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THE JOURNEY FROM PLATFORM NINE AND THREE QUARTERS 4



Madam Hooch was bending over Neville, her face as white as his.

Broken wrist, Harry heard her mutter. Come on, boyits all right, up you get.

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 youll 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

youd

like fat little crybabies, Parvati.

 

Look! said Malfoy, darting forward and snatching something out of the grass. Its that stupid thing Longbottoms 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 Ill leave it somewhere for Longbottom to findhow aboutup a tree?

 

Give it

here!

Harry yelled, but Malfoy had leapt onto his broomstick and taken off. He hadnt 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 moveyoull 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 hed found something he could do without being taughtthis 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 Ill 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 downnext second he was gathering speed in a steep dive, racing the ballwind whistled in his ears, mingled with the screams of people watchinghe stretched out his handa 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.

HARRY POTTER!

His heart sank faster than hed 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

youmight have broken your neck

 

It wasnt his fault, Professor

Be quiet, Miss Patil.

But Malfoy

 

Thats

enough,

Mr. Weasley. Potter, follow me, now.

 

Harry caught sight of Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyles triumphant faces as he left, walking numbly in Professor McGonagalls 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 hed done it. He hadnt even lasted two weeks. Hed 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 didnt 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 Hagrids assistant. His stomach twisted as he imagined it, watching Ron and the others becoming wizards, while he stumped around the grounds carrying Hagrids bag.

Professor McGonagall stopped outside a classroom. She opened the door and poked her head inside.

Excuse me, Professor Flitwick, could I borrow Wood for a moment?

Wood? thought Harry, bewildered; was Wood a cane she was going to use on him?

But Wood turned out to be a person, a burly fifth year boy who came out of Flitwicles class looking confused.

Follow me, you two, said Professor McGonagall, and they marched on up the corridor, Wood looking curiously at Harry.

In here.

Professor McGonagall pointed them into a classroom that was empty except for Peeves, who was busy writing rude words on the blackboard.

Out, Peeves! she barked. Peeves threw the chalk into a bin, which clanged loudly, and he swooped out cursing. Professor McGonagall slammed the door behind him and turned to face the two boys.

Potter, this is Oliver Wood. WoodIve found you a Seeker.

Woods expression changed from puzzlement to delight.

Are you serious, Professor?

Absolutely, said Professor McGonagall crisply. The boys a natural. Ive never seen anything like it. Was that your first time on a broomstick, Potter?

Harry nodded silently. He didnt have a clue what was going on, but he didnt seem to be being expelled, and some of the feeling started coming back to his legs.

He caught that thing in his hand after a fifty foot dive, Professor McGonagall told Wood. Didnt even scratch himself. Charlie Weasley couldnt have done it.

Wood was now looking as though all his dreams had come true at once.

Ever seen a game of Quidditch, Potter? he asked excitedly.

Woods captain of the Gryffindor team, Professor McGonagall explained.

Hes just the build for a Seeker, too, said Wood, now walking around Harry and staring at him. Lightspeedywell have to get him a decent broom, Professora Nimbus Two Thousand or a Cleansweep Seven, Id say.

 

I shall speak to Professor Dumbledore and see if we cant bend the first year rule. Heaven knows, we need a better team than last year.

Flattened

in that last match by Slytherin, I couldnt look Severus Snape in the face for weeks

 

Professor McGonagall peered sternly over her glasses at Harry.

I want to hear youre training hard, Potter, or I may change my mind about punishing you.

Then she suddenly smiled.

Your father would have been proud, she said. He was an excellent Quidditch player himself.

 

Youre

joking.

 

It was dinnertime. Harry had just finished telling Ron what had happened when hed left the grounds with Professor McGonagall. Ron had a piece of steak and kidney pie halfway to his mouth, but hed forgotten all about it.

 

Seeker?

he said. But first years

never

you must be the youngest house player in about a century, said Harry, shoveling pie into his mouth. He felt particularly hungry after the excitement of the afternoon. Wood told me.

 

Ron was so amazed, so impressed, he just sat and gaped at Harry.

I start training next week, said Harry. Only dont tell anyone, Wood wants to keep it a secret.

Fred and George Weasley now came into the hall, spotted Harry, and hurried over.

Well done, said George in a low voice. Wood told us. Were on the team tooBeaters.

