|Harry Potter and the Corked Broom|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
Readers around the globe will rely on TiVo to record "Stargate SG-1" tonight so they can line up outside their local bookstores for the midnight release everyone has been eagerly awaiting for three years -- the new Ichiro bobblehead doll.
Such measures couldn't stop Page 2's fearless staff, however, which obtained its own advance copy. And as the following chapter demonstrates, the modern world is creeping into Hogwart's as the teenage wizards grow a little older and deals with that other little bit of magic we Muggles call puberty ...
Chapter Five: The Broken Broom
Now, the entire Quidditch crowd stared silently at Harry and the Nimbus 2000 that lay broken around him.
"Look! Cork!" Draco Malfoy shouted, cruely snuffing out his hand-rolled cigarette on the reproductive organs of a small white bunny that had misfortunately hippity-hopped within his reach. "Potter corked his broom! That's why he's able to fly it so fast! He cheats!"
"What?!? I did no such thing," Harry cried and turned around to see to his horror that the broken pieces indeed revealed a cork interior to the broom. He looked back helplessly as Professor Dumbledore and the rest of the Hogwart's faculty strode toward him.
"I don't know how it could have gotten there," Harry howled. "All I know is that I didn't put it there."
"Perhaps you accidentally picked up the wrong broom," Hagrid offered lamely. "Maybe you mistakenly picked up yer B.P. broom because you likes to put on a show fer fans before the match."
Harry's mouth dropped open, revealing his horrible dentistry as Dumbledore shot Hagrid the sort of withering look that only someone who has endured a life of low pay tutoring the pampered offspring of rich, thankless and self-satisfied parents is capable of. "You've said an astounding amount of idiotic things in your time at Hogwart's, but that is the dumbest thing you've ever said, Hagrid," Dumbledore scolded. "If you can't think of a more believable explanation I suggest you go back to the guardhouse before you get Harry in any further trouble. Now, bugger off!"
Hagrid grumbled something under his breath, let loose the most extraordinary fart and stomped away. Dumbledore waited until Hagrid was out of sight and his odor had finally drifted away before turning to face Harry.
"This is rather serious, I'm afraid," he said ponderously. "If you can't provide a logical explanation for how the cork got inside your broom, I'm afraid we shall have to suspend you for the next three matches."
"But I'll miss the match against Slytherin!" Harry sniveled.
"Can't be helped. It's what comes of cheating," Professor McGonagall snapped, with the sort of reproving tone gained only from a life spent in a subservient role in a male-dominated academic system. "I'm very disappointed in you. This places all your Quidditch achievements into doubt. Now, clean up your mess and return to your room."
Hermione and Ron rushed to Harry as he began to pick up the pieces and examined the cork.
"Wow, Harry! I never would have guessed that you would cork your broom!" Ron exclaimed, picking his nose. "I guess it just goes to show you how clueless I am! Sometimes I'm surprised I even remember to go to the bathroom without wetting myself. In fact, now that I look at my fly, I can see that I didn't. Fancy that!"
"Don't be such a silly git, Ron! You know Harry wouldn't do such a thing," Hermione said, then gave him a friendly hug while wishing she could do so much more. "But Harry. How do you think the cork got into your broom?"
"Someone must have placed a magic spell on it," Harry bawled.
"But who could do such a thing?" Ron asked, sniffing his armpit.
"Honestly, Ron, you are as thick as figgy pudding! We've only attended a school for wizards for five years -- it could be one of hundreds!" Hermione said, then kissed him sympathetically on the cheek and felt an odd (but pleasant) tingling in the private area of her body that We Must Not Name. "Who do you think did it, Harry?"
Harry pushed his glasses up on his nose to get a better look at Hermione's full red lips, but for some reason he could only picture Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier in "Spartacus" instead.
"That would be just like him," Hermione said. "He's been taking anabolic steroids and human growth hormone all term to get ready for that match, so I wouldn't put anything past him."
"Steroids!" Ron yelled in excitement, wetting himself again. "How do you know?"
"I've felt the acne on his back with my own fingertips!" Hermione retorted breathlessly, then turned crimson in embarrassment. "Errr, I mean, I'm told he has acne on his back. I've never actually seen it. And I certainly haven't touched it. I mean, really. Ewwwwww, gross!"
There was an awkward silence as Harry thought of Draco's back, and Ron looked jealously at Hermione while digging a fingernail of wax from his ear.
"Anyway," Hermione said, nervously fingering her wand. "If it's true about Malfoy and the cork, there's only thing we can do."
"Right," Harry sniffed, wondering whether the corked broom would damage his 90 million galleon endorsement deal with Nimbus. "We'll have to kill him."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.