meant that with Lupin's anti-dementor classes, which in themselves were
more draining than six Quidditch practices, Harry had just one night a
week to do all his homework. Even so, he was showing the strain nearly
as much as Hermione, whose immense workload finally seemed to be getting
to her. Every night, without fail, Hermione was to be seen in a corner
of the common room, several tables spread with books, Arithmancy charts,
rune dictionaries, diagrams of Muggles lifting heavy objects, and file
upon file of extensive notes; she barely spoke to anybody and snapped
when she was interrupted.
"How's she doing it?" Ron muttered to Harry one evening as Harry sat
finishing a nasty essay on Undetectable Poisons for Snape. Harry looked
up. Hermione was barely visible behind a tottering pile of books.
"Getting to all her classes!" Ron said. "I heard her talking to
Professor Vector, that Arithmancy witch, this morning. They were going
on about yesterday's lesson, but Hermione can't 've been there, because
she was with us in Care of Magical Creatures! And Ernie McMillan told me
she's never missed a Muggle Studies class, but half of them are at the
same time as Divination, and she's never missed one of them either!"
Harry didn't have time to fathom the mystery of Hermione's impossible
schedule at the moment; he really needed to get on with Snape's essay.
Two seconds later, however, he was interrupted again, this time by Wood.
"Bad news, Harry. I've just been to see Professor McGonagall about the
Firebolt. She -- er -- got a bit shirty with me. Told m' I'd got my
priorities wrong. Seemed to think I cared more about winning the Cup
than I do about you staying alive. Just because I told her I didn't care
if it threw you off, as long as you caught the Snitch first." Wood shook
his head in disbelief. "Honestly, the way she was yelling at me... you'd
think I'd said something terrible... then I asked her how much longer
she was going to keep it. He screwed up his face and imitated Professor
McGonagall's severe voice. 'As long as necessary, Wood'... I reckon it's
time you ordered a new broom, Harry. There's an order form at the back
of Which Broomstick... you could get a Nimbus Two Thousand and One, like
"I'm not buying anything Malfoy thinks is good," said Harry flatly.
January faded imperceptibly into February, with no change in the
bitterly cold weather. The match against Ravenclaw was drawing nearer
and nearer, but Harry still hadn't ordered a new broom. He was now
asking Professor McGonagall for news of the Firebolt after every
Transfiguration lesson, Ron standing hopefully at his shoulder, Hermione
rushing past with her face averted.
"No, Potter, you can't have it back yet," Professor McGonagall told him
the twelfth time this happened, before he'd even opened his mouth.
"We've checked for most of the usual curses, but Professor Flitwick
believes the broom might be carrying a Hurling Hex. I shall tell you
once we've finished checking it. Now, please stop badgering me."
To make matters even worse, Harry's anti-dementor lessons were not going
nearly as well as he had hoped. Several sessions on, he was able to
produce an indistinct, silvery shadow every time the boggart-dementor
approached him, but his Patronus was too feeble to drive the dementor
away. All it did was hover, like a semitransparent cloud, draining Harry
of energy as he fought to keep it there. Harry felt angry with himself,
guilty about his secret desire to hear his parents' voices again.
"You're expecting too much of yourself," said Professor Lupin, sternly
in their fourth week of practice. "For a thirteen-year-old wizard, even
an indistinct Patronus is a huge achievement. You aren't passing out
anymore, are you?"
I thought a Patronus would -- charge the dementors down or something,"
said Harry dispiritedly. "Make them disappear --"
"The true Patronus does do that," said Lupin. "But you've achieved a
great deal in a very short space of time. If the dementors put in an
appearance at your next Quidditch match, You will be able to keep them
at bay long enough to get back to the ground."
"You said it's harder if there are loads of them," said Harry.
"I have complete confidence in you," said Lupin, smiling. "Here --
you've earned a drink - something from the Three Broomsticks. You won't
have tried it before --"
He pulled two bottles out of his briefcase.
