As they entered November, the weather turned very cold. Themountains around the school became icy gray and the lake like chilledsteel. Every morning the ground was covered in frost. Hagrid couldbe seen from the upstairs windows defrosting broomsticks on theQuidditch field, bundled up in a long moleskin overcoat, rabbitfur gloves, and enormous beaverskin boots. The Quidditch season had begun. On Saturday, Harry wouldbe playing in his first match after weeks of training: Gryffindorversus Slytherin. If Gryffindor won, they would move up into secondplace in the house championship. Hardly anyone had seen Harry play because Wood had decided that,as their secret weapon, Harry should be kept, well, secret. Butthe news that he was playing Seeker had leaked out somehow, andHarry didn't know which was worse -- people telling him he'd bebrilliant or people telling him they'd be running around underneathhim holding a mattress. It was really lucky that Harry now had Hermlone as a friend. Hedidn't know how he'd have gotten through all his homework withouther, what with all the last-minute Quidditch practice Wood wasmaking them do. She had also tent him Quidditch Through the Ages,which turned out to be a very interesting read. Harry learned that there were seven hundred ways of committinga Quidditch foul and that all of them had happened during a WorldCup match in 1473; that Seekers were usually the smallest andfastest players, and that most serious Quidditch accidents seemed tohappen to them; that although people rarely died playing Quidditch,referees had been known to vanish and turn up months later in theSahara Desert. Hermione had become a bit more relaxed about breaking rulessince Harry and Ron had saved her from the mountain troll, and shewas much nicer for it. The day before Harry's first Quidditch matchthe three of them were out in the freezing courtyard during break,and she had conjured them up a bright blue fire that could becarried around in a jam jar. They were standing with their backsto it, getting warm, when Snape crossed the yard. Harry noticedat once that Snape was limping. Harry, Ron, and Hermione movedcloser together to block the fire from view; they were sure itwouldn't be allowed. Unfortunately, something about their guiltyfaces caught Snape's eye. He limped over. He hadn't seen the fire,but he seemed to be looking for a reason to tell them off anyway. "What's that you've got there, Potter?" It was Quidditch Through the Ages. Harry showed him. "Library books are not to be taken outside the school," saidSnape. "Give it to me. Five points from Gryffindor." "He's just made that rule up," Harry muttered angrily as Snapelimped away. "Wonder what's wrong with his leg?" "Dunno, but I hope it's really hurting him," said Ron bitterly. The Gryffindor common room was very noisy that evening. Harry,Ron, and Hermione sat together next to a window. Hermione waschecking Harry and Ron's Charms homework for them. She would neverlet them copy ("How will you learn?"), but by asking her to readit through, they got the right answers anyway. Harry felt restless. He wanted Quidditch Through the Ages back,to take his mind off his nerves about tomorrow. Why should he beafraid of Snape? Getting up, he told Ron and Hermione he was goingto ask Snape if he could have it. "Better you than me," they said together, but Harry had an ideathat Snape wouldn't refuse if there were other teachers listening. He made his way down to the staffroom and knocked. There wasno answer. He knocked again. Nothing. Perhaps Snape had left the book in there? It was worth a try. Hepushed the door ajar and peered inside -- and a horrible scene methis eyes. Snape and Filch were inside, alone. Snape was holding his robesabove his knees. One of his legs was bloody and mangled. Filch washanding Snape bandages. "Blasted thing*," Snape was saying. "How are you supposed tokeep your eyes on all three heads at once?" Harry tried to shut the door quietly, but -- "POTTER!" Snape's face was twisted with fury as he dropped his robesquickly to hide his leg. Harry gulped. "I just wondered if I could have my book back." "GET OUT! OUT!" Harry left, before Snape could take any more points fromGryffindor. He sprinted back upstairs. "Did you get it?" Ron asked as Harry joined them. "What'sthe matter?" In a low whisper, Harry told them what he'd seen. "You know what this means?" he finished breathlessly. "He triedto get past that three-headed dog at Halloween! That's where he wasgoing when we saw him -- he's after whatever it's guarding! And Idbet my broomstick he let that troll in, to make a diversion!" Hermione's eyes were wide. "No -- he wouldn't, she said. "I know he's not very nice,but he wouldn't try