I tell you, were going to win that Quidditch cup for sure this year, said Fred. We havent won since Charlie left, but this years team is going to be brilliant. You must be good, Harry, Wood was almost skipping when he told us.

Anyway, weve got to go, Lee Jordan reckons hes found a new secret passageway out of the school.

Bet its that one behind the statue of Gregory the Smarmy that we found in our first week. See you.

Fred and George had hardly disappeared when someone far less welcome turned up: Malfoy, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle.

Having a last meal, Potter? When are you getting the train back to the Muggles?

Youre a lot braver now that youre back on the ground and youve got your little friends with you, said Harry coolly. There was of course nothing at all little about Crabbe and Goyle, but as the High Table was full of teachers, neither of them could do more than crack their knuckles and scowl.

Id take you on anytime on my own, said Malfoy. Tonight, if you want. Wizards duel. Wands onlyno contact. Whats the matter? Never heard of a wizards duel before, I suppose?

Of course he has, said Ron, wheeling around. Im his second, whos yours?

Malfoy looked at Crabbe and Goyle, sizing them up.

Crabbe, he said. Midnight all right? Well meet you in the trophy room; thats always unlocked.

When Malfoy had gone, Ron and Harry looked at each other. What is a wizards duel? said Harry. And what do you mean, youre my second?

Well, a seconds there to take over if you die, said Ron casually, getting started at last on his cold pie. Catching the look on Harrys face, he added quickly, But people only die in proper duels, you know, with real wizards. The most you and Malfoyll be able to do is send sparks at each other. Neither of you knows enough magic to do any real damage. I bet he expected you to refuse, anyway.

And what if I wave my wand and nothing happens?

Throw it away and punch him on the nose, Ron suggested.

Excuse me.

They both looked up. It was Hermione Granger.

Cant a person eat in peace in this place? said Ron.

Hermione ignored him and spoke to Harry.

I couldnt help overhearing what you and Malfoy were saying

Bet you could, Ron muttered.

 

and you

mustnt

go wandering around the school at night, think of the points youll lose Gryffindor if youre caught, and youre bound to be. Its really very selfish of you.

 

And its really none of your business, said Harry.

Good-bye, said Ron.

All the same, it wasnt what youd call the perfect end to the day, Harry thought, as he lay awake much later listening to Dean and Seamus falling asleep (Neville wasnt back from the hospital wing). Ron had spent all evening giving him advice such as If he tries to curse you, youd better dodge it, because I cant remember how to block them. There was a very good chance they were going to get caught by Filch or Mrs. Norris, and Harry felt he was pushing his luck, breaking another school rule today. On the other hand, Malfoys sneering face kept looming up out of the darknessthis was his big chance to beat Malfoy face to face. He couldnt miss it.

Half past eleven, Ron muttered at last, wed better go.

They pulled on their bathrobes, picked up their wands, and crept across the tower room, down the spiral staircase, and into the Gryffindor common room. A few embers were still glowing in the fireplace, turning all the armchairs into hunched black shadows. They had almost reached the portrait hole when a voice spoke from the chair nearest them, I cant believe youre going to do this, Harry.

A lamp flickered on. It was Hermione Granger, wearing a pink bathrobe and a frown.

 

You!

said Ron furiously. Go back to bed!

 

I almost told your brother, Hermione snapped, Percyhes a prefect, hed put a stop to this.

Harry couldnt believe anyone could be so interfering.

Come on, he said to Ron. He pushed open the portrait of the Fat Lady and climbed through the hole.

Hermione wasnt going to give up that easily. She followed Ron through the portrait hole, hissing at them like an angry goose.

 

Dont you

care

about Gryffindor, do you

only

care about yourselves,

I

dont want Slytherin to win the house cup, and youll lose all the points I got from Professor McGonagall for knowing about Switching Spells.

 

Go away.

All right, but I warned you, you just remember what I said when youre on the train home tomorrow, youre so

But what they were, they didnt find out. Hermione had turned to the portrait of the Fat Lady to get back inside and found herself facing an empty painting. The Fat Lady had gone on a nighttime visit and Hermione was locked out of Gryffindor tower.

Now what am I going to do? she asked shrilly.

Thats your problem, said Ron. Weve got to go, were going to be late.

They hadnt even reached the end of the corridor when Hermione caught up with them.

Im coming with you, she said.

You are not.

