Gryffindor and Slytherin have flying lessons together, Neville injures himself on his broom, and Harry and Draco fight it out on brooms over Neville’s Remembrall, resulting in Harry being made Seeker of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Later, Draco challenges Harry to a wizard’s duel, but instead of dueling he tells Filch in hopes of Harry being caught and expelled. Harry and his friends evade Filch and after encountering Fluffy, the three-headed dog, are safely back in their dormitory.
Calendar and Dates
The action of the chapter takes place on the second Thursday of the term. Since 1 September was a Sunday, this fixes the date as 12 September.
Interesting facts and notes
The midnight duel mentioned in the chapter's title never takes place, but is responsible for Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville entering the forbidden third-floor corridor for the first time.
Ironically, Draco Malfoy - Harry's arch-rival on the Quidditch pitch - not only was the first person ever to mention Quidditch to Harry (PS5), but sets the events in motion that lead to Harry being made Seeker for Gryffindor.
Still, first-year Gryffindors only had Potions with the Slytherins, so they didn't have to put up with Malfoy much.
This is a detail that PS/f did not get correct; this statement indicates that among Harry's other classes, Harry does not have Transfiguration with the Slytherins this year, but PS/f shows otherwise.
Dean's poster of the West Ham football team
Jo has explained on her website (JKR) that she included this reference to the West Ham team because one of her good friends, Troy, is a passionate West Ham fan. Troy (along with several other friends of JKR's) also lent her name to one of the members of the Irish National Quidditch Team that competed at the World Cup (GF8).
Malfoy's eagle owl
Fittingly, the Malfoys use an eagle owl, which is the largest and most powerful owl in Britain.
...when Draco Malfoy, who was passing the Gryffindor table, snatched the Remembrall out of his hand.
Why would Draco Malfoy be passing the Gryffindor table? It's on the far side of the Great Hall from the Slytherin table, and also the farthest from the door to the Entrance Hall. Draco had to have walked over to the Gryffindor table intentionally to make trouble, which explains why McGonagall seems to have spotted the trouble so quickly. She saw Draco heading that way and followed him.
The Slytherins were already there
All the Slytherin first-years are supposed to be present, but some (like Crabbe and Goyle) have no lines and are not mentioned by name. These silent Slytherin seldom speak up in Potions, either. They include Millicent Bulstrode, Theodore Nott, Blaise Zabini, and at least one other Slytherin girl. (Since Pansy's gang of Slytherin girls is often mentioned, we know that at least one girl other than Millicent must be in Slytherin in their year.)
and so were twenty broomsticks lying in neat lines on the ground.
And therefore, there are twenty students between Gryffindor and Slytherin. We are not told if this relatively small number of students is typical of every year at Hogwarts or if this year's Gryffindor and Slytherin classes are remarkably small in numbers. The complete list of students in Harry's year was shown during the Harry Potter and Me television special. Some names are impossible to determine from the image shown on that special.
WHAM - a thud and a nasty crack and Neville lay facedown on the grass in a heap.
He just fell over twenty feet. Granted, he landed on grass, but still. Here we see that uncanny ability of wizards to avoid serious injury in situations that would probably kill a Muggle. Remember that his family learned that he was magical by dropping him out of a second-story window.
Neville, his face tear-streaked, clutching his wrist, hobbled off with Madam Hooch, who had her arm around him.
Does anyone but us find this scene oddly endearing? Does Hooch, who certainly comes across as brusque, have a bit of a soft spot for the hapless child of those poor people in St. Mungo's?
"Never thought you'd like fat little crybabies, Parvati."
It's worth noting, as various persons have over the years, that Pansy is on a first-name basis with Parvati here. By contrast, she calls Hermione "Granger" when referring to her.
Now he'd done it. He hadn't even lasted two weeks.
Now we know for certain that the Flying class was on the second Thursday of the year, which would be September 12.
"I shall speak to Professor Dumbledore and see if we can't bend the first-year rule. Heaven knows, we need a better team than last year. Flattened in that last match by Slytherin, I couldn't look Severus Snape in the face for weeks...."
