13 First Game
As they entered November, the weather turned very cold. The mountains around the school became icy gray and the lake like chilled steel. Every morning the ground was covered in frost. Hagrid could be seen from the upstairs windows defrosting broomsticks on the Quidditch field, bundled up in a long moleskin overcoat, rabbit fur gloves, and enormous beaverskin boots.
The Quidditch season had begun. On Saturday, Harry would be playing in his first match after weeks of training: Gryffindor versus Slytherin. If Gryffindor won, they would move up into second place in the house championship.
Hardly anyone had seen Harry play because Wood had decided that, as their secret weapon, Harry should be kept, well, secret.
But it barely had any affect.
But the news that Harry was playing Seeker had leaked out somehow, and now everyone had another reason to stare at him.
It was really lucky that Harry now had Hermione as a friend. He didn't know how he'd have gotten through all his homework without her, what with all the last-minute Quidditch practice Wood was making them do.
Arth gave Harry his book, Quidditch through the Ages, to study.
Hermione had become a bit more relaxed about breaking rules ever since Arth and Harry, maybe Ron, had saved her from the troll, which was a blessing for Ron and Harry because she would allow the two boys to copy off of her when Arth wasn't looking.
The day before Harry's first Quidditch match the four of them were out in the freezing courtyard during break, and Hermione had conjured them up a bright blue fire that could be carried around in a jam jar.
They were standing with their backs to it, getting warm, when Snape crossed the yard. Arth noticed at once that Snape was limping. Harry, Ron, and Hermione moved closer together to block the fire from view.
Unfortunately, something about their guilty faces caught Snape's eye. He limped over. He hadn't seen the fire, but he seemed to be looking for a reason to tell them off anyway.
"What's that you've got there, Potter?"
"It was Quidditch Through the Ages." Harry showed him.
"Library books are not to be taken outside the school," said Snape. "Give it to me. Five points from Gryffindor."
Arth got up.
"Sir, That is actually my book. I was lending it to Harry because he has a match today. Can I have it back sir?"
Snape blankly stared at Arth before handing the book back.
"It seems I was mistaken, however, remember that library books are meant to be kept within the school. Five points to Gryffindor, this time, it is a warning."
"He's just made that rule up," Harry muttered angrily as Snape limped away. "Wonder what's wrong with his leg?"
"Dunno, but I hope it's really hurting him," said Ron bitterly.
"You shouldn't say that about a teacher."
"You just don't know it," said Ron, "don't you know that you are the only non Slytherin that he treats equally? He barely calls you out for anything."
"He must see something inside me that he doesn't see in everyone else."
"Yeah, like you being an undercover Slytherin spy."
Arth decided it was worth stabbing Ron in the rib cage with a wand.
The Gryffindor common room was very noisy that evening. Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat together next to a window. Hermione was checking Harry and Ron's Charms homework for them. She would never let them copy, due to Arth's influence, but by asking her to read it through, they got the right answers anyway.
Arth just shook his head at the sight before shifting his focus back to a book.
The next morning dawned very bright and cold. The Great Hall was full of the delicious smell of fried sausages and the cheer ful chatter of everyone looking forward to a good Quidditch match.
"You've got to eat some breakfast."
"I don't want anything."
"Just a bit of toast," wheedled Hermione.
"I'm not hungry."
"Then give me that sausage, I'm hella starving."
Harry passed the sausage over to Arth.
"Are you not worried for him?" Said Hermione with a frown.
Arth just shrugged.
"It really is nothing to be nervous about. If you think about it. The worst thing that could happen is Harry breaking a bone or two. And when it happens, Madam Pomfrey will fix it in a snap. Trust me, I have experience."
"Harry, you need your strength," said Seamus Finnigan. "Can't run on an empty stomach."
"Thanks, Seamus," said Harry, watching Seamus pile ketchup on his sausages.
By eleven o'clock the whole school seemed to be out in the stands around the Quidditch pitch. Many students had binoculars. The seats might be raised high in the air, but it was still difficult to see what was going
Ron and Hermione joined Neville, Seamus, and Dean up in the top row. As a surprise for Harry, they had painted a large banner on one of the sheets Scabbers had ruined. It said Potter for President, and Dean, who was good at drawing, had done a large Gryffindor lion underneath. Then Hermione had performed a tricky little charm so that the paint flashed different colors.
