"How is she?" He asked pulling up another chair and sitting on her other side.
"The Medi-Witch, Madame Pomfrey, says that she's fine. She's just keeping her over night for observation. The cuts and things she fixed up right away, it's just the head she's worried about now. She got a pretty bad concussion in the crash."
"So she'll be out tomorrow, then?"
They sat in silence for a few moments longer before Harry finally couldn't take it anymore. "So what did McGonagall say?"
"Well she's writing home, telling Dad about what happened, and I won't be allowed back into the flying lessons, but I'm not to be expelled or anything."
Harry slumped over in relief. "Glad to hear it mate. Why do I get the feeling that you're not telling me everything, though?'
"Because you've known me since we were in nappies?" They both shared a laugh that they quickly hushed when Kestrel stirred fitfully. "I was going to wait and tell you both, as well as Ginny, but since it looks like Kes will be out for awhile I'll just tell you now. You can't tell anyone though. It's supposed to be a secret…at least for the next few days."
"No one will hear it from me, promise. So what is it?"
"You are looking at Gryffindor House's new Seeker."
"Really?" Neville just nodded, a bit of a shy grin on his face. "That's bloody brilliant Nev! Oh, I cannot wait to see the look on Malfoy's face when he finds out you're not being expelled."
With that the topic turned to Quidditch and they talked quietly about that for awhile, only to be interrupted when the door swung open again, only this time it was Sirius Black that strode in.
"Hello boys." He ruffled their hair in greeting before pulling out his wand and conjuring up a chair for him to sit in. Sirius was a tall, well-built, darkly handsome man with fair skin, long black hair that he kept pulled back from his face, and the same striking gray eyes that Kestrel had inherited. He usually wore simple, but elegant robes in either black, or blue, today though he was in the red robes of an Auror, having come to Hogwarts from working at the Ministry. On his right hand was the Black Family ring, signifying him as the Head of the Black Family.
"Kes is going to be upset when she hears she missed your visit." Neville said smiling up at his uncle.
"She may not, cub. I talked to Poppy and she should wake up around dinner time. She just gave her a small dose, since she wanted Kestrel to rest. Also, Neville, I hear congratulations are in order? Youngest Seeker in a century, that's pretty impressive. You're not even out of your second week of school yet, to boot."
"How'd you know?"
"Your dad was with me when McGonagall fire-called the office about Kestrel. He'll try and send you your broom with tomorrow's post, along with his congratulations I imagine. He's proud of you for sticking up for Kes, like that. I am too."
"Kestrel's family, she'd do the same for me."
"Yes she would. Although with Kestrel there probably would have been creative spell-work involved, and not, how did McGonagall put it, 'ridiculously dangerous flying. The boy nearly gave me a heart attack.' Yes I believe that was what she said." Sirius grinned down at the now furiously blushing 11 year old.
"You two should probably head down to dinner; let your housemates now that Kes is okay."
Both boys nodded and stood to leave. "Oh, wait a second." Harry dug into his bag which he had brought down with him to do some reading while sitting with Kestrel. He pulled out the list that he had made about when and how his scar had been hurting that week. "Can you give this to dad for me, Sirius? It's that list he asked me to make for him."
"Sure thing, Prongslet, will do. Have a good night and try and not to get into too much trouble."
"No promises, Uncle Sirius." Both boys laughed as they exited the Hospital Wing, waving over their shoulders.
Blaise hopped up from his seat at the Slytherin table, where he was talking to Theodore Knott, and hurried over to Harry and Neville, stopping them as they entered the Great Hall. "Harry, Nev, how's Kestrel? Is she alright?"
Harry patted Blaise on the shoulder grinning. "She's going to be fine, Blaise, Madame Pomfrey just wanted to keep her in the Hospital Wing overnight for observation. She hit her head pretty hard and had a concussion, but otherwise she was unharmed."
Blaise heaved a huge sigh of relief and gave the two boys a grateful grin. "That's good. Thanks for letting me know, I might go visit her before curfew if she's up."
"She should be," said Neville. "Uncle Sirius is up there with her now."
"Oh good, I had a question I wanted to ask him anyway. Night, mates."
