Harry and Ron were delighted to hear Hagrid call Fitch "that old git."
"An' as fer that cat, Mrs. Norris, I'd like ter introduce her to Fang sometime.
D'yeh know, every time I go up ter the school, she follows me everywhere? Can't
get rid of her — Fitch puts her up to it."
Harry told Hagrid about Snape's lesson. Hagrid, like Ron, told Harry not to worry
about it, that Snape liked hardly any of the students.
"But he seemed to really hate me."
"Rubbish!" said Hagrid. "Why should he?"
Yet Harry couldn't help thinking that Hagrid didn't quite meet his eyes when
he said that.
"How's yer brother Charlie?" Hagrid asked Ron. "I liked him a lot -- great with
Harry wondered if Hagrid had changed the subject on purpose. While Ron told Hagrid
all about Charlie's work with dragons, Harry picked up a piece of paper that was
lying on the table under the tea cozy. It was a cutting from the Daily Prophet:
GRINGOTTS BREAK-IN LATEST
Investigations continue into the break-in at Gringotts on 31 July, widely believed
to be the work of Dark wizards or witches unknown.
Gringotts goblins today insisted that nothing had been taken. The vault that
was searched had in fact been emptied the same day.
"But we're not telling you what was in there, so keep your noses out if you know
what's good for you," said a Gringotts spokesgoblin this afternoon.
Harry remembered Ron telling him on the train that someone had tried to rob Gringotts,
but Ron hadn't mentioned the date.
"Hagrid!" said Harry, "that Gringotts break-in happened on my birthday! It might've
been happening while we were there!"
There was no doubt about it, Hagrid definitely didn't meet Harry's eyes this
time. He grunted and offered him another rock cake. Harry read the story again.
The vault that was searched had in fact been emptied earlier that same day. Hagrid
had emptied vault seven hundred and thirteen, if you could call it emptying, taking
out that grubby little package. Had that been what the thieves were looking for?
As Harry and Ron walked back to the castle for dinner, their pockets weighed
down with rock cakes they'd been too polite to refuse, Harry thought that none of
the lessons he'd had so far had given him as much to think about as tea with Hagrid.
Had Hagrid collected that package just in time? Where was it now? And did Hagrid
know something about Snape that he didn't want to tell Harry?
THE MIDNIGHT DUEL
Harry had never believed he would meet a boy he hated more than Dudley, but that
was before he met Draco Malfoy. Still, first-year Gryffindors only had Potions with
the Slytherins, so they didn't have to put up with Malfoy much. Or at least, they
didn't until they spotted a notice pinned up in the Gryffindor common room that
made them all groan. Flying lessons would be starting on Thursday — and Gryffindor
would be learning together. "Typical," said Harry darkly. "Just what I always
wanted. To make a fool of myself on a broomstick in front of Malfoy."
He had been looking forward to learning to fly more than anything else.
"You don't know that you'll make a fool of yourself," said Ron reasonably. "Anyway,
I know Malfoy's always going on about how good he is at Quidditch, but I bet that's
Malfay certainly did talk about flying a lot. He complained loudly about first
years never getting on the house Quidditch teams and told long, boastful stories
that always seemed to end with him narrowly escaping Muggles in helicopters. He
wasn't the only one, though: the way Seamus Finnigan told it, he'd spent most of
his childhood zooming around the countryside on his broomstick. Even Ron would tell
anyone who'd listen about the time he'd almost hit a hang glider on Charlie's old
broom. Everyone from wizarding families talked about Quidditch constantly. Ron had
already had a big argument with Dean Thomas, who shared their dormitory, about soccer.
Ron couldn't see what was exciting about a game with only one ball where no one
was allowed to fly. Harry had caught Ron prodding Dean's poster of West Ham soccer
team, trying to make the players move.
Neville had never been on a broomstick in his life, because his grandmother had
never let him near one. Privately, Harry felt she'd had good reason, because Neville
managed to have an extraordinary number of accidents even with both feet on the
Hermione Granger was almost as nervous about flying as Neville was. This was
something you couldn't learn by heart out of a book — not that she hadn't tried.
