8 The Duel
Arth had always wanted to fly a broom once in his life. Ever since he was told about quidditch by his dad, he had been hooked onto the game. In fact, he had even bought a book called Quidditch through the Ages. His dream was made reality when he woke up and saw the notice in the Gryffindor common room
Flying lessons would be starting on Thursday.
Harry and Ron didn't like it as much when they realized they were sharing classes with the Slytherins.
"Typical," said Harry darkly. "Just what I always wanted. To make a fool of myself on a broomstick in front of Malfoy."
"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 all talk."
"In fact, he might even mess up," Arthur said without looking up from his book.
Ron sighed in exasperation, "Can you drop that book for once? What are you even reading?"
Arth closed his book.
"It's Hogwarts: a history, you should read it. It's pretty good."
Arth heard someone drop something from behind his back.
"You read that old book? I don't know how can stand it, It's so boring and useless," said Ron with a disgusted face.
"Really? I find it quite interesting."
"Is it really, should I give it a try?"
"Stop Harry, If you take that one step, you'll become a book nerd who is as inconspicuous as Arth."
"Shut it Ron. Nerds aren't inconspicuous."
"But you are."
Arth whipped out his wand and pointed it at Ron.
"I'm not doing your homework for you anymore."
Arth smirked and Harry laughed as Ron's face got gradually paler. Arth took this time to look around and saw Hermione picking up some books that had fallen to the floor.
She was unlike herself as she was pacing around reading as many books about flying while she still had the time. However, Arth saw this as fruitless, this was something you couldn't learn by heart out of a book. He looked around and saw that everyone was a bit nervous. Especially Neville.
At breakfast on Thursday, Hermione told those who wanted to listen flying tips she'd gotten out of a book. Neville was hanging on to her every word, desperate for anything that might help him hang on to his broomstick later.
Hermione's speech was interrupted by the sudden arrival of mail. Harry got no mail as usual while Neville had gotten something 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. 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.
Arth shook his head.
"I swear that something bad is going to happen during the flying lesson."
"I hope it's going to be Malfoy, I could punch him in the face. Might wipe that smug grin off his face," growled Ron who sat down with a loud humph.
Arth rolled his eyes.
"Just don't fall for his taunts. Last thing we need is to lose more points."
At three-thirty that afternoon, Arth, 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.
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."
Arth glanced down at his broom. He could swear that if someone rode it for anymore that thirty minutes, it would snap.
"Stick out your right hand over your broom," called Madam Hooch at the front, "and say 'Up!"'
"UP!" everyone shouted.
Harry's broom jumped into his hand at once, and so did Arth's. Hermione Granger's had simply rolled over on the ground, and Neville's hadn't moved at all.
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 at a very fast pace. Everyone saw his scared white face look down at the ground, saw him gasp, slip sideways off the broom.
A bone chilling crack resounded as Neville lay facedown on the grass. 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.
"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,
"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?"
"Lets be reasonable Malfoy, we don't have to do this."
Malfoy sneered. "Oh really, are you going to stop me Mr. Kingscrown."
"I don't think that throwing someone else's possession onto a tree is rational, especially when they are an unrelated party. Don't you think?"
"I don't know. But I do know that I don't like useless crybabies like him. I'm thinking that the forbidden forest is also a nice location."
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."
"She has a point," added Arth. "Please don't be driven by your anger, be a rational-"
However, Harry ignored their warnings. He mounted the broom and kicked hard against the ground and up, up he soared. He turned his broomstick sharply to face Malfoy in midair. Malfoy looked stunned.
All Arth could hear were indecipherable words and facial expressions.
Harry 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 started to clap.
Seeing the midair fight, Arth groaned.
"This idiot, I can't believe it." Arth grumbled before grabbing his broom.
Hermione looked on with horror.
"Are you seriously going to chase after them?"
Arth wryly smiled. "What else can I do? Let them kill themselves due to a brief moment of spite?"