"Night Blaise." They waved as the Slytherin boy walked out of the Hall towards the staircases
Ginny waved to the two boys after Blaise left them and they walked over to join her, dodging around a few other students. They sat down gratefully and smiled as Ginny started piling their plates with food. "How's Kestrel, is she all right? What did McGonagall say Neville? Are you being expelled? You really shouldn't be, it was all that git, Malfoy's fault anyway –"
"Whoa, whoa, slow down Weasley, one question at a time. We're only human."
She huffed and leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms, a clear 'I'm waiting' expression on her face.
"Kestrel's fine, she's spending the night in the hospital wing, because of a concussion, but she'll be back with us by tomorrow morning."
"I'm not being expelled, but I can't discuss what McGonagall said here, too many people. I'll tell you later tonight in the Common Room."
They're interrupted by Fred and George dropping down onto the bench on either side of Ginny. Fred leaned in keeping his voice low as George kept lookout. "Congrats, Neville. Wood's just told us. George and I are on the team too. Beaters." He glanced up suddenly when George tapped his shoulder. Fred sat up and nicked some fruit from Ginny's plate as he stood to join his twin, she was too stunned to even try and stop him. "Can't talk more now, Lee reckons he found a new secret passage out of the school."
George nodded, "Bet you it's that one we found behind Gregory the Smarmy in our first week. Well later chaps." The twins waved before walking over and joined their best friend, Lee Jordan, who was waiting for them at the end of the Gryffindor table.
"Speaking of secret passages," Harry said, neatly changing the topic as he piled more food onto his on plate. "How are your guys' parts of the map coming? I've got most of the second floor mapped out, and some of the third. That bit may have to wait, until the right hand side of the third floor corridor opens up again. I don't know when that might be though."
"Ours our coming along well. The dungeons are done and most of the first floor. On a side note, I think I may have found the entrance to the Hufflepuff den."
"Wicked." Ginny and Harry said together.
Any more discussion about their map was halted by the arrival of a smug looking Draco, accompanied by his usual hulking shadows, Crabbe and Goyle.
"Having a last meal, Longbottom. When are they sending you home? Your Father and Gran must be terribly disappointed in you."
Neville glared up at the Malfoy heir, twisting a bit in his seat to face the other boy. "You're much braver down on the ground with your…little friends, than you were up in the air Malfoy."
"I can take you on my own just fine, Longbottom."
Harry immediately guessed where Malfoy was probably hoping to go with this, so he decided to beat him to the punch. "Okay Malfoy. How about tonight? Wizard's Duel, wands only, no contact, and only non-lethal spells."
"That is if you're not scared." Ginny threw in, hiding behind her hands.
Grey eyes flashed in surprise, and Harry bit back a crow of triumph, glad that he had guessed right. "Fine, Crabbe's my second, who's your Longbottom."
"Fine. Midnight sound good? We'll meet in the Trophy room on the second floor. It's always unlocked."
"Deal. See you then Malfoy."
Once Draco was out of ear-shot, sitting back at the Slytherin table, Hermione turned to look at the two scowling boys. "I couldn't help but overhear what you were saying…You're not really going to go are you?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, but it's not what you're thinking. We're not planning on leaving the dorm after curfew."
Neville turned back in his seat and looked at Harry. "Booby trap the room?"
"Booby trap the room." He nodded in agreement, Ginny giggling beside him as Hermione sighed in relief, tuning out the rest of the conversation. "I was waiting for the right opportunity to bring this up, but I stole one of Dad's Marauder Journals, from when they were in school. I think I have the perfect spell/potion combo to use; I just need a little help tweaking it."
As Draco got up to leave the Great Hall, Ginny rose at the same time and stealthily worked her way across the tables. She had to time this perfectly. Just as Draco was about to exit through the large wooden doors out into the Entrance Hall Ginny shoved by him, bumping into his shoulder, her hand grabbing at his shoulder as they both fell.
"Oh, jeez. I'm sorry. I didn't mean –" She reached out a hand to help pull the boy to his feet.
He just slapped her hand away, "Don't touch me, Weasley."
"Fine! See if I ever help you again, you foul git!" She huffed and flounced away, long, red hair swaying behind her, heading up toward the Tower.
