divided the group of students relatively evenly, and sometimes it would sit on a student’s head for a long time before shouting out the result, during which time it was speaking to the student only. But each student was welcomed into one of the Houses, according to the information the four friends had given the hat.
After the ceremony was complete, the students all sat together at the few tables in the hall for the welcoming feast, while the four founders and Cador and Laudine sat at a table near the end of the hall up a few steps, where they could oversee the entire room. Godric’s hat sat on the table in between two dishes of stew. “I think it went well,” said Godric proudly.
“The hat was a very good solution,” said Rowena. She looked out at the tables of students, who were happily Sorted into four houses but still socialising with everyone else. Rowena remembered Helga’s protest that the houses were too divisive, and that that unity between the houses was essential. So far, it looked like she might be getting her wish. It was exactly how it should be.
At one of the nearby tables, a boy who had clearly never used a wand before had managed to set the table on fire. Rowena took out her own wand and quickly put out the fire, then went to speak to the boy, who was crying.
“It is all right,” she told the boy. “Very few people can Levitate a spoon on the first try. You will learn how to use that soon. For now, you do not need magic to eat your dinner.”
She returned to her own table at the top of the Hall, internally thankful that the boy had been sorted into Gryffindor House instead of her own, because she didn’t think she’d have the patience to deal with him on a regular basis.
“Clearly a Muggle-born,” said Salazar quietly, seated next to Rowena.
Rowena nodded. “Well, he must have magical ability – perhaps very little, but some, anyway – otherwise he would not be here.”
“He lives in my village,” said Helga, who had witnessed the fire as well. “His parents are Muggles, and came to ask me about him; although he had never done magic in his life before he got here, he always managed to make magical things happen around him without trying.”
“It is nice to see that Muggle-born children get the same treatment here,” said Cador. “He may be starting a little behind the others, but he will be fine. No one is particularly good at magic at that age.”
While Helga and Cador talked, Salazar looked back at Rowena. “If I had got my way,” he said, “there wouldn’t be any Muggle-borns here at all.”
“They are not all like that,” said Rowena. “And at least he is not in your house.”
“That is true. But we will still be teaching all of them. That boy is not in your house, but you will have to teach him how to brew potions.”
“I know,” sighed Rowena. “It will be difficult. That is why I had originally wanted it to just be the most talented and intelligent that came to Hogwarts, but seeing them all talking together, everyone is friendly despite their House or their magical background or what they excel at. They are all here because they want to learn, and we are here to teach all of them. That was what we signed up for when we started this school. This is what we wanted.”
Rowena sat at the top table in the Great Hall, eating her dinner and looking out across the hall as she had so many months before. She could not have been prouder of the work they were doing here at Hogwarts. It was spring now, and so far the second year of Hogwarts had gone by with many fewer hitches than the first year, at least in terms of academics. As she watched, William, the Muggle-born who had started a fire at the table during the autumn, entered the hall and sat with a group of students in the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw Houses. He was still rather dreadful at Levitating Charms, and constantly set fire to things, but he had already proven to have a natural ability at potion-making.
Regarding non-academic topics, the year had been a bit more disappointing as of late – but only for Rowena. Salazar had finally found love with someone else, a pureblood witch named Elaine, and two weeks ago they had gotten married. Elaine was very kind, but astute and clever – a complete opposite to Maeve, and in fact very similar to Rowena herself.
While Rowena was happy that Salazar had gotten over his heartbreak about Maeve, she wished it had been under different circumstances. She knew that, as a friend, she should be glad for Salazar and wish him the best in his married life. But there was a lingering feeling of jealousy that stopped her, and as nice as Elaine was, Rowena just couldn’t like her.
Salazar was sitting between Godric and Elaine at the table. Although Elaine didn’t teach at Hogwarts, she was as welcome there as if she had taught there. Godric and Salazar were laughing at something, while Elaine leaned against Salazar’s shoulder. Salazar was wearing a heavy-looking gold locket around his neck, which had a carved snakelike “S” on it. It had been a gift from Elaine.
