Malfoy's eyes practically popped out of his head when he saw that Harry, Danny, and Ron were still at Hogwarts the next day looking tired yet happy. In fact, by that morning the three of them had thought that the meeting with the three-headed dog was a great adventure, and they couldn't wait to have another one. At the same time, Harry and Danny told Ron about the package that had apparently been moved from Gringotts to Hogwarts, and they spent a lot of time wondering what could possibly warrant such heavy protection.
"I bet it's really valuable…probably jewels," Ron had said.
"Don't bet on it," Danny warned, and Harry snickered.
"It's either really valuable, really dangerous, or both," Harry said. Unfortunately for them, the only thing they knew for sure about the object was that it was about two inches long. With that barely valuable information, they couldn't hope to figure out what it might be.
Neither Neville nor Hermione showed any interest on what was underneath the dog and the trapdoor. In fact, all Neville really cared about was never going near that dog again.
Hermione wasn't speaking to Harry, Danny, or Ron, but since she was always a bossy know-it-all, they considered this an added bonus. The three of them were really only concerned about getting back at Malfoy. Luckily for them, they got their chance with the mail the next week.
As per the usual, an untold number of owls flooded into the Great Hall. As they did so, everyone's attention instantly turned to a long, thin package that was being carried aloft by six screech owls. The boys were just as interested as everyone else, and were amazed when the owls dropped the package on the table in front of Harry, in the process knocking over Danny's bacon.
"Hey, I was eating that!" Danny yelled to the departing owls as a seventh owl dropped a letter on top of the package.
Harry tore open the letter before starting on the package, which turned out to be a good idea. The letter read:
DO NOT OPEN THE PARCEL AT THE TABLE. It contains your new Nimbus Two Thousand, but I don't want everybody knowing you've got a broomstick or they'll all want one. Oliver Wood will meet you tonight on the Quidditch pitch at seven o'clock for your first training session.Professor M. McGonagall
It was nearly impossible for Harry to hide his euphoria as he handed the note to Danny, and then to Ron.
"Hey isn't that the broom we saw at Diagon Alley?" Danny asked.
"Heck yeah! A Nimbus Two Thousand…" Ron moaned. "I've never even touched one…"
They left the hall quickly in an attempt to unwrap the broomstick in private before their first class. Unfortunately, halfway across the entrance hall they found their way upstairs blocked by Crabbe and Goyle. Malfoy, who was standing in-between the two behemoths, seized the package.
"That's a broomstick," he said as he felt the package. He threw it back to Harry, mixed jealousy and spite apparent on his face. "You'll be in for it this time, Potter. First years aren't allowed them."
Ron tried to hold it in, but he just couldn't resist.
"It's not just any old broomstick; it's a Nimbus Two Thousand!" He exclaimed. "What've you got at home, Malfoy, a Comet Two Sixty?" He grinned at Harry. "Comets might look flashy, but they're not in the same league as the Nimbus."
"Yeah, you got nuthin' on this!" Danny added.
"What would you know about it Weasley, you couldn't afford half the handle," Malfoy spat. "I suppose you and your brothers have to save up twig by twig. And Fenton, as if you even know what a Comet Two Sixty even is. Honestly, don't butt your head in when you're clearly out of your league."
Before the two of them could respond, Professor Flitwick suddenly appeared at Malfoy's elbow. They all jumped, as none of them had seen him approach them.
"Not arguing, I hope, boys?" He squeaked.
"Potter's got a broomstick, Professor," Malfoy said immediately, and smirked at Harry.
"Yes, yes, that's right," Professor Flitwick said as he beamed at Harry. "Professor McGonagall told me all about the special circumstances, Potter. What model is it?"
"A Nimbus Two Thousand, sir," Harry said as he fought back the laughter that was induced by the smirk being wiped off of Malfoy's face and being replaced with a look of horror.
"And it's really thanks to Malfoy here that I got it," he added. He, Ron, and Danny headed upstairs, all the while trying to stifle their laughter at Malfoy's obvious rage and confusion.