and steal something Dumbledore was keeping safe." "Honestly, Hermione, you think all teachers are saints orsomething," snapped Ron. "I'm with Harry. I wouldn't put anythingpast Snape. But what's he after? What's that dog guarding?" Harry went to bed with his head buzzing with the samequestion. Neville was snoring loudly, but Harry couldn't sleep. Hetried to empty his mind -- he needed to sleep, he had to, he hadhis first Quidditch match in a few hours -- but the expression onSnape's face when Harry had seen his leg wasn't easy to forget. The next morning dawned very bright and cold. The Great Hallwas full of the delicious smell of fried sausages and the cheerful chatter of everyone looking forward to a good Quidditch match. "You've got to eat some breakfast." "I don't want anything." "Just a bit of toast," wheedled Hermione. "I'm not hungry." Harry felt terrible. In an hour's time he'd be walking ontothe field. "Harry, you need your strength," said Seamus Finnigan. "Seekersare always the ones who get clobbered by the other team." "Thanks, Seamus," said Harry, watching Seamus pile ketchup onhis sausages. By eleven o'clock the whole school seemed to be out in the standsaround the Quidditch pitch. Many students had binoculars. The seatsmight be raised high in the air, but it was still difficult to seewhat was going on sometimes. Ron and Hermione joined Neville, Seamus, and Dean the West Hamfan up in the top row. As a surprise for Harry, they had painteda large banner on one of the sheets Scabbers had ruined. It saidPotter for President, and Dean, who was good at drawing, had donea large Gryffindor lion underneath. Then Hermione had performed atricky little charm so that the paint flashed different colors. Meanwhile, in the locker room, Harry and the rest of the teamwere changing into their scarlet Quidditch robes (Slytherin wouldbe playing in green). Wood cleared his throat for silence. "Okay, men," he said. "And women," said Chaser Angelina Johnson. "And women," Wood agreed. "This is it." "The big one," said Fred Weasley. "The one we've all been waiting for," said George. "We know Oliver's speech by heart," Fred told Harry, "we wereon the team last year." "Shut up, you two," said Wood. "This is the best teamGryffindor's had in years. We're going to win. I know it." He glared at them all as if to say, "Or else." "Right. It's time. Good luck, all of you." Harry followed Fred and George out of the locker room and,hoping his knees weren't going to give way, walked onto the fieldto loud cheers. Madam Hooch was refereeing. She stood in the middle of thefield waiting for the two teams, her broom in her hand. "Now, I want a nice fair game, all of you," she said, once theywere all gathered around her. Harry noticed that she seemed tobe speaking particularly to the Slytherin Captain, Marcus Flint,a sixth year. Harry thought Flint looked as if he had some trollblood in him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the flutteringbanner high above, flashing Potter for President over the crowd. Hisheart skipped. He felt braver. "Mount your brooms, please." Harry clambered onto his Nimbus Two Thousand. Madam Hooch gave a loud blast on her silver whistle. Fifteen brooms rose up, high, high into the air. They wereoff. "And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Angelina Johnson ofGryffindor -- what an excellent Chaser that girl is, and ratherattractive, too --" "JORDAN!" "Sorry, Professor." The Weasley twins' friend, Lee Jordan, was doing the commentaryfor the match, closely watched by Professor McGonagall. "And she's really belting along up there, a neat pass to AliciaSpinnet, a good find of Oliver Wood's, last year only a reserve --back to Johnson and -- no, the Slytherins have taken the Quaffle,Slytherin Captain Marcus Flint gains the Quaffle and off he goes --Flint flying like an eagle up there -- he's going to sc- no, stoppedby an excellent move by Gryffindor Keeper Wood and the Gryffindorstake the Quaffle -- that's Chaser Katie Bell of Gryffindor there,nice dive around Flint, off up the field and -- OUCH -- that musthave hurt, hit in the back of the head by a Bludger -- Quaffle takenby the Slytherins -- that's Adrian Pucey speeding off toward the goalposts, but he's blocked by a second Bludger -- sent his way by Fredor George Weasley, can't tell which -- nice play by the GryffindorBeater, anyway, and Johnson back in possession of the Quaffle, aclear field ahead and off she goes -- she's really flying -- dodgesa speeding Bludger -- the goal posts are ahead -- come on, now,Angelina -- Keeper Bletchley dives -- misses -- GRYFFINDORS SCORE!" Gryffindor cheers filled the cold air, with howls and moansfrom the Slytherins. "Budge up