"Butterbeer!" said Harry, without thinking. "Yeah, I like that stuff!"
Lupin raised an eyebrow.
"Oh -Ron and Hermione brought me some back from Hogsmeade," Harry lied
let's drink to a Gryffindor victory against Ravenclaw! Not that I'm
supposed to take sides, as a teacher... " he added hastily
They drank the butterbeer in silence, until Harry voiced something he'd
been wondering for a while.
"What's under a dementor's hood?"
Professor Lupin lowered his bottle thoughtfully.
"Hmmm... well, the only people who really know are in no condition to
tell us. You see, the dementor lowers its hood only to use its last and
"They call it the Dementor's Kiss," said Lupin, with a slightly twisted
smile. "It's what dementors do to those they wish to destroy utterly. I
suppose there must be some kind of mouth under there, because they clamp
their jaws upon the mouth of the victim and -- and suck out his soul."
Harry accidentally spat out a bit of butterbeer.
"What -- they kill --?"
"Oh no," said Lupin. "Much worse than that. You can exist without your
soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But
you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no. .. anything.
There's no chance at all of recovery. You'll just exist. As an empty
shell. And your soul is gone forever... lost."
Lupin drank a little more butterbeer, then said, "It's the fate that
awaits Sirius Black. It was in the Daily Prophet this morning. The
Ministry have given the dementors permission to perform it if they find
sucked out through their mouth. But then he thought of Black.
"He deserves it," he said suddenly.
"You think so?" said Lupin lightly. "Do you really think anyone deserves
"Yes," said Harry defiantly. "For... for some things..."
overheard about Black in the Three Broomsticks, about Black betraying
his mother and father, but it would have involved revealing that he'd
gone to Hogsmeade without permission, and he knew Lupin wouldn't be very
impressed by that. So he finished his butterbeer, thanked Lupin, and
left the History of Magic classroom.
Harry half wished that he hadn't asked what was under a dementor's hood,
the answer had been so horrible, and he was so lost in unpleasant
thoughts of what it would feel like to have your soul sucked out of you
that he walked headlong into Professor McGonagall halfway up the stairs.
"Do watch where you're going, Potter!"
"Sorry, Professor --"
"I've just been looking for you in the Gryffindor common room, Well,
here it is, we've done everything we could think of, and there doesn't
seem to be anything wrong with it at all. You've got a very good friend
Harry's jaw dropped. She was holding out his Firebolt, and it looked as
magnificent as ever.
"I can have it back?" Harry said weakly. "Seriously?"
"Seriously," said Professor McGonagall, and she was actually smiling. "I
daresay you'll need to get the feel of it before Saturday's match, won't
you? And Potter -- do try and win, won't you? Or we'll be out of the
running for the eighth year. in a row, as Professor Snape was kind
enough to remind me only last night...."
Speechless, Harry carried the Firebolt back upstairs toward Gryffindor
Tower. As he turned a corner, he saw Ron dashing toward him, grinning
from ear to ear.
"She gave it to You? Excellent! Listen, can I still have a go on it?
"Yeah... anything," said Harry, his heart lighter than it had been in a
month. "You know what -- we should make up with Hermione.... She was
only trying to help...."
"Yeah, all right," said Ron. "She's in the common room how working, for
a change --"
They turned into the corridor to Gryffindor Tower and saw Neville
Longbottom, pleading with Sir Cadogan, who seemed to be refusing him
"I wrote them down!" Neville was saying tearfully. "But I must've
dropped them somewhere!"
"A likely tale!" roared Sir Cadogan. Then, spotting Harry and Ron: "Good
even, my fine young yeomen! Come clap this loon in irons. He is trying
to force entry to the chambers within!"
"Oh, shut up," said Ron as he and Harry drew level with Neville.
"I've lost the passwords!" Neville told them miserably. "I made him tell
me what passwords he was going to use this week, because he keeps
changing them, and now I don't know what I've done with them!"