Several interesting details present themselves here. Why would Dumbledore be willing to bend the first-year rule? McGonagall seems to think that the fact that last year's team was so dreadful would influence the headmaster on this subject, which suggests that Dumbledore secretly supports Gryffindor. We are never told for certain that Dumbledore was a Gryffindor, but this is one more piece of circumstantial evidence to that effect. And what about that dreadful team of last year? It seems surprising that the team was so dreadful when it included some truly exceptional players. Here's the roster as far as we know it:
- Oliver Wood (4th year) - Keeper and Quidditch Captain (We know he was captain because Fred and George knew his Captain speech by heart because they were "on the team last year" and because Oliver Wood is credited with discovering (PS11) )
- Charlie Weasley (7th year) - Seeker (and such a good one that he could have played for England!) but inexplicably not Quidditch captain, apparently. We know he was the captain at some point - this is an inconsistency in the text (or perhaps he made Wood his co-captain)
- Fred Weasley (2nd year) - so good he's almost a human bludger, or so we're told
- George Weasley (2nd year) - as good as his twin brother
- Chasers - we don't know for certain, but it seems likely that Angelina and Katie were on the team, considering how good they are in subsequent years. Whoever they are, the Chasers must have been very good if Alicia was relegated to the reserve team.
"Anyway, we've got to go, Lee Jordan reckons he's found a new secret passageway out of the school."
"Bet it's that one behind the statue of Gregory the Smarmy that we found in our first week. See you."
Gregory the Smarmy was just a name until the Famous Wizard Cards in the second video game (CS/g) revealed that he was the creator of Gregory's Unctuous Unction. One has to wonder if Fred and George really did find that secret passageway in their first week at Hogwarts. After all, Harry and Ron just spent an entire week not even being able to find the Great Hall because the castle was so confusing. OK, Fred and George were definitely not your average kids, but even so it seems very possible that they're not being entirely truthful here.
We'll meet you in the trophy room; that's always unlocked.
How would he know that?
...(Neville wasn't yet back from the hospital wing).
Why not? As Neville says himself when the trio find him asleep in the corridor outside Gryffindor Tower, Madam Pomfrey fixed his arm in about a minute, and he had his accident shortly after 3:30 (when the flying lesson began). That should've meant that he left the hospital wing shortly afterward, in plenty of time to go down to dinner with the rest of the Gryffindors and come back up with them - so that it wouldn't matter whether he could remember the password himself or not. Instead, we find him asleep in the corridor outside the portrait hole at midnight.
"All right, but I warned you, you just remember what I said when you're on the train home tomorrow, you're so -"
This is the second time in this chapter that the idea of being sent home "tomorrow" crops up. In this case, the train is specifically mentioned. Perhaps this is just an assumption on the part of the young students. After all, can the expulsion of one student really require bringing the entire Hogwarts Express back up from London? More likely, the miscreant would find him or herself riding on the Knight Bus back home.
They sped up a staircase to the third floor and tiptoed into the trophy room.
So they were on the second floor at this point. Either they were lost or had to take a very complicated route to get to the trophy room. They started on the seventh floor, after all.
"STUDENTS OUT OF BED DOWN THE CHARMS CORRIDOR!"
The third floor is quite complicated. Without leaving this level the kids run down various corridors, through the trophy room and adjacent room full of armor, near a set of classrooms, and across to the wrong side - the side where Fluffy was ensconced.
"We could all have been killed - or worse, expelled. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to bed."
Ron stared after her, his mouth open.
But he definitely doesn't say that dreadful line about sorting out her priorities that Kloves added toPS/f, presumably because Kloves didn't think we would catch the joke unless he hit us upside the head with it. We're glad that Rowling has a bit higher opinion of the intelligence of her audience.
Exceptional character moments
Hermione's nervousness at being faced with lessons in a subject that can't be learned by heart out of a book.
McGonagall, who turns out to care about Gryffindor's performance in the Quidditch Cup at least as much as any of the students in her house, and who is quite competitive with Snape on the topic.
Harry groped for the doorknob - between Filch and death, he'd take Filch.
"We could all have been killed - or worse, expelled." [Hermione]