It was the smells that woke her that morning, waffles and coffee and bacon and strawberries. Spike sniffed, eyes still half-welded shut with sleep, Nutella. Nutella and whipped cream, too. First day breakfast. Totenberg insisted that a good breakfast was essential to a good start, and Spike had gradually convinced him that a few extra minutes of sleep before the first day was a good idea as well. They'd compromised on breakfast in bed on the first day of each month during term.
She rolled over in bed . . . and kept rolling until she hit the edge. That was odd; usually one of her guards was there keeping watch like a living teddy bear. The near-fall woke her up enough to open her eyes all the way, and she squinted against the bright light, so unlike the usual green-shaded gloom of the Pit. Did they have to drain the Lake again? she wondered. The squid can't be happy about that.
Something else was wrong with her room, too, and she struggled muzzily to put a finger on it. So much light . . . But before she could quite place it, the door swung open, and Totenberg, Dmitri, and Sacha appeared, carrying a plate of waffles piled high with strawberries, whipped cream and the food of the gods, chocolate hazelnut butter, a platter of bacon, and an enormous mug of coffee. Spike stretched out her hands, and the coffee mug was promptly deposited into them. She took a long pull gratefully, feeling the cobwebs melt away. She opened her eyes again after finishing half the cup . . . and nearly spit out the half a mouthful. Yellow. The room was yellow, a bright sunshiny cheerful yellow, trimmed with shiny black.
She closed her eyes tightly. Still half asleep. Still half-dreaming. Must be. Going to finish dreaming I'm drinking the coffee, then I'll dream I'm awake, so I'll actually be awake then, and then I can see what's going on. She drained it to the bitter dregs, then opened her eyes again. Still yellow. Still black. Not a trace of green or silver. Muffins, not skulls. Badgers, not snakes. I'm in . . . HUFFLEPUFF???
There has to be an explanation. She handed the empty mug back to Totenberg, suppressing a double-take. "What are you wearing? You're out of uniform!"
It was true. Instead of their usual livery of mix and mismatch ("Wearing uniforms is lazy -- you stop looking at faces. Anyone can find a uniform that will more or less fit," Totenberg had explained one day, and Spike had agreed, seeing some wisdom in that. At the same time, she always harbored a sneaking suspicion that the Hounds just liked uniforms, and refused to commit to one particular standard.) the trio was wearing -- "You look like house elves," Spike blurted out. "Explain."
Totenberg bowed, then scrambled to keep the tea towel around his waist as one knot came undone. Those tea towels are really . . . scanty, thought Spike. "Is simple, meestress. I em you minion--I mean, house elf. Hotty."
"And I'm Naughty," added Sascha, who was wearing a long, pointed, and patently false nose to go with his ear hat. They did look a little like house-elf ears, thought Spike, or would have if the hat wasn't precariously tipped on Sascha's head like a batwinged fascinator.
"I'm Loverboi," finished Dmitri sourly. The three were clearly striving for the distinctive squeaky voices of the house elves, but only managing a light baritone growl. Dmitri had at least managed to find a king-sized pillowcase, which rode him like a minidress.
"How . . . what? when?"
"Was the Het. The Het done it. Decide you needs to be--"
"To be round." Sascha beamed. "Tol' you de gym vas bad idea."
"To be vell-rounded," corrected Totenberg, adjusting the ear hat, and only managing to switch it from starboard to port. "You needs to spend zum time in anodder House, he said."
Spike had her face in her hands as they explained, by the time they reached the end, she had made up her mind. She lowered her hands, feeling an old familiar grin spreading on her lips. A rattlesnake grin, with a dark light in her eyes. Well-rounded, eh? Spend some time in another House? She'd show them what she was made of. She threw back the coverlet, reaching for her robes trimmed in yellow. "Well," she said, emerging from the sleeves and hood, "badgers have fangs, too."