Arth smirked at the pitiful banner and revealed his own. A majestic lion gave out a loud roar causing the whole stadium to go silent. The scarlet banner slowly floated up towards the sky as the lion aggressively snarled at the Slytherins.
When the Slytherins returned the roar with a bunch of boos, the lion gave another loud roar but this time, it burst into scarlet flames, causing a lot of Slytherins to jump in fright.
Ron stared at the spectacle with wonder.
"How exactly did you make that Arth?"
All of the Gryffindors around him tuned in to listen.
"I used the skin of a dragon for the banner, because it's fire proof, and dragon blood for ink. I had one of the teachers help me in making the lion move, I was inspired by the moving pictures you see, however, I lacked the skill to do it."
"How did you get such a realistic looking lion?" Asked Hermione.
"I drew it of course."
Everyone dropped their jaws and stared at Arth incredulously.
"Are you really a first year?"
"Yep, I just read a few course books that cover classes up to the third year. I got the books from my mother, it was from when she was a third year. However, there may be some minor changes to the curriculum so I need to buy next years course books again. It's better to be prepared isn't that right?"
Arth was silenced by the deafening cheers that erupted from both sides. The players had entered.
Madam Hooch was refereeing. She stood in the middle of the field waiting for the two teams, her broom in her hand.
"Now, I want a nice fair game, all of you," she said, once they were all gathered around her. Arth noticed that she seemed to be speaking particularly to the Slytherin Captain, Marcus Flint, a sixth year.
"Mount your brooms, please."
Madam Hooch gave a loud blast on her silver whistle.
Fifteen brooms rose up, high, high into the air. They were off. "And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Angelina Johnson of Gryffindor - what an excellent Chaser that girl is, and rather attractive, too -,"
"JORDAN!" "Sorry, Professor."
The Weasley twins' friend, Lee Jordan, was doing the commentary for the match, closely watched by Professor McGonagall.
"And she's really belting along up there, a neat pass to Alicia Spinnet, a good find of Oliver Wood's, last year only a reserve - back to Johnson and - no, the Slytherins have taken the Quaffle, Slytherin Captain Marcus Flint gains the Quaffle and off he goes - Flint flying like an eagle up there - he's going to sc- no, stopped by an excellent move by Gryffindor Keeper Wood and the Gryffindors take the Quaffle - that's Chaser Katie Bell of Gryffindor there, nice dive around Flint,
off up the field and - OUCH - that must have hurt, hit in the back of the head by a Bludger - Quaffle taken by the Slytherins - that's
Adrian Pucey speeding off toward the goal posts, but he's blocked by a second Bludger - sent his way by Fred or George Weasley, can't tell which - nice play by the Gryffindor Beater, anyway, and Johnson back in possession of the Quaffle, a clear field ahead and off she goes - she's really flying - dodges a speeding Bludger - the goal posts are ahead - come on, now, Angelina - Keeper Bletchley dives - misses - GRYFFINDORS SCORE!"
Gryffindor cheers filled the cold air, with howls and moans from the Slytherins. There was a distinguishable roar from the Gryffindor side as the lion once more burst into flame and was smugly Ewing the Slytherins.
"Budge up there, move along."
Arth, Ron, and Hermione squeezed together to give Hagrid enough space to join them.
"Bin watchin' from me hut," said Hagrid, patting a large pair of binoculars around his neck, "But it isn't the same as bein' in the crowd. No sign of the Snitch yet, eh?"
"Nope," said Ron. "Harry hasn't had much to do yet."
"Kept outta trouble, though, that's somethin'," said Hagrid, raising his binoculars and peering skyward at the speck that was Harry.
"It's best to just stay calm and wait until he sees the snitch, might be better if Harry went around flying erratically. Might distract the other teams seeker," said Arth.
When Angelina had scored, Harry had done a couple of loop-the-loops causing Arth to groan.
"Why is he doing that, just pay attention to the snitch you dummy."
"Let him off," Ron said rolling his eyes. "He wants to let off some steam."
