|Allows wizard to fly
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|Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Brooms are just what they sound like: magical brooms that allow the witch or wizard to fly. Normally, first-years at Hogwarts are not allowed brooms of their own, although they can and do take flying lessons from Madam Hooch using the old and much-beaten school brooms.
Harry is one of the few people for whom the first-years rule is broken; in his first-ever flying lesson, he does so well that Professor McGonagall places him in the Gryffindor house Quidditch team. As Seeker, he needs a better broom than the ones provided by the school, so he receives a Nimbus 2000, then one of the best brooms available.
Several different broom makes and models are mentioned in the various books.
- Bluebottle: Advertised at the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. "A Broom for All the Family – safe, reliable and with Built-in Anti-Burglar Buzzer ..."
- Cleansweep: One of the more utilitarian brands, the Cleansweep line are generally not the top of the speed list but are decent brooms all the same.
- In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Wood says that they should get Harry a Nimbus 2000 or a Cleansweep Seven, the implication being that these are about equal quality – top of the line for that model year.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, as Draco Malfoy is making fun of the Gryffindors' brooms, he points out that the Twins' brooms, which are Cleansweep Fives, could be auctioned to raise money, and suggests a museum might like to bid on them. It is possible that they are only three years old at this point.
- In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is mentioned that Ravenclaw's Quidditch team are all mounted on Cleansweep Sevens – with the possible exception of their Seeker, Cho Chang, who is mentioned in the next chapter as having a Comet Two Sixty.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Ron gets a broom as a reward for becoming a Prefect. The model of the broom is not stated at the time, but it is later mentioned that it is a Cleansweep Eleven. Rhapsodizing about it in the party after he received it, Ron mentions that it will do 0 to 70 in ten seconds.
- Comet: The Comet line is regarded as a workmanlike but not over-speedy broom.
- Two Sixty: Cho Chang, Seeker for Ravenclaw in Harry's third year, rides a Comet Two Sixty, which "will look like a joke next to the Firebolt." If Comet brings out a new model every year, as the Nimbus and Cleansweep lines seem to, and if the number increases by ten each year, given what we know about the Two Ninety (below), the Comet Two Sixty will have been the new model for Harry's second year (Cho's third), and so one year newer than Harry's initial Nimbus 2000. Also, Tonks mentions in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that she, too, rides a Comet Two Sixty.
- Two Ninety: Mentioned only in passing, the Two Ninety is evidently the latest Comet model in Harry's fifth year. Ron, comparing it to his new Cleansweep Eleven, mentions that the Comet Two Ninety will do 0 to 60 in ten seconds.
- Firebolt: In Harry's third year, his Nimbus 2000 is destroyed by the Whomping Willow. It is replaced by a Firebolt, which is a world-class broom; in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it is mentioned that the Irish National Quidditch team are all mounted on Firebolts. It is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that the Firebolt is capable of 0-150 mph (0-240Kph) acceleration in 10 seconds, which, for those interested in the physics, is approximately 0.7G. Additionally, as 150 mph is near terminal velocity for a falling human, the wind force on the rider at the broom's top speed could be about the same as his body weight. This may have something to do with the appearance of footrests on the brooms in the Harry Potter movies.
- Nimbus: The Nimbus line is apparently a second-tier racing broom, not National-class but a very speedy performer nonetheless.
- 2000: the Nimbus 2000 is the broom Harry receives in his first year at Hogwarts. At the time, it is the best broom available, and is ideally suited to the Seeker's job.
- 2001: In Harry's second year, the entire Slytherin Quidditch team are given Nimbus 2001 brooms by Lucius Malfoy, apparently in gratitude for their having put Draco Malfoy on the house Quidditch team as Seeker.
- Shooting Star: An older and cheaper broom, and not very fast; intended, one supposes, for learning riders.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, it was mentioned that Ron's old Shooting Star was often outstripped by passing butterflies.
- In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry has to practice on a school broom after his Nimbus 2000 is destroyed; it is mentioned that this broom is an ancient Shooting Star which was very slow and jerky.
- Silver Arrow: mentioned in passing by Madam Hooch as being the type of broom she learned on, one no longer made. She had also commented that Firebolts remind her of Silver Arrows.
- Toy brooms: mentioned in passing in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, these brooms are apparently designed to fly only high enough to lift the children's toes out of the grass. We see, in a letter sent to Sirius by Harry's mother, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that Harry had received one of these brooms from Sirius and was already flying it around the house at about age one.
There is also a publication devoted to the merits of the various broomsticks. Named Which Broomstick, it is obviously modeled after the British stereo enthusiasts' Which Hifi magazine and the more recent Which PC.