"I guess it's true, when you think about it," Danny said as they reached the top of the marble staircase. "If he hadn't stolen Neville's Remembrall, you wouldn't have had to dive for it and you wouldn't have been on the team…"
"So I'm guessing you think that that's a reward for breaking rules?" Said an angry voice from just behind them. The owner of the voice quickly became apparent as Hermione stomped up the stairs, a disapproving look on her face as she eyed the package in Harry's hand.
"I thought you weren't speaking to us?" Harry asked her.
"Yeah, don't stop now," Ron added.
"It's doing us so much good," Danny finished. Hermione humphed and marched away, her nose in the air.
Harry had a lot of trouble keeping his mind on his classes that day, as it kept wandering up to the dormitory where his new broomstick was lying under his bed, or straying off to the Quidditch pitch where he'd be learning to play that night. He bolted his dinner that evening without noticing what he was eating and then rushed upstairs with Ron and Danny to unwrap the Nimbus Two Thousand.
"You do realize that you just ate a platter of goulash," Danny noted as they entered the room. Harry shrugged and returned his attention to the wrappings around the broom.
"Wow," Ron sighed as the broomstick rolled onto Harry's bedspread.
Even Harry and Danny, neither of whom knew anything about the different brooms, thought that it looked fantastic. It was sleek and shiny, with a mahogany handle, a long tail of neat, straight, twigs, and the words Nimbus Two Thousand written in gold on a bump towards the end of the handle.
As Seven o'clock drew nearer, Harry left the castle and set off towards the Quidditch pitch in the dusk. Little did he know that Danny, in his ghost form, was invisibly following him. Neither of them had been in the stadium before, and both were awed at what they saw. Hundreds of seats were raised in stands around the pitch so that the spectators were high enough to see what was going on. AT either end of the pitch were three golden poles with hoops on the end. They reminded Danny of the bubble rods he, Tucker, and Sam used to blow bubbles with when they were little, except for the fact that these were fifty feet tall.
Too eager to fly again to wait for Wood, Harry mounted his broomstick and kicked off from the ground. He was amazed at the feeling, and swooped in and out of the goal posts and then sped up and down the pitch. His Nimbus Two Thousand turned wherever he wanted at his lightest touch. Danny had a small smile on his face as he followed Harry on his broom. Flying was by far his favorite power, and he knew exactly what was going through his friends head as he soared through the air.
"Hey, Potter, come down!" Wood called from the ground. He was carrying a large wooden grate under his arm. Harry landed next to him, while Danny remained floating invisibly just to Harry's left
"Very nice, said Wood, his eyes glinting. "I see what McGonagall meant; you really are a natural. I'm just going to teach you the rules this evening, then you'll be joining team practice three times a week." He opened the crate, and inside there were four different-sized balls.
"Right," Wood began. "Now, Quidditch is easy enough to understand, even if it's not too easy to play. There are seven players on each side. Three of them are called Chasers."
"Three Chasers," Harry repeated as Wood took out a bright red ball about the size of a soccer ball.
"This ball's called the Quaffle. The Chasers throw the Quaffle to each other and try to get it through one of the hoops to score a goal. Ten points every time the Quaffle goes through one of the hoops. Follow me?"
"The Chasers throw the Quaffle and put it through the hoops to score," Harry recited.
Quaffle, Danny thought, and chuckled at the funny name. Wood and Harry heard this, and looked up, startled.
"Did you hear that?" Wood asked. Harry looked around for the source of the noise, and Danny quickly clamped a hand over his mouth, his eyes wide. A couple of tense seconds later, Harry shrugged.
"I guess it was nothing," he said.
"I guess…" Wood replied, though still a bit shaky. "Anyway, there's another player on each side who's called the Keeper. That's me. I have to fly around our hoop and stop the other team from scoring."
"Three Chasers, one Keeper," Harry said, determined to remember it all. "And they play with the Quaffle. Okay, got it. So what are they for?" He asked, pointing at the three remaining balls.
"I'm getting to that," Wood said as he handed Harry a small wooden bat, much like a miniature baseball bat. "I'm going to show you what these two do. They're called Bludgers." He pulled out two identical balls. They were jet black and slightly smaller than the Quaffle. Harry and Danny could both see that the two were clearly straining to escape the straps that were holding them inside the box.