Dyou think Im going to stand out here and wait for Filch to catch me? If he finds all three of us Ill tell him the truth, that I was trying to stop you, and you can back me up.

Youve got some nerve said Ron loudly.

Shut up, both of you! said Harry sharply. I heard something.

It was a sort of snuffling.

Mrs. Norris? breathed Ron, squinting through the dark.

It wasnt Mrs. Norris. It was Neville. He was curled up on the floor, fast asleep, but jerked suddenly awake as they crept nearer.

Thank goodness you found me! Ive been out here for hours, I couldnt remember the new password to get in to bed.

Keep your voice down, Neville. The passwords Pig snout but it wont help you now, the Fat Ladys gone off somewhere.

Hows your arm? said Harry.

Fine, said Neville, showing them. Madam Pomfrey mended it in about a minute.

Goodwell, look, Neville, weve got to be somewhere, well see you later

Dont leave me! said Neville, scrambling to his feet, I dont want to stay here alone, the Bloody Barons been past twice already.

Ron looked at his watch and then glared furiously at Hermione and Neville.

If either of you get us caught, Ill never rest until Ive learned that Curse of the Bogies Quirrell told us about, and used it on you.

Hermione opened her mouth, perhaps to tell Ron exactly how to use the Curse of the Bogies, but Harry hissed at her to be quiet and beckoned them all forward.

They flitted along corridors striped with bars of moonlight from the high windows. At every turn Harry expected to run into Filch or Mrs. Norris, but they were lucky. They sped up a staircase to the third floor and tiptoed toward the trophy room.

Malfoy and Crabbe werent there yet. The crystal trophy cases glimmered where the moonlight caught them. Cups, shields, plates, and statues winked silver and gold in the darkness. They edged along the walls, keeping their eyes on the doors at either end of the room. Harry took out his wand in case Malfoy leapt in and started at once. The minutes crept by.

Hes late, maybe hes chickened out, Ron whispered.

Then a noise in the next room made them jump. Harry had only just raised his wand when they heard someone speak and it wasnt Malfoy.

Sniff around, my sweet, they might be lurking in a corner.

It was Filch speaking to Mrs. Norris. Horror struck, Harry waved madly at the other three to follow him as quickly as possible; they scurried silently toward the door, away from Filchs voice. Nevilles robes had barely whipped round the corner when they heard Filch enter the trophy room.

Theyre in here somewhere, they heard him mutter, probably hiding.

This way! Harry mouthed to the others and, petrified, they began to creep down a long gallery full of suits of armor. They could hear Filch getting nearer. Neville suddenly let out a frightened squeak and broke into a run he tripped, grabbed Ron around the waist, and the pair of them toppled right into a suit of armor.

The clanging and crashing were enough to wake the whole castle.

RUN! Harry yelled, and the four of them sprinted down the gallery, not looking back to see whether Filch was followingthey swung around the doorpost and galloped down one corridor then another, Harry in the lead, without any idea where they were or where they were goingthey ripped through a tapestry and found themselves in a hidden passageway, hurtled along it and came out near their Charms classroom, which they knew was miles from the trophy room.

I think weve lost him, Harry panted, leaning against the cold wall and wiping his forehead. Neville was bent double, wheezing and spluttering.

 

I

told

you, Hermione gasped, clutching at the stitch in her chest, Itoldyou.

 

Weve got to get back to Gryffindor tower, said Ron, quickly as possible.

Malfoy tricked you, Hermione said to Harry. You realize that, dont you? He was never going to meet youFilch knew someone was going to be in the trophy room, Malfoy must have tipped him off.

Harry thought she was probably right, but he wasnt going to tell her that.

Lets go.

It wasnt going to be that simple. They hadnt gone more than a dozen paces when a doorknob rattled and something came shooting out of a classroom in front of them.

It was Peeves. He caught sight of them and gave a squeal of delight.

Shut up, Peevespleaseyoull get us thrown out.

Peeves cackled.

Wandering around at midnight, Ickle Firsties? Tut, tut, tut. Naughty, naughty, youll get caughty.

Not if you dont give us away, Peeves, please.

Should tell Filch, I should, said Peeves in a saintly voice, but his eyes glittered wickedly. Its for your own good, you know.

Get out of the way, snapped Ron, taking a swipe at Peeves this was a big mistake.