there, move along." "Hagrid!" Ron and Hermione squeezed together to give Hagrid enough spaceto join them. "Bin watchin' from me hut," said Hagrid, patting a large pairof binoculars around his neck, "But it isn't the same as bein'in the crowd. No sign of the Snitch yet, eh?" "Nope," said Ron. "Harry hasn't had much to do yet." "Kept outta trouble, though, that's somethin'," said Hagrid,raising his binoculars and peering skyward at the speck thatwas Harry. Way up above them, Harry was gliding over the game, squintingabout for some sign of the Snitch. This was part of his and Wood'sgame plan. "Keep out of the way until you catch sight of the Snitch,"Wood had said. "We don't want you attacked before you have to be." When Angelina had scored, Harry had done a couple ofloop-the-loops to let off his feelings. Now he was back to staringaround for the Snitch. Once he caught sight of a flash of gold, butit was just a reflection from one of the Weasleys' wristwatches,and once a Bludger decided to come pelting his way, more like acannonball than anything, but Harry dodged it and Fred Weasley camechasing after it. "All right there, Harry?" he had time to yell, as he beat theBludger furiously toward Marcus Flint. "Slytherin in possession," Lee Jordan was saying, "Chaser Puceyducks two Bludgers, two Weasleys, and Chaser Bell, and speeds towardthe -- wait a moment -- was that the Snitch?" A murmur ran through the crowd as Adrian Pucey dropped theQuaffle, too busy looking over his shoulder at the flash of goldthat had passed his left ear. Harry saw it. In a great rush of excitement he dived downwardafter the streak of gold. Slytherin Seeker Terence Higgs had seen it,too. Neck and neck they hurtled toward the Snitch -all the Chasersseemed to have forgotten what they were supposed to be doing asthey hung in midair to watch. Harry was faster than Higgs -- he could see the little roundball, wings fluttering, darting up ahead - - he put on an extraspurt of speed -- WHAM! A roar of rage echoed from the Gryffindors below --Marcus Flint had blocked Harry on purpose, and Harry's broom spunoff course, Harry holding on for dear life. "Foul!" screamed the Gryffindors. Madam Hooch spoke angrily to Flint and then ordered a freeshot at the goal posts for Gryffindor. But in all the confusion,of course, the Golden Snitch had disappeared from sight again. Down in the stands, Dean Thomas was yelling, "Send him off,ref! Red card!" "What are you talking about, Dean?" said Ron. "Red card!" said Dean furiously. "In soccer you get shown thered card and you're out of the game!" "But this isn't soccer, Dean," Ron reminded him. Hagrid, however, was on Dean's side. "They oughta change the rules. Flint coulda knocked Harry outtathe air." Lee Jordan was finding it difficult not to take sides. "So -- after that obvious and disgusting bit of cheating "Jordan!" growled Professor McGonagall. "I mean, after that open and revolting foul 'Jordan, I'm warning you --" "All right, all right. Flint nearly kills the Gryffindor Seeker,which could happen to anyone, I'm sure, so a penalty to Gryffindor,taken by Spinner, who puts it away, no trouble, and we continue play,Gryffindor still in possession." It was as Harry dodged another Bludger, which went spinningdangerously past his head, that it happened. His broom gave asudden, frightening lurch. For a split second, he thought he wasgoing to fall. He gripped the broom tightly with both his handsand knees. He'd never felt anything like that. It happened again. It was as though the broom was trying to buckhim off. But Nimbus Two Thousands did not suddenly decide to bucktheir riders off. Harry tried to turn back toward the Gryffindorgoal- posts -- he had half a mind to ask Wood to call time-out-- and then he realized that his broom was completely out of hiscontrol. He couldn't turn it. He couldn't direct it at all. It waszigzagging through the air, and every now and then making violentswishing movements that almost unseated him. Lee was still commentating. "Slytherin in possession -- Flint with the Quaffle -- passesSpinnet -- passes Bell -- hit hard in the face by a Bludger, hopeit broke his nose -- only joking, Professor -- Slytherins score --A no... The Slytherins were cheering. No one seemed to have noticedthat Harry's broom was behaving strangely. It was carrying- himslowly higher, away from the game, jerking and twitching as it went. "Dunno what Harry thinks he's doing," Hagrid mumbled. He staredthrough his binoculars. "If I didn' know better, I'd say he'd lostcontrol of his broom... but he can't have...." Suddenly, people were pointing up at Harry all over thestands. His broom had started to roll over and over, with him onlyjust managing to hold on. Then