12th September 1991
"It's going to be alright Nev," Mark tried to reassure his friend. "Plenty of people have never flown on a broom before they come here. I'm new too"
"You're naturally talented. You managed to turn your matchstick into needle the first time," Neville retorted, as they walked to the great hall for breakfast. Mark angrily hushed him.
"Not so loudly. I don't want Hermione to hear that"
"I don't understand why you want her to take the credit and gloat around-"
"Because if she finds out, she'll not leave me alone. You know how dogged she is," explained Mark in an angry whisper, before continuing. "And to counter your earlier point, I'm not that athletically-gifted if you've noticed," he said pointing down to his body.
Neville snorted as they sat down at the Gryffindor table, completely forgetting his earlier nervousness. He watched his friend sit down opposite him and pile up food.
"And you're not going to be anytime soon if you keep that up," he said pointing to the now full plate.
Mark looked down at it, then turned
"Oi, keep your evil eye off my plate"
Neville just shrugged and began filling his plate. The morning post started flying in, with a large barn owl headed for him.
"It's from Gran," he said, removing the package tied to the owl's leg. "Here Harrold," he offered the owl some bacon as he unwrapped the package.
Mark gave his friend an inquiring look.
"Oh, it's a Remembrall," he said, holding up a glass ball the size of a large marble, filled with white smoke. Down the table, Hermione Granger raised her head up from the book she'd been reading from-Quidditch through the Ages, to watch the development as she seemed eager to learn about new magic.
"It's supposed to turn red if you've forgotten something," Neville continued his explanation to his friend, whose face was now trying to warn him of something behind him. Trusting his instincts, Neville pulled his hand to him, as a pale hand tried to grab the Remembrall.
Harry and Ron, seated next to Neville, shot up at the unprovoked move from Draco Malfoy. They seemed a tad too eager to pick a fight with the Slytherin.
"What's going on?" came the stern voice of Professor McGonagall.
"Draco tried to take Neville's Remembrall, Professor," Mark replied coolly, before taking a sip of water from his goblet. He didn't like the pumpkin juice.
"I see. Mr Malfoy, is there a reason for you to come to the Gryffindor table and inspect the belongings of your classmates?"
"No, Professor. I apologise" came the rather late reply from Malfoy, before he turned and left with his two bodyguards.
Mark noticed Harry and Ron relax at this. He couldn't blame them; the blond had taken every opportunity to antagonise the two of them, apparently from the express itself.
As Mark continued to eat, he thought about the almost-two-weeks he had spent in Hogwarts. The classes had been just as he'd expected, except for History of Magic and Defence Against the Dark Arts, which he thought were being taught by shitty teachers.
Having read the textbook already, he just took a long nap in the former; the long-dead Professor Binns certainly didn't mind. Professor Quirrell's nervous stuttering meant that he couldn't doze off completely.
Astronomy was certainly fun, and the magical telescopes they had used in the class were surprisingly powerful. He hadn't expected to be able to make out the storm patterns on Jupiter.
He was feeling truly thankful for Neville. Even though Professor Sprout was a great teacher, Herbology was just not his cup of tea. His friend however really shined in it, quickly becoming the teachers favourite.
Transfiguration was challenging; mainly as there was much that Professor McGonagall said in the class that was not explained in the rather thin textbook. Mark had actually taken his first notes in the class, which had been quite extensive, given that he was writing what she was saying as well as not saying.
He had actually enjoyed turning the matchstick into the needle, once he picked up on the subtle tricks for proper visualisation from the Professor's head. The further possible applications seemed exciting, as demonstrated by Professor McGonagall at the start of the lecture. It was quickly becoming his favourite subject, if not for the books he had been reading on Magical theory.
Charms was also enjoyable for Mark since it was the most similar to Physics, and Professor Flitwick was a great instructor. Potions, on the other hand, had been, for a lack of a better term, interesting.
Subject-wise it was quite similar to advanced chemistry, and Mark had enjoyed learning. Professor Snape, however, was a different matter. He seemed to be a bit biased towards his own house, reluctant to give Gryffindor any house points. He certainly made Neville nervous, so much that Mark had to stop his potions-partner from adding the porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off the fire. But he clearly had a strong dislike for Harry.
The man had torn into Harry from the beginning of the class, with constant jibes at his celebrity-status and an apparent lack of potions knowhow. Never mind that it was the first class.
Intrigued, Mark had sought to glean the real reason behind the apparent hatred but had again been blocked. Snape seemed to have noticed the attempt at the mental intrusion and stared suspiciously at Mark, who had feigned ignorance and instinctively avoided eye-contact. It was the first time someone had detected him.
He needed to know more about his ability. Mark had decided to pay heed to Elijah's advice and head into the library later.
"Did you see his face, the great lump?" Malfoy laughed.
"Bugger off Malfoy," Harry heard Mark say to the blond boy. He was frankly surprised at the crude words from the usually sophisticated boy.
"How dare you speak to me that way, Mudblood," Draco said, walking up to the group. Some of the students gasped at this, and Harry could make out that it was a really bad word.
"Is that supposed to be an insult? Clearly, you've never visited East End," came the reply from Mark.
Malfoy seemed to have seen something in the grass; he darted forward and grabbed it.
