This chapter is called The Midnight Duel, which sounds very fierce and glamorous. If I were a small boy I would probably be bouncing in my seat in anticipation of the very first word.
And guess what it is?
If I were a small boy at Hogwarts I would have peed myself.
Our hero is thinking to himself how he hates Draco Malfoy, like, even more than Dudders. And gosh, I am taken aback. I mean, as far as we know Draco’s not even fat!
Unfortunately Harry’s going to be forced to spend some quality time with this impossibly foul boy today, since it turns out Gryffindor and Slytherin will be learning to fly together.
Yeah, you heard me. LEARNING TO FLY.
WIZARD SCHOOL. LOOK IT UP.
Harry’s all *mutter mutter* ‘Gonna make a fool of myself in front of Malfoy,’ because that’s Harry’s favourite thing – assuming he’s going to be the worst at something when we all know…
Oh alright. I suppose I shouldn’t spoil it for those of you who don’t see the writing on the wall that says Harry is actually the best at flying ever omg.
Ron tells him he doesn’t know that he’ll make a fool of himself. He does this “reasonably.” And it’s pretty cute. I’ll let Harry fish for compliments as much as he likes if it results in such cuteness.
Just to make sure the odds of Harry being Best at flying ever omg seem nice and low, we’re told that Malfoy’s always boasting about how great he is at it. I think this is also supposed to make us see what a braggy little turd he is, but it’s not terrifically effective seeing as Seamus and even Ron, BFF of the Messiah, pretty much do the same thing.
Heather says: “BFF of the Messiah” is what it feels like to be the “er” in Ropher.
Sophy says: Well said, Heather. Articulate. Inspired. True to life. Speaks to all of us, especially Rophy.
At this point we’re introduced to another of Harry and Ron’s dorm-mates, one Dean Thomas, a Muggle-born who has put soccer posters up on the wall – you know, the regular kind that don’t talk back.
I like this touch; I like that our world continues to exist inside Rowling’s fictitious one.
Heather says: SPOILER ALERT: That’s one of the things I hated most about the Goblet of Fire movie: No Dursleys. Half the fun of Harry Potter is how his magical world is framed inside our world. It makes the magical world seem real! Accessible! (Says the girl who still spends her birthday waiting at the window for her Hogwarts letter.)
Rin says: LOL Sophy I hope you covered your eyes??? And me too Heather. I’m starting to get scared that it’ll just be awkward by the time I finally get accepted, I mean. Sure I’ll be the same height as everybody in first year, but there’s bound to be an embarrassing generation gap that will crop up every now and then. Like with me and Sophy.
Sophy says: It’s okay. I only read the bits where you were mocking me.
Ron is arguing with Dean over said posters, saying he doesn’t see how soccer is exciting and I’m all OH RON, ME TOO. Let’s run away together and never ever watch team sports!!!
When frothy-mouthed cartoon dogs are cornering chubby cartoon robbers, the robbers usually throw links of sausages at them to distract them. See how Ron has cleverly adapted this approach to save himself.
(I’d take the sausages too though.)
Rin says: The soundtrack to this picture is Ellie Goulding – Starry Eyed.
Sophy says: I think I am singing it…
But back to our Ron/Sophy dalliance. I turns out I speak too soon. Ron, like me, doesn’t see why Dean thinks soccer is exciting. But only because he thinks it sucks compared to ~Quidditch. Its inferiority stems from the fact that there’s “only one ball” and “no one [is] allowed to fly”.
The use of ‘allowed’ there is charming and rather clever, just a little clue as to how growing up in the Wizarding World will alter your perspective.
And now I want to read fanfic in which Ron accidentally gets stranded at Muggle school and must struggle to make a new life for himself in the real world.
“What? You can’t turn your hamster into a convertible this weekend? Omg, your parents are jerks.”
Anyway, okay, okay. I suppose even a sportophobe like me will admit that Quidditch is marginally cooler than soccer on account of the flying. But I think I’d rather just fly solo if I could – as long as the flying is nothing like in my dreams.
When I fly in my dreams it’s slow and frustrating, and basically like doing breaststroke through treacle. I always end up gazing forlornly at the ground wishing I could get back down.