Now that her three best friends were married, Rowena couldn’t help but feel alone. There were happy people gathered around her, and a hundred or so students in the room, but they only added to her loneliness. As this loneliness had sunk in over the past two weeks, Rowena realised she’d essentially just been waiting for Salazar all these years, and that was why she had pushed away other suitors. Now she would have to settle for someone else.
But as always, Rowena kept a level head and didn’t let her emotions affect her teaching. Her beginner Potions class the following morning went as well as usual, with few interruptions; William made a remarkable treatment for boils, and then accidentally set his hat on fire.
That afternoon she had a break before the intermediate students’ class, and used it to wander the beautiful hills around Hogwarts. Despite the solitude, she didn’t feel quite as alone; there was no one around to remind her how happy they were. She would miss this place when she returned to her town for the summer.
Summer, unfortunately, brought the return of Lord Redwald, a pompous and boring suitor who had tried to impress her four years ago, and apparently thought to try again for her affection now that she was back. With Salazar now completely out of the picture, Rowena wondered what her future would be like with Lord Redwald. But after a moment’s pondering, she resolved she would never sink that low. Maybe she’d have to settle for someone, but she could still do much better than him.
On one of her many pointless trips to the town centre to avoid Lord Redwald, she met a much more impressive man, who had come to one of Rowena’s parents’ extravagant social events about a year ago. She had never talked to him much then, because she’d had her eyes on someone else. But Sir Palamon of Suffolk was sensible and intelligent, and he had come to town specifically to look for her.
Rowena spent a good portion of the summer in the company of Sir Palamon, and her parents were thrilled that she was finally showing interest in a suitor. She saw her fellow Hogwarts founders only infrequently for brief meetings every now and then, so Rowena was happy to see Helga at the door one day near the end of summer.
They walked into the hall together. “Rowena, I hear you are getting married!” exclaimed Helga. “That is wonderful! I had no idea. I cannot believe we haven’t seen each other for longer than a few hours all summer!”
“Indeed, it has been a busy summer,” said Rowena calmly. “And yes, you heard correctly – I am betrothed to Sir Palamon of Suffolk.”
Helga smiled warmly. “I am so glad. He must be wonderful, because I know how high your standards are,” she laughed.
“Too high,” Rowena agreed.
“If I were you, I would be far more excited about this,” said Helga. “Just like you, acting so composed even about something so exciting!” Then she looked critically at Rowena, her eyes narrowing slightly in an uncharacteristically shrewd way. “You are happy, are you not?”
“Of course,” said Rowena.
“Right,” said Helga. “It is simply that… I know you were a lot more upset about Salazar than you let on, and that was only a few months ago, so it must still be… I do not mean to interfere when this is not my business, or if you wish not to talk about it, but you are my best friend and you deserve to be happy. I don’t want to see you settle for someone you do not love.”
Rowena sighed. “I was upset about that. But you have no need to be concerned anymore. I have moved on, and I am to be married.”
“Do you love him?” Helga persisted.
It was best to be completely honest, Rowena decided, because Helga would know. From the way the discussion was going so far, it seemed Helga could already sense that Rowena wasn’t being entirely truthful. So she thought for a moment before she carefully answered, “I respect him a great deal, which is almost the same thing.”
When she looked up to meet Helga’s eyes, she saw an expression of pity there. “Don’t,” said Rowena, before Helga could say anything. “I am happy. I promise.”
Helga was quiet for a few moments and then said, “I should have been here for you more this summer. I’m sorry.”
“Do not apologise, Helga. Life does not always turn out how you want it to, but occasionally it will exceed your expectations.”
A/N: Well, I’m not sure how the Sorting Hat ended up so sassy! I hope it doesn’t seem too silly of a chapter because of it. I’d love to know your thoughts on the story if you want to leave a review! Thanks for reading :)
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