Hogwarts proved to be a moving mass of people in black robes trimmed with different colors, staircases that swung through the air as students climbed or descended, and an enormous hall with four great long tables laid out. The first years were lined up down the center path, which ended at the legendary Sorting Hat of Hogwarts.
It was as grimy and tattered as reputed, with a large rip near the brim, and a pointy tip that was as bent and crooked as an old tomcat's tail. She watched as one student after another was helped up onto the high stool, the Hat was laid on their brow, and seconds later, the name of a House was shouted into the hush, followed by an explosion from one table or another.
Spike remembered Durmstrang's Chalice, and shuddered. At least I don't have to drink from the Hat. Though Totenberg, Dmitri, and Sascha had amused themselves one night by breaking into the Headmaster's Quarters, stealing the Chalice, and drinking cheap wine from it. I wonder how Durmstrang's next Severing is going to go? The Chalice had been joining in the fun by the end, she had heard, singing bawdy songs, and as a drinking mug, it had an enormous repertoire. I wonder if it will be sober by then . . .
Suddenly they were calling her name, or at least a garbled version of it. She decided on the spot that she would use her old family nickname--there shouldn't be any other Spikes to get confused. Not like the reunion picnics, where it was often simpler to use birthplaces or residences to refer to someone. A prickly bunch, us. And then the Hat was over her eyes.
It chuckled gleefully to Itself. "This job hasn't been so easy and obvious since that Malfoy brat--wait. What did you say?"
Spike hadn't said anything, knotted with her worries that something would go wrong and this second chance would be taken away from her after all. The goblet at Durmstrang had hesitated like this, the steam rising turning from silver to green to red to black and then back again, wavering in the air. Looking for something. She felt a wrenching cold in her stomach. "Not again."
"What again?" Images flashed through her mind like cards being shuffled. "Interesting. I see why the Chalice had issues. Well. Mad scientist, or evil genius? Which path are you going to walk, Spike?"
"You have minions, indeed you do. Good start! And ambition. Plenty of that. You seem to know how to handle that; you'll do well wherever you're Sorted. But it’s a fine line where you walk between the green and the blue. Cunning and clever.” She had the creepy feeling that the toothless, fingerless Hat was tapping its fingers on its front teeth the way the head chef would when agonizing over a menu. Hibiscus or Royal Tokaj for the postprandial, she thought, and bit her lip to keep from laughing.
“Well!” the Hat remarked at last. “It’s a good thing we sort more than once, now. I told Dumbledore that the one and done was a mistake, I told him that people could change from what they were as children, even old children. Got to be . . . Slytherin!!!” Dimly, as the Hat was lifted off her head, Spike could hear cheering from one of the tables.
The Hat winked as she climbed off the stool. “Do me proud, girlie,” it said.