Neville has never been near a broomstick and Harry thinks how that’s probably a good thing because he “[manages] to have extraordinary number of accidents even with both feet on the ground.”
Poor Neville. Even the Messiah is lolzing at you on the inside.
Hermione is super nervous about flying because it’s something you can’t learn to do “by heart out of a book – not that she [hasn’t] tried.”
OH LORD, HERMIONE. YOU AND YOUR BOOKS ARE SO DARNED CUTE AND SO MUCH BETTER THAN QUIDDITCH.
Heather does something really embarrassing with a picture of me and a picture of Hermione.
Sophy deletes it all and moves on.
Mail comes at breakfast and Neville gets something called a ‘Rememberall’ from his grandmother. It turns out to be a bit of a useless contraption really, particularly for someone as scatter-brained as Neville. See it glows red when you’ve forgotten something but doesn’t tell you what you’ve forgotten. I’m thinking all it’s going to do is make the Nevster more anxious and less likely to be able to keep on top of things.
Their flying teacher is called Madam Hooch. She has “yellow eyes like a hawk,” which… ew. I bet she’s in Slytherin.
The kids start messing around on their broomsticks and ugh, ugh, I wish they didn’t use broomsticks, because it’s just so… WHY? Why do they use broomsticks to fly? Is Rowling even going to give me a reason – beyond ‘because Meg and Mog did’?
When Malfoy ~mounts his broom, Hooch tells him he’s been “doing it wrong for years.” Um, okay… since he seems to get in the air just fine I’d say it didn’t really matter what technique he used to get on the broom, but okay, I get it, Malfoy’s not allowed to do anything right, because yes, I did get the memo, he is wrong wrong wrong.
Neville fucks up and goes shooting up into the air, falls back down and breaks his wrist, poor little sausage.
Hooch takes him to the hospital wing, and once they’re out of earshot, Malfoy has a good laugh.
“Did you see his face, the great lump?” he asks, and oh, hey, that sounds familiar. I think someone might get along well with Hagrid. Actually, maybe all Slytherins would get along well with him, because Pansy Parkinson, who, please note, is “hard-faced,” makes an outright fat joke a moment later.
Anyway, the point is that in all the kerfuffle Neville has left his Remeberall behind, and of course Malfoy grabs it, and of course Harry tells him to give it to him, and then, of course, Malfoy decides to play keepy-off broomstick style, and of course, Harry’s outrage prompts him to try flying, and hey, OF COURSE… he totally rocks at it… and… of course… Malfoy is all ‘omg, oh noes, I’m evil and a coward *scared face*’
Here we have a particularly dreadful little sentence that I hope Rowling wishes she could take back.
“Harry knew, somehow, what to do.”
No. No, no, no, no, no. Do not want this snowflake nonsense.
I DEMAND REASONS, ROWLING, AND GOOD ONES.
Heather says: YOU’LL GET YOUR REASONS. NEVER INSULT JK ROWLING IN FRONT OF ME.
Rin says: Whoa. What a stan.
Sophy says: OH GO SPRAY SOME PERFUME ON THAT LATEST ROWLING-MISSIVE, HOGAN.
Anyway long story short: Malfoy is a jerk who drops the Rememberall rather than giving it back; Harry is a golden god who swoops down and catches it just in time.
But! At the very last second, Professor McGonagall rocks up and catches Harry and Harry alone flying around unsupervised.
Oh noes! Harry’s in deep shit, right?
He’s going to be a Quidditch star.
See McGongall’s anger at Harry for flouting the rules is far outstripped by her bewildered awe at the way he retrieved the Rememberall, and she delivers him unto a “burly fifth-year boy” named Wood, tells him she’s found him a new “seeker”.
Wood is spazzing and asks McGonagall if she’s serious.
“Absolutely,” she says, Harry’s a “natural,” she’s “never seen anything like it.”
Wood makes things worse by looking as though “all his dreams [have] come true at once.”
Heather says: Oliver Wood from the Philosopher’s Stone movie? Sean Biggerstaff? He’s all my dreams come true at once.
