The first Saturday at Hogwarts dawned bright and cheery. The sky was a bright blue and hardly a cloud greeted the students as awoke to the day. The sunlight streaming in through many a window caused several groans of annoyance. Harry glared out from inside the curtains of his four-poster bed, and dearly wished that he new a spell to turn back the clock for one more hour.
Just as he was about to bury his head underneath his pillow, he remembered what his dad had wrote in the letter he had sent back, specifically the part where he, Remus, and Sirius were going to help them out in their little joke on Fred and George. He flung the covers off himself and threw one of his pillows at Neville's bed.
"Nev get up! What time is it?"
"Wha-Harry, what are you doing?" Yawned Neville as he stuck his head out from behind his curtains, brown hair mussed from sleep stuck up in every direction.
"What time is it, have we missed the post?"
"Post? Why would that – " Neville sat up straight as a look of dawning realization spread across his face. "The prank!"
Neville dove for his trunk and pulled out the watch he had shoved into the pocket of his robes. "We haven't missed it. If we hurry we can make it down to breakfast and not look too suspicious."
"Excellent. Get dressed, I'll go get the girls and we'll meet you down in the Common Room." Harry said as he shoved his feet into his trainers and hit the door to the stairs at a fast jog.
Harry leaped down the last few steps then turned to head up the stairs to the girl's dorm rooms. Before his foot had even touched the stairs, a hand wrapped around his arm and tugged him back.
"Hey, gerrof!" He spun around only to come face to face with the eldest Weasley at Hogwarts.
"Just what do you think you're doing, Potter?"
"I was just going to run up and go wake Kestrel and Ginny for breakfast." Harry tugged his arm out of Percy's grip and crossed them over his chest, staring up at the taller boy.
"Boys are not allowed in the girls' dorm rooms. There is a charm that prevents you from entering anyway." The Prefect stated pompously.
"Well is there a way that you can get a message up to them, please?"
Percy looked at him for several moments, before sighing and looking around the Common Room. Sitting in one of the armchairs near the fireplace reading was a Fifth Year girl, doing her homework. "Cassandra?"
"Hm, yes Percy?"
"Would you mind running up to the First Year girls' dorms and waking up my sister Ginny, as well as Kestrel Black for breakfast please?"
"Sure thing Percy." She tucked her quill into her book and quickly raced up the stairs. She was jogging back down two minutes later and ruffled Harry's already messy hair as she walked by. "They said not to wait up and that'll meet you and Neville in the Great Hall."
"Awesome. Thank you, and you too Percy."
"You're welcome Harry."
Neville decided to join them at that point and looked around for the girls. "Where are they?"
"They're going to meet us down there, come on. If we hurry we can get our usual seats."
Ten minutes later Kestrel and Ginny came jogging into the hall, dropping onto the bench opposite of where Harry and Neville were sitting. "Sorry, I couldn't find my wand. It had fallen behind my night table. I think I might ask dad for a holster for Christmas." Kestrel explained as she pulled several pancakes onto her plate.
"Have we missed it?" Ginny asked eagerly, also piling several different breakfast items onto her plate.
Harry shook his head. "No, but the post should be coming any minute now."
They tried not to look too eager, or glance over in the direction of the twins too often, passing the time by discussing all that they wanted to get accomplished this weekend.
Kestrel swallowed her bit of pancake, "I think we should finish the rest of our homework for the week, try and get that done by lunch. Then after we split up, two of us go to the library and see what we can dig up on Hogwarts sorting ceremonies, and the other two go get started on a detailed map of the castle. Starting with the grounds, and then working our way into the castle and so on."
Harry and Neville nodded their agreement. "Right that sounds fine," Harry started. "So who wants to do what?"
Before any of them could answer the Great Hall was filled with the sound of flapping wings. The four glanced up and saw Barnabas winging his way towards them, and a tawny and white owl that Kestrel recognized as Remus' Barn Owl, Amber, heading towards Fred and George.