"Stand back," Wood warned. He bent down and pressed the mechanism that released the straps holding one of the Bludgers. Immediately, the black ball rose high in the air and then pelted straight at Harry's face. Harry swung at it with the bat to stop it breaking his nose and sent it zig zagging away into the air. It swooped down towards Danny, who quickly turned intangible to dodge, and then it shot at Wood, who dived on top of it and managed to pin it to the ground.
"See?" the older boy panted as he forced the struggling Bludger back into the crate and strapped it down safely. "The Bludgers rocket around trying to bludgeon the players. Hence the name. That's why you have two Beaters on each team. The Weasley twins are ours; it's their job to protect their side from the Bludgers and try and knock them towards the other team. So, you think you've got all that?"
"Three Chasers try to score with the Quaffle; the Keeper guards the goal posts; the Beaters keep the Bludgers away from their team," Harry said. Danny scratched his head, overwhelmed by all of the information.
"Very good," Wood commented.
"Have the Bludgers ever killed anyone?" Harry asked nervously.
"Never at Hogwarts. We've had a couple of broken jaws, and then there was my first-ever match…I took one to the head and woke up in the hospital wing two weeks later." Harry gulped and Danny shuddered. "But that's really about it. Now, the last member of the team is the Seeker. That's you. And you don't have to worry about the Quaffle or the Bludgers-"
"Unless they crack my head open."
"Unless they crack your head open," Wood amended. "But don't worry, the Weasleys are more than a match for the Bludgers. I mean, they're like a pair of human Bludgers themselves."
Wood reached into the crate and took out the fourth and last ball. Compared to the Quaffle and the Bludgers, it was tiny, about the size of a large walnut. It was bright gold and had little fluttering wings.
"This," said Wood, "is the Golden Snitch, and it's the most important ball of the lot. It's very hard to catch because it's so fast and difficult to see. It's the Seeker's job to catch it. You've got to weave in and out of the Chasers, Beaters, Bludgers, and Quaffle to get it before the other team's Seeker, because whichever Seeker catches the Snitch wins his team an extra hundred and fifty points, so they nearly always win. That's why Seekers get fouled so much. A game of Quidditch only ends when the Snitch is caught, so it can go on for ages…I think the record is three months, they had to keep bringing in substitutes so the players could get some sleep.
"Well, that's pretty much it. Any questions?" Harry shook his head no. He understood what he had to do all right, it was doing it that was going to be the problem.
"We won't practice with the Snitch yet," Wood said as he carefully shut it back inside the crate. "It's too dark, we might lose it. Let's try you out with a few of these." He pulled a bag of golf balls out of his pocket and a few minutes later, he, Harry, and Danny were up in the air, Wood throwing the golf balls as hard as he could in every direction for Harry to catch.
Harry didn't miss a single one, and Wood was delighted. After half an hour, night had really fallen and they couldn't carry on.
"That Quidditch cup'll have our name on it this year," Wood said happily as they trudged back up to the castle. "I wouldn't be surprised if you turn out better than Charlie Weasley, and he could've played for England if he hadn't gone off chasing dragons."
It was probably due to the fact that Harry was now going to three Quidditch practices a week, not to mention all of their homework, that Danny and Harry could barely believe it when they realized that they'd already been at Hogwarts for two whole months. The castle felt almost like a second home to them, and their lessons were becoming more and more interesting now that they'd mastered the basics.
On Halloween morning they woke up to the delicious smell of baking pumpkin wafting through the corridors. Even better, Professor Flitwick announced in Charms that he thought they were ready to start making objects fly, something that they'd all been dying to try since they'd seen him make Neville's toad zoom around the classroom. Professor Flitwick put the class into pairs to practice. Harry and Danny worked together, but Ron had the misfortune to be stuck with Hermione Granger. It was hard to tell whether Ron or Hermione was angrier about this; she hadn't spoken to any of them since the day Harry's broomstick had arrived.
