Harry's Swelling Solution was far too runny, but he had his mind on more important
things. He was waiting for Hermione's signal, and he hardly listened as Snape paused
to sneer at his watery potion. When Snape turned and walked off to bully Neville,
Hermione caught Harry's eye and nodded.
Harry ducked swiftly down behind his cauldron, pulled one of Fred's Filibuster
fireworks out of his pocket, and gave it a quick prod with his wand. The firework
began to fizz and sputter. Knowing he had only seconds, Harry straightened up, took
aim, and lobbed it into the air; it landed right on target in Goyle's cauldron.
Goyle's potion exploded, showering the whole class. People shrieked as splashes
of the Swelling Solution hit them. Malfoy got a faceful and his nose began to swell
like a balloon; Goyle blundered around, his hands over his eyes, which had expanded
to the size of a dinner plate—Snape was trying to restore calm and find out what
had happened. Through the confusion, Harry saw Hermione slip quietly into Snape's
“Silence! SILENCE!” Snape roared. “Anyone who has been splashed, come here for
a Deflating Draft—when I find out who did this—”
Harry tried not to laugh as he watched Malfoy hurry forward, his head drooping
with the weight of a nose like a small melon. As half the class lumbered up to Snape's
desk, some weighted down with arms like clubs, others unable to talk through gigantic
puffed-up lips, Harry saw Hermione slide back into the dungeon, the front of her
When everyone had taken a swig of antidote and the various swellings had subsided,
Snape swept over to Goyle's cauldron and scooped out the twisted black remains of
the firework. There was a sudden hush.
“If I ever find out who threw this,” Snape whispered, “I shall make sure that
person is expelled.”
Harry arranged his face into what he hoped was a puzzled expression. Snape was
looking right at him, and the bell that rang ten minutes later could not have been
“He knew it was me,” Harry told Ron and Hermione as they hurried back to Moaning
Myrtle's bathroom. “I could tell.”
Hermione threw the new ingredients into the cauldron and began to stir feverishly.
“It'll be ready in two weeks,” she said happily.
“Snape can't prove it was you,” said Ron reassuringly to Harry. “What can he
“Knowing Snape, something foul,” said Harry as the potion frothed and bubbled.
A week later, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were walking across the entrance hall
when they saw a small knot of people gathered around the notice board, reading a
piece of parchment that had just been pinned up. Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas
beckoned them over, looking excited.
“They're starting a Dueling Club!” said Seamus. “First meeting tonight! I wouldn't
mind dueling lessons; they might come in handy one of these days...”
“What, you reckon Slytherin's monster can duel?” said Ron, but he, too, read
the sign with interest.
“Could be useful,” he said to Harry and Hermione as they went into dinner. “Shall
Harry and Hermione were all for it, so at eight o'clock that evening they hurried
back to the Great Hall. The long dining tables had vanished and a golden stage had
appeared along one wall, lit by thousands of candles floating overhead. The ceiling
was velvety black once more and most of the school seemed to be packed beneath it,
all carrying their wands and looking excited.
“I wonder who'll be teaching us?” said Hermione as they edged into the chattering
crowd. “Someone told me Flitwick was a dueling champion when he was young—maybe
it'll be him.”
“As long as it's not—” Harry began, but he ended on a groan: Gilderoy Lockhart
was walking onto the stage, resplendent in robes of deep plum and accompanied by
none other than Snape, wearing his usual black.
Lockhart waved an arm for silence and called ' “Gather round, gather round! Can
everyone see me? Can you all hear me? Excellent!
“Now, Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start this little dueling
club, to train you all in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I myself have
done on countless occasions—for full details, see my published works.
“Let me introduce my assistant, Professor Snape,” said Lockhart, flashing a wide
smile. “He tells me he knows a tiny little bit about dueling himself and has sportingly
agreed to help me with a short demonstration before we begin. Now, I don't want
any of you youngsters to worry—you'll still have your Potions master when I'm through
with him, never fear!”
“Wouldn't it be good if they finished each other off?” Ron muttered in Harry's
Snape's upper lip was curling. Harry wondered why Lockhart was still smiling;
if Snape had been looking at him like that he'd have been running as fast as he
could in the opposite direction.
Lockhart and Snape turned to face each other and bowed; at least, Lockhart did,
with much twirling of his hands, whereas Snape jerked his head irritably. Then they
raised their wands like swords in front of them.