Kestrel quickly moved her plate as Barnabas made a dive for it, aiming for her pancakes. Neville quickly distracted it with a piece of sausage and relieved the cheeky bird of its package, containing the list of books that they would require to help them make their map.
History repeated itself at the older twins' end of the table, as they were surrounded by smoke and the sound of Christmas crackers. Once the smoke cleared the twins were revealed to have had all their freckles turn blue and the words, 'Wannabe Tricksters' emblazoned on their foreheads in Slytherin green.
The Hall erupted into laughter, which the twins joined in on heartily. After getting a good look at their appearances they turned back and pulled out the letter that had been stuffed into the envelope with the prank. As they read, huge grins bloomed on their faces.
Harry and his friends could only imagine what it was that they were reading; knowing their parents and uncles as they did it was something good. Kestrel had hidden her face in her mug of hot chocolate snickering every now and then, as she read over the list that Remus had sent them.
Kestrel quickly stuffed the book list into her pocket as Fred and George started to approach them. Harry looked up, eyebrow raised in question. "Can we help you gentlemen with something?"
Fred scratched at one of the blue dots on the side of his nose. "Well I – that is"
"We," George picked up for his brother. "We want to apologize."
"Yes that. We had originally thought that you were having us on."
"Correct Fred. And in our assumption we almost missed out on a most amazing opportunity"
"To correspond with our inspirations for aspiring to Pranking greatness."
"So, we're sorry."
Neville, Harry, and Kestrel looked back and forth between the twins, before turning to look at one another, a silent conversation passing between the three of them.
As one they nodded and turned again to the twins, "You're forgiven."
"So," Neville asked, taking a slow sip of his tea. "If we may be as bold as to ask what the contents of your letter was?"
George grinned and handed the note over to the closer of the four first years, which happened to be Kestrel. She glanced over the note, recognizing her father's writing immediately. Her grinned turned just a tad feral as she read over the words:
'Your move. boys.
Kes handed the note across the table to Harry and Neville, who got equally wild grins on their faces. "Well, we all wish you both the best of luck."
"You're definitely going to need it."
The twins nodded their thanks and headed out of the Great Hall, heading off to the tower to begin plotting their retaliatory strike.
"Well that was slightly unexpected, but it should be very entertaining."
Harry nodded as he finished the off the last of his sausage and eggs. "Yes, though you do realize that they'll probably get us to help them out every now and then?"
"Most likely, but that's what makes it fun." Kestrel grinned as she finished her hot chocolate in one final gulp.
Once everyone was done Harry picked up the conversation that they had been having before the post arrived. "Okay so who wants to do what after we're all caught up on our work? Two to the library and two to explore the outside the school to lay the groundwork for our map."
Kestrel volunteered to head to the library as did Neville. "Alright then Ginny, looks like you're with me, if that's okay with you."
"Sounds fine, Harry." She agreed easily, picking up a few bits of fruit and sticking them into the pockets of her jacket as they all stood from the table to leave.
11 o'clock found Neville and Kestrel buried behind a fortress of books on various aspects of the history of Hogwarts. Sorting Ceremonies Throughout the Centuries, Hogwarts Castle: Sentient or a Pile of Rock, as well as a one of the older copy's of Hogwarts: A History, from the mid 12th century, were among the many titles that they had grabbed. Neville currently had The Sorting Hat: Essays and Speculation Behind the Magic of Godric's Creation open and was going slightly cross-eyed at some the words being used, as well as the kind of magic that goes into creating a talking, semi-sentient hat.
At the same time Kestrel was reading through the old Hogwarts: A History book, looking for any reference at all as to why as possibly semi-sentient castle would interfere with something as trivial as the Sorting ceremony. After several more minutes of reading quietly Kestrel slammed the book shut and let her head fall onto the table. "This is hopeless. There is nothing in any of these books that even remotely answers our questions, or even comes close to touching on them." She groaned aloud in frustration, only to be shushed by the Librarian, Ms. Pince. Once the elderly witch was out of sight she stuck her tongue at her.
