Falling from a Room
Harry had never believed he would meet a boy who acted like Dudley that he liked, but that was before he met Draco Malfoy. It was amazing, really. Despite how much everyone else hated Draco, they had a quite civil relationship. Draco had told him about his views during potions class, and they all seemed repugnant; but the boy himself was quite charming. Some people complained about his attitude, but Draco never acted up in front of Harry; the worst he did was to ignore Ron entirely, which suited Ron fine.
One morning, Harry and Ron spotted a notice pinned up in the Gryffindor common room that made Harry cheer and Ron groan. Flying lessons would be starting on Thursday, Gryffindor and Slytherin together. Harry had been looking forward to learning to fly more than anything else, but was still worried. "Just what I always wanted," he lamented. "To make a fool of myself in front of the whole school. Draco will probably be ashamed of being my friend."
"You don't know that you'll make a fool of yourself," said Ron reasonably. "And he should be ashamed; of himself, for being who he is. Anyway, I know people always going on about how good they are at Quidditch, but I bet that's all talk."
Draco, at least, certainly did talk about flying a lot. He complained loudly about first years not being allowed on the Quidditch teams and told long stories that always seemed to end with him flying at top speed away from exploding Muggle buildings. He wasn't the only one, though: the way Seamus Finnegan told it, he had spent most of his childhood zooming around the countryside. Everyone from wizarding families talked about Quidditch constantly. Dean Thomas had had a big argument with Seamus over soccer; Seamus had said he couldn't see the excitement of a game that only had one ball and was played on the ground.
Neville dragged Hermione and Ginny from the Ravenclaw table over to ask them about it. It turned out that Neville had never been on a broomstick in his life, because his Mum had never let him near one. Harry wondered why; Neville said that he was clumsy, but Harry hadn't seen him have any accidents. Well, none outside of Potions class, anyway. Hermione was almost as nervous about flying as Neville was. This was something you couldn't learn by heart out of a book - not that she hadn't tried. At breakfast on Thursday she bored them all stupid with flying tips she'd gotten out of a library book called Quidditch Through the Ages. Neville was hanging on to her every word, desperate for anything that might help him hang on to his broomstick later, but everybody else was very pleased when Hermione's lecture was interrupted by the arrival of the mail.
Harry hadn't had a single letter since Hagrid's note, something that Hermione had been very sympathetic about. He supposed that Mr. Lupin might indeed in a different country, but he had hoped to hear back by now. After all, Electrum had taken him the letter in just a day.
A barn owl brought Neville a small package from his Mum. He opened it excitedly, but was somewhat disappointed by the contents. He showed them a glass ball the size of a large marble, which seemed to be full of white smoke. "It's a Remembrall," he explained. "Mum always worries about me forgetting stuff – this tells you if there's something you've forgotten to do. Look, you hold it tight like this and if it turns red you've forgotten something." He peered through the perfectly clear sphere and grinned. "Haven't forgotten anything right now, though."
Neville began passing Draco Malfoy, who was passing the Gryffindor table, snatched the Remembrall out of his hand. Professor McGonagall, who could spot trouble quicker than any other teacher in the school, was there in a flash. "What's going on?"
"Malfoy's got my Remembrall, Professor." Scowling, Malfoy quickly dropped the Remembrall back on the table.
"Don't do that, Draco," Harry said reproachfully, and Draco sighed before slouching away.
Shortly after that, Harry was delighted by the appearance of a rather ragged-looking barn owl, who was being supported by a larger, sturdier screech owl. The barn owl dropped a letter in front of Harry before flying, quite unsteadily, back up to the Owlery.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Thank you for writing to me. I wanted to contact you earlier, as I feel your parents would have wanted me to watch over you and guide you as you grew, but Dumbledore requested that I not, so that you might grow in a normal environment, not corrupted by your fame.
I have been in America for the past ten years, and so I apologize for the delay you likely had in receiving this letter. I would fill up several rolls of parchment describing your father to you, but I fear that my owl would savage me if I tried, and besides, I think there is a more expedient way. I can, now that you've contacted me, return to England. I will come to stay in Hogsmeade, where I can visit you and tell you all about him in person; unless you have any objection, of course, in which case I'll go with the several rolls of parchment.
