Malfoy couldn't believe his eyes when he saw that Harry and Ronwere still at Hogwarts the next day, looking tired but perfectlycheerful. Indeed, by the next morning Harry and Ron thought thatmeeting the three-headed dog had been an excellent adventure, andthey were quite keen to have another one. In the meantime, Harryfilled Ron in about the package that seemed to have been movedfrom Gringotts to Hogwarts, and they spent a lot of time wonderingwhat could possibly need such heavy protection. "It's either reallyvaluable or really dangerous," said Ron. "Or both," said Harry. But as all they knew for sure about the mysterious object wasthat it was about two inches long, they didn't have much chance ofguessing what it was without further clues. Neither Neville nor Hermione showed the slightest interest inwhat lay underneath the dog and the trapdoor. All Neville caredabout was never going near the dog again. Hermione was now refusing to speak to Harry and Ron, but she wassuch a bossy know-it-all that they saw this as an added bonus. Allthey really wanted now was a way of getting back at Malfoy, and totheir great delight, just such a thing arrived in the mail abouta week later. As the owls flooded into the Great Hall as usual, everyone'sattention was caught at once by a long, thin package carried bysix large screech owls. Harry was just as interested as everyoneelse to see what was in this large parcel, and was amazed when theowls soared down and dropped it right in front of him, knockinghis bacon to the floor. They had hardly fluttered out of the waywhen another owl dropped a letter on top of the parcel. Harry ripped open the letter first, which was lucky, becauseit said: DO NOT OPEN THE PARCEL AT THE TABLE. It contains your new Nimbus Two Thousand, but I don't wanteverybody knowing you've got a broomstick or they'll all wantone. Oliver Wood will meet you tonight on the Quidditch field atseven o'clock for your first training session. Professor McGonagall Harry had difficulty hiding his glee as he handed the note toRon to read. "A Nimbus Two Thousand!" Ron moaned enviously. "I've never eventouched one." They left the hall quickly, wanting to unwrap the broomstick inprivate before their first class, but halfway across the entrancehall they found the way upstairs barred by Crabbe and Goyle. Malfoyseized the package from Harry and felt it. "That's a broomstick," he said, throwing it back to Harry witha mixture of jealousy and spite on his face. "You'll be in for itthis time, Potter, first years aren't allowed them." Ron couldn't resist it. "It's not any old broomstick," he said, "it's a Nimbus TwoThousand. What did you say you've got at home, Malfoy, a Comet TwoSixty?" Ron grinned at Harry. "Comets look flashy, but they're notin the same league as the Nimbus." "What would you know about it, Weasley, you couldn't afford halfthe handle," Malfoy snapped back. "I suppose you and your brothershave to save up twig by twig." Before Ron could answer, Professor Flitwick appeared atMalfoy's elbow. "Not arguing, I hope, boys?" he squeaked. "Potter's been sent a broomstick, Professor," said Malfoyquickly. "Yes, yes, that's right," said Professor Flitwick, beamingat Harry. "Professor McGonagall told me all about the specialcircumstances, Potter. And what model is it?" "A Nimbus Two Thousand, sit," said Harry, fighting not to laughat the look of horror on Malfoy's face. "And it's really thanks toMalfoy here that I've got it," he added. Harry and Ron headed upstairs, smothering their laughter atMalfoy's obvious rage and confusion. "Well, it's true," Harrychortled as they reached the top of the marble staircase, "If hehadn't stolen Neville's Remembrall I wouln't be on the team...." "So I suppose you think that's a reward for breaking rules?" camean angry voice from just behind them. Hermione was stomping up thestairs, looking disapprovingly at the package in Harry's hand. "I thought you weren't speaking to us?" said Harry. "Yes, don't stop now," said Ron, "it's doing us so much good." Hermione marched away with her nose in the air. Harry had a lot of trouble keeping his mind on his lessons thatday. It kept wandering up to the dormitory where his new broomstickwas lying under his bed, or straying off to the Quidditch fieldwhere he'd be learning to play that night. He bolted his dinnerthat evening without noticing what he was eating, and then rushedupstairs with Ron to unwrap the Nimbus Two Thousand at last. "Wow," Ron sighed, as the broomstick rolled onto Harry'sbedspread. Even Harry, who knew nothing about the different brooms, thoughtit looked wonderful. Sleek and shiny, with a mahogany handle, ithad a long tail of neat, straight twigs and Nimbus Two Thousandwritten in gold near the top. As seven o'clock