Harry and Neville arrived ten minutes after Ginny had reached the Common Room and found her sitting cross-legged in the armchair in front of the fire. Harry practically bounced over to her with Neville behind him, following at a more sedate pace. "Did you get it? Did you get it?"
Ginny's answer was to smile sweetly and hold up a tuft of blonde hair, a few with the roots still attached. "Excellent! Now let's get to some serious pranking."
True to their word to Hermione, they did not sneak out after curfew. The prank only involved a simple potion that could be brewed in an hour. This meant that they made it back to the Common Room well before curfew, with no one the wiser of what they had been up to. No all they had to do was hope that Draco wouldn't be a coward and would turn up where and when he was supposed to. Though as a back up they had sneaked down to the dungeons and had sprayed some of the potion onto the doorway that all the Slytherins came up to the Entrance Hall through. That way even if he hadn't gone the spell would still affect him.
Kestrel exited the hospital wing the next morning to find her friends leaning against the opposite wall. "Hey guys!" She was quickly hugged by all three and they headed down to breakfast together.
"So you get out of hospital just in time to go down for Potions. Good morning to you!" Ginny giggled as she patted her now gloomy looking friend on the shoulder.
"Fantastic." Kes muttered sarcastically as they hit the stairs that would bring them from the Hospital Wing down towards the main staircases. "Oh, dad told me about you being made Seeker for Gryffindor, Nev. Congratulations."
"Thanks. Dad was going to try and send my broom with this morning's post."
"Meaning that breakfast may be twice as entertaining as it normally is." Harry said with a bounce in his step.
"Why would it be entertaining? What did you guys get up to while I was stuck in the Infirmary?"
They quickly explained their prank to the now happily grinning Black as they stepped on to one of the many moving stair cases. "That's brilliant! Oh I can't wait to see the look on his –"
Kestrel abruptly stopped speaking as the staircase gave a jerk underneath them.
"Bloody hell." Harry muttered as they all clutched to the railing and tried not to fall to the stone steps beneath their feet. "It had to do this now? We're going to miss Malfoy making an idiot of himself…and breakfast!"
The staircase finally came to a stop and the four Gryffindors ran down the stairs and into the corridor, hoping to find a shortcut down to the Great Hall. They found the way they wanted to take blocked by Peeves, who was juggling six large, bronze, candelabra's. Peeves was a semi-corporeal poltergeist that haunted Hogwarts, dressed in a glaringly orange and blue jester type outfit, complete with a blue hat with bells, and a neon orange bow tie.
He cackled madly when he spotted them, "What are four wee ickle firsties doing up so early, no classes yet, no there's not."
"The stairs moved Peeves; we're trying to get down to the Great Hall. Could you move please? You're blocking our way." Ginny tried the polite approach, remembering her mother saying once that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
"Hmm…shouldn't lie to Peevesy. You're up to something rotten and naughty, should tell Filch I should."
"He's not going to move, let's just go down a bit further, and look for another way down." Neville suggested and continued on down the hallway, ignoring Peeves who blew a rather loud raspberry at him.
Apparently, Peeves really didn't take kindly to being ignored and started throwing the candelabra's at them. They broke into a run desperately dodging the flying candlesticks looking for anyway that they might get away from the Poltergeist. Ginny noticed a tapestry that was hanging on the right hand side flutter a bit in an unfelt breeze. Ignoring the fact that there were no windows in the corridor she angled towards the waving tapestry. "Quick this way," Ginny flung the tapestry aside and they all dodged in behind her, Harry narrowly missing be hit by candelabra number three of six.
"Students causing mischief! Students causing trouble!" Peeves cackled, zooming along behind them, his remaining weapons floating along in his wake.
"Bugger off, Peeves!" But bugger off Peeves did not, he continued to chase them on down through to the charms corridor, through a room full of various pieces of armour, passed several classrooms, and an out-of-order toilet. Luckily they were able to get some distance when Peeves stopped to resupply his arsenal with one of the suits of armour.
They ran into a locked door that Kestrel quickly opened with a muttered "Alohomora," and they all tumbled inside, closing the door as quietly as they could behind them. Neville pressed his ear to the door and motioned for the others to be quiet. He could barely hear Peeves calling out wondering where they had gone. He waited listening as the devilish little things voice became fainter and fainter, until it had drifted off altogether.