"Slytherin in possession," Lee Jordan was saying, "Chaser Pucey ducks two Bludgers, two Weasleys, and Chaser Bell, and speeds toward the - wait a moment - was that the Snitch?"
A murmur ran through the crowd as Adrian Pucey dropped the Quaffle, too busy looking over his shoulder at the flash of gold that had passed his left ear.
Harry saw it And so did the Slytherin Seeker Terence Higgs. Neck and neck they hurtled toward the Snitch -all the Chasers seemed to have forgotten what they were supposed to be doing as they hung in midair to watch.
Harry was faster than Higgs and he was going to catch it - Harry put on an extra spurt of speed when-
A roar of rage echoed from the Gryffindors below - Marcus Flint had blocked Harry on purpose, and Harry's broom spun off course, Harry holding on for dear life.
"Foul!" screamed the Gryffindors.
Madam Hooch spoke angrily to Flint and then ordered a free shot at the goal posts for Gryffindor. But in all the confusion, of course, the Golden Snitch had disappeared from sight again.
"Ugh, should've expected they wouldn't play fair," groaned Arth.
"Send him off, ref! Red card!"
"What are you talking about, Dean?" said Ron.
"Red card!" said Dean furiously. "In soccer you get shown the red card and you're out of the game!"
"But this isn't soccer, Dean," Ron reminded him. Hagrid, however, was on Dean's side.
"They oughta change the rules. Flint coulda knocked Harry outta the air."
Lee Jordan was finding it difficult not to take sides. "So - after that obvious and disgusting bit of cheating-"
"Jordan!" growled Professor McGonagall.
"I mean, after that open and revolting foul-"
"Jordan, I'm warning you -"
"All right, all right. Flint nearly kills the Gryffindor Seeker, which could happen to anyone, I'm sure, so a penalty to Gryffindor, taken by Spinner, who puts it away, no trouble, and we continue play, Gryffindor still in possession."
It was as Harry dodged another Bludger, which went spinning dangerously past his head, that it happened. His broom gave a sudden, frightening lurch. It was as though the broom was trying to buck him off.
Arth got up, his face pale.
"They need to stop the game."
"What do you mean Arth?"
"Something's wrong with his broom."
"I would've accepted it if it was one of the older model brooms, but Nimbus Two Thousands don't just suddenly decide to buck their riders off."
Harry tried to turn back toward the Gryffindor goalposts, however, his broom was completely out of his control. Harry couldn't turn it. He couldn't direct it at all. It was zigzagging through the air, and every now and then making violent swishing movements that almost unseated him.
Lee was still commentating.
"Slytherin in possession - Flint with the Quaffle - passes Spinnet - passes Bell - hit hard in the face by a Bludger, hope it broke his nose - only joking, Professor - Slytherins score, oh no..."
The Slytherins were cheering. No one seemed to have noticed that Harry's broom was behaving strangely. It was carrying- him slowly higher, away from the game, jerking and twitching as it went.
Suddenly, people were pointing up at Harry all over the stands. His broom had started to roll over and over, with him only just managing to hold on. Then the whole crowd gasped.
Harry's broom had given a wild jerk and Harry swung off it. He was now dangling from it, holding on with only one hand.
Arth almost yelled at Hagrid.
"Hagrid, Harry is in danger. Tell the ref to stop the game."
"Did something happen to it when Flint blocked him?" Seamus whispered.
"Can't have," Hagrid said, his voice shaking. "Can't nothing interfere with a broomstick except powerful Dark magic - no kid could do that to a Nimbus Two Thousand."
"IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW IT GOT CURSED OR HIJACKED! WHAT MATTERS IS THAT WE STOP THE GAMES NOW!"
At these words, Hermione seized Hagrid's binoculars, but instead of looking up at Harry, she started looking frantically at the crowd.
"What are you doing?" moaned Ron, gray-faced. "I knew it," Hermione gasped, "Snape - look."
Ron grabbed the binoculars. Snape was in the middle of the stands opposite them. He had his eyes fixed on Harry and was muttering nonstop under his breath.
"He's doing something -- jinxing the broom," said Hermione.
"What should we do?"
"Leave it to me."
Before Ron could say another word, Hermione got up.