drew nearer, Harry left the castle and set offin the dusk toward the Quidditch field. Held never been inside thestadium before. Hundreds of seats were raised in stands around thefield so that the spectators were high enough to see what was goingon. At either end of the field were three golden poles with hoopson the end. They reminded Harry of the little plastic sticks Muggle children blew bubbles through, except that they were fiftyfeet high. Too eager to fly again to wait for Wood, Harry mounted hisbroomstick and kicked off from the ground. What a feeling -- heswooped in and out of the goal posts and then sped up and down thefield. The Nimbus Two Thousand turned wherever he wanted at hislightest touch. "Hey, Potter, come down!' Oliver Wood had arrived. fie was carrying a large wooden crateunder his arm. Harry landed next to him. "Very nice," said Wood, his eyes glinting. "I see what McGonagallmeant... you really are a natural. I'm just going to teach youthe rules this evening, then you'll be joining team practice threetimes a week." He opened the crate. Inside were four different-sized balls. "Right," said Wood. "Now, Quidditch is easy enough to understand,even if it's not too easy to play. There are seven players on eachside. Three of them are called Chasers." "Three Chasers," Harry repeated, as Wood took out a bright redball about the size of a soccer ball. "This ball's called the Quaffle," said Wood. "The Chasersthrow the Quaffle to each other and try and get it through one ofthe hoops to score a goal. Ten points every time the Quaffle goesthrough one of the hoops. Follow me?" "The Chasers throw the Quaffle and put it through the hoopsto score," Harry recited. "So -- that's sort of like basketball onbroomsticks with six hoops, isn't it?" "What's basketball?" said Wood curiously. "Never mind," saidHarry quickly. "Now, there's another player on each side who's called theKeeper -I'm Keeper for Gryffindor. I have to fly around our hoopsand stop the other team from scoring." "Three Chasers, one Keeper," said Harry, who was determinedto remember it all. "And they play with the Quaffle. Okay, gotthat. So what are they for?" He pointed at the three balls leftinside the box. "I'll show you now," said Wood. "Take this." He handed Harry a small club, a bit like a short baseball bat. "I'm going to show you what the Bludgers do," Wood said. "Thesetwo are the Bludgers." He showed Harry two identical balls, jet black and slightlysmaller than the red Quaffle. Harry noticed that they seemed to bestraining to escape the straps holding them inside the box. "Stand back," Wood warned Harry. He bent down and freed one ofthe Bludgers. At once, the black ball rose high in the air and then peltedstraight at Harry's face. Harry swung at it with the bat to stop itfrom breaking his nose, and sent it zigzagging away into the air --it zoomed around their heads and then shot at Wood, who dived ontop of it and managed to pin it to the ground. "See?" Wood panted, forcing the struggling Bludger back into thecrate and strapping it down safely. "The Bludgers rocket around,trying to knock players off their brooms. That's why you have twoBeaters on each team -- the Weasley twins are ours -- it's theirjob to protect their side from the Bludgers and try and knock themtoward the other team. So -- think you've got all that?" "Three Chasers try and score with the Quaffle; the Keeper guardsthe goal posts; the Beaters keep the Bludgers away from their team,"Harry reeled off. "Very good," said Wood. "Er -- have the Bludgers ever killed anyone?" Harry asked,hoping he sounded offhand. "Never at Hogwarts. We've had a couple of broken jaws butnothing worse than that. Now, the last member of the team is the Seeker. That's you. And you don't have to worry about theQuaffle or the Bludgers unless they crack my head open." "Don't worry, the Weasleys are more than a match for the Bludgers-- I mean, they're like a pair of human Bludgers themselves." Wood reached into the crate and took out the fourth and lastball. Compared with the Quaffle and the Bludgers, it was tiny,about the size of a large walnut. It was bright gold and had littlefluttering silver wings. "This," said Wood, "is the Golden Snitch, and it's the mostimportant ball of the lot. It's very hard to catch because it'sso fast and difficult to see. It's the Seeker's job to catchit. You've got to weave in and out of the Chasers, Beaters,Bludgers, and Quaffle to get it before the other team's Seeker,because whichever Seeker catches the Snitch wins his team an extrahundred and fifty points, so they nearly always win. That's why Seekers get fouled so much. A gameof Quidditch only ends when the Snitch is caught, so it can go onfor ages -- I think the record is three