As far as book recommendations go, I was never quite as good at your father at Transfiguration, and your mother of course outshone all of us at Charms. I wouldn't worry too much about them, and simply be confident in the talents you've probably inherited; however, if you insist, I recommend Free Transfiguration, by Dumbledore himself, and The Book of the Animagi, which you might find interesting.
Your father always had few close friends, but those he had were very close indeed. I consider myself privileged to have been one of them. His only other close friends were Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black. I will save most of this subject for our meeting, if you do desire that; however, as I find the subject of Black a painful one, I will cover that now. He was a spy for Voldemort, his chief spy on our side, and yet he remained highly trusted by us. He was a consummate actor, so much that he was even made the only person to know your parents' location when they went into hiding with you, to escape Voldemort.
(Do not misunderstand me; your parents were heroes, and would have gladly fought Voldemort to their deaths, but they were unwilling to risk you. When they heard that Voldemort was planning on coming for them, they decided to go into hiding to protect you.)
A mere three days after they disappeared, Voldemort came to your parents' hidden home, where only Black could've revealed them. There is a charm which hides things, which is too complicated to explain here; but suffice to say that without Black's help, Voldemort could have pressed his nose up against your window without seeing you and your parents.
After Voldemort was vanquished, Black was revealed as a traitor. Peter went after him, out of his mind with grief, and was killed. Black blew Peter to bits, along with twelve Muggles. There were enough witnesses that he was sent to Azkaban, the wizarding prison, without trial. He has been there for nearly ten years now, and his sentence was for life.
But enough of that. What do you think of the prospect of meeting me? And don't think that I just want to see James' and Lily's son; I want to know all about you.
Harry sat back, emotions whirling within him. He was obviously ecstatic about the idea of meeting with Lupin, and would send a letter telling him so. But something didn't seem quite right about the whole Black situation.
The facts seemed clear enough. Some secrecy charm had been cast, so only Black could reveal the location, but Black had been a traitor, and thus caused his parents death. But there was something about the story that didn't sit right with Harry. He couldn't tell if there was some inconsistency his mind had seized upon, or something else.
Not able to decide, Harry showed the letter to Ron. "Wow," he commented. "I never knew that about Black. I mean, I knew he hadn't gotten a trial, but I didn't know he was the one who let out your mum and dad's location."
However, Harry was no longer listening. Ron had inadvertently remarked upon what was bothering Harry. Black hadn't gotten a trial. Harry had a well-developed sense of justice, as a result of it being denied to him so much by the Dursleys, and had found out quite a bit about it in his muggle days. And one of the things he knew, with a solid, immutable, rock-hard certainty, was that everyone, everyone, had a right to a trial.
Now knowing his problem, Harry immediately scribbled down a quick response to Lupin.
Dear Mr. Lupin,
I hope you can come here soon. I'm eager to meet you, and of course I'll tell you all about me.
One thing bothers me, though. Why didn't Black get a trial? I mean, I know that there were witnesses and everything, but what if he had been under the Imperia curse, or whatever it's called, like Draco's (Draco Malfoy) dad was. At the very least, he should have been given a truth potion, to find out how much he had told the Death Eaters. I think that's a travesty of justice, and that we should raise up a stink about it until he gets one. Even just a dose of truth serum and a questioning would do.
He called for Electrum and sent it off with him, watching him fly with a wistful expression. The Dursleys would be happy to be rid of him, and he couldn't shake the idea that Remus Lupin would be happy to take him. Surely, his father's friend would rescue him.
At three-thirty that afternoon, Harry, Neville, and the other Gryffindors hurried down the front steps onto the grounds for their first flying lesson. It was a clear, breezy day, and the grass rippled under their feet as they marched down the sloping lawns toward a smooth, flat lawn on the opposite side of the grounds to the forbidden forest, whose trees were swaying darkly in the distance. The Slytherins were already there, and so were twenty broomsticks lying in neat lines on the ground. Harry had heard Fred and George Weasley complain about the school brooms, saying that some of them started to vibrate if you flew too high, or always flew slightly to the left.
Their teacher, Madam Hooch, touched down as they arrived, having flown in from the direction of the lake. She had short, gray hair, and bright yellow eyes like a hawk.
"Well, what are you all waiting for?" she barked. "Everyone stand by a broomstick. Come on, hurry up." Harry glanced down at his broom. It was old and some of the twigs stuck out at odd angles. "Stick out your right hand over your broom," called Madam Hooch at the front, "and say 'UP!"'
"UP!" everyone shouted.