"Now, don't forget that nice wrist movement we've been practicing!" Squeaked Professor Flitwick, perched on top of his pile of books as usual. "Swish and flick, remember, swish and flick. And saying the magic words properly is very important too-never forget Wizard Baruffio, who said 's' instead of 'f' and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest." Danny chuckled; that anecdote never ceased to amuse him.
However, his good mood wore off relatively soon, as the task was very difficult. He and Harry swished and flicked until their wrists ached, but the feather that they were supposed to be sending skywards just lay on the desktop. Danny got so impatient that he poked it with his wand and accidentally caused it to erupt in green flames, and Harry had to put it out with his hat. Ron, at the next table, wasn't having much luck either.
"Wingardium Leviosa!" He shouted, as he waved his long arms around like a windmill.
"You're saying it wrong," they heard Hermione snap. "It's win-gar-dium Levi-o-sa, make the 'gar' nice and long."
"You do it then, if you're so clever," Ron snarled. Hermione rolled up the sleeves of her gown, flicked her wand, and recited the incantation. Their feather immediately rose up off the desk and hovered about four feet above their heads.
"Oh, well done!" Cried Professor Flitwick, as he applauded the bushy-haired girl. "Everyone see here, Miss Granger's done it!"
It was safe to say that Ron was pretty angry by the end of the class. "It's no wonder no one can stand her," he told Harry and Danny as they pushed their way into the crowded corridor. "She's a nightmare, honestly." Someone knocked into Danny as they hurried past him. It was Hermione. He caught a glimpse of her face, and was startled to see that she was in tears.
"I think she heard you," The halfa muttered to his redheaded friend as the bushy-haired girl ran ahead of them.
"So?" Said Ron, although he looked a bit uncomfortable. "She must've noticed that she's got no friends."
Hermione didn't turn up for the next class and wasn't seen all afternoon. On their way down to the Great Hall for the Halloween feast, Harry, Danny, and Ron overheard Parvati Patil telling her friend Lavender that Hermione was crying in the girls' bathrooms and wanted to be left alone. Ron still looked more awkward at this, but a moment later they had entered the Great Hall, where the Halloween decorations immediately put Hermione out of their thoughts.
A thousand live bats fluttered from the walls and ceiling while a thousand more swooped over the tables in low black clouds, making the candles in the pumpkins stutter. The feast appeared suddenly on the golden plates, as hit had at the start-of-term banquet.
Harry was just helping himself to a jacket potato when Professor Quirrell came sprinting into the hall, his turban askew and terror on his face. Everyone stared as he reached Professor Dumbledore's chair, slumped against the table and gasped, "Troll…in the dungeons…thought you ought to know…"
He then sank to the floor, out cold.
There was uproar. It took several purple firecrackers exploding from the end of Professor Dumbledore's wand to bring silence.
"Prefects," he rumbled, "lead your Houses back to the dormitories immediately!"
Percy, now in his element, snapped to professional attention.
"Follow me! Stick together, first years! No need to fear the troll if you follow my orders! Stay close behind me, now. Make way, first years coming through! Excuse me, I'm a prefect!"
"How could a troll get in?" Harry asked as they climbed the stairs.
"Don't ask me, they're supposed to be really stupid," said Ron.
"Maybe Peeves let it in for a Halloween joke?" Danny suggested.
They passed different groups of people hurrying in different directions. As they jostled their way through a crowd of confused Hufflepuffs, Danny suddenly grabbed Harry's arm.
"I just remembered-Hermione." Harry's eyes widened.
"She doesn't know about the troll," he confirmed. Ron bit his lip nervously.
"Fine," he snapped, "But Percy'd better not see us."
Ducking down, they joined the Hufflepuffs going the other way, slipped down a deserted side corridor, and hurried off towards the girls' bathrooms. They had just turned the corner when they heard a set of quick footsteps behind them.
"Percy!" hissed Ron, pulling the other two behind a large stone griffin.
Peering around it, however, they saw not Percy but Snape. He crossed the corridor and disappeared from view.
"What's he doing?" Harry whispered. "Why isn't he down in the dungeons with the rest of the teachers?"