months, they had to keepbringing on substitutes so the players could get some sleep. "Well,that's it -- any questions?" Harry shook his head. He understood what he had to do all right,it was doing it that was going to be the problem. "We won't practice with the Snitch yet," said Wood, carefullyshutting it back inside the crate, "it's too dark, we might loseit. Let's try you out with a few of these." He pulled a bag of ordinary golf balls out of his pocket and afew minutes later, he and Harry were up in the air, Wood throwing thegolf balls as hard as he could in every direction for Harry to catch. Harry didn't miss a single one, and Wood was delighted. Afterhalf an hour, night had really fallen and they couldn't carry on. "That Quidditch cup'll have our name on it this year," saidWood happily as they trudged back up to the castle. "I wouldn'tbe surprised if you turn out better than Charlie Weasley, and hecould have played for England if he hadn't gone off chasing dragons." Perhaps it was because he was now so busy, what with Quidditchpractice three evenings a week on top of all his homework, butHarry could hardly believe it when he realized that he'd alreadybeen at Hogwarts two months. The castle felt more like home thanPrivet Drive ever had. His lessons, too, were becoming more andmore interesting now that they had mastered the basics. On Halloween morning they woke to the delicious smell of bakingpumpkin wafting through the corridors. Even better, ProfessorFlitwick announced in Charms that he thought they were readyto start making objects fly, something they had all been dyingto try since they'd seen him make Neville's toad zoom aroundthe classroom. Professor Flitwick put the class into pairs topractice. Harry's partner was Seamus Finnigan (which was a relief,because Neville had been trying to catch his eye). Ron, however,was to be working with Hermione Granger. It was hard to tell whetherRon or Hermione was angrier about this. She hadn't spoken to eitherof them since the day Harry's broomstick had arrived. "Now, don't forget that nice wrist movement we've beenpracticing!" squeaked Professor Flitwick, perched on top of hispile of books as usual. "Swish and flick, remember, swish andflick. And saying the magic words properly is very important,too -- never forget Wizard Baruffio, who said 's' instead of 'f'and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest." It was very difficult. Harry and Seamus swished and flicked,but the feather they were supposed to be sending skyward just layon the desktop. Seamus got so impatient that he prodded it withhis wand and set fire to it -- Harry had to put it out with his hat. Ron, at the next table, wasn't having much more luck. "Wingardium Leviosa!" he shouted, waving his long arms likea windmill. "You're saying it wrong," Harry heard Hermione snap. "It'sWing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa, make the 'gar' nice and long." "You do it, then, if you're so clever," Ron snarled. Hermione rolled up the sleeves of her gown, flicked her wand,and said, "Wingardium Leviosa!" Their feather rose off the desk and hovered about four feetabove their heads. "Oh, well done!" cried Professor Flitwick, clapping. "Everyonesee here, Miss Granger's done it!" Ron was in a very bad mood by the end of the class. "It's nowonder no one can stand her," he said to Harry as they pushed theirway into the crowded corridor, "she's a nightmare, honestly. " Someone knocked into Harry as they hurried past him. It wasHermione. Harry caught a glimpse of her face -- and was startledto see that she was in tears. "I think she heard you." "So?" said Ron, but he looked a bit uncomfortable. "She must'venoticed she's got no friends." Hermione didn't turn up for the next class and wasn't seen allafternoon. On their way down to the Great Hall for the Halloweenfeast, Harry and Ron overheard Parvati Patil telling her friendLavender that Hermione was crying in the girls' bathroom and wantedto be left alone. Ron looked still more awkward at this, but amoment later they had entered the Great Hall, where the Halloweendecorations put Hermione out of their minds. A thousand live bats fluttered from the walls and ceiling whilea thousand more swooped over the tables in low black clouds, makingthe candles in the pumpkins stutter. The feast appeared suddenlyon the golden plates, as it had at the start-of-term banquet. Harry was just helping himself to a baked potato when ProfessorQuirrell came sprinting into the hall, his turban askew and terror onhis face. Everyone stared as he reached Professor Dumbledore's chair,slumped against the table, and gasped, "Troll -- in the dungeons --thought you ought to know." He then sank to the floor in a dead faint. There was an uproar. It