– CHAPTER NINE –
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 which made them all groan. Flying lessons would be starting on Thursday – and Gryffindor and Slytherin 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 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 all talk.’
Malfoy certainly did talk about flying a lot. He complained loudly about first-years never getting in the house Quidditch teams and told long, boastful stories which 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 football. 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 football 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 ground.
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 got 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 post.
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 scarlet, ‘… 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.