From the descriptions of flying in the series, it appears that the key to using a broom is balance. The way you balance on the broom controls the direction in which it will fly, shifting your weight forward will bring the handle down and so make it descend. It seems that shifting your weight closer to the broom makes it speed up. Presumably shifting your weight left and right makes it turn. However, it is possible to spin one's body around the broom, and still have it continue traveling in more or less a straight line; this is apparently called a "sloth grip roll", and is mentioned in passing in book 5.
One question which is never satisfactorily answered is, who pays for Harry's Nimbus 2000, and why? We learn that his Firebolt was bought by Sirius, and was quite expensive ("eleven years of missed birthdays and Christmases"); the Nimbus 2001 brooms which the Slytherin team uses in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets were purchased by Lucius Malfoy; Ron flies on a broom that was bought for him by his mother. Before he receives his Firebolt, Harry must practice on the school brooms, which are slow and wobbly. Everyone else uses brooms that they buy themselves; Harry receives the Nimbus 2000 for free. From whom? The only clue we have is Oliver Wood and Professor McGonagall discussing what kind of broom he needs, immediately after his first, spectacular flying lesson. McGonagall's comments at that point hint at the idea that she and Wood between them would buy the broom. Wood, as a student, likely has little money, so we have to assume that the Nimbus 2000 was, in fact, a gift from Professor McGonagall, possibly with help from Professor Dumbledore.
Like muscle cars and roadsters in the 1950s through 1970s, and computers in the 1990s and 2000s for Muggles, brooms are the adolescent wizard's way of showing off. Because of this, there is a rapid turnover in the top of the line models, and a slower change in the more utilitarian models. For instance, the Nimbus 2000 is introduced with fanfare (including a static display at Quality Quidditch Supplies in Diagon Alley) in Harry's first year, but the follow-on model, the Nimbus 2001, is apparently available by the following year. The model numbers of the current Comet version also seem to be increasing in a similar pattern, with the Comet 260 apparently being the top of their line in Harry's second year, and the 290 in Harry's fifth year, indicating an increase of 10 in the model number each year. The same turnover can be seen in the Cleansweep line; Ron apparently gets a Cleansweep Eleven, then the "new Cleansweep model", as reward for becoming a prefect in his fifth year, and the Seven is apparently the top of the line in Harry's first year, which means that if the model numbers are sequential, there has been a new Cleansweep each year. Interestingly, if that is the case, the Twin's Cleansweep Fives, which Draco Malfoy speaks of so disparagingly, are at the time only three years old.
Looking at Harry's Firebolt in light of Ron's discussion of the then-current Cleansweep and Comet lines, we can see a very marked difference in acceleration – the Comet, with its zero-to-60 in 10 seconds, and the Cleansweep with its zero-to-70, simply do not compare to the Firebolt's zero-to-150. Looking at this from the viewpoint of the Muggle, we have to guess that the top-of-the-line Nimbus, Comet, and Cleansweep brooms would be analogous to our sports cars, while the Firebolt would be a Formula-1 racing car. The acceleration alone would make the Firebolt harder to handle than many commercial brooms. In this light, we would rather wonder how Sirius could have considered getting such a potentially dangerous broom for his godson. We can only think that Sirius based his decision on having seen Harry flying on his Nimbus 2000 once, possibly shaded with Sirius' known affinity for taking risks.
As an aside, one wonders whether there is a brisk business in racing brooms sold to wizards trying to recapture their lost youth, similar to the Muggle sports-car market? As wizards generally live longer than Muggles, this would likely be wizards in their 70s and 80s...
It is perhaps of interest to note how much Harry relies on his broom for his self-image, apparently more than he does his wand, which would be central in most wizards' self image as being the tool used to create most of the magic that permeates their lives. Harry's wand loses some of its glamour (used in the old sense of the word) for him when he discovers, immediately after purchasing it, that it shares provenance with the wand used by Voldemort. It seems that Harry picks up flying as his center, when he discovers that he is naturally good at it, better in fact that even his arch-rival Draco, who has boasted of his ability. To date, Harry has been lauded for an achievement that he doesn't recall and believes he had little to do with; flying is an ability he has managed on his own, one which he can accept praise for, as it is his own doing, and additionally one that is a link back to his dead father, also a flyer of noted ability. Why then should not the tool that allows Harry to achieve these victories become a vital part of his self image?
We see this repeated several times in the series: Harry's elation at the abilities of the Nimbus 2000 and his depression at its destruction; his joy at receiving a broomstick maintenance kit from Hermione; the excitement at receiving his Firebolt, and the depression, and estrangement from Hermione, resulting from its confiscation, and the joy on its return. We note that the Firebolt is one of only three things Harry chooses to take with him when leaving Privet Drive for the last time, the others being Hedwig and a rucksack or day-pack with essentials and clothing; and we sense that he feels the loss of the Firebolt, possibly nearly as much as he feels the loss of Hedwig.