“As you see, we are holding our wands in the accepted combative position,” Lockhart
told the silent crowd. “On the count of three, we will cast our first spells. Neither
of us will be aiming to kill, of course.”
“I wouldn't bet on that,” Harry murmured, watching Snape baring his teeth.
Both of them swung their wands above their heads and pointed them at their opponent;
Snape cried: “Expelliarmus!” There was a dazzling flash of scarlet light and Lockhart
was blasted off his feet: He flew backward off the stage, smashed into the wall,
and slid down it to sprawl on the floor.
Malfoy and some of the other Slytherins cheered. Hermione was dancing on tiptoes.
“Do you think he's all right?” she squealed through her fingers.
“Who cares?” said Harry and Ron together.
Lockhart was getting unsteadily to his feet. His hat had fallen off and his wavy
hair was standing on end.
“Well, there you have it!” he said, tottering back onto the platform. “That was
a Disarming Charm—as you see, I've lost my wand—ah, thank you, Miss Brown—yes, an
excellent idea to show them that, Professor Snape, but if you don't mind my saying
so, it was very obvious what you were about to do. If I had wanted to stop you it
would have been only too easy—however, I felt it would be instructive to let them
Snape was looking murderous. Possibly Lockhart had noticed, because he said,
“Enough demonstrating! I'm going to come amongst you now and put you all into pairs.
Professor Snape, if you'd like to help me—”
They moved through the crowd, matching up partners. Lockhart teamed Neville with
Justin Finch-Fletchley, but Snape reached Harry and Ron first.
“Time to split up the dream team, I think,” he sneered. “Weasley, you can partner
Harry moved automatically toward Hermione.
“I don't think so,” said Snape, smiling coldly. “Mr. Malfoy, come over here.
Let's see what you make of the famous Potter. And you, Miss Granger—you can partner
Malfoy strutted over, smirking. Behind him walked a Slytherin girl who reminded
Harry of a picture he'd seen in Holidays with Hags. She was large and square and
her heavy jaw jutted aggressively. Hermione gave her a weak smile that she did not
“Face your partners!” called Lockhart, back on the platform. “And bow!”
Harry and Malfoy barely inclined their heads, not taking their eyes off each
“Wands at the ready!” shouted Lockhart. “When I count to three, cast your charms
to disarm your opponents—only to disarm them—we don't want any accidents—one...
Harry swung his wand high, but Malfoy had already started on “two”: His spell
hit Harry so hard he felt as though he'd been hit over the head with a saucepan.
He stumbled, but everything still seemed to be working, and wasting no more time,
Harry pointed his wand straight at Malfoy and shouted, “Rictusempra!”
A jet of silver light hit Malfoy in the stomach and he doubled up, wheezing.
“I said disarm only!” Lockhart shouted in alarm over the heads of the battling
crowd, as Malfoy sank to his knees; Harry had hit him with a Tickling Charm, and
he could barely move for laughing. Harry hung back, with a vague feeling it would
be unsporting to bewitch Malfoy while he was on the floor, but this was a mistake;
gasping for breath, Malfoy pointed his wand at Harry's knees, choked, “Tarantallegra!”
and the next second Harry's legs began to jerk around out of his control in a kind
“Stop! Stop!” screamed Lockhart, but Snape took charge.
“Finite Incantatem!” he shouted; Harry's feet stopped dancing, Malfoy stopped
laughing, and they were able to look up.
A haze of greenish smoke was hovering over the scene. Both Neville and Justin
were lying on the floor, panting; Ron was holding up an ashen-faced Seamus, apologizing
for whatever his broken wand had done; but Hermione and Millicent Bulstrode were
still moving; Millicent had Hermione in a headlock and Hermione was whimpering in
pain; both their wands lay forgotten on the floor. Harry leapt forward and pulled
Millicent off. It was difficult: She was a lot bigger than he was.
“Dear, dear,” said Lockhart, skittering through the crowd, looking at the aftermath
of the duels. “Up you go, Macmillan... Careful there, Miss Fawcett... Pinch it hard,
it'll stop bleeding in a second, Boot...”