"Oddsbodikins," said Harry to Sir Cadogan, who looked extremely
disappointed and reluctantly swung forward to let them into the common
room. There was a sudden, excited murmur as every head turned and the
next moment, Harry was surrounded by people exclaiming over his
"Where'd you get it, Harry?"
"Will you let me have a go?" "Have you ridden it yet, Harry?"
"Ravenclaw'll have no chance, they're all on Cleansweep Sevens!"
"Can I just hold it, Harry?"
After ten minutes or so, during which the Firebolt was Passed around and
admired from every angle, the crowd dispersed and Harry and Ron had a
clear view of Hermione, the only person who hadn't rushed over to them,
bent over her work and carefully avoiding their eyes. Harry and Ron
approached her table and at last, she looked up.
"I got it back," said Harry, grinning at her and holding up the
"See, Hermione? There wasn't anything wrong with it!" said Ron.
"Well -- there might have been!" said Hermione. "I mean, at least you
know now that it's safe!"
"Yeah, I suppose so," said Harry. "Id better put it upstairs."
"I'll take it!" said Ron eagerly. "I've got to give Scabbers his rat
carried it away up the boys' staircase.
"Can I sit down, then?" Harry asked Hermione.
"I suppose so," said Hermione, moving a great stack of parchment off a
Harry looked around at the cluttered table, at the long Arithmancy essay
essay ("Explain Why Muggles Need Electricity" and at the rune
translation Hermione was now poring over.
"How are you getting through all this stuff?" Harry asked her.
"Oh, well -- you know -- working hard," said Hermione. Close-up, Harry
saw that she looked almost as tired as Lupin.
"Why don't you just drop a couple of subjects?" Harry asked, watching
her lifting books as she searched for her rune dictionary.
"I couldn't do that!" said Hermione, looking scandalized.
"Arithmancy looks terrible," said Harry, picking up a very
complicated-looking number chart.
"Oh no, it's wonderful!" said Hermione earnestly. "It's my favorite
subject! It's --"
But exactly what was wonderful about Arithmancy, Harry never found out.
At that precise moment, a strangled yell echoed down the boys'
staircase. The whole common room fell silent, staring, petrified, at the
entrance. Then came hurried footsteps, growing louder and louder -- and
then Ron came leaping into view, dragging with him a bedsheet.
"LOOK!" he bellowed, striding over to Hermione's table.
"LOOK!" he yelled, shaking the sheets in her face.
"Ron, what --?"
"SCABBERS! LOOK! SCABBERS!"
Hermione was leaning away from Ron, looking utterly bewildered. Harry
looked down at the sheet Ron was holding. There was something red on it.
Something that looked horribly like --
"BLOOD!" Ron yelled into the stunned silence. "HE'S GONE! AND YOU KNOW
WHAT WAS ON THE FLOOR?"
"N -- no," said Hermione in a trembling voice.
Ron threw something down onto Hermione's rune translation. Hermione and
Harry leaned forward. Lying on top of the weird, spiky shapes were
several long, ginger cat hairs.
GRYFFINDOR VERSUS RAVENCLAW
It looked like the end of Ron and Hermione's friendship. Each was so
angry with the other that Harry couldn't see how they'd ever make up.
Ron was enraged that Hermione had never taken Crookshanks's attempts to
eat Scabbers seriously, hadn't bothered to keep a close enough watch on
him, and was still trying to pretend that Crookshanks was innocent by
suggesting that Ron look for Scabbers under all the boys' beds.
Hermione, meanwhile, maintained fiercely that Ron had no proof that
Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers, that the ginger hairs might have been
there since Christmas, and that Ron had been prejudiced against her cat
ever since Crookshanks had landed on Ron's head in the Magical
Personally, Harry was sure that Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers, and when
he tried to point out to Hermione that the evidence all pointed that
way, she lost her temper with Harry too.
"Okay, side with Ron, I knew you would!" she said shrilly. "First the
Firebolt, now Scabbers, everything's my fault, isn't it! just leave me
alone, Harry, I've got a lot of work to do!"