"But you might get expelled."
Arth calmly leapt on his broom and gave a slight grin. "I wouldn't be a friend if I didn't help him out. A little threat like expulsion won't deter me."
He too blasted off from the ground.
On his way up, he started to hear a bit more clearly.
"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.
Arth saw the Remembrall shoot through the air and groaned. He put on a burst of speed, and caught up to the Remembrall. He had grabbed it when he glanced down and saw that his broom was about to snap. With no time to think, Arth threw the Remembrall at Harry who caught it and got as low to the floor as he could.
When Arth was about ten feet above the ground, the broom snapped and Arth fell to the ground. Arth tried to minimize the impact by twisting his body into roll and tumbled into a bush.
Professor McGonagall was running toward them.
"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."
It was only after Harry and Professor McGonagall leave, did Arth decide to get out of the bush.
Seeing his classmates stare at him blankly.
"...So does this mean that I'm not in trouble?"
"I can't believe it," said Hermione. "You actually managed to escape trouble like that?"
"That was bloody amazing! Was that you first time?" Exclaimed Ron.
"I guess it was, pretty thrilling I would say. I might ask my parents for a broom."
Arth stared at the castle with a complicated look while looking at the Remembrall in Ron's hand.
"So what do we do now?" Ron asked.
"We can go give the Remembrall back to Neville and wait to see if Harry got expelled."
"Bloody shame, Harry was wicked himself too. Would have made a bloody good seeker." Robs face lit up.
"Hey Arth, you would make a great seeker too, you reckon you can join next year?"
Arth just sighed before standing there waiting for Madam Hooch to come back.
It was dinnertime when Harry come back from meeting Professor McGonagall.
He told Ron and Arth what had happened when he'd left the grounds with Professor McGonagall.
Ron had a piece of steak and kidney pie halfway to his mouth, but he'd forgotten all about it a long time ago.
"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. "Wood told me."
Ron was so amazed that he could close his mouth for a long time.
"I guess you were right Ron. Apparently Professor McGonagall also noticed Harry's talent."
"Bloody hell I'm right. When do you start training?"
"I start training next week," said Harry. "Only don't 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. We're on the team too - Beaters."
"I tell you, we're going to win that Quidditch cup for sure this year," said Fred. "We haven't won since Charlie left, but this year's team is
going to be brilliant. You must be good, Harry, Wood was almost skipping when he told us."
"Anyway, we've got to go, Lee Jordan reckons he's found a new secret passageway out of the school."
"Bet it's 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.
"Having a last meal, Potter? When are you getting the train back to the Muggles?"
"You're a lot braver now that you're back on the ground and you've got your little friends with you," said Harry coolly.
"I'd take you on anytime on my own," said Malfoy. "Tonight, if you want. Wizard's duel. Wands only -- no contact. What's the matter? Never heard of a wizard's duel before, I suppose?"
"Of course he has," said Ron. "I'm his second, who's yours?"
"Stop being foolish Ron, he just escaped expulsion and now you want to make him do something else that might get him expelled." Whispered Arth so that Malfoy couldn't hear.
"Trust me, I know what I'm doing," whispered back Ron.
"Crabbe," he said. "Midnight all right? We'll meet you in the trophy room; that's always unlocked."
When Malfoy had gone, Harry looked at Arth questionably.
"What is a wizard's duel?" said Harry. "And what do Ron mean by him being my second?"
"Well, a second's there to take over if you die," said Ron casually, getting started at last on his cold pie.
Catching the look on Harry's face, he added quickly, "But people only die in proper duels, you know, with real wizards. The most you and Malfoy'll 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."
"That doesn't justify why you accepted. I swear you are going lose all of our points," sighed Arth feeling as though tears were about to come out.
"You guys make my life so difficult."
"Excuse me." They looked up. It was Hermione Granger.
"Can't a person eat in peace in this place?" said Ron.
