The clear, breezy day radiating the sloping lawns was the picturesque opposite to the recent state of Hermione's mind. She was young, but she was still a proponent of logic; however, Marcus's words were far too similar to words spoken in her nightmare for her to dismiss it as a spine-tingling coincidence. Was some form of magic that had escaped her knowledge at play here? Something she had overlooked in the duration of her studies?
She and the other first-year Slytherins, including the Lovett triplets, had made it to the flat lawn on the other side of the Forbidden Forest moments before Harry, Ron, and all the other first-year Gryffindors. Twenty brooms had been placed in the grass in neat lines for the students.
"Careful not fall off your broom, Granger," Malfoy taunted while he stood next to her. "I don't think that even your frizzy mop would be able to cushion the impact of the fall."
Hermione sighed. "If your head was just a few diameters wider and a tad less dense, I'm certain it would be an invulnerable landing bag."
She paid no attention to his mouth falling open or Lizzie giggling next to her, for she could see Harry and the other Gryffindors trudging down the sloping lawns. In another minute or so, class commenced.
"Well, what are you all waiting for?" barked Madam Hooch. "Everyone stand by a broomstick. Come on, hurry up. Stick out your right hand over the broom and say 'UP'!"
Hermione was impressed to see Harry's broom shooting up to his grasp almost instantly. Hers shot up upon her first command, and she savored the second-long, peripheral glare Malfoy sent her. She saw that Neville's broom hadn't moved at all – poor Gryffindor.
Madam Hooch then advised and exhibited how to properly mount a broom without sliding off and went up and down the rows to correct their grips, but the cherry on top was when she told Malfoy that he had been doing it wrong for years, and Hermione could somehow sense Harry and Ron's delight.
"Now, when I blow my whistle, you kick off from the ground, hard," she instructed. Hermione read from Neville's expression that he would rather have stayed on the ground...
"Keep your brooms steady, rise a few feet, and then come straight back down by leaning forward slightly. On my whistle – three – two –"
The overwrought Neville had pushed off the ground before Madam Hooch's whistle had even touched her lips. Behind her pursed lips, Hermione clenched her teeth in dread as she watched Neville rise shakily into the air. He had to have been rising at least twelve feet – twenty feet. Hermione saw his scared face watching the ground shrink beneath him.
"Come back, boy!" Madam Hooch shouted.
Hermione's broom fell to the ground as her hands shot up to her mouth at watching Neville slip sideways from his broom and plummet to the grass. She shut her wide eyes just before Neville's body hit the ground, but the nasty crack she heard rendered the action pointless. When she opened her eyes, Madam Hooch was standing over Neville.
"Hush, hush, now...Broken wrist. Let's get you to the hospital wing," she said as she guided a whimpering Neville away. "Everyone is to stay on the ground until I return. Anyone who is in the air when I return will be out of Hogwarts faster than you can say Quidditch. Come on, dear."
Lizzie leaned over to Hermione and whispered, "See, Granger? Perfect example that all purebloods aren't more skilled than most."
"Lizzie!" Hermione hissed. Her comment was meant as a crude assurance to Hermione, but it was still an insensitive jab at Neville.
Hermione shook her head mentally with weariness as Malfoy started to laugh. "Did you see his face? The big lump!"
Some of the other Slytherins chimed in, while Hermione and Lovett triplets traded exasperated expressions.
"Look, it's that stupid thing his gran sent him!"
Malfoy plucked Neville's Remembrall from the grass and displayed it for everyone to see; the object glittered in the sun like the mischief in his eyes. For the second time today, Hermione was about to angrily confront Malfoy, but an indignant voice stopped her.
"Give that here, Malfoy." It was Harry.
Hermione was stunned, for Harry wasn't the timid boy she had become friends with, but a tenacious soul with a gallant stature. Everyone else had stopped to listen.
Malfoy gave him his signature grin of pure nastiness. "No. I think I'll leave it up in a tree for him to find. The butterball could use the exercise, wouldn't you agree, Potter?"
"Give it here!"
"Harry," Hermione gasped.
"Why don't come and take it, Potter?" Malfoy challenged. He was up in the air on his broom in seconds, looking down upon his schoolmates like the God he felt he was.
Harry's blood was steaming, and he picked up his broom and hastily mounted it, ready to take flight without another moment's thought. Hermione hadn't forgotten Madam Hooch's warning, that anyone caught flying would be expelled...
She hurried over to Harry and seized his shoulder just as he was about to push off from the ground. "Wait a sec, Harry."
"Hermione, not now. I know what Hooch said, but I won't let him just –!"
She swung her leg over the broom and positioned herself behind Harry. "No more talking. Shall we get that little weasel?"