Harry's broom jumped into his hand at once, but it was one of the few that did. Hermione's had simply rolled over on the ground, and Neville's hadn't moved at all. Perhaps brooms, like horses, could tell when you were afraid, thought Harry; there was a quaver in Neville's voice that said only too clearly that he wanted to keep his feet on the ground. Ginny and Ron, however, had both brought their brooms up slowly with their calls.
Madam Hooch then showed them how to mount their brooms without sliding off the end, and walked up and down the rows correcting their grips. "Now, when I blow my whistle, you kick off from the ground, hard," said Madam Hooch when she was finished. "Keep your brooms steady, rise a few feet, and then come straight back down by leaning forward slightly. On my whistle… three… two…"
But Neville, rather nervous, jumped up before Hooch blew the whistle.. "Come back, boy!" she shouted, but Neville was rising straight up like a cork shot out of a bottle… ten feet… twenty feet... Harry saw his scared white face look down at the ground falling away, saw him gasp, slip sideways off the broom and…
Neville lay face down on the grass in a heap. His broomstick was still rising, and started to drift lazily toward the forbidden forest and out of sight. Madam Hooch was bending over Neville, surprisingly calm despite his white face.
"Broken wrist," Harry heard her mutter. "Come on, boy - it's all right, up you get."
She turned to the rest of the class. "None of you is to move while I take this boy to the hospital wing! You leave those brooms where they are or you'll be out of Hogwarts before you can say 'Quidditch.' Come on, dear."
Neville, clutching his wrist, walked off with Madam Hooch, who had her arm around him. No sooner were they out of earshot than Draco burst into laughter. "Did you see his face, the great lump?" The other Slytherins joined in.
"Shut up, Malfoy," snapped Lavander.
"Ooh, sticking up for Longbottom?" said Pansy Parkinson, a hard-faced Slytherin girl. "Never thought you'd like fat little crybabies, Brown."
"Look!" Draco said, darting forward and snatching something out of the grass. "It's that stupid thing Longbottom's mum sent him." The Remembrall glittered in the sun as he held it up.
"Oh, shut it Draco," Harry said lazily. "Neville's a pureblood, remember? You're not supposed to have anything against him."
Draco's face flushed a delicate pink. "I wouldn't, but he's practically a squib," he said quickly. "A disgrace to the name of pureblood, if you ask me."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "He's not, really," he said. "I don't know what you've heard, but he only has a little trouble with the magic, and that's because he has someone else's wand. His great-uncle's, I think. I'm buying him a new one for Christmas."
"And how would you know that?" sneered another Slytherin girl, Millicent Bulstrode.
Harry threw up his hands. "We're in the same house, for God's– I mean, for Merlin's sake. I really don't know why you hang out with these people, Draco. Anyway, why don't you give the Remembrall to me or Ron? We'll return it."
Draco looked thoughtful. "How about a contest?" he said finally. "If I win, I keep it, and… oh, fine," he said, seeing the look on Harry's face. "If I win, I'll just tease him about it at dinner and give it back. If you win, Weasley can give it back, and just say that it fell from his pocket."
Harry narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "What kind of contest did you have in mind?"
"A Seeking contest," Draco said flatly. "Someone impartial will drop it from, say, a hundred feet, and we'll both try to catch it, starting from the same place."
"And who here'll be impartial?" Ron demanded. "No one would back you over Harry unless they were a Slytherin."
Draco gave Ron a withering look. "Oh, look who it is. For your information, Weasley, not all Slytherins are pals. Nott there hates me and Lord Potter both, he's the best we'll get." Theodore Nott looked annoyed at being singled out, but nodded his agreement.
"Hold on a second!" Dean Thomas shouted. "The Remembrall is made of glass! If neither of you gets it, it'll break!"
Nott sighed. "Thomas," he said testily, "what exactly can you do to make something unbreakable?"
Dean blinked. "Well, I guess you could use magic… oh." The Slytherins laughed, and so did everyone else after Dean grinned a little at his own foolishness.
Harry and Draco flew up with Nott, rising quickly through the air. In a rush of fierce joy Harry realized he'd found something he could do without being taught - this was easy, this was wonderful. He pulled his broomstick up a little to take it even higher, and heard screams and gasps of girls back on the ground and an admiring whoop from Ron. He turned his broomstick sharply to face Draco in midair. The blonde boy looked stunned, but then grinned.