"Hermione, it's probably not Snape, he might be trying to save him instead- HERMIONE," Arth sighed as she disappeared, clearly not listening to his logic.
"What is it with you three hating Professor Snape's guts?"
Ron ignored his remark and turned the binoculars back on Harry. His broom was vibrating so hard, it was almost impossible for him to hang on much longer. The whole crowd was on its feet, watching, terrified, as the Weasleys flew up to try and pull Harry safely onto one of their brooms, but it was no good - every time they got near him, the broom would jump higher still.
They dropped lower and circled beneath him, obviously hoping to catch him if he fell.
Marcus Flint seized the Quaffle and scored five times without anyone noticing.
"Come on, Hermione," Ron muttered desperately.
"I swear, this better work or else we are going to be killed."
Hermione had fought her way across to the stand where Snape stood, and was now racing along the row behind him; she didn't even stop to say sorry as she knocked Professor Quirrell headfirst into the row in front.
Reaching Snape, she crouched down, pulled out her wand, and whispered a few, well- chosen words. Bright blue flames shot from her wand onto the hem of Snape's robes.
It took perhaps thirty seconds for Snape to realize that he was on fire. A sudden yelp told her she had done her job. Scooping the fire off him into a little jar in her pocket, she scrambled back along the row - Snape would never know what had happened.
It was enough. Up in the air, Harry was suddenly able to clamber back on to his broom.
Arth frowned when he saw Professor Quirrell get knocked down and frowned even more when Harry's broom stopped bucking around around the same time Snape realized he was in fire.
Arth got up and left the stands and headed to the library without anyone noticing.
"Neville, you can look!" Ron said. Neville had been sobbing into Hagrid's jacket for the last five minutes.
Harry was speeding toward the ground when the crowd saw him clap his hand to his mouth as though he was about to be sick - he hit the field on all fours - coughed - and something gold shone from his hand.
"I've got the Snitch!" he shouted, waving it above his head, and the game ended in complete confusion.
"He didn't catch it, he nearly swallowed it," Flint was still howling twenty minutes later, but it made no difference - Harry hadn't broken any rules and Lee Jordan was still happily shouting the results - Gryffindor had won by one hundred and seventy points to sixty.
Harry heard none of this, though. He was being made a cup of strong tea back in Hagrid's hut, with Ron and Hermione.
"It was Snape," Ron was explaining, "Hermione and I saw him. He was cursing your broomstick, muttering, he wouldn't take his eyes off you."
"Rubbish," said Hagrid, who hadn't heard a word of what had gone on next to him in the stands. "Why would Snape do somethin' like that?"
Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked at one another, wondering what to tell him. Harry decided on the truth.
"I figured out something about him," he told Hagrid. "I think he tried to get past that three-headed dog on Halloween. It bit him, that's why he was limping. We think he was trying to steal whatever it's guarding."
Hagrid dropped the teapot.
"How do you know about Fluffy?" he said.
"Yeah, he's mine. Bought him off a Greek chappie I met in the pub las' year, I lent him to Dumbledore- top secret, can't tell you what."
"But Snape's trying to steal it."
"Rubbish," said Hagrid again. "Snape's a Hogwarts teacher, he'd do nothin' of the sort."
"So why did he just try and kill Harry?" cried Hermione.
"Didn't you listen to Arth? He had some good points about why it wasn't Snape, where is he by the way?"
"What do you mean Hagrid, he is right next to us-" the was no Arth to be seen.
Silence filled the hut as Ron scratched his head.
"It ain't my fault, Arth is so... invisible. It's like he wears an invisible cloak at all times."
"Anyways," said Hermione, "I know a jinx when I see one, Hagrid, I've read all about them! You've got to keep eye contact, and Snape wasn't blinking at all, I saw him!"
"I'm tellin' yeh, yer wrong!" said Hagrid hotly. "I don' know why Harry's broom acted like that, but Snape wouldn' try an' kill a student! Now, listen to me, all three of yeh - yer meddlin' in things that don' concern yeh. It's dangerous. You forget that dog, an' you forget what it's guardin', that's between Professor Dumbledore an' Nicolas Flamel -"
"Aha!" said Harry, "so there's someone called Nicolas Flamel involved, is there?"
Hagrid looked furious with himself.