"Well maybe we're asking the wrong question then?" Neville also closed his book, though with considerable less force than Kestrel had closed hers.
"Well what question should we be asking then? I mean all we have is the fact that the Hat argued with the Castle about where to place us. Even Ginny."
"Oh right, I forgot that we never got around to telling you and Harry. I was talking to Ginny the night of the Sorting. She told me that the reason the Hat was only on her head for such a short period of time was that it was already arguing with the Castle by the time she had put it on her head."
"What was it saying?"
"Umm…something along the lines of, 'Why are you so interested in them, there's nothing special – Oh I suppose you want this one with the other three as well then? Fine, Gryffindor!' The hat didn't even really look in her head, not like it tried to with us."
"That's…odd." Neville closed his eyes, held titled slightly to the side as he thought. "What if…and I'm just throwing this out there. What if it's not the Castle that's responsible for interfering with our Sorting, but something greater than the Castle?"
"Like what though. The only thing that comes to my mind is the Founder's, as they're the ones responsible for creating both the Hat and Hogwarts. They've been dead for over a thousand years though." Kestrel started to trail off before a look of illumination came over her face and she pulled out her own copy of Hogwarts: A History, flipping to the section on the Ghosts of Hogwarts.
"What are you looking for Kes?" Neville asked as he got up and walked over to her side of the table, peering over her shoulder.
"The name of the oldest ghosts at Hogwarts. They might be able to answer some of our questions." She read rapidly, finger skimming down the page quickly, hardly stopping for more than a moment. A minute later she was biting back her shout of triumph. "Got it, the oldest ghosts at Hogwarts are the Grey Lady, the Ravenclaw House Ghost and…oh dear."
"What, who's the other one?"
"The Bloody Baron, the House Ghost of Slytherin."
Ginny and Harry met the other two back in the castle at 5 o'clock and joined them at their usual spots at the Gryffindor table.
"So we got most of the grounds mapped out, though we kind of cheated." Ginny admitted with an impish grin.
"How exactly do you cheat in mapping a Castle's grounds?" Neville asked in confusion.
"Easy," replied Harry. "You make friends with the grounds keeper and he gives you a copy of his map of the grounds, which include paths through the Forbidden Forest." Harry's grin was smug and it had every right to be, the original Marauders never managed to map any of the forest.
"That's great! You guys sound like you had better luck than we did." Kestrel said, annoyed, though mostly with herself and the lack of information available in the library.
"Oh? Couldn't find anything in the books in the library?"
"Not a bloody thing. Though Neville thinks, and I agree with him, that we may have been asking the wrong questions."
Neville and Kestrel went on to explain their new theory behind the oddness of the Sorting Hat and the Castle.
Ginny nodded slowly, taking a bite of her chicken. "That does make some amount of sense. But how are you going to get the Bloody Baron or the Grey Lady to talk to you?"
"We haven't figured that bit out yet. Though I suppose…" Kestrel trailed off as she got a bit of a determined look on her face.
Harry sussed out her plan quicker than Neville did. "I don't think that's such a good idea, Kes."
"Well…a pureblood you may be and a Black, but you're from the non-purist side of the Black family, and well…most of the kids over there probably know exactly who Sirius is."
"I'm not going to know unless I try, besides, I'm not going to talk to the Slytherins, I'm going to go and talk to the Bloody Baron." She shoved away from the table and stood up, making her way across the Great Hall, passed the Ravenclaw table and over to the Slytherin table, carefully not making eye contact with any of them as she sought out the Baron.
She found him, floating in a seat in between some rather pale looking third and fourth year students. She could feel the eyes of quite a few students on her, as well as a few of the staff members. She ignored them all and headed straight for one of the most frightening ghosts of Hogwarts.