“I think Id better teach you how to block unfriendly spells,” said Lockhart,
standing flustered in the midst of the hall. He glanced at Snape, whose black eyes
glinted, and looked quickly away. “Let's have a volunteer pair—Longbottom and Finch-Fletchley,
how about you—”
“A bad idea, Professor Lockhart,” said Snape, gliding over like a large and malevolent
bat. “Longbottom causes devastation with the simplest spells. We'll be sending what's
left of Finch-Fletchley up to the hospital wing in a matchbox.” Neville's round,
pink face went pinker. “How about Malfoy and Potter?” said Snape with a twisted
“Excellent idea!” said Lockhart, gesturing Harry and Malfoy into the middle of
the hall as the crowd backed away to give them room.
“Now, Harry,” said Lockhart. “When Draco points his wand at you, you do this.”
He raised his own wand, attempted a complicated sort of wiggling action, and
dropped it. Snape smirked as Lockhart quickly picked it up, saying, “Whoops -my
wand is a little overexcited—”
Snape moved closer to Malfoy, bent down, and whispered something in his ear.
Malfoy smirked, too. Harry looked up nervously at Lockhart and said, “Professor,
could you show me that blocking thing again?”
“Scared?” muttered Malfoy, so that Lockhart couldn't hear him.
“You wish,” said Harry out of the corner of his mouth.
Lockhart cuffed Harry merrily on the shoulder. “Just do what I did, Harry!”
“What, drop my wand?”
But Lockhart wasn't listening.
“Three—two—one—go!” he shouted.
Malfoy raised his wand quickly and bellowed, “Serpensortia!”
The end of his wand exploded. Harry watched, aghast, as a long black snake shot
out of it, fell heavily onto the floor between them, and raised itself, ready to
strike. There were screams as the crowd backed swiftly away, clearing the floor.
“Don't move, Potter,” said Snape lazily, clearly enjoying the sight of Harry
standing motionless, eye to eye with the angry snake. “I'll get rid of it...”
“Allow me!” shouted Lockhart. He brandished his wand at the snake and there was
a loud bang; the snake, instead of vanishing, flew ten feet into the air and fell
back to the floor with a loud smack. Enraged, hissing furiously, it slithered straight
toward Justin Finch-Fletchley and raised itself again, fangs exposed, poised to
Harry wasn't sure what made him do it. He wasn't even aware of deciding to do
it. All he knew was that his legs were carrying him forward as though he was on
casters and that he had shouted stupidly at the snake, “Leave him alone!” And miraculously—inexplicably—the
snake slumped to the floor, docile as a thick, black garden hose, its eyes now on
Harry. Harry felt the fear drain out of him. He knew the snake wouldn't attack anyone
now, though how he knew it, he couldn't have explained.
He looked up at Justin, grinning, expecting to see Justin looking relieved, or
puzzled, or even grateful—but certainly not angry and scared.
“What do you think you're playing at?” he shouted, and before Harry could say
anything, Justin had turned and stormed out of the hall.
Snape stepped forward, waved his wand, and the snake vanished in a small puff
of black smoke. Snape, too, was looking at Harry in an unexpected way: It was a
shrewd and calculating look, and Harry didn't like it. He was also dimly aware of
an ominous muttering all around the walls. Then he felt a tugging on the back of
“Come on,” said Rods voice in his ear. “Move—come on—”
Ron steered him out of the hall, Hermione hurrying alongside them. As they went
through the doors, the people on either side drew away as though they were frightened
of catching something. Harry didn't have a clue what was going on, and neither Ron
nor Hermione explained anything until they had dragged him all the way up to the
empty Gryffindor common room. Then Ron pushed Harry into an armchair and said, “You're
a Parselmouth. Why didn't you tell us?”
“I'm a what?” said Harry.
`A Parselmouth!” said Ron. “You can talk to snakes!”
“I know,” said Harry. “I mean, that's only the second time I've ever done it.
I accidentally set a boa constrictor on my cousin Dudley at the zoo once—long story—but
it was telling me it had never seen Brazil and I sort of set it free without meaning
to that was before I knew I was a wizard—”
“A boa constrictor told you it had never seen Brazil?” Ron repeated faintly.
“So?” said Harry. “I bet loads of people here can do it.”
“Oh, no they can't,” said Ron. “It's not a very common gift. Harry, this is bad.”
“What's bad?” said Harry, starting to feel quite angry. “What's wrong with everyone?
Listen, if I hadn't told that snake not to attack Justin—”