*cowers in corner* Okay, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean for it to take that long. I got distracted and didn't necessarily know where I wanted to go with the story. Then I started high school and I've just been busy. But really, I'm sorry. So, to make it up to you, I'm going to try (and really, really try) to update once a week. I don't know where that will go, though, because the last time I said that I updated something like three times in a week then left for three months. Anyways, leave a review. I love to hear what you think. They really do make my day. :)

Chapter 9

The next morning, Draco had gone back to ignoring me completely. I made my way down to breakfast and walked past the Gryffindors to get to the Slytherin table. Weasley turned completely around in his seat, mouth open and blue eyes wide. He had, of course, not heard the news that I was on the Quidditch team and clearly expected that I would have been on the train last night, if not this morning. I smirked as I passed him.

"Mind the flies, Weasley. They are rather nasty this time of year." His jaw closed with an audible click, and I grinned wider.

Like always, I sat at the end of the table. To my surprise, Marcus Flint came and sat beside me.

Owls swooped in through the window as the morning mail arrived, and I was very surprised when six large birds dropped a long, thin package in front of me. I ignored my waffles and immediately reached to open it, but Flint stopped me.

"Don't open it," he hissed. "It contains your broomstick."

I turned back to my breakfast, the corners of my mouth twitching up involuntarily.

As soon as I had finished eating, I grabbed my packaged broomstick and hurried out the door. Draco stopped me.

"That's a broomstick, Potter. First years aren't allowed them."

"Professor Dumbledore made an exception, since I'm on the house team now."

Draco looked disappointed. "Right."

Weasley burst through the doors. He snatched it from my hands and examined the package carefully.

"Broomstick? You'll be in for it now," he sneered. "A Nimbus Two Thousand, by the feel of it."

"What would you know about it, Weasley, you couldn't afford half the handle," Draco snapped back. "I suppose you and your brothers have to save up twig by twig."

Weasley glared and stomped away. Granger was nowhere to be seen. Once he was gone, Draco and I ran to the common room and found it completely empty. I set the package on the floor and stared at it for a moment.

"Well, go on. Open it!" Draco urged. I ripped open the package. There sat a beautiful, sleek broom. Every twig was aligned perfectly on the neat tail and, written in gold lettering near the top of the mahogany handle were the words "Nimbus Two Thousand." I gazed in awe at the broomstick. It was something new to me, a stark symbol of my magic in contrast to my shabby muggle clothes. I had a wand, but anybody could pick up an ordinary tree branch, fashion it to their desired length and flexibility, and call it a "wand."

I turned to Draco, who was staring hard at the broom, as if trying to find a fault that was not there. "It's really all thanks to you that I have it, too." He glanced at me, looking as if he was about to protest, then turned his gaze ruefully back to the perfect broomstick.

"Guess so."

"Hey, guess what!" I said, trying to cheer him up a bit. "Flint is teaching me all about Quidditch after class. It'll be great to learn about a sport that everyone here seems to know all about."

Draco seems to regain some of his normal personality. "As in, you don't know about Quidditch?" He laughed aloud. "Where did you grow up? Even your Mudblood mother should have known better than to send you to a home where you grow up as a Muggle. I guess she wasn't as smart as everyone says she is. Imagine that, Harry Potter believing himself a Muggle!" Draco laughed again. I shied away from him, automatically curling into a ball to brace myself for the blow that was sure to come with his cruel taunting. That's what Uncle Vernon always did, at least.

"I'm sorry," I whimpered, bringing my hands up to protect my head.

Draco gave me a strange look. "What the hell are you apologizing for? And why are you sitting like that? Get up!" He pulled me to my feet. I dusted myself off cautiously, still keeping my eye out for the punch that was about to be thrown. I inevitably thought of the time Aunt Petunia had hit me in the head with the hot, bacon-greased pan and knocked me out for two whole days.

Draco muttered a quick "never mind then" and started towards the door.

"Wait! Do you want to take a ride on my broom, tonight? After my lesson?"

Draco turned around scornfully. "Take a ride on your broomstick? Thanks, but I'll pass," he replied, sounding as if he was not thankful at all.

After all the day's classes, I headed down to the Quidditch pitch, ecstatic about learning more about flying and this strange new game that was played in the air. I could not wait to fly again, so I kicked off and began swooping across the field. The wind whipped at my hair and pulled my Muggle clothes tight against my body. (I had not wanted my robes to billow awkwardly behind me.)

"Potter, you're pretty decent, but quit messing around! Get down here!" Flint yelled suddenly, and I looked down, startled, to find him watching me. I flew down quickly and in my hurry, stumbled over my over-baggy jeans. I caught myself just before I fell, however, and looked up sheepishly. "Got to work on that landing, eh, Potter? And wear some real clothes!" he added distastefully, looking me up and down.

I waited for him to open the trunk that he had brought with him. Inside were four balls — a big red one, two smaller black ones, and one tiny golden one. He told me the name and function of each in turn. The big red one was called the Quaffle and, when thrown through one of the big metal hoops on either side of the pitch, scored the team ten points. The two smaller black ones were called Bludgers, and tried to knock players off their brooms. And finally, Flint picked up the little golden ball. Two small wings unfolded and began fluttering gently.

"This," he began, "is the golden Snitch. It is very, very special. You see, the Chasers get the Quaffle, the Beaters get the Bludgers, but the Seeker — and that's you — gets the Snitch. Throughout the game, the Snitch flies around the pitch. It's very small, very fast, and very hard to catch. But when it is caught, it is worth one hundred and fifty points and the game ends. Usually the team that catches the Snitch wins, but not always. If the other team is more than one hundred and fifty points ahead, they still win." He went on to describe the various positions.

"There are three Chasers who try to get the Quaffle through the hoops by throwing or kicking it. Two Beaters are on each team, and they use bats to hit the Bludgers away from their own team and towards the opponent. The Keeper guards the hoops, and can use any means possible to block the Quaffle. And then, of course, there is the Seeker, who flies around and tries to catch the Snitch before the opposing Seeker does.

"Okay, get on your broom. We'll be using golf balls tonight so we don't lose the Snitch."

I spent the rest of the evening chasing after the golf balls that Flint threw in every direction. His face glowed with suppressed glee when I caught every one. When it got too dark to see anything, we put everything away and walked up to dinner together.

"I don't know, Potter. I mean, you're pretty good, but it's hard to tell if you've got what it takes to win the Quidditch Cup for us. Keep practicing hard and we might just make it," Flint rambled as we entered the castle. I continued walking, happy for the first time since I had arrived at Hogwarts.

Dinner was a quiet event, I asked Flint to sit with me so I could ask him questions, and fired them off nonstop until he told me to give him time to eat and answer. I laughed quietly.

"So what exactly constitutes as a foul during the match?" I asked, digging into a sizable slice of steak.

He looked at me. "Usually anything that hurts another player." He leaned in close and whispered the next sentence so quietly that I had to strain my ears to hear it. "But Slytherins never play by the rules." The wicked grin on his face scared me so much that I slid away from him a bit.

Flint was still eating when I finished my dinner. I stood up slowly and began making my way to the double doors that led to the entrance hall.

"Hey, Potter!" I turned back towards the table. It was Flint again. "You know, you're really not so bad."

He watched my face carefully. It was the closest thing to a compliment I had ever gotten. I tried to grin but it felt all wrong. I guess it's hard to smile when you've never known how.