"Look! It's the stupid thing Longbottom's gran sent him." Harry got angry at this, and spoke in a quiet cold voice,
"Give that back, Malfoy"
Malfoy smiled nastily as he quickly mounted the broom in his hand. "I think I'll leave it up that tree for Longbottom to find," he taunted, taking off in the air.
Harry grabbed his broom and mounted it. Mark seemed to have read his mind and was also on his broom. He gave Harry a predatory grin, which said Let's get this bastard.
Harry zoomed off towards Malfoy, and as the air rushed through his hair, he felt a fierce joy he'd never felt before. He could hear screams and gasps from below as he pulled his broomstick up, turning sharply to face Malfoy in mid-air. Mark appeared a bit later, positioning himself behind the Slytherin.
"Hand it over now," Harry called, "or I'll knock you off that broom!"
"Oh yeah?" said Malfoy trying to hide his growing worry.
"Oh yeah. No bodyguards up here to save you," said Mark in a vindictive tone. "Once you fall to the ground, we'll see whose blood is in the mud."
"Catch it if you can, then!" he shouted, throwing the Remembrall high into the air.
Harry leaned forward and zoomed towards the falling ball, aiming at the correct point to intercept its trajectory. He was quickly gathering speed in his step dive, racing ahead towards the ball - he stretched his hand and at a foot from the ground managed to catch it, then immediately pulling up on his broomstick managed to topple gently onto the grass.
Harry turned, and the smile on his face melted away. Professor McGonagall was running towards them, her face speechless with shock.
"Never - in all my time at Hogwarts- how dare you - might have broken your neck-"
"It wasn't his fault Professor-" chimed in Parvati Patil.
"No it was mine," came the interjection from Mark, who was now standing beside Harry. All the students quieted down immediately. Professor McGonagall seemed to be taken aback by this, her anger held at bay.
"Explain," came the stern voice.
"I encouraged Harry to follow Mr Malfoy in the air," he said, measuring his words. Harry wanted to object but kept quiet as the boy continued, "For that, I apologise. I was provoked by an insult and was not thinking straight"
"And what was this insult that you could not handle?" McGonagall continued in a disappointed voice.
"Malfoy called Mark a mudblood Professor," Ron offered in an angry voice, stepping in to defend them. "And he stole Neville's Remembrall."
"I see," Professor McGonagall said, clenching her jaw. "Mr Malfoy, twenty points from Slytherin and detention with Filch for use of such foul language." Harry noticed Malfoy's robes seemed ruffled up.
Turning to Harry and Mark she said, "You both, follow me" and began walking back into the castle.
Harry feared that he was going to be expelled, but he saw that Mark seemed unfazed. He thought the boy must be really brave for standing up to the professor.
As they walked towards the castle, he tried to pat down his ruffled robes. He found a thick twig stuck to his back, which Harry recognised belonged to the broom he'd ridden. It must have broken during his tumbled landing.
Walking up the marble staircase, they reached a classroom and stopped outside. Professor McGonagall politely interrupted the ongoing class and requested Professor Flitwick to borrow Wood, which Harry momentarily thought was a cane she might beat them with. Wood turned out to be a burly Gryffindor, who Harry recognised as a fifth-year student.
"Follow me, you three," she now said, leading them to an empty classroom down the hall. She closed the doors shut before turning towards them.
"Harry, this is Oliver Wood, the Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Wood - I've found you a Seeker." Wood's face immediately lit up.
"Are you serious, Professor?"
"Absolutely." Professor McGonagall confirmed, with a hint of pride in her voice. "He's a natural. I haven't seen anything like it. Caught this in his hand after a fifty-foot dive." Professor McGonagall showed him the Remembrall.
"It was your first time on a broom, wasn't it?" she asked Harry, who nodded dumbly. He glanced at Mark, who was beaming at him. Wood seemed to look like all his dreams had come true. He went ahead and began scrutinising Harry's physique.
"He's just the right build too-" he seemed to mutter more to himself. "-Probably a Cleansweep Seven-"
"You might consider setting up a reserve team as well Wood" Professor McGonagall interrupted. "Smith here could turn out to be a solid chaser once you train him up a bit." She looked at Mark who now had a gobsmacked expression.
Oliver looked like Christmas had come early. "I'll see what I can do Professor"
"Me? But-" Mark stammered as if he couldn't find the right words. "I'm- I'm not an athlete professor," he said in an embarrassed tone.
"You could be. I want you to try out for the reserve team, or I may change my mind about punishing you."
"Couldn't I like, serve detention with you or something?" he asked cocking his head sideways.
On seeing the impatient look on the Professor's face, Mark sighed and gave a resigned nod. Professor McGonagall seemed satisfied at this. Turning to the others she remarked,
'I shall have to see if we can bend the first-year rule. I'll have to speak with Professor Dumbledore about this. Merlin knows we need a better team. Severus has been gloating ever since that last match," she said, before peering at Harry, who had been silent all this time.
"I want to hear you're training hard, Potter" there was the implied threat from before. She then smiled.
"Your father would have been proud," she said softly. "He was an excellent Quidditch player himself"
She opened the door of the classroom and spoke before leaving,
"And Mr Smith, since you've offered, you'll be serving detention with me at eight tomorrow"
"Oh, come on"