"Search me." The two of them were busy discussing Snape's antics that neither of them noticed the trail of blue smoke that Danny exhaled. He felt, no, sensed, a ghost following Snape. As Harry and Ron silently crept along the next corridor in an attempt to follow Snape's footsteps, he swiveled his head this way and that in order to spot the offending ghost. Unfortunately, the ghost had remained invisible, so he could not discern it's identity.
"He's heading for the third floor," he heard Harry say, but Ron held up his hand.
"Can you smell something?" The other two sniffed and a foul stench reached their nostrils, one that reminded Harry of old socks and Danny of the bathroom at the Nasty Burger.
And then they heard it-a low grunting and the shuffling footfalls of gigantic feet. Ron pointed: at the end of a passage to the left, something huge was moving towards them. They shrank into the shadows and watched as it emerged into a patch of moonlight.
It was a horrible sight. Twelve feet tall, its skin was a dull, granite gray, its great lumpy body like a boulder with its small bald head perched on top like a coconut. It had short legs as thick as tree trunks with flat, spiky feet. The smell coming from it was incredible. It was holding a huge wooden club, which dragged along the ground due to the unnatural proportion of its arms to its body.
The troll stopped next to a doorway and peered inside. It waggled its long ears, making up its tiny mind, and then slouched slowly into the room.
"The key's in the lock," Harry noted. "We could lock it in."
"Good idea," said Ron nervously.
They edged towards the open door, mouths dry, praying the troll wasn't about to come out of it. Plucking up his courage, Danny grabbed the key, slammed the door, and locked it.
Flushed with their victory, they started to run back up the passage, but as they reached the corner they heard something that made their hearts stop-a high, petrified scream-coming from the camber they'd just chained up.
"Oh no," Ron wailed, as pale as Nearly Headless Nick. Harry's eyes flicked up to the sign above the door, and his eyes nearly bugged out of his head.
"It's the girls' bathrooms," he gasped.
"Hermione!" They said together.
It was the last thing they wanted to do, but what choice did they have? Wheeling around, they sprinted back to the door and turned the key, fumbling in their panic-Harry pulled the door open-they ran inside.
Hermione Granger was shrinking against the opposite wall, looking as if she was about to faint. The troll was advancing on her, knocking the sinks off the walls as it went.
"Distract it!" Harry yelled desperately, and he grabbed a tap and threw it as hard as he could against the wall.
The troll stopped a few feet from Hermione. It lumbered around, blinking stupidly, to see what had made the noise. Its mean little eyes saw Harry. It hesitated, then made for him instead, lifting a club as it went.
"Oy, pea-brain!" yelled Ron from the other side of the chamber, and he threw a metal pipe at it. The troll didn't even seem to notice the pipe hitting its shoulder, but it heard the yell and paused again, turning its ugly snout towards Ron instead, giving the other two time to run around it.
"Come on, run, run," Harry yelled at Hermione, trying to pull her towards the door, but she couldn't move, she was still flat against the wall, her mouth open with terror.
The shouting and the echoes seemed to be driving the troll beserk. It roared again and started towards Ron, who was nearest and had no way to escape.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl. Danny watched as Ron's eyes flicked to either side of the troll, looking for an escape that wasn't there. He saw as Harry continued to try to make Hermione run, to get to safety. He observed Hermione's terrified gaze, knowing that she wouldn't be able to do anything to stop this troll. He realized that both of his friends had tried to distract the troll, while he'd done nothing but watched. He realized that there was something he could do to stop the troll. He really didn't want to reveal his secret identity in front of Ron and Hermione, but he saw that there was no other way.
As the troll began to raise his humongous club, a ring of white light exploded around Danny's waist. A look of intense anger was visible in his crystal-blue eyes as the ring split, each new ring traveling across his school robes, and was intensified when the ring passed his face and morphed the crystal blue to emerald green.
Danny shot into the air and called upon the energy that he'd used against Peeves. Immediately, the crackling green power rushed to his hands, and he willed it towards the troll. The energy struck the troll's small bald head, causing it to howl in pain. The troll flailed its club around, trying to hit Danny like one would an ectoplasmic piñata.