She paused, next to the third years and opened her mouth to speak. Before she could utter a single word one of the third years turned to her and rudely asked, "What do you want, Black?"
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye before turning back to face the ghost. "I have a question for the Baron."
The ghost regarded her with an eerily calm, detached stare that unnerved her greatly. She could feel her hair sliding from black to white and forcibly restrained it, keeping it black. "It is a rare occurrence that a student from another house, or even my own, seeks my counsel, especially one so young. Ask your question child."
"The question is somewhat…private in nature; I was hoping to ask to speak to you after Supper had ended, Lord Baron, if it is not too inconvenient?"
The Baron stared at her a few moments longer, making the young girl squirm a bit, before nodding. "That is suitable. I will come find you after this meal has ended. Go back to your table now, girl."
"Yessir. And thank you." She nodded her thanks and hurried back to the Gryffindor table, tossing Blaise a quick smile as she passed him. She sat down hastily and took a few calming breaths as Neville filled her goblet with pumpkin juice. "Thanks Nev. That was nerve racking!"
"What'd he say?" Harry and Ginny asked curiously.
"He's going to come and find me after supper, so we need to make sure that we're alone, since I told him it was a private matter."
"If you told him that it was private, maybe you should meet him on your own?" Harry said, looking slightly nervous.
"No offence to the Baron, but I am not meeting him in some abandoned classroom by myself, Potter."
"Harry has a point though, Kes," Ginny said. "You did say it was private."
Kestrel knew that her friends weren't trying to skip out on this, they were just pointing out how unwise it was to upset a ghost. Especially when the ghost you maybe offending was the only ghost in the Castle capable of controlling Peeves the Poltergeist.
"We were both working on this so he should be okay with me being there if we explain it right." Neville said, coming to her rescue.
Kestrel quickly hugged him around the shoulders, "Thank you Neville. At least I can always count on one of my brothers." She stuck her tongue out at Harry, who stuck his out in response.
The rest of supper passed along normally after that and the four friends laughed and shared a few more stories of their childhoods to pass the time.
Once the Hall decided to start emptying the four Gryffindor first years decided to head back to the tower themselves. Neville and Kestrel decided to head up to the Owlery, Neville had written a letter to his Gran, asking her to send him some of the books he had left at her home over the summer, which he had not thought he would need.
They entered the Owlery, and were just about to call down Barnabas, when the Bloody Baron floated up through the floor, startling both first years.
"Greetings, young one."
After slowing her racing heart she greeted the Slytherin ghost. "Hello Lord Baron. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, well us I guess. This is Neville Longbottom, a friend of mine who is helping me with the problem I wanted to ask you about."
"Very well then, proceed."
They quickly explained what they had been researching, why, and their new theory that had prompted them to seek out the Castle's oldest ghosts.
"So we were wondering Lord Baron, if you have ever heard of something like this happening at Hogwarts before, the Castle interfering with the Sorting Hat's decision. Or maybe heard of a force of magic that might prompt the Castle to do so?"
Neville called down Barnabas and gave him the letter to his Gran while the Baron thought about what they had told him. At least they assumed he was thinking the ghost's expression never really changed much.
"I have not heard of such a thing happening before, not within Hogwarts since my death, or before. However the only force that I believe would have the knowledge to alter something as trivial as a school sorting, especially with the specific goal, that I can see, of bringing you two and your two other friends together, would be the spirits of the Founders themselves."
Neville and Kestrel could only stare at the Baron in confusion. "But why," Neville said. "Why would the Founders care where we went, one way or the other?"
"They're spirits are still at Hogwarts?" Kestrel asked, surprise clear in her voice.
"If one knows where to look for them, then yes they are still at Hogwarts. As well as for those they feel are worthy to reveal themselves to. That is all I can help you with in regards to this matter. I wish you luck in your quest, young ones." With that he floated back down through the floor leaving Neville and Kestrel in stunned silence.