At breakfast on Thursday she bored them all stupid with flying tips she'd gotten
out of a library book called Quidditch Through the Ages. Neville was hanging on
to her every word, desperate for anything that might help him hang on to his broomstick
later, but everybody else was very pleased when Hermione's lecture was interrupted
by the arrival of the mail.
Harry hadn't had a single letter since Hagrid's note, something that Malfoy had
been quick to notice, of course. Malfoy's eagle owl was always bringing him packages
of sweets from home, which he opened gloatingly at the Slytherin table.
A barn owl brought Neville a small package from his grandmother. He opened it
excitedly and showed them a glass ball the size of a large marble, which seemed
to be full of white smoke.
"It's a Remembrall!" he explained. "Gran knows I forget things — this tells you
if there's something you've forgotten to do. Look, you hold it tight like this and
if it turns red — oh..." His face fell, because the Remembrall had suddenly glowed
"You've forgotten something..."
Neville was trying to remember what he'd forgotten when Draco Malfoy, who was
passing the Gryffindor table, snatched the Remembrall out of his hand.
Harry and Ron jumped to their feet. They were half hoping for a reason to fight
Malfay, but Professor McGonagall, who could spot trouble quicker than any teacher
in the school, was there in a flash.
"What's going on?"
"Malfoy's got my Remembrall, Professor."
Scowling, Malfoy quickly dropped the Remembrall back on the table.
"Just looking," he said, and he sloped away with Crabbe and Goyle behind him.
At three-thirty that afternoon, Harry, Ron, and the other Gryffindors hurried
down the front steps onto the grounds for their first flying lesson. It was a clear,
breezy day, and the grass rippled under their feet as they marched down the sloping
lawns toward a smooth, flat lawn on the opposite side of the grounds to the forbidden
forest, whose trees were swaying darkly in the distance.
The Slytherins were already there, and so were twenty broomsticks lying in neat
lines on the ground. Harry had heard Fred and George Weasley complain about the
school brooms, saying that some of them started to vibrate if you flew too high,
or always flew slightly to the left.
Their teacher, Madam Hooch, arrived. She had short, gray hair, and yellow eyes
like a hawk.
"Well, what are you all waiting for?" she barked. "Everyone stand by a broomstick.
Come on, hurry up."
Harry glanced down at his broom. It was old and some of the twigs stuck out at
"Stick out your right hand over your broom," called Madam Hooch at the front,
"and say 'Up!"'
"UPF everyone shouted.
Harry's broom jumped into his hand at once, but it was one of the few that did.
Hermione Granger's had simply rolled over on the ground, and Neville's hadn't moved
at all. Perhaps brooms, like horses, could tell when you were afraid, thought Harry;
there was a quaver in Neville's voice that said only too clearly that he wanted
to keep his feet on the ground.
Madam Hooch then showed them how to mount their brooms without sliding off the
end, and walked up and down the rows correcting their grips. Harry and Ron were
delighted when she told Malfoy he'd been doing it wrong for years.
"Now, when I blow my whistle, you kick off from the ground, hard," said Madam
Hooch. "Keep your brooms steady, rise a few feet, and then come straight back down
by leaning forward slightly. On my whistle — three -- two - — "
But Neville, nervous and jumpy and frightened of being left on the ground, pushed
off hard before the whistle had touched Madam Hooch's lips.
"Come back, boy!" she shouted, but Neville was rising straight up like a cork
shot out of a bottle — twelve feet — twenty feet. Harry saw his scared white face
look down at the ground falling away, saw him gasp, slip sideways off the broom
WHAM — a thud and a nasty crack and Neville lay facedown on the grass in a heap.
His broomstick was still rising higher and higher, and started to drift lazily toward
the forbidden forest and out of sight.
Madam Hooch was bending over Neville, her face as white as his.
"Broken wrist," Harry heard her mutter. "Come on, boy — it's all right, up you
She turned to the rest of the class.
"None of you is to move while I take this boy to the hospital wing! You leave
those brooms where they are or you'll be out of Hogwarts before you can say 'Quidditch.'
Come on, dear."