Ron had taken the loss of his rat very hard indeed.
"Come on, Ron, you were always saying how boring Scabbers was," said
Fred bracingly. "And he's been off-color for ages, he was wasting away.
It was probably better for him to snuff it quickly -- one swallow -- he
probably didn't feel a thing."
"Fred!" said Ginny indignantly.
"All he did was eat and sleep, Ron, you said it yourself," said George.
"He bit Goyle for us once!" Ron said miserably. "Remember, Harry?"
"Yeah, that's true," said Harry.
"His finest hour," said Fred, unable to keep a straight face. "Let the
scar on Goyle's finger stand as a lasting tribute to his memory. Oh,
come on, Ron, get yourself down to Hogsmeade and buy a new rat, what's
the point of moaning?"
In a last-ditch attempt to cheer Ron up, Harry persuaded him to come
along to the Gryffindor team's final practice before the Ravenclaw
match, so that he could have a ride on the Firebolt after they'd
finished. This did seem to take Ron's mind off Scabbers for a moment
("Great! Can I try and shoot a few goals on it?") so they set off for
the Quidditch field together.
Madam Hooch, who was still overseeing Gryffindor practices to keep an
eye on Harry, was just as impressed with the Firebolt as everyone else
had been. She took it in her hands before takeoff and gave them the
benefit of her professional opinion.
"Look at the balance on it! If the Nimbus series has a fault, it's a
slight list to the tail end -- you often find they develop a drag after
a few years. They've updated the handle too, a bit slimmer than the
Cleansweeps, reminds me of the old Silver Arrows -- a Pity they've
stopped making them. I learned to fly on one, and a very fine old broom
it was too...."
She continued in this vein for some time, until Wood said, "Er -- Madam
Hooch? Is it okay if Harry has the Firebolt back? We need to
"Oh -- right -- here you are, then, Potter," said Madam Hooch. "I'll sit
over here with Weasley...."
She and Ron left the field to sit in the stadium, and the Gryffindor
team gathered around Wood for his final instructions for tomorrow's
"Harry, I've just found out who Ravenclaw is playing as Seeker. It's Cho
wouldn't be fit, she's had some problems with injuries...." Wood scowled
his displeasure that Cho Chang had made a full recovery, then said, "On
the other hand, she rides a Comet Two Sixty, which is going to look like
a joke next to the Firebolt." He gave Harry's broom a look of fervent
admiration, then said, "Okay, everyone, let's go -- "
And at long last, Harry mounted his Firebolt, and kicked off from the
lightest touch; it seemed to obey his thoughts rather than his grip; it
sped across the field at such speed that the stadium turned into a
green-and-gray blur; Harry turned it so sharply that Alicia Spinnet
screamed, then he went into a perfectly controlled dive, brushing the
grassy field with his toes before rising thirty, forty, fifty feet into
the air again.
"Harry, I'm letting the Snitch out!" Wood called.
Harry turned and raced a Bludger toward the goal posts; he outstripped
it easily, saw the Snitch dart out from behind Wood, and within ten
seconds had caught it tightly in his hand.
The team cheered madly. Harry let the Snitch go again, gave it a
minute's head start, then tore after it, weaving in and out of the
others; he spotted it lurking near Katie Bell's knee, looped her easily,
and caught it again.
It was the best practice ever; the team, inspired by the presence of the
Firebolt in their midst, performed their best moves faultlessly, and by
the time they hit the ground again, Wood didn't have a single criticism
to make, which, as George Weasley pointed out, was a first.
"I can't see what's going to stop us tomorrow!" said Wood. "Not unless
-- Harry, you've sorted out your dementor problem, haven't you?"
"Yeah," said Harry, thinking of his feeble Patronus and wishing it were
"The dementors won't turn up again, Oliver. Dumbledore'd go ballistic,"
said Fred confidently.