Rin says: I had the biggest crush on him when that movie was out. HE’S JUST SO CUTE. Unfortunate last name.
Sophy says: BIGGER STAFF PLAYS WOOD AHAHAHHA. I love him already.
And alright, I’m hanging by a thread and then…
McGonagall starts telling Harry how his father would have been proud and I know what’s coming so I’m all OH NO, DO NOT WANT PLEASE PLEASE, and I try to cover my ears and eyes, but it’s too late, IT’S TOO LATE, the next sentence had been read and it goes like this: “He was an excellent Quidditch player himself.”
Oh of course It’s in his blood
REALLY, ROWLING? REALLY?
This just feels senseless and trite. And done to death. I want to move on from it, please.
Heather says: THEN MOVE ON FROM IT!
Sophy says: awww, Heather. Face it, I’m just too mean for you.
At dinner Harry tells Ron about this new development in his specialness. He informs him, between mouthfuls of steak and kidney pie, that he’s the youngest House player in a century, and Ron is suitably amazed and impressed – in fact he’s “so amazed, so impressed, he just [sits] and [gapes] at Harry.”
Interesting. That’s kind of the default pose for Rophy with regard to Hermione Granger. Seriously, some day there’ll be Rophy dolls, and there’ll be Dream Wedding Rophy and Peaches n Cream Rophy and In The Presence Of Hermione Granger Rophy and that last one will look like this…
Heather says: You could also market them as “In the Presence of Lily Loveless” dolls. You know it’s true.
Rin says: SHHHH. How are we going to trick people into collecting all of the different varieties now? There’s at least 15 different versions of the ‘In the presence of…’ range but the doll is the same every time.
Sophy says: Rin is the brains.
Malfoy, apparently labouring under the misapprehension that Harry is going to be punished for breaking the rules, asks him when he’s going to be heading back the Muggle-town.
Harry is all ‘lol you’re evil and a coward, so?’ and this prompts Malfoy to challenge Harry to a MIDNIGHT DUEL.
Ron more or less accepts for him and nominates himself as his second. Harry asks what a second is and Ron explains “casually, getting started at last on his cold pie” that “a second’s there to take over if you die.” Harry’s face is all D: and Ron backtracks, says this isn’t a proper duel and the most he and Malfoy will shoot at each other are sparks.
Still, Harry’s a bit worried at having gotten himself into this. He asks “And what if I wave my wand and nothing happens?”
“Throw it away and punch him on the nose,” Ron suggests.
HAHA Ron! You’re awesome.
But wait SORRY, someone more awesome has just shown up and I think we can all guess who it is.
UPSTAGED BY HERMIONE GRANGER. Get used to it, Weasley.
“You mustn’t go wandering around the school at night,” Hermione says. “Think of the points you’ll lose Gryffindor if you’re caught, and you’re bound to be.” She finishes her little rant up like a dream with “It’s really very selfish of you.”
TELL IT LIKE IT IS, HERMIONE.
Harry snaps back at her with “And it’s really none of your business,” Ron goes one further, saying simply “Good-bye.”
I sort of want to smack them for dissing Hermione, but their cluelessness is kind of adorable. We all know they’re both going to wind up thinking she’s the best thing since sliced best.
Later that night. Harry and Ron pull on their bathrobes before heading off for the duel and okay, a) I bet that’s dressing gowns in the original, and b) I love dressing gowns with all my little heart, but who goes to duel in them, seriously guys, I don’t care that you’re eleven and British, that is just ridiculous. (And okay, it’s a bit cute.)
Heather says: I never realized how dangerous this really was until Sophy’s dressing gown tried to maim her.
Sophy says: SLIPPERY LITTLE SUCKERS.
Harry and Ron are creeping through the Gryffindor common room when a voice speaks from the chair nearest to them.
“I can’t believe you’re going to do this, Harry.”
A lamp flickers on. It’s Hermione Granger, wearing a pink dressing gown and a frown.
Oh lord. I just about died at this point. As if her creepy mafia boss act wasn’t awesome enough, she’s also in a dressing gown? And it’s pink? And she’s not going to a duel?
Here Hermione, I made you a teeshirt that says King and Queen of the World. You can wear it under your dressing gown, people shouldn’t need to read it to know.
