"Welcome t' Hogwarts!" Hagrid's voice was loud in the quiet night and boomed across the Black Lake, the sound even reaching the students at the back of group of boats, as clear as if he was standing right next to them.
Sooner than some would have liked the boats arrived at the bank below Hogwarts and their lumbering guide ushered them all into a small side door, that it did not like he would be able to fit through. Indeed he had to duck so far he was practically bent in half, but squeeze through he did. The attention of the new First Years was once again dragged to another source, this time towards the stern voice of an older looking women, greying brown hair done up in a no nonsense bun and dressed in emerald robes, and a pointed black hat perched on her head. "All First Years accounted for Hagrid?"
"Yes Professor McGonagall, e'ry one of'em."
"Thank you, Hagrid. I'll take them from here."
"Righ' ya are, Professor." The man, Hagrid, nodded his head and exited out through the door that the Professor must have come through.
"Your attention please." She waited for them all to look at her. "Good. In a few moments I will lead you through this door and you will be sorted into your houses by our Sorting Hat. There are four Houses at Hogwarts, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin, so named for the four founders of Hogwarts School." At this point she fixed each student with an uncompromising gaze. "Once you are sorted into your houses you are expected to conduct yourself in a manner that will bring honour and respect to your house. If you have any questions you may ask your Prefects or your Head of House. Now, for two lines please, gentlemen on one side, ladies on the other."
Just as she finished speaking the door behind her swung open on its own and Professor McGonagall spun on her heel smartly and led the way through into the crowded Great Hall of Hogwarts. The new students followed silently in two single file lines, the boys' line only slightly longer than that of the girls. The Hall that had been filled with the sounds of muttering students fell into a silence that was almost oppressive with how the intent the older students were on the newest batch of First Years.
They stopped as soon as the Professor did, and she turned to them once more as she unrolled the scroll she had been carrying. "The hat will first sing its customary song and then I will call your name and you will sit on the stool. You will place the Sorting Hat on your head. You will then be sorted and head to your House Table, making way for the next student."
Once she was sure everyone understood the instructions she turned back around to await the Hat's song.
The four new friends watched as the decrepit, mouldy looking hat seemed to straighten up. A puff of dust exited out of the slit along its brim as it coughed, it then proceeded to sing in a rather deep voice for a hat:
Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
But don't judge on what you see,
I'll eat myself if you can find A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can top them all.
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.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a steady mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
So put me on! Don't be afraid!
And don't get in a flap!
You're in safe hands (though I have none)
For I'm a Thinking Cap!
The students, new and old all clapped politely and McGonagall once again turned to face the new students. "I will now call your names to be sorted."
"Abbot, Hannah."…"Hufflepuff!" cried the Hat.
And so on down the list it went, each student walking up to the rickety looking stool and placing the threadbare hat on their heads.
"Black, Kestrel." A hush fell over the student body and staff alike and Kestrel gulped, shrinking back slightly against her brother's, black hair paling to a washed out gray with her nerves, causing even more whispers. Neville placed a hand on the small of her back and whispered encouragingly in her ear. "Go on, you'll be fine. We're right behind you."
She nodded hesitantly but straightened her back and marched up to the stool, glaring at students and staff alike, daring them to make a comment about her name. She placed the hat on her head and sat down, the only thing betraying her nervousness was that her hair was still gray.
"Hmmm…what's this now, a Black? Interesting. Very interesting indeed. Now where to put you, where to put you. Such a bright mind, so eager to learn, so much potent-" the hat suddenly cut itself off as if something had interrupted it. Kestrel sat there in confused silence for several minutes before the hat started speaking again, and when it did it seemed rather testy. "Fine! You interfering pile of boulders. Well then Black looks like you're going to, GRIFFYNDOR!"
Kestrel hopped off the stool and placed the hat back on top, making her way over to her cheering, but wary housemates. She took a seat at the end of the table and hoped Harry, or Neville, or both got sorted into Gryffindor, so maybe they could explain to her what the bloody hell had just happened.
"Longbottom, Neville." Kestrel ignored the whispers that followed Neville as he approached the stool, and instead sought out Malfoy. She had to stuff her fist into her mouth and duck her head under the table to hide her laughter at the look on his face. She did not notice two redheads further up the table giving her curious looks. Once she managed to control herself she turned to watch Neville's sorting, looking just in time to see a look of confusion come over his face, which probably matched the one she had worn earlier. The hat sounded even more annoyed than it had with her when it once again called out, "Gryffindor!"
The sorting continued, Kestrel, Neville, and Harry who was still in line, all snickered at Draco Malfoy's sorting, the hat had barely touched his pale blonde head before loudly declaring, "Slytherin!"
A few more students went through before McGonagall called out "Potter, Harry." Another silence fell over the student, though this one seemed to fill up the hall, as all eyes turned to watch Harry ascend to the stool and gingerly place the hat on his head.