the whole crowd gasped. Harry's broomhad given a wild jerk and Harry swung off it. He was now danglingfrom it, holding on with only one hand. "Did something happen to it when Flint blocked him?" Seamuswhispered. "Can't have," Hagrid said, his voice shaking. "Can't nothinginterfere with a broomstick except powerful Dark magic -- no kidcould do that to a Nimbus Two Thousand." At these words, Hermione seized Hagrid's binoculars, but insteadof looking up at Harry, she started looking frantically at the crowd. "What are you doing?" moaned Ron, gray-faced. "I knew it," Hermione gasped, "Snape -- look." Ron grabbed the binoculars. Snape was in the middle of thestands opposite them. He had his eyes fixed on Harry and wasmuttering nonstop under his breath. "He's doing something -- jinxing the broom," said Hermione. "What should we do?" "Leave it to me." Before Ron could say another word, Hermione had disappeared. Ronturned the binoculars back on Harry. His broom was vibrating sohard, it was almost impossible for him to hang on much longer. Thewhole crowd was on its feet, watching, terrified, as the Weasleysflew up to try and pull Harry safely onto one of their brooms, butit was no good -- every time they got near him, the broom wouldjump higher still. They dropped lower and circled beneath him,obviously hoping to catch him if he fell. Marcus Flint seized the Quaffle and scored five times without anyonenoticing. "Come on, Hermione," Ron muttered desperately. Hermione had fought her way across to the stand where Snapestood, and was now racing along the row behind him; she didn't evenstop to say sorry as she knocked Professor Quirrell headfirst intothe row in front. Reaching Snape, she crouched down, pulled out herwand, and whispered a few, well- chosen words. Bright blue flamesshot from her wand onto the hem of Snape's robes. It took perhaps thirty seconds for Snape to realize that he wason fire. A sudden yelp told her she had done her job. Scooping thefire off him into a little jar in her pocket, she scrambled backalong the row -- Snape would never know what had happened. It was enough. Up in the air, Harry was suddenly able to clamberback on to his broom. "Neville, you can look!" Ron said. Neville had been sobbinginto Hagrid's jacket for the last five minutes. Harry was speeding toward the ground when the crowd saw himclap his hand to his mouth as though he was about to be sick --he hit the field on all fours -- coughed -- and something gold fellinto his hand. "I've got the Snitch!" he shouted, waving it above his head,and the game ended in complete confusion. "He didn't catch it, he nearly swallowed it," Flint was stillhowling twenty minutes later, but it made no difference -- Harryhadn't broken any rules and Lee Jordan was still happily shoutingthe results -- Gryffindor had won by one hundred and seventy pointsto sixty. Harry heard none of this, though. He was being made acup of strong tea back in Hagrid's hut, with Ron and Hermione. "It was Snape," Ron was explaining, "Hermione and I saw him. Hewas cursing your broomstick, muttering, he wouldn't take his eyesoff you." "Rubbish," said Hagrid, who hadn't heard a word of what hadgone on next to him in the stands. "Why would Snape do somethin'like that?" Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked at one another, wondering whatto tell him. Harry decided on the truth. "I found out something about him," he told Hagrid. "He tried toget past that three-headed dog on Halloween. It bit him. We thinkhe was trying to steal whatever it's guarding." Hagrid dropped the teapot. "How do you know about Fluffy?" he said. "Fluffy?" "Yeah -- he's mine -- bought him off a Greek chappie I met inthe pub las' year -- I lent him to Dumbledore to guard the "Yes?" said Harry eagerly. "Now, don't ask me anymore," said Hagrid gruffly. "That's topsecret, that is." "But Snape's trying to steal it." "Rubbish," said Hagrid again. "Snape's a Hogwarts teacher,he'd do nothin' of the sort." "So why did he just try and kill Harry?" cried Hermione. The afternoon's events certainly seemed to have changed hermind about Snape. I know a jinx when I see one, Hagrid, I've read all about them! You've got to keep eye contact, and Snape wasn't blinking at all,I saw him!" "I'm tellin' yeh, yer wrong!" said Hagrid hotly. "I don' knowwhy Harry's broom acted like that, but Snape wouldn' try an' killa student! Now, listen to me, all three of yeh -- yer meddlin'in things that don' concern yeh. It's dangerous. You forget thatdog, an' you forget what it's guardin', that's between ProfessorDumbledore an' Nicolas Flamel --" "Aha!" said Harry, "so there's someone called Nicolas Flamelinvolved, is there?" Hagrid looked furious with himself.