Neville and Ginny, who had been listening above him, both sighed in relief. Neville could feel an insistent tugging on the sleeve of his robe and turned to look over his shoulder at Harry. Both he and Kestrel were pale white, their faces standing out alarmingly in the dimly lit room.
"What's the ma–" he was cut off when Kestrel slapped a hand over his mouth and pointed with a shaking hand to a very large dark lump in front of them. Neville felt all the blood drain from his face, and was sure he was nearly as white as his friends. Harry took several steps back and started to open the door.
The jiggling of the handle must have been loud enough, or the smell of four students entering its room finally got the attention of whatever it was, and three pairs of golden eyes peered at them from the centre of the room. Ginny had started to tremble, shrinking back against the wall.
"Hurry up, Potter!" Kestrel hissed as quietly as she could, and was barely able to contain a squeak of fright as the beast yawned, gleaming white teeth flashing in the dark. Harry flung the door open and light from the hallway flooded into the room, bringing the creature into view. It was easily the size of a small house, gray furred with three massive heads. The four Gryffindors screamed and ran from the room, slamming the door behind them. The beast leaped for them at the same moment and knocked the door back open. They threw their combined weight against it and slammed it shut, sighing in relief when they heard the lock snick back into place.
They ran out of the corridor and made it back to the main stairwell and did not stop running until they reached the Entrance Hall. Once they reached the apparent safety of the Entrance Hall that Kestrel said, "I guess now we know what the Headmaster meant about suffering a horrible death."
"You're not kidding. Why would he have something like that in a school full of children?"
"Well, the door was locked Harry."
"Not the point, Longbottom! Anyway, we'll finish this discussion later. Right now I am starving." They sat down at Gryffindor table and set about filling their plates. A quick look over at the Slytherin's table confirmed that Malfoy had not yet arrived. "Oh good, we haven't missed it. That should brighten up our near death experience."
They waited for what seemed like eternity for Malfoy to show up and just as they were about to give up hope of seeing the Malfoy heir before Potions class, the blonde boy entered the Great Hall, a sullen look on his face. He sat down at his house table grumpily and refused to look at, or talk to anyone as he filled his plate with fruit and toast.
A few of his fellows tried to get him to join in on their conversations, but he just shook his head forcefully and ignored them all. He was quiet for most of the remainder of the meal until one of the fifth year Slytherin Prefects approached him.
Unfortunately they could not hear what was being said, but judging by the annoyed look on Malfoy's face, the prefect was questioning him on something that he did not wish to discuss. Finally the blonde Slytherin could take no more and shouted at the Prefect to 'leave him be.' At least he tried, instead of words, rainbow coloured foam spewed from his mouth and down the front of his robes. The Great Hall burst into laughter, indeed many of his housemates even joined in. Malfoy only stood with as much dignity as he could muster and walked, very quickly, out of the Hall, presumably back to the dungeons to change.
Kestrel had her head buried in her arms, face down on the table, her shoulders shaking with laughter. "We thought that would brighten up your day." Neville said garbled though it was by his own laughter, next to both of them Harry and Ginny were laughing to hard to even breathe properly.
"You guys are the best friends a witch could ask for."
At that moment the post flew in, but there was no sign of Barnabas in the swarm of owls. "Hm? I wonder where he is? Oh well, Draco's not here to enjoy the result of him trying to get me expelled anyway. Come on, let's get to Potions and get this day over with."
Their second Potions lesson was just as horrid as the first. Since Snape was a member of Staff, he knew all about Neville being appointed Gryffindors newest Seeker, and so focused most of his ire on him. Making Neville so nervous and out of sorts that he botched his Cough Cure Potion and ended up melting his cauldron as well as most of the work bench. Some of it had gotten on his hands and they erupted into blisters so painful that they brought tears to his eyes. He would not, however, give Snape the satisfaction of seeing him cry, though it was a close thing.
"Black, take Longbottom to the Hospital Wing." He snapped as he vanished the potion – with snarled, 'Evanesco' – off the table and Neville's hands, preventing it from injuring him further.
"Yes, Professor." Kestrel had already bottled her potion and given it to Ginny. She left her things where they were and led him out of the class room.