"Well, let's hope not," said Wood. "Anyway -- good work, everyone. Let's
get back to the tower... turn in early --"
"I'm staying out for a bit; Ron wants a go on the Firebolt," Harry told
Wood, and while the rest of the team headed off to the locker rooms,
Harry strode over to Ron, who vaulted the barrier to the stands and came
to meet him. Madam Hooch had fallen asleep in her seat.
"Here you go," said Harry, handing Ron the Firebolt.
Ron, an expression of ecstasy on his face, mounted the broom and zoomed
off into the gathering darkness while Harry walked around the edge of
the field, watching him. Night had fallen before Madam Hooch awoke with
a start, told Harry and Ron off for not waking her, and insisted that
they go back to the castle.
Harry shouldered the Firebolt and he and Ron walked out of the shadowy
stadium, discussing the Firebolt's superbly smooth action, its
phenomenal acceleration, and its pinpoint turning. They were halfway
toward the castle when Harry, glancing to his left, saw something that
made his heart turn over -- a pair of eyes, gleaming out of the
Harry stopped dead, his heart banging against his ribs.
"What's the matter?" said Ron.
Harry pointed. Ron pulled out his wand and muttered, "Lumos!"
A beam of light fell across the grass, hit the bottom of a tree, and
illuminated its branches; there, crouching among the budding leaves, was
"Get out of here!" Ron roared, and he stooped down and seized a stone
lying on the grass, but before he could do anything else, Crookshanks
had vanished with one swish of his long ginger tail.
"See?" Ron said furiously, chucking the stone down again. "She's still
letting him wander about wherever he wants -- probably washing down
Scabbers with a couple of birds now...."
Harry didn't say anything. He took a deep breath as relief seeped
through him; he had been sure for a moment that those eyes had belonged
to the Grim. They set off for the castle once more. slightly ashamed of
his moment of panic, Harry didn't say anything to Ron -- nor did he look
left or right until they had reached the well-lit entrance hall.
Harry went down to breakfast the next morning with the rest of the boys
in his dormitory, all of whom seemed to think the Firebolt deserved a
sort of guard of honor. As Harry entered the Great Hall, heads turned in
the direction of the Firebolt, and there was a good deal of excited
muttering. Harry saw, with enormous satisfaction, that the Slytherin
team were all looking thunderstruck.
"Did you see his face?" said Ron gleefully, looking back at Malfay. "He
can't believe it! This is brilliant!"
Wood, too, was basking in the reflected glory of the Firebolt.
"Put it here, Harry," he said, laying the broom in the middle of the
table and carefully turning it so that its name faced upward. People
from the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables were soon coming over to look.
Cedric Diggory came over to congratulate Harry on having acquired such a
superb replacement for his Nimbus, and Percy's Ravenclaw girlfriend,
Penelope Clearwater, asked if she could actually hold the Firebolt.
"Now, now, Penny, no sabotage!" said Percy heartily as she examined the
Firebolt closely. "Penelope and I have got a bet on," he told the team.
"Ten Galleons on the outcome of the match!"
Penelope put the Firebolt down again, thanked Harry, and went back to
"Harry -- make sure you win," said Percy, in an urgent whisper. "I
haven't got ten Galleons. Yes, I'm coming, Penny!" And-he bustled off to
join her in a piece of toast.
"Sure you can manage that broom, Potter?" said a cold, drawling voice.
Draco Malfoy had arrived for a closer look, Crabbe and Coyle right
"Yeah, reckon so," said Harry casually.
"Got plenty of special features, hasn't it?" said Malfoy, eyes
glittering maliciously. "Shame it doesn't come with a parachute -- in
case you get too near a dementor."
Crabbe and Goyle sniggered.
"Pity you can't attach an extra arm to yours, Malfoy," said Harry. "Then
it could catch the Snitch for you."
The Gryffindor team laughed loudly. Malfoy's pale eyes narrowed, and he
stalked away. They watched him rejoin the rest of the Slytherin team,