Hermione had sunk to the floor in shock and terror; Ron pulled out his own want-not knowing what he was going to do he heard himself cry the first spell that came into his head: 'Wingardium Leviosa!"
The club suddenly flew out of the troll's hand, rose high, high up into the air, turned slowly over-and dropped, with a sickening crack, onto its owner's head. The troll swayed on the spot and then fell flat on its face, with a thud that made the whole room tremble.
Danny landed on the ground, and in a flash of light returned to human form. Ron was standing there with his wand still raised, staring at what he had done. The three human wizards stared at the troll, surprise at Danny's transformation overshadowed by the small stupid mountain lying in front of them.
It was Hermione who spoke first.
"I don't think so," said Harry. "I think it's just been knocked out." A few green sparks erupted around the troll's head. "Although it may be a bit stupider now that it was before, thanks to the lobotomy you gave it."
"If that's even possible," Ron noted.
A sudden slamming and loud footsteps made the three of them look up. They hadn't realized what a racked they had been making, but of course, someone downstairs must have heard the crashes and the troll's roars. A moment later, professor McGonagall had come bursting into the room, closely followed by Snape, with Quirrell and Masters bringing up the rear. Quirrell took one look at the troll, let out a faint whimper and sat quickly down on a toilet, clutching his heart. Masters watched him, an amused twinkle in his ice-blue eyes, then bent over the troll along with Snape.
Professor McGonagall was looking at Danny, Harry, and Ron. Danny had never seen her look so angry; her lips were white. Hopes of winning fifty points for Gryffindor faded quickly from his mind.
"What on earth were you thinking?" said Professor McGonagall, her voice emoting cold fury. She looked at Ron, who was still standing with his wand in the air. "You're lucky you weren't killed. Why weren't you in your dormitory?"
"Snape gave Harry a swift, piercing look. Harry looked at the floor, wishing that Ron would put his wand down.
Then a small voice came out of the shadows.
"Please, Professor McGonagall-they were looking for me."
Hermione had managed to get to her feet at last.
"I went looking for the troll because I-I thought I could deal with it on my own-you know, because I've read all about them.
Ron dropped his wand. Hermione Granger, telling a downright lie to a teacher?
If they hadn't found me, I'd be dead by now. Danny…I'm not quite sure what Danny did, but he did something to distract it and Ron knocked it out with its own club. They didn't have time to come and fetch anyone. It was about to finish me off when they arrived.
Ron, Harry, and Danny tried to look as though this story wasn't new to them.
"Well, in that case…" said Professor McGonagall, staring at the three of them. "Miss Granger, you foolish girl, how could you think of tackling a mountain troll on your own?"
Hermione hung her head. Harry was speechless. Hermione was the last person to do anything against the rules, and here she was, pretending she had, to get them out of trouble. It was as if Snape had started handing out candy.
"Miss Granger, five points will be taken from Gryffindor for this," said Professor McGonagall. "I'm very disappointed in you. If you're not hurt at all, you'd better get off to Gryffindor tower. Students are finishing the feast in their Houses."
Hermione left, and Professor McGonagall turned to Harry, Danny, and Ron.
"Well, I still say you were lucky, but not many first years could have taken on a full-grown mountain troll. You each win Gryffindor five points. Professor Dumbledore will be informed of this. You may go."
They hurried out of the chamber and didn't speak at all until they had climbed two floors up. It was a relief to be away from the smell of the troll, quite apart from anything else.
"We should have got more than fifteen points," Ron grumbled.
"Ten, you mean, once she's taken off Hermione's," Danny added.
"Good of her to get us out of trouble like that," Ron admitted. "Mind you, we did save her. And also," he turned to Danny. "What the bloody hell did you do?" Danny sighed.
"I'll explain later…it's too long a story for me to tell all of it now." They had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady.
"Pig snout," they said and entered.
The common room was packed and noisy. Everyone was eating the food that had been sent up. Hermione, however, stood alone by the door, waiting for them. There was a very embarrassed pause. Then, none of them looking at each other, they al said 'thanks.' They hurried off to get plates, then sat together in a corner while Danny told them about his parents, his powers, and the energy that he'd unleashed on the troll.
But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.