The Sorting Hat is a sentient magical artifact that has the ability to initiate communication and have conversations with the person wearing it. There's two things that make me wonder if it would have been possible for the Sorting Hat to have told Dumbledore which student was a Horcrux:

First, the nature of the Sorting Hat itself:

There's nothing hidden in your head,
The Sorting Hat can't see.
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be . . .

Sorcerer's Stone - Page 117 - US Hardcover

Second, we know Harry is definitely a Horcrux:

"You were the seventh Horcrux, Harry, the Horcrux he never meant to make."

Albus Dumbledore - Deathly Hallows - Page 709 - US Hardcover

If Dumbledore had put on the Sorting Hat and had a conversation with it about Harry Potter, would the hat have been able to tell Dumbledore that Harry was a Horcrux?

  • he would have got clocked on the head with the sword of gryffindor lol
    – ava
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 13:41

8 Answers 8


ETA 02.13.12: According to JK Rowling, the Sorting Hat did indeed detect the portion of Voldemort's soul within Harry:

"I always imagine that the Sorting Hat detected the presence of that piece of soul when Harry first tried it on, because it's strongly tempted to put him in Slytherin. So that's how I see it." JK Rowling - Pottercast 12.23.07 - The Leaky Cauldron

As well, JKR addresses whether or not Harry is a proper Horcrux:

"Here is the thing: for convenience, I had Dumbledore say to Harry, "You were the Horcrux he never meant to make," but I think, by definition, a Horcrux has to be made intentionally. So because Voldemort never went through the grotesque process that I imagine creates a Horcrux with Harry, (SU: Mm-hm.) it was just that he had destabilized his soul so much that it split when he was hit by the backfiring curse. And so this part of it flies off, and attaches to the only living thing in the room. A part of it flees in the very-close-to-death limbo state that Voldemort then goes on and exists in. I suppose it's very close to being a Horcrux, but Harry did not become an evil object. He didn't have curses upon him that the other Horcruxes had. He himself was not contaminated by carrying this bit of parasitic soul."


"I do think that the strict definition of "Horcrux," once I write the [Harry Potter Encyclopedia], will have to be given, and that the definition will be that a receptacle is prepared by Dark Magic to become the receptacle of a fragmented piece of soul, and that that piece of soul was deliberately detached from the master soul to act as a future safeguard, or anchor, to life, and a safeguard against death." JK Rowling - Pottercast 12.23.07 - The Leaky Cauldron

So, yes, the hat detected the portion of Voldemort's soul within Harry. But, no, Harry was not an official Horcrux. I've never done this before, but I'm going to pick my own answer because it's directly from J.K. Rowling, and I took time to actually research the question beyond my personal opinion/interpretation of the text and the HP Wiki.

I conclude that the Sorting Hat was able to detect the portion of Voldemort's soul in Harry. Harry was not an official Horcrux. It is not established in canon whether or not the Sorting Hat can hold cogent conversations about one person with another.

And I sincerely apologize to JackBNimble :/

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    who is JackBNimble?
    – n611x007
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 13:34
  • @n611x007 -- A user on this site. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 18:22
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    I don't think this really answers (or can possibly answer) the question of whether the Hat could have told Dumbledore that Harry had a piece of Voldemort’s soul in him as such. JKR says that it ‘detected’ that piece of soul, but that's a statement open to interpretation. The Hat clearly saw the effect of that piece of soul and what it brought to Harry, but I wonder if it actually realised that there were two separate souls in there, or whether it just saw traits that were from two different souls but (quite logically) interpreted them as belonging to the same soul. Likely unanswerable. Commented May 4, 2016 at 13:51
  • @JanusBahsJacquet -- I think, without further input from J.K. Rowling, you're likely right about the hat. For purposes of answering this question, though, I basically took what information JKR has told us at face value. :) Commented May 17, 2016 at 14:20
  • this doesn't really answer the question... it really only proved that harry was not a Horcrux. also, yes there is a canon example of harry conversing with the hat after his sorting...in COS, Harry asks if he was sorted correctly. please consider editing your answer to actually address the question on dumbledore conversing with the hat, and not focus so much on whether or not harry was a horcrux.
    – ava
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 13:45

I don't have any references, but I don't think the hat could have detected it:

  • Horcrux is a vessel for a piece of "soul". A hat detects thoughts and feelings, there's no indication that it can detect a piece of foreign soul (which may or may not even involve the head/brain).

  • The hat may not even know what a Horcrux is. It was made by non-dark wizard(s), so it is not guaranteed to be aware of the deepest secrets of Dark magic.

Also, I don't see the necessity for the hat to have told Dumbledore - he could have easily figured it out himself, from Harry's Horcrux-imparted abilities, the prophecy details, and general knowledge of how Horcruxes are made.

How do I know? Because, when I was reading Book 6 and Dumbledore was explaining to Harry about Horcruxes being made via murder, my first question was "was there a Horcrux made when he murdered Harry's parents". And I'm not exactly the greatest wizard of our age :)

  • I had the exact same thought about Harry being a Horcrux on my first read-through of HBP, too! :) Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 16:55
  • all of this may be true, although i would like to clarify for you that voldemort's piece of soul WAS connected to Harry's head; his scar. his scar hurt because it was the soul fragments attempt to escape his head (this is from a jkrs interview)
    – ava
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 14:06

While the Sorting Hat is able to converse with the wearer during the sorting ceremony and sings the introductory songs, there is no reference to the Sorting Hat speaking outside of that context.