"Maybe this won't be so easy after all, Potter!" Draco teased.
Harry saw, as though in slow motion, the ball rise up in the air and then start to fall. He leaned forward and pointed his broom handle straight down; next second he was gathering speed in a steep dive, racing the glittering ball; wind whistled in his ears, mingled with the screams of people watching; he stretched out his hand; a foot from the ground he caught it, just in time to pull his broom straight, and he toppled gently onto the grass with the Remembrall safely in his hand. He stood and tossed the Remembrall to Ron. Glancing around, Harry saw that Draco had not dived as fast as he, and was now hopping easily off his broom, an amazed look on his face. Ron was ecstatic, and -
His heart sank faster than he'd just dived. Professor Flitwick was running toward them. He got to his feet, trembling.
"I… you… might have broken your back…" Professor Flitwick was trembling with anger, and the grass around his feet was flat for several feet and beginning to smolder.
"It wasn't his fault, Professor -"
"Be quiet, Miss Brown."
"But Malfoy -"
"That's enough, Mr. Weasley. Potter, follow me, now. Mr. Malfoy, rest assured that I will be speaking to Professor Snape about this."
Harry caught sight of Draco's stricken face as he left, walking numbly in Professor Flitwick's wake as he strode toward the castle. He was going to be expelled, he just knew it. He wanted to say something to defend himself, but there seemed to be something wrong with his voice. Flitwick was scooting along without even looking at him; he had to jog to keep up. Now he'd done it. He hadn't even lasted two weeks. He'd be packing his bags in ten minutes. What would the Dursleys say when he turned up on the doorstep?
Up the front steps, up the marble staircase inside, and Flitwick didn't say a word to him. He slammed open doors and marched along corridors with Harry trotting miserably behind him. Maybe he was taking him to Dumbledore. He thought of Hagrid, who Ron had said was expelled but allowed to stay on as gamekeeper. Perhaps he could be Hagrid's assistant. His stomach twisted as he imagined it, watching Neville and the others becoming wizards, while he stumped around the grounds carrying Hagrid's bag.
Professor Flitwick stopped outside a classroom. He flicked his hand, causing the door to swing open, and beckoned Harry inside. Harry sat on a wooden chair that appeared in front of the desk as Flitwick sat behind it.
Instead of expelling him, though, Flitwick just removed his small glasses and buffed them, sighing. "Harry," he said rather sadly, "I’m certain that Madam Hooch warned you all not to go flying. Why did you and Mr. Malfoy feel the need to go flying without any instruction?"
Harry blinked. "He had Neville's Remembrall, Professor," he said, looking down. "He challenged me to a contest to get it back without Neville finding out. And it's not like I didn't do fine, right?"
Professor Flitwick nodded. "That's true, you did do well. It seems you are a natural on a broom; your father was the same way. I think we may have to see about bending the rules for first-years on the house teams, they’re only for safety anyway. But you will receive a punishment for this," he warned. "I think that ten points and a detention with Madam Hooch will do nicely."
Harry furrowed his brow. "Madam Hooch said that we would be expelled," he ventured cautiously.
Flitwick laughed. "No, students only get expelled for actual illegal doings," he told Harry. "It's just a threat. So, ten points, a detention, and…" he smiled. "Five points for helping a fellow student."
Harry returned to the Great Hall for lunch several minutes later, and was waylaid by Draco.
"Harry!" said Draco, relief evident in his voice. "You're clearly not expelled, but… what happened?"
"Well," Harry drawled, "After he disemboweled me and put me back together like a jigsaw puzzle, Professor Flitwick took me to the astronomy tower and dropped me, turning me into a spider as he did. When I finally got the bottom, I was understandably traumatized, and I am never going on a broom again." At this, Draco stood there flabbergasted, until Ron, coming up behind Harry, could no longer hold in his laughter.
"The look on your face!" he said, gasping for breath. "Like a stunned ferret! Hahaha!"
Draco scowled. "No, what really happened?"
Harry chuckled. "I might be getting onto the Quidditch team." Draco's eyes widened, and Harry was forced to tell the whole story.
"How about you?" Harry asked when he was finished. "Has Professor Snape talked to you yet?"
Ron snorted. "Probably let him off scott free," he grumbled.
Draco shook his head. "He took ten points and gave me a detention with Madam Hooch."
"That's what I got!" Harry exclaimed. "I wonder when the detentions are..."