STUDENTS OUT OF BED! Peeves bellowed, STUDENTS OUT OF BED DOWN THE CHARMS CORRIDOR

Ducking under Peeves, they ran for their lives, right to the end of the corridor where they slammed into a doorand it was locked.

This is it! Ron moaned, as they pushed helplessly at the door, Were done for! This is the end! They could hear footsteps, Filch running as fast as he could toward Peevess shouts.

 

Oh, move over, Hermione snarled. She grabbed Harrys wand, tapped the lock, and whispered,

Alohomora!

 

The lock clicked and the door swung openthey piled through it, shut it quickly, and pressed their ears against it, listening.

Which way did they go, Peeves? Filch was saying. Quick, tell me.

Say please.

 

Dont mess with me, Peeves, now

where did they go?

 

Shant say nothing if you dont say please, said Peeves in his annoying singsong voice.

 

All right

please.

 

NOTHING! Ha haaa! Told you I wouldnt say nothing if you didnt say please! Ha ha! Haaaaaa! And they heard the sound of Peeves whooshing away and Filch cursing in rage.

 

He thinks this door is locked, Harry whispered. I think well be okayget

off,

Neville! For Neville had been tugging on the sleeve of Harrys bathrobe for the last minute.

What?

 

Harry turned aroundand saw, quite clearly, what. For a moment, he was sure hed walked into a nightmarethis was too much, on top of everything that had happened so far.

They werent in a room, as he had supposed. They were in a corridor. The forbidden corridor on the third floor. And now they knew why it was forbidden.

They were looking straight into the eyes of a monstrous dog, a dog that filled the whole space between ceiling and floor. It had three heads. Three pairs of rolling, mad eyes; three noses, twitching and quivering in their direction; three drooling mouths, saliva hanging in slippery ropes from yellowish fangs.

It was standing quite still, all six eyes staring at them, and Harry knew that the only reason they werent already dead was that their sudden appearance had taken it by surprise, but it was quickly getting over that, there was no mistaking what those thunderous growls meant.

Harry groped for the doorknobbetween Filch and death, hed take Filch.

They fell backwardHarry slammed the door shut, and they ran, they almost flew, back down the corridor. Filch must have hurried off to look for them somewhere else, because they didnt see him anywhere, but they hardly caredall they wanted to do was put as much space as possible between them and that monster. They didnt stop running until they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady on the seventh floor.

Where on earth have you all been? she asked, looking at their bathrobes hanging off their shoulders and their flushed, sweaty faces.

Never mind thatpig snout, pig snout, panted Harry, and the portrait swung forward. They scrambled into the common room and collapsed, trembling, into armchairs.

It was a while before any of them said anything. Neville, indeed, looked as if hed never speak again.

What do they think theyre doing, keeping a thing like that locked up in a school? said Ron finally. If any dog needs exercise, that one does.

Hermione had got both her breath and her bad temper back again. You dont use your eyes, any of you, do you? she snapped. Didnt you see what it was standing on.

The floor? Harry suggested. I wasnt looking at its feet, I was too busy with its heads.

 

No,

not

the floor. It was standing on a trapdoor. Its obviously guarding something.

 

She stood up, glaring at them.

I hope youre pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killedor worse, expelled. Now, if you dont mind, Im going to bed.

Ron stared after her, his mouth open.

No, we dont mind, he said. Youd think we dragged her along, wouldnt you.

But Hermione had given Harry something else to think about as he climbed back into bed. The dog was guarding something What had Hagrid said? Gringotts was the safest place in the world for something you wanted to hideexcept perhaps Hogwarts.

It looked as though Harry had found out where the grubby littie package from vault seven hundred and thirteen was.

 

HALLOWEEN

 

Malfoy couldnt believe his eyes when he saw that Harry and Ron were still at Hogwarts the next day, looking tired but perfectly cheerful. Indeed, by the next morning Harry and Ron thought that meeting the three headed dog had been an excellent adventure, and they were quite keen to have another one. In the meantime, Harry filled Ron in about the package that seemed to have been moved from Gringotts to Hogwarts, and they spent a lot of time wondering what could possibly need such heavy protection.

Its either really valuable or really dangerous, said Ron.

Or both, said Harry.

But as all they knew for sure about the mysterious object was that it was about two inches long, they didnt have much chance of guessing what it was without further clues.