Neville, his face tear-streaked, clutching his wrist, hobbled off with Madam
Hooch, who had her arm around him.
No sooner were they out of earshot than Malfoy burst into laughter.
"Did you see his face, the great lump?"
The other Slytherins joined in.
"Shut up, Malfoy," snapped Parvati Patil.
"Ooh, sticking up for Longbottom?" said Pansy Parkinson, a hard-faced Slytherin
girl. "Never thought you'd like fat little crybabies, Parvati."
"Look!" said Malfoy, darting forward and snatching something out of the grass.
"It's that stupid thing Longbottom's gran sent him."
The Remembrall glittered in the sun as he held it up.
"Give that here, Malfoy," said Harry quietly. Everyone stopped talking to watch.
Malfoy smiled nastily.
"I think I'll leave it somewhere for Longbottom to find — how about -- up a tree?"
"Give it here!" Harry yelled, but Malfoy had leapt onto his broomstick and taken
off. He hadn't been lying, he could fly well. Hovering level with the topmost branches
of an oak he called, "Come and get it, Potter!"
Harry grabbed his broom.
"No!" shouted Hermione Granger. "Madam Hooch told us not to move -- you'll get
us all into trouble."
Harry ignored her. Blood was pounding in his ears. He mounted the broom and kicked
hard against the ground and up, up he soared; air rushed through his hair, and his
robes whipped out behind him -and in a rush of fierce joy he realized he'd found
something he could do without being taught — this was easy, this was wonderful.
He pulled his broomstick up a little to take it even higher, and heard screams and
gasps of girls back on the ground and an admiring whoop from Ron.
He turned his broomstick sharply to face Malfoy in midair. Malfoy looked stunned.
"Give it here," Harry called, "or I'll knock you off that broom!" "Oh, yeah?"
said Malfoy, trying to sneer, but looking worried.
Harry knew, somehow, what to do. He leaned forward and grasped the broom tightly
in both hands, and it shot toward Malfay like a javelin. Malfoy only just got out
of the way in time; Harry made a sharp about-face and held the broom steady. A few
people below were clapping.
"No Crabbe and Goyle up here to save your neck, Malfoy," Harry called.
The same thought seemed to have struck Malfoy.
"Catch it if you can, then!" he shouted, and he threw the glass ball high into
the air and streaked back toward the ground.
Harry saw, as though in slow motion, the ball rise up in the air and then start
to fall. He leaned forward and pointed his broom handle down -- next second he was
gathering speed in a steep dive, racing the ball -- wind whistled in his ears, mingled
with the screams of people watching — he stretched out his hand — a foot from the
ground he caught it, just in time to pull his broom straight, and he toppled gently
onto the grass with the Remembrall clutched safely in his fist.
His heart sank faster than he'd just dived. Professor McGonagall was running
toward them. He got to his feet, trembling.
"Never — in all my time at Hogwarts - — "
Professor McGonagall was almost speechless with shock, and her glasses flashed
furiously, "-- how dare you — might have broken your neck - — "
"It wasn't his fault, Professor - — "
"Be quiet, Miss Patil
"But Malfoy - — "
"That's enough, Mr. Weasley. Potter, follow me, now."
Harry caught sight of Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle's triumphant faces as he left,
walking numbly in Professor McGonagall's wake as she strode toward the castle. He
was going to be expelled, he just knew it. He wanted to say something to defend
himself, but there seemed to be something wrong with his voice. Professor McGonagall
was sweeping along without even looking at him; he had to jog to keep up. Now he'd
done it. He hadn't even lasted two weeks. He'd be packing his bags in ten minutes.
What would the Dursleys say when he turned up on the doorstep?
Up the front steps, up the marble staircase inside, and still Professor McGonagall
didn't say a word to him. She wrenched open doors and marched along corridors with
Harry trotting miserably behind her. Maybe she was taking him to Dumbledore. He
thought of Hagrid, expelled but allowed to stay on as gamekeeper. Perhaps he could
be Hagrid's assistant. His stomach twisted as he imagined it, watching Ron and the
others becoming wizards, while he stumped around the grounds carrying Hagrid's bag.