Harry's sorting took longer than any other student, and the whispering of students slowly, but steadily began to fill the hall. After about ten minutes he was starting to look annoyed. He finally got a cross look on his face and glared upwards towards the Hat, obviously telling it to get on with it.
Harry whipped the hat off the top of his head and slammed it down on the stool's seat and stalked off to sit with his siblings at his new House table, the chanting of 'We got Potter!' by two boys who the three decided had to be the elder Weasley twins Ginny had mentioned, who were drowning out most other noise in the Hall with their chanting. "There is something terribly wrong with that Hat."
"We know." Neville and Kestrel said together.
"We'll talk about it later, when there are less people around."
Harry nodded and watched as the remainder of the students were sorted.
After what seemed like an eternity, McGonagall finally reached, "Weasley, Ginerva."
She walked confidently up to the stool and swung the Hat up to her head, plopping onto the seat. And much like Malfoy's sorting it was short, though with an outcome that greatly pleased her brothers, "Gryffindor!"
Ginny looked slightly confused but beamed and putting the hat back on the stool, raced to the Gryffindor table where she was quickly embraced by her enthusiastic brothers, and Percy shook her hand importantly. Ron was quickly sorted and he too joined his siblings in Gryffindor and like Ginny was warmly welcomed. She extracted herself from her brothers as the last student was sorted, and Blaise Zabini joined Slytherin House.
Ginny walked down to the end of the table and joined her new friends, just as a wizened old man was rising from the Staff table, moving to stand behind a shining gold podium in the shape of an owl with outstretched wings.
The hall quieted as he raised his hands. Once everyone was silent he smiled happily out at all the gathered students. "Welcome!" he said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! For those that do not know I am your Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. Now, before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words of import. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!"
With those words, the four, long house tables were suddenly laden with all kinds of food and drink, and with much laughter and cheering the students did as they were bid and 'tucked in'. Various conversations floated around the table, old friends recounting what they had done over their summer holidays and new students introducing themselves to one other.
A boy with a thick Irish accent was piling chicken onto his plate as he was explaining how he came to Hogwarts. "I'm half-n-half. Dad's a Muggle and me Mum's a witch. It was a bit of a nasty shock for him when he found out."
The girl Ginny had seen riding in the boat with her brother spoke next, "Well neither of my parents are magic at all. It was ever such a surprise and I was so excited that we went straight to Diagon Alley and bought all my school things. I read all my books over and over again all year."
She looked like she was about to get a second wind, when Dean Thomas, who was sitting next to Seamus spoke up. "My parents aren't magic either, they were surprised too and a little worried, but excited all the same."
The friendly chatter of the Gryffindor first years was interrupted by the nasally tone of one Draco Malfoy, who once again was joined by Crabbe and Goyle, along with Blaise Zabini, who looked annoyed at Malfoy's presence. "You lied to me, Potter."
"No, I told you a falsehood,"
"That's a lie, Harry."
"Really?" Kestrel nodded at the messy black haired boy, a small smile on her face.
"Oh, well then. My apologies, Dad always taught me better than to lie."
"Then why did you –"
"Technically I lied to you first, I was the one who called him Neville; Harry just went along with it."
"Yes, but why?" Malfoy actually seemed confused by the sheer fact that someone would lie about their name.
"It was just a spot of fun," Neville shrugged. "Don't get your knickers in a twist over it, Malfoy."
Still with a look of bewilderment on his face, Draco turned and headed back towards the Slytherin table, Crabbe and Goyle tagging along like loyal dogs. Harry turned and looked at the gathered first years, "You'd think no one has ever pranked him before?" Everyone in earshot laughed, though not unkindly and went back to their feast.
Kestrel put down her fork and turned in her seat to face Blaise. "Hey, Blaise how was the rest of your summer?"
The dark skinned Italian boy grinned and dropped onto the bench next to Neville, who made some space for the Slytherin. "Great! We went to Greece about a week after you left and went and took a tour of a Hippocampus sanctuary. You guys would have loved it. Oh, Nev, before I forget, Mum's sending me some of the photos we took of the plant life they had there, she new you'd like some."
"Brilliant, thanks Blaise."
Their conversation was interrupted by a rude noise made by Ginny's twin, Ron. "What is a stupid, slimey Slytherin doing here? Ouch Ginny!" Ginny was glaring at her twin, but Kestrel spoke before she could give her brother a verbal dressing down.
"Blaise happens to be family; my mum and his mum were sisters. We've know him since we were all in nappies. I'm not turning my back on family just because of some stupid colours and emblem on my robes."
Ron withered under the weight of not only his twins stare but that of Harry, Kestrel, Neville, and Blaise as well.
"Well I should get back to my own table anyway. I'll talk to you guys later."
"Okay, bye Blaise."
The conversation seemed to flow much easier after that, everyone finished introducing themselves as they ate a very satisfying meal, and were all very close to being full when dinner was replaced promptly with dessert. Harry and Kestrel both lunged for the treacle tart only to be beaten to it buy a quick moving Ginny.