Neither Neville nor Hermione showed the slightest interest in what lay underneath the dog and the trapdoor. All Neville cared about was never going near the dog again.

Hermione was now refusing to speak to Harry and Ron, but she was such a bossy know it all that they saw this as an added bonus. All they really wanted now was a way of getting back at Malfoy, and to their great delight, just such a thing arrived in the mail about a week later.

As the owls flooded into the Great Hall as usual, everyones attention was caught at once by a long, thin package carried by six large screech owls. Harry was just as interested as everyone else to see what was in this large parcel, and was amazed when the owls soared down and dropped it right in front of him, knocking his bacon to the floor. They had hardly fluttered out of the way when another owl dropped a letter on top of the parcel.

Harry ripped open the letter first, which was lucky, because it said:

 

 

DO NOT OPEN THE PARCEL AT THE TABLE.

 

 

It contains your new Nimbus Two Thousand, but I dont want everybody knowing youve got a broomstick or theyll all want one. Oliver Wood will meet you tonight on the Quidditch field at seven oclock for your first training session.

 

 

Professor McGonagall

 

 

Harry had difficulty hiding his glee as he handed the note to Ron to read.

 

A Nimbus Two Thousand! Ron moaned enviously. Ive never even

touched

one.

 

They left the hall quickly, wanting to unwrap the broomstick in private before their first class, but halfway across the entrance hall they found the way upstairs barred by Crabbe and Goyle. Malfoy seized the package from Harry and felt it.

Thats a broomstick, he said, throwing it back to Harry with a mixture of jealousy and spite on his face. Youll be in for it this time, Potter, first years arent allowed them.

Ron couldnt resist it.

Its not any old broomstick, he said, its a Nimbus Two Thousand. What did you say youve got at home, Malfoy, a Comet Two Sixty? Ron grinned at Harry. Comets look flashy, but theyre not in the same league as the Nimbus.

What would you know about it, Weasley, you couldnt afford half the handle, Malfoy snapped back. I suppose you and your brothers have to save up twig by twig.

Before Ron could answer, Professor Flitwick appeared at Malfoys elbow.

Not arguing, I hope, boys? he squeaked.

Potters been sent a broomstick, Professor, said Malfoy quickly.

Yes, yes, thats right, said Professor Flitwick, beaming at Harry. Professor McGonagall told me all about the special circumstances, Potter. And what model is it?

A Nimbus Two Thousand, sir, said Harry, fighting not to laugh at the look of horror on Malfoys face. And its really thanks to Malfoy here that Ive got it, he added.

Harry and Ron headed upstairs, smothering their laughter at Malfoys obvious rage and confusion. Well, its true, Harry chortled as they reached the top of the marble staircase, If he hadnt stolen Nevilles Remembrall I woulnt be on the team

So I suppose you think thats a reward for breaking rules? came an angry voice from just behind them. Hermione was stomping up the stairs, looking disapprovingly at the package in Harrys hand.

I thought you werent speaking to us? said Harry.

Yes, dont stop now, said Ron, its doing us so much good.

Hermione marched away with her nose in the air.

Harry had a lot of trouble keeping his mind on his lessons that day. It kept wandering up to the dormitory where his new broomstick was lying under his bed, or straying off to the Quidditch field where hed be learning to play that night. He bolted his dinner that evening without noticing what he was eating, and then rushed upstairs with Ron to unwrap the Nimbus Two Thousand at last.

Wow, Ron sighed, as the broomstick rolled onto Harrys bedspread.

Even Harry, who knew nothing about the different brooms, thought it looked wonderful. Sleek and shiny, with a mahogany handle, it had a long tail of neat, straight twigs and Nimbus Two Thousand written in gold near the top.

As seven oclock drew nearer, Harry left the castle and set off in the dusk toward the Quidditch field. Hed never been inside the stadium before. Hundreds of seats were raised in stands around the field so that the spectators were high enough to see what was going on. At either end of the field were three golden poles with hoops on the end. They reminded Harry of the little plastic sticks Muggle children blew bubbles through, except that they were fifty feet high.

Too eager to fly again to wait for Wood, Harry mounted his broomstick and kicked off from the ground. What a feelinghe swooped in and out of the goal posts and then sped up and down the field. The Nimbus Two Thousand turned wherever he wanted at his lightest touch.





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