But it was considerably more than a bit of rain. Such was the popularity of Quidditch that the whole school turned out to watch the match as usual, but they ran down the lawns towards the Quidditch field, heads bowed against the ferocious wind, umbrellas being whipped out of their hands as they went. just before he entered the locker room, Harry saw Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, laughing and pointing at him from under an enormous umbrella on their way to the stadium.
The team changed into their scarlet robes and waited for Wood’s usual pre-match pep talk, but it didn’t come. He tried to speak several times, made an odd gulping noise, then shook his head hopelessly and beckoned them to follow him.
The wind was so strong that they staggered sideways as they walked out onto the field. If the crowd was cheering, they couldn’t hear it over the fresh rolls of thunder. Rain was splattering over Harry’s glasses. How on earth was he going to see the Snitch in this?
The Hufflepuffs were approaching from the opposite side of the field, wearing canary-yellow robes. The Captains walked up to eacb other and shook hands; Diggory smiled at Wood but Wood no, looked as though he had lockjaw and merely nodded. Harry saw Madam Hooch’s mouth form the words, ‘Mount Your brooms.,, He pulled his right foot out of the mud with a squelch and swung it over his Nimbus Two Thousand. Madam Hooch put her whistle to her lips and gave it a blast that sounded shrill and distant they were off
Harry rose fast, but his Nimbus was swerving slightly with the wind. He held it as steady as he could and turned, squinting into the rain.
Within five minutes Harry was soaked to his skin and frozen, hardly able to see his teammates, let alone the tiny Snitch. He flew backward and forward across the field past blurred red and yellow shapes, with no idea of what was happening in the rest of the game. He couldn’t hear the commentary over the wind. The crowd was hidden beneath a sea of cloaks and battered umbrellas. Twice Harry came very close to being unseated by a Bludger; his vision was so clouded by the rain on his glasses he hadn’t seen them coming.
He lost track of time. It was getting harder and harder to hold his broom straight. The sky was getting darker, as though night had decided to come early. Twice Harry nearly hit another player, without knowing whether it was a teammate or opponent; everyone was now so wet, and the rain so thick, he could hardly tell them apart…
With the first flash of lightning came the sound of Madam Hooch’s whistle; Harry could just see the outline of Wood through the thick rain, gesturing him to the ground. The whole team splashed down into the mud.
‘I called for time-out!’ Wood roared at his team. ‘Come on, under here –’
They huddled at the edge of the field under a large umbrella; Harry took off his glasses and wiped them hurriedly on his robes.
‘What’s the score?’
‘We’re fifty points up,’ said Wood, ‘but unless we get the Snitch soon, we’ll be playing into the night.’
‘I’ve got no chance with these on,’ Harry said exasperatedly, waving his glasses.
At that very moment, Hermione appeared at his shoulder; she was holding her cloak over her head and was, inexplicably, beaming.
‘I’ve had an idea, Harry! Give me your glasses, quick!’
He handed them to her, and as the team watched in amazement, Hermione tapped them with her wand and said, ‘Impervius!’
‘There!’ she said, handing them back to Harry. ‘They’ll repel water!’
Wood looked as though he could have kissed her.
‘Brilliant!’ he called hoarsely after her as she disappeared into the crowd. ‘Okay, team, let’s go for it!’
Hermione’s spell had done the trick. Harry was still numb with cold, still wetter than he’d ever been in his life, but he could see. Full of fresh determination, he urged his broom through the turbulent air, staring in every direction for the Snitch, avoiding a Bludger, ducking beneath Diggory, who was streaking in the opposite direction…
There was another clap of thunder, followed immediately by forked lightning. This was getting more and more dangerous. Harry needed to get the Snitch quickly –
He turned, intending to head back towards the middle of the field, but at that moment, another flash of lightning illuminated the stands, and Harry saw something that distracted him completely, the silhouette of an enormous shaggy black dog, clearly imprinted against the sky, motionless in the topmost, empty row of seats.
Harry’s numb hands slipped on the broom handle and his Nimbus dropped a few feet. Shaking his sodden bangs out of his eyes, he squinted back into the stands. The dog had vanished.
‘Harry!’ came Wood’s anguished yell from the Gryffindor goal posts. ‘Harry, behind you!’
Harry looked wildly around. Cedric Diggory was pelting up the field, and a tiny speck of gold was shimmering in the rain-filled air between them –
With a jolt of panic, Harry threw himself flat to the broornhandle and zoomed towards the Snitch.
‘Come on!’ he growled at his Nimbus as the rain whipped his face. ‘Taster!’
But something odd was happening. An eerie silence was falling across the stadium. The wind, though as strong as ever, was forgetting to roar. It was as though someone had turned off the sound, as though Harry had gone suddenly deaf – what was going on?
And then a horribly familiar wave of cold swept over him, inside him, just as he became aware of something moving on the field below…
Before he’d had time to think, Harry had taken his eyes off the Snitch and looked down.
At least a hundred Dementors, their hidden faces pointing up at him, were standing beneath him. It was as though freezing water were rising in his chest, cutting at his insides. And then he heard it again… Someone was screaming, screaming inside his head… a woman…
‘Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!’
‘Stand aside, you silly girl… stand aside, now…’
‘Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead –’
Numbing, swirling white mist was filling Harry’s brain… What was he doing? Why was he flying? He needed to help her… She was going to die… She was going to be murdered…
He was falling, falling through the icy mist.
‘Not Harry! Please… have mercy… have mercy…
A shrill voice was laughing, the woman was screaming, and Harry knew no more.