"Potter! Is there a reason you let Longbottom add the dried nettle before the potion had simmered for the required 15 minutes? Trying to make yourself look better were you?"
"No Professor! I just hadn't noticed, I was concentrating on my own –"
"Enough! That will be 10 points from Gryffindor."
"Sir, that's not fair. If I had noticed Neville making a mistake I would have –"
"That's another 10 points, Potter. Would you like to try for a further 10 and a detention next?"
"No, sir." Harry said and started to bottle his potion.
"You will receive a zero for today's work, Potter, and your potion will be marked in place of Longbottom's."
Harry just nodded and put Neville's name on the bottle instead of his. He placed it on Snape's desk with those of the other students, then returned to his work station and hastily packed up his things, then helped Ginny with Kestrel and Neville's supplies.
Five minutes later they were striding up out of the dungeons, a thunderous look on Harry's face. "I hate that man." Harry snarled as he and Ginny walked passed the Great Hall and towards the main staircase.
"That was totally unfair of him too. We both know that you would have warned Neville if you had seen him making a mistake." Ginny's brown eyes flashed furiously as they continued on up passed the third floor, on towards the Tower to drop off their things.
Harry just sighed as they both ducked into a shortcut through a door that was pretending to be a solid wall, which lead up from the fourth floor and kicked them out next to the staircase that connects the 6th floor to the 7th.
"Thanks, Ginny. Let's just drop off this stuff then get down to the Hospital Wing. First Kes, now Neville too. Maybe we should just reserve two beds now, so we don't have to worry about it later in the year?" Harry's attempt to lighten the mood was lame at best, but Ginny did manage a bit of a smile as they approached the Fat Lady's painting.
"Correct." She smile down at them and swung forward.
Twenty minutes later found Ginny and Harry in the Hospital wing sitting on the bed next to Neville's, who had thick bandages wrapped around his both his hands and most of his forearms. "They still hurting you, mate?"
"Nah, Madame Pomfrey gave me a pain potion once she was sure that the boil solution was working. Apparently boils caused by potions, are different than ones caused by spells or plants."
"Really? That is kind of interesting."
"So what happened after we left? You looked really upset when you came in Harry?"
Harry gave a shortened version of Snape's unfairness, and was just as gratified when his two best friends rose to his defense, just as Ginny had. They passed the time waiting for Neville to get his bandages off by bad mouthing Snape, and devising various ways that they might exact revenge. The Medi-Witch came out of her office a little before dinner was about to start and checked Neville's injuries. She re-wrapped them again with bandages soaked in a healing solution, but they were just around his hands now, and mostly only around the fingers.
"Right then, Mr. Longbottom, you're free to go. You can take the bandages off before you turn in for the night. There will probably be some residual pain, but that should clear up by morning."
"Thank you, Madame Pomfrey."
"You're welcome, dear. Now off you go. Supper should be starting soon."
They thanked her again then left for supper, making sure to hurry down the stairs this time so as not to have a repeat of that mornings adventure. "I've been thinking about that dog-beast on the third floor."
"What about it Kestrel? Besides the fact that I am most likely going to have nightmares for the rest of the year?"
Kestrel nodded her agreement. "Me too, Ginny, but besides that, did anyone else notice what it was standing on? I didn't at the time, because, you know, I was terrified. However, since I really had nothing too worrying to think about once Pomfrey said Neville was going to be alright, I've been thinking about it non-stop."
"It was standing on something? Besides the floor you mean? I was a little bit too busy worrying about the fact that it had three heads, that and that the door was stuck."
"Do be daft, Harry. It looked like it was standing on a wooden door in the floor."
"So you think maybe it was guarding something?"
"I dunno, maybe? I mean what other explanation could make sense to have a creature like that in a school? Especially when they could, you know, keep it hidden somewhere in the Forbidden Forest, and not run the risk of a student happening by the thing and being eaten!"
"What would they want to hide here though?" Ginny asked as they made it once again to the Entrance Hall, this time with no mishaps.
"Something valuable I expect." Neville shrugged. "I mean, I remember my dad saying once that there was 'no Wizard in Britain greater than Dumbledore', so what better place to keep something safe than here at Hogwarts?" The continued to speculate about what might be hidden the school, their ideas getting crazier and crazier the longer the talked, taking their regular seats at the table.