After several moments of silence Kestrel snorted in disgust and through up her hands, "Bugger this. I'm too tired for this crap. Let's just get back to the Tower, besides I've just had an idea that can serve to cheer me up spectacularly."
Ron Weasley, along with Fred and George, entered the Common Room to find Harry, Ginny, Neville, and Kestrel at one of the tables, with a piece of paper, and a stacks of Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts. They walked over to see what they were up to.
Ron did not really know how to feel about his twin sister hanging out so much with the three other Gryffindors. Not that he was begrudging his twin her new friends; he himself had made good friends with Seamus Finnegan and Dean Thomas. It was just that for as long as he could remember it had been he and Ginny, as there hadn't been many other Wizarding children close to where they lived.
"What are you four up to now?" Ron asked, as he and the twins reached the table.
"It's a betting pool." Harry said as Kestrel wrote down the bet that a sixth year had just placed, taking the 4 galleons she was betting.
"A pool for what?" chorused the twins.
"Trying to guess the date on which Professor Severus Snape will ever take a bath." Kestrel stated simply, writing down the next bet. The three youngest male Weasley's stared for a few moments before turning to look at Ginny, to see if they were being serious. The smirk on Ginny's smirk confirmed that they were serious and they burst into laughter, immediately getting in line to place their own bets.
It was five minutes later that the portrait hole swung open and a flash of red hair appeared. Harry hastily swept the gold they had collected into his bag as Kestrel stuffed the papers inside her Charms text book. The students that had been crowding around the table quickly dispersed, dashing back to chairs or to other tables, making it look like nothing had been happening at all, so as not to arouse the Prefects suspicions.
Percy glanced around to see everyone either working on homework assignments or just lounging around and enjoying their free time. Once he was satisfied that nothing was amiss he headed up to his dorm to go and get his own homework. It was his OWL year after all and he did not want to fall behind in his studies.
As soon as Percy disappeared up the stairs everyone in the Common Room breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Kestrel pulled out her copy of Hogwarts: A History and started to make a list of places of where they might find the spirits of the Founders at Hogwarts. A Seventh year walked by their table, heading back up to her dorm, a copy of the days Daily Prophet tucked under her arm. A flash of a picture and the tail end of a title caught Harry's attention, "Hey Melinda, are you done with the Prophet?"
"Hm? Oh yeah, here you go Harry."
"Thanks!" He quickly opened it to the front page and scanned the article that had intrigued him. "Hey guys, listen to this. Break in at Gringotts Bank.
'It's believed to be the work of unknown dark wizards or witches. Gringotts goblins while acknowledging the breach insist that nothing was taken "The vault in question, number 713, had been empted that same day. But we're not telling you what was in there!" said a Gringotts media goblin this afternoon. Gringotts now needs to readdress their security system. Goblin's security specialists and Curse-Breakers are conducting tests, while also looking for a better breed of security Dragon. They are also going as far as examining Muggle security systems. Gringotts needs to get another security system in place before any more breaches in security occur. Wizards all over the country are in a panic wondering if their gold and valuables are safe.'
"Wow. That takes someone who is either very skilled, or completely insane." Kestrel whistled, not quite sure whether to be impressed or frightened. "Who would want to break into Gringotts? I mean if you're caught, just imagine what the goblins would do to you! Not to mention the different curses and wards that they have on the vaults, or, you know, the bloody Dragons!"
"I wonder what they were trying to take." Neville mused aloud as he re-read the article over Harry's shoulder.
"Imagine if you could pull it off though. Not saying I want to, don't look at me like that Black. I'm just saying if you could, imagine all the neat stuff you could find, especially in some of the older vaults?"
"Okay, yes, I agree. If you could pull it off it would be amazing." Kestrel conceded the point after a few moments of thought. "But you'd still have to have some sort of death wish, or be incredibly desperate."