took several purple firecrackersexploding from the end of Professor Dumbledore's wand to bringsilence. "Prefects," he rumbled, "lead your Houses back to the dormitoriesimmediately!" Percy was in his element. "Follow me! Stick together, first years! No need to fear thetroll if you follow my orders! Stay close behind me, now. Make way,first years coming through! Excuse me, I'm a prefect!" "How could a troll get in?" Harry asked as they climbed thestairs. "Don't ask me, they're supposed to be really stupid," saidRon. "Maybe Peeves let it in for a Halloween joke." They passed different groups of people hurrying in differentdirections. As they jostled their way through a crowd of confusedHufflepuffs, Harry suddenly grabbed Ron's arm. "I've just thought -- Hermione." "What about her?" "She doesn't know about the troll." Ron bit his lip. "Oh, all right," he snapped. "But Percy'd better not see us." Ducking down, they joined the Hufflepuffs going the other way,slipped down a deserted side corridor, and hurried off toward thegirls' bathroom. They had just turned the corner when they heardquick footsteps behind them. "Percy!" hissed Ron, pulling Harry behind a large stone griffin. Peering around it, however, they saw not Percy but Snape. Hecrossed the corridor and disappeared from view. "What's he doing?" Harry whispered. "Why isn't he down in thedungeons with the rest of the teachers?" "Search me." Quietly as possible, they crept along the next corridor afterSnape's fading footsteps. "He's heading for the third floor," Harry said, but Ron heldup his hand. "Can you smell something?" Harry sniffed and a foul stench reached his nostrils, a mixtureof old socks and the kind of public toilet no one seems to clean. And then they heard it -- a low grunting, and the shufflingfootfalls of gigantic feet. Ron pointed -- at the end of a passageto the left, something huge was moving toward them. They shrankinto the shadows and watched as it emerged into a patch of moonlight. It was a horrible sight. Twelve feet tall, its skin was a dull,granite gray, its great lumpy body like a boulder with its smallbald head perched on top like a coconut. It had short legs thickas tree trunks with flat, horny feet. The smell coming from it wasincredible. It was holding a huge wooden club, which dragged alongthe floor because its arms were so long. The troll stopped next to a doorway and peered inside. It waggledits long ears, making up its tiny mind, then slouched slowly intothe room. "The keys in the lock," Harry muttered. "We could lock it in." "Good idea," said Ron nervously. They edged toward the open door, mouths dry, praying the trollwasn't about to come out of it. With one great leap, Harry managedto grab the key, slam the door, and lock it. 'Yes!" Flushed with their victory, they started to run back up thepassage, but as they reached the corner they heard something thatmade their hearts stop -- a high, petrified scream -- and it wascoming from the chamber they'd just chained up. "Oh, no," said Ron, pale as the Bloody Baron. "It's the girls' bathroom!" Harry gasped. "Hermione!" they said together. It was the last thing they wanted to do, but what choice didthey have? Wheeling around, they sprinted back to the door andturned the key, fumbling in their panic. Harry pulled the door openand they ran inside. Hermione Granger was shrinking against the wall opposite,looking as if she was about to faint. The troll was advancing on her,knocking the sinks off the walls as it went. "Confuse it!" Harry said desperately to Ron, and, seizing a tap,he threw it as hard as he could against the wall. The troll stopped a few feet from Hermione. It lumbered around,blinking stupidly, to see what had made the noise. Its mean littleeyes saw Harry. It hesitated, then made for him instead, liftingits club as it went. "Oy, pea-brain!" yelled Ron from the other side of the chamber,and he threw a metal pipe at it. The troll didn't even seem tonotice the pipe hitting its shoulder, but it heard the yell andpaused again, turning its ugly snout toward Ron instead, givingHarry time to run around it. "Come on, run, run!" Harry yelled at Hermione, trying to pullher toward the door, but she couldn't move, she was still flatagainst the wall, her mouth open with terror. The shouting and the echoes seemed to be driving the trollberserk. It roared again and started toward Ron, who was nearestand had no way to escape. Harry then did something that was both very brave and verystupid: He took a great running jump and managed to fasten his armsaround the troll's neck from behind. The troll couldn't feel Harryhanging there, but even a troll will notice if you stick a long bitof wood up its nose, and Harry's wand had still been in his hand whenhe'd jumped -- it had gone straight up one of the troll's nostrils. Howling with pain, the troll twisted and flailed its club,with Harry clinging on for dear life; any second, the troll wasgoing to rip him off or catch him a terrible blow with the club. Hermione had sunk to the floor in fright; Ron pulled out hisown wand -- not knowing what he was going to do he heard himselfcry the first spell that came into his head: "Wingardium Leviosa!" The club flew suddenly out of the troll's hand, rose high, highup into the air, turned slowly over -- and dropped, with a sickeningcrack, onto its owner's head. The troll swayed on the spot and thenfell flat on its face, with a thud that made the whole room tremble. Harry got to his feet. He was shaking and out of breath. Ronwas standing there with his wand still raised, staring at what hehad done. It was Hermione who spoke first. "Is it -- dead?" I don't think so," said Harry, I think it's just been knockedout." He bent down and pulled his wand out of the troll's nose. Itwas covered in what looked like lumpy gray glue. "Urgh -- troll boogers." He wiped it on the troll's trousers. A sudden slamming and loud footsteps made the three of themlook up. They hadn't realized what a racket they had been making,but of course, someone downstairs must have heard the crashes andthe troll's roars. A moment later, Professor McGonagall had comebursting into the room, closely followed by Snape, with Quirrellbringing up the rear. Quirrell took one look at the troll, let out afaint whimper, and sat quickly down on a toilet, clutching his heart. Snape bent over the troll. Professor McGonagall was looking atRon and Harry. Harry had never seen her look so angry. Her lipswere white. Hopes of winning fifty points for Gryffindor fadedquickly from Harry's mind. "What on earth were you thinking of?" said Professor McGonagall,with cold fury in her voice. Harry looked at Ron, who was stillstanding with his wand in the air. "You're lucky you weren'tkilled. Why aren't you in your dormitory?" Snape gave Harry a swift, piercing look. Harry looked at thefloor. He wished Ron would put his wand down. Then a small voice came out of the shadows. "Please, Professor McGonagall -- they were looking for me." "Miss Granger!" Hermione had managed to get to her feet at last. I went looking for the troll because I -- I thought I could dealwith it on my own -- you know, because I've read all about them." Ron dropped his wand. Hermione Granger, telling a downright lieto a teacher? "If they hadn't found me, I'd be dead now. Harry stuckhis wand up its nose and Ron knocked it out with its own club. Theydidn't have time to come and fetch anyone. It was about to finishme off when they arrived." Harry and Ron tried to look as though this story wasn't newto them. "Well -- in that case..." said Professor McGonagall, staringat the three of them, "Miss Granger, you foolish girl, how couldyou think of tackling a mountain troll on your own?" Hermione hung her head. Harry was speechless. Hermione was thelast person to do anything against the rules, and here she was,pretending she had, to get them out of trouble. It was as if Snapehad started handing out sweets. "Miss Granger, five points will be taken from Gryffindorfor this," said Professor McGonagall. "I'm very disappointed inyou. If you're not hurt at all, you'd better get off to Gryffindortower. Students are finishing the feast in their houses." Hermione left. Professor McGonagall turned to Harry and Ron. "Well, I still say you were lucky, but not many first yearscould have taken on a full-grown mountain troll. You each winGryffindor five points. Professor Dumbledore will be informed ofthis. You may go." They hurried out of the chamber and didn't speak at all untilthey had climbed two floors up. It was a relief to be away fromthe smell of the troll, quite apart from anything else. "We should have gotten more than ten points," Ron grumbled. "Five, you mean, once she's taken off Hermione's." "Good of her to get us out of trouble like that," Ronadmitted. "Mind you, we did save her." "She might not have needed saving if we hadn't locked the thingin with her," Harry reminded him. They had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. "Pig snout," they said and entered. The common room was packed and noisy. Everyone was eating thefood that had been sent up. Hermione, however, stood alone by thedoor, waiting for them. There was a very embarrassed pause. Then,none of them looking at each other, they all said "Thanks," andhurried off to get plates. But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became theirfriend. There are some things you can't share without ending upliking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain trollis one of them.