"Sorry, too slow. You're going to have to be quicker than that to beat this witch." She smiled at them and turned to take a large bite out of her tart only to find already halfway into Neville's mouth.
"Sorry, Weasley." he said around a mouthful of pastry, "You snooze you lose."
"I'll get you back for that Longbottom." She threatened archly as she reached for a double fudge brownie.
It seemed that all too soon the desserts disappeared and Dumbledore rose once more, to stand behind the podium and address the students.
"I have just a few announcements to make before I send you all off to your nice warm beds.
"Firstly to our First Years, and to some of the older form who should know better, the Forbidden Forest is off limits to all students.
"Secondly, and new this year for all, the third floor corridor on the right side, is off limits to those who do not wish to suffer a most painful death. And lastly, the Defence Against the Dark Arts position has been filled this year, by our very own Professor Quirrel, and Muggle Studies is bing filled by Charity Burbage. I know you'll all wish them the best in their new positions.
"Now off to bed with you, pip pip!"
Percy rose from his seat further down the table, calling down as he stood "First Years follow me, if you please."
Percy led the gaggle of ten new Gryffindors out of the great hall and up and through the castle. Neville kept track of land marks along the way, while Kestrel wrote down the turns they took, as Harry dictated them to her, guiding her along by a hand on her elbow.
"What are you guys doing?"
Neville looked up as they reached a long stretch of corridor and glanced over at Ginny. "Well our dads made a map when they went to school here, but the lost it in their Seventh year, so we plan on recreating it, but first we need to learn our own way around the school. So when ever we go anywhere we plan on taking notes so that when we create our map, it'll be accurate."
"Fred and George have a map. It's a really cool bit of magic, shows them all kinds of secret passages and stuff."
"Wait, you're brothers have the – of course they have the map, how else would they know about the Marauders? We are such idiots."
"No you're not, Neville. I didn't mention the map to you when I told you about the Marauders, so if you're an idiot then so am I."
"Well," Harry started as the stepped onto what Percy was saying was the last staircase before the tower. "We're either all idiots, or none of us are. Frankly I don't like thinking of myself as stupid, so I'm going to go with not an idiot."
Before any of the other three could answer back the group came to a halt outside a portrait of a rather large women dressed in a pink dress, and holding a glass of red wine.
"Password please, dears."
The painting swung open revealing a tunnel and a cozy looking room beyond that. They all filed in after Percy and got their first look of the Gryffindor Common Room. The floors were stone, like the rest of the castle, but it was covered by multitudes of woven, warm rugs, and there were chairs, tables, and couches scattered everywhere, creating different places to study, read or just sit and talk. There was a large, extravagant fire place set in the far back of the room closest to two twin staircases that led up in opposite directions. Overall the feeling of the common room was warm, and inviting, making the First Years feel right at home.
"Right, those stair cases lead up to your separate dormitories. Girls are on the right, boys to the left. The password for the tower changes regularly, you will be told when it does by a Prefect. I suggest that you all head to bed, breakfast is at 8 sharp and you'll want to be down early to get your timetables. Good night." Percy turned and headed up the stairs, keen on taking his own advice and getting an early night.
Harry turned a questioning look on Ginny. "Is your brother always so…"
"Not the word I was going for, but he's your brother."
"You're too kind. Yes, he is always like that, Percy would probably marry the rule book if he could. He's only gotten worse since he got his Prefects Badge."
"Well I think I'm going to take his advice either way and turn in, I'm knackered." Kestrel's proclamation was proven true when she let out a massive yawn, her jaw popping. "Ouch! Well night all." Kestrel waved and followed the other three girls already heading up the right hand staircase. Ginny was close behind her, waving her own farewell to the boys. Neville and Harry bit back their own yawns and trudged up the stairs towards their dormitory.
The dorms were circular, with five poster beds around the room, end tables between each, and their trunks at the foot of their respective beds. They five boys changed silently and crawled into bed. Luckily most were out as soon as their heads hit the pillow, and did not have to worry about trying to fall asleep over the snoring of one Ronald Weasley.
There was a bit more chatter in the girls' dorm as they all got ready for bed, but they were just as tired and did not talk for long. Kestrel and Ginny lay awake a bit longer than their dorm mates. "Hey, Ginny? You awake?"
"Yeah, what's up?" She sat up as Kestrel leapt from her bed over to Ginny's, landing cross-legged on the comforter.
"Had a question for you," She cast a glance over at the other girls, making sure they were in bed and not paying too close attention to their conversation, whispering just in case anyway. "You looked confused after the Hat sorted you. Can I ask why?"
"Hmm, oh yeah." She pulled her knees up, and rested her chin on them "The Hat seemed to be arguing with someone as I lowered it onto my head, all I heard was 'I suppose you want this one with the others then. Fine, Gryffindor!' It was really strange."
"Yeah, Nev, Harry, and I had similar experiences." Kestrel went on to explain what had happened to her and her brothers, and the two girls ended up chatting late into the night.