When Harry puts the hat on a second time, the Sorting Hat again converses with him about his choice of Gryffindor over Slytherin. There is no indication the hat engages in casual conversation. From Harry Potter Wiki:

When Harry tried the Hat on for the second time [in the second year], it repeated its earlier declarations - that Harry was particularly hard to sort, and that he would have done well in Slytherin.

I believe that if Dumbledore had placed the hat on his head, the Sorting Hat would have said something about what a remarkable or accomplished Gryffindor he became, but would not have expounded on the traits of other students.

To say that the hat is sentient might be a stretch, it made a song warning of the dangers ahead, but it could have just overheard numerous conversations while in the Headmaster's office. If it wanted to quit its job as the house sorter could it? Does it sometimes have a spell of melancholy? I don't believe so. I think the hat is just endowed with the ability to look for the qualities the founders wanted, and to make a determination based on that, with a little bit of flair to make it more interesting for the students.

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    Not that I disagree with the general point, but the hat also knew Harry needed the sword so it wasn't completely without any sentience. Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 4:54

I don't think the sorting hat was sentient. As I understand, nothing could be magicked into sentience, otherwise the past headmasters' portraits would almost certainly be, and I believe you said they aren't. They, and most portraits, seem to be very close, but I think that's an "intelligence" roughly along the lines of artificial intelligence in computers, though more advanced than we can make currently. The diary was different, but it wasn't the diary itself that was sentient, it was the piece of Voldemort's soul within it. Since the soul was part of a living (sort of), sentient being, it was sentient.

Now, as for whether it could tell that Harry was a horcrux. Since it could see parts of the wearer's mind that he or she couldn't himself or herself, I suspect that the hat could see the effects of the link with Voldemort but not the link itself. Even if the hat could see that Harry and Voldemort's minds were linked as they were, I don't see how it could have known that it was a horcrux. It reads their minds, not their souls. Aha, I think that's the important part:

The Sorting Hat could read minds, not souls.

If the hat could tell that Harry was a horcrux if it knew so, I think Dumbledore wouldn't have thought to put it on... Though being Dumbledore, he might have. Either way, the hat can talk, so perhaps it would have alerted him. But there could be a privacy issue there, maybe the hat was bound by something like doctor-patient confidentiality, and it couldn't reveal to anyone anything from anyone else's mind.

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    Great answer! My question is, regarding the Sorting Hat reading minds and not souls, if the mind and soul are not interwoven, then how is it the Dementor's kiss renders a person unable to use their mind when the Dementor sucks out the person's soul? The Dementor's kiss is allegedly worse than death; it turns people into empty vessels. On the other hand, Alice Longbottom gives Neville a Droobles wrapper every time he visits -- is there meaning in this, or is it an unconscious routine on Alice's part? FWIW, I thought about the confidentiality issue, too. Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 17:00

I think if you conclude that the sorting hat thought HP should belong in Slytherin not because Harry belonged there, but because of the fragment of one of the 'greatest' Slytherins inside of him, you see the sorting hat couldn't distinguish between the two 'souls'.


I agree that the Sorting Hat would not detect a piece of Voldemort's soul since it is primarily a "brain reader". It detects the tendencies of your mind- the way you think and what actions are most likely to result. HOWEVER, do you not think that Voldemort would feel emotional(happy) in knowing where his "mortal enemy" is. And that emotion could travel along the connection forged by the horcrux and affect the way Harry thinks and or acts- which is specifically what the Sorting Hat detects and reasons. If the Hat saw a burst of happiness unrelated to any outside influence that would be a sign of some connection to another being.

And whose to say that the Sorting Hat didn't detect it- remember it wanted to put him in Slytherin- who Voldemort is a direct descendent of.

  • I think you're reading my answer wrong. JKR has said the Sorting Hat did detect the portion of Voldemort's inside Harry, which is why it considered Harry for Slytherin. Voldemort was unaware until the very end that he and Harry shared a Horcrux-like connection; JKR has also said that Harry is not a Horcrux, and Dumbledore postulated that Voldemort did not have an emotional connection to his Horcruxes. So while I appreciate your answer, it is not consistent with canon or JKR's statements on the issue. :) Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 19:31

I disagree about the sorting hat reading minds, and not souls. If it sorted from what it attained from minds - it would not have put Neville in Gryffindor, he would have been put in Hufflepuff. The hat sees potential ability and heart - not thoughts. It does listen to thoughts though, hence Harry’s ability to choose his house. The hat thought to put Harry in Slytherin - as he say the part of Voldemort there (whether a hour run or not, it doesn’t matter). But it also saw Harry’s potential, but it was Harry’s choice that swung it in the end.


A point not otherwise noted: Even if we assume the Sorting Hat could see that Harry had 'an extra piece of soul', assuming the Hat could even understand the situation in those terms - how could the Hat report the situation as 'Harry is a horcrux'? Why would the Sorting Hat even be aware of the word 'horcrux', let alone the magical concept behind the word? After all, most wizards/witches aren't aware of the word or the concept either - this magic isn't widely documented [recall the best documentation Hermione could find was a single sentence: 'Of the Horcrux, darkest of magic, we will not speak'].

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    You seem to have created another account when you already have one, consider merging your accounts by following this link
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 14:34
  • @PMar The sorting hat, upon its creation, became sentient being through a combination of the four founders intelligence. As incredibly gifted magicians I think it is safe to assume at least one of them knew of Horcruxes. The assumption lies in if the founders found it prudent or inadvisable to instill that knowledge into the hat. The most likely candidates to pass on that knowledge to the hat would be Slytherin, or Gryffindor. I concur it is not known if the hat could see if Harry was a Horcrux, but I believe that the hat knew of Horcruxes.
    – Mainstroke
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 15:41

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