Seriously, can I just say that I think this was the first time I flailed whilst reading these books. The mental image of this little girl suddenly speaking in darkness and then the light flickering on and she’s all stern and in a dressing gown omg. Tell me, gentle readers, how could I not flail?
Rin says: And we wonder why they never answer, ‘Yes,’ when we propose.
Sophy says: LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU. My arms are wrapped around my head six times.
The boys are not flailing. Ron tells her “furiously” to go back to bed, Harry can’t believe anyone could be so “interfering.”
They carry on their merry way and Hermione follows them through the portrait hole, ranting about house points and how they’ll lose all the ones she’s earned, and somehow winds up getting herself locked out of Gryffindor tower so that she has to go with them.
OH I SEE. Convenient.
They run into Neville on the way who is “curled up on the floor, fast asleep.” Turns out he forgot the password for the portrait hole and couldn’t get in to go to bed and I love him, I love him, I love him. *squirts water pistol*
His broken wrist is fine by the way, in case anyone is wondering. Madam Pomfrey mended it “in a minute”. And gosh, I wonder how long a reverse-disemboweling takes her? A cool half an hour?
Anyway Neville can’t get back into the tower either, because password or no password, if Hermione can’t figure it out, there’s no way an adorable little duffer like Neville would be able to. And so now they are four.
At this point Hermione is amazing again. She threatens to use the Curse of the Bogies on Ron and Harry if they get caught and then…
“Hermione opened her mouth, perhaps to tell Ron exactly how to use the Curse of the Bogies, but Harry hissed at her to be quiet and beckoned them all forward.”
Seriously, Hermione just leaps off the page. She is a delight to read.
They get to the trophy room and get busy waiting for Malfoy and his second Crabbe to show up.
Unfortunately Filch and Mrs Norris show up first and they wind up having to bolt.
Hermione, because she’s the sharpest knife in this drawer by far, cottons onto the fact that Malfoy tricked Harry – he was never going to meet them, and simply set them up to be caught by Filch.
Harry thinks she’s probably right, but he’s not going to tell her that. IT’S OKAY HARRY, SHE DOESN’T NEED YOUR SEAL OF APPROVAL.
Whilst fleeing they run into Peeves the poltergeist, and he’s creepy as hell for a while and then bellows that there are students out of bed.
They slam into a door that is locked and can hear Filch running towards them. Ron declares that they’re done for and Hermione is all exasperated and brilliant; she whispers ‘Alohomora!’ and the locked door opens.
Unfortunately, they’ve stumbled into the forbidden corridor on the third floor, and it turns out there’s a giant, three-headed dog in it. Oh noes.
They gaze in horror upon its “three drooling mouths” and the “saliva hanging in slippery ropes from yellowish fangs.”
Ew, Rowling, just ew. I approve.
They rush back out of the room, and all the way back to the portrait of the Fat Lady.
When they get there they’re all sweaty and silent and traumatised. No one speaks for a while. And then we get this gem from Ron: “What do they think they’re doing, keeping a thing like that locked up in a school? If any dog needs exercise, that one does.”
True to form though Hermione upstages him instantly by having “both her breath and her bad temper back again.”
She’s also the only one who noticed that the beast was standing on a trapdoor, and deduces from this that it’s guarding something.
She tells Harry and Ron she hopes they’re pleased with themselves – “We could all have been killed – or worse, expelled. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.”
“No, we don’t mind,” says Ron. “You’d think we dragged her along, wouldn’t you?”
CUTE CUTE CUTE. I feel the friendship building.
Harry isn’t in the mood for cute banter though. He is all about the srs bsns, and he goes to bed thinking about the dog and the trapdoor and how Hagrid said Gringotts was the safest place in the world for something you wanted to hide – except perhaps Hogwarts.
He guesses that what’s hidden under that trapdoor is the grubby little package from vault seven hundred and thirteen, and the chapter ends on a note of grim determination and an unspoken promise to investigate further.
And um, wait a minute, why is this any of his business? Man, he’s a nosy little thing, isn’t he?
I think he gets it from his Aunt.