Hermione ignored him and spoke to Harry.
"I couldn't help overhearing what you and Malfoy were saying-"
"Bet you could," Ron muttered.
"-and you mustn't go wandering around the school at night, think of the points you'll lose Gryffindor if you're caught, and you're bound to be. It's really very selfish of you."
"And it's really none of your business," said Harry.
"Good-bye," said Ron.
"She has a point, you should really consider not going to the duel. It could be a trap for Malfoy."
Ron weirdly stared at Arth.
"You know, you and Hermione sound awfully similar sometimes."
"Maybe it's a characteristic of people who are smart."
Ron went quiet.
Later during the night, seeing that there was a figure sound asleep in Arth's bed, Ron and Harry quietly snuck out.
"Half-past eleven," Ron muttered at last, "we'd better go. We might be late."
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 can't believe you're 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, "Percy -- he's a prefect, he'd put a stop to this."
Furious, Ron was about to grab Harry's arm and march out when another voice called out.
"Is this the part where I join in?"
Ron, Harry, and Hermione whipped their head around to identify who the voice came from.
In the chair furthest from them, hidden in the shadows was Arth, merrily sipping on tea from who knows where.
"When did you get there? I was waiting for Ron and Harry to sneak out at eleven."
Ron unbelievingly stared at Hermione.
"You were waiting for us for thirty minutes?"
Arth let out a wry smile.
"I was here since ten. Did you not notice me wave?"
Harry and Ron dropped their jaws.
"I guess... I didn't see you..."
Arth silently cried in his mind before turning to the somewhat guilty duo.
Harry weakly gave a smile.
"Was it not you who was sleeping in the bed?"
Arth gave a chuckle.
"I just placed a pillow to make it seem like I was sleeping. I knew that you guys wouldn't check it clearly."
Arth narrowed his eyes.
"You should thank the gods for your luck, unlike Miss Granger over there who was being lenient, I almost told Professor McGonagall."
Harry and Ron let out an involuntary shiver.
Ron asked quietly as if he was a prey meeting his predator.
"So didn't you?"
"I thought that if I intercede today, you'll do the same thing at a later time without learning your lesson."
Arth sighed in defeat.
"So I'm going to let you guys go to show you the consequences of being reckless."
"Come on," Harry said to Ron, ignoring the well planned speech Arth had prepared for them. He pushed open the portrait of the Fat Lady and climbed through the hole.
Hermione wasn't going to give up that easily. She followed Ron through the portrait hole, hissing at them like an angry goose.
"Don't you care about Gryffindor, do you only care about yourselves, I don't want Slytherin to win the house cup, and you'll lose all the
points I got from Professor McGonagall for knowing about Switching Spells."
"You know they don't car about a word you say? Why do you think I gave up."
"Doesn't mean you have to stay there and watch them mess up."
"Oh well, see you guys, hope you can convince them Hermione, I'm going to go back in."
Arth was about to go back in when he noticed that Neville was curled up on the floor, fast asleep, but jerked suddenly awake as he crept nearer.
"Thank goodness you found me! I've been out here for hours, I couldn't remember the new password to get in to bed."
"Oh Neville, the password is pig snout."
"It doesn't matter," said Neville sadly. "The fat friar went to another painting."
Arth froze and then sighed.
He led Neville back to where Hermione was still trying to convince the boys to give up.
"Go away. We're not going to drop it, So mind your own business."
"All right, but I warned you, you just remember what I said when you're on the train home tomorrow, you're so --"
"It's too late," interrupted Arthur with a sigh. "the Fat Lady had gone on a nighttime visit so we're locked out of Gryffindor tower."
"Now what am I going to do?" she asked shrilly.
"What other choice do we have? We have to go with them." Replied Arth with a gloomy voice.
The five of them proceeded to meet up with Malfoy and his goons in the trophy room, with Arth reluctantly guiding the way.