CHAPTER 9 – The Midnight Duel
The first year’s were to receive flying lessons and to Harry’s dismay the
Gryffindor and Slytherin pupils would learn together.
First year’s were not allowed to have broomsticks of their own, but that
didn’t stop them practicing at home and Malfoy had already been boasting about his prowess, and Harry dreaded making a fool of himself in front of the rest of the boys, most of whom had already tried flying. Most of
those in the wizard community enjoyed the game of Quidditch, and this was a main talking point, and Harry felt he would be excluded because he knew so little about flying on a broomstick. The only other pupil
who didn’t seem to have any experience was Neville, which was understandable as he was always having accidents ‘even with both feet on the ground’.
The teacher was Madam Hooch and she told them to stand by brooms, which were
laid out in lines on the grass.
She told them to stick out their right hand and call to their broom, “Up”. Much to Harry’s surprise, the broom responded, while most of the others stayed motionless or rolled sideways. Harry thought it was all about confidence. Once the class had mastered this, Madam Hooch described how to take off. Neville couldn’t wait, and was soon flying out of control and he fell on the grass in a heap breaking both his wrists. Madam Hooch told the boys to remain where they were while she took Neville to the hospital wing.
The Slytherin boys laughed at Neville’s mishap. Malfoy noticed that a
glass ball full of white snow, an ornament had fallen out of Neville’s pocket. He decided he would place this on top of a tree and taking his broomstick, he flew away. Before Harry knew what he was
doing, he had taken off after Malfoy. He was filled with “a rush of fierce joy.
He realized he had found something he could do without being taught”. He was now on at least equal terms with Malfoy, who was amazed at Harry’s abilities on the broom. Harry threatened Malfoy that he would knock him off unless he returned the glass ball. Instead, he threw it away, but Harry sped off after it and caught it before it hit the ground. This had been witnessed by Professor McGonagall who shouted at Harry and dragged him off, much to Malfoy’s delight.
A series of bad thoughts flashed through Harry’s mind, but he was sure he
would be expelled.
The Professor took him into an empty classroom and a fifth year boy called Wood joined them. Wood was the Captain of the house Quidditch team and the Professor advised Wood that she had found the team a seeker. She explained that Harry was a natural. They would have to bend the rules to allow a first year to play in the team, but the Professor would speak to the Headmaster concerning this. Harry learned that Fred and George Weasley were also on the team and they welcomed Harry on board. Harry now felt that he was a true member of the school.
Later, he ran into Malfoy and his friends and Malfoy challenged Harry to a
wizard’s duel, and Ron accepted on Harry’s behalf, saying that he would be Harry’s second. It was agreed they would meet in the trophy room at midnight.
Hermione Granger had heard the conversation, and told them they must not go
because if they were caught they would lose more points for the house.
In the middle of the night Ron and Harry started to leave the Gryffindor
Common Room where Hermione confronted them. She was trying to persuade them not to go and she followed them out of the round door. When she turned to re-enter, she noticed that the fat lady had left the
picture, so she was trapped outside.
They came across Neville whose broken wrists had been cured, but he had forgotten the password to get in. The four made their way to the trophy room, but they soon realized it was a trap because they could hear Filch and Mrs. Norris waiting for them, but they were lost. It didn’t help that Peeves, the poltergeist discovered them and starting shouting out ‘Students, out of bed’.
The four kept running until they came to a locked door. Hermione took
Harry’s wand and unlocked the door. They entered and closed the door behind them.
They were in the forbidden corridor, and facing them was a monstrous dog with three heads. “Three pairs of rolling, mad eyes; three noses, twitching and quivering in their direction; three drooling mouths, saliva hanging in slippery ropes from yellowish fangs.” They decided to exit quickly expecting to meet Fitch, but he wasn’t there. More by luck than design they made their way back to the Common Room and Ron said, “If any dog needs exercise, that one does.” Then Hermione brought to their attention that the dog didn’t chase them. Its job was to sit on the trapdoor that the rest hadn’t noticed. Harry realized the significance of this. The dog was guarding something - what Hagrid had obtained from Gringotts Bank.
This Chapter marks a turning point for Harry. He realizes that he does
have powers, and he has a natural ability in being able to fly a broomstick. This is a central element and will enable him to become an important member of his house and the school. The inference is that
he will be a good Quidditch player.
The mystery concerning the package deepens. Is the dog guarding this
item, and what is its significance?
The tension in this Chapter has been slowly increasing and Rowling achieves
this by her description of the chase at midnight through the school culminating in the face-to-face meeting with the dog.
Our gang of four escapes, and the tension is immediately released through Ron’s comic line concerning the dog needing exercise.