The Potions Master
chapter eight of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Harry attends a memorable first week of classes, capped off by a Potions lesson in which Snape makes his dislike for Harry abundantly clear. Harry and Ron then visit Hagrid, where they learn that Gringotts was robbed the same day Harry and Hagrid visited.
Professor Flitwick, the Charms teacher, was a tiny little wizard who had to stand on a pile of books to see over his desk.
(by Laurence Peguy)
Quirrell’s lessons turned out to be a bit of a joke. His turban, he told them, had been given to him by an African prince as a thank-you for getting rid of a troublesome zombie, but they weren’t sure they believed this story.
(by Edgar Torné)
Snape, like Flitwick, started the class by taking the roll call, and like Flitwick, he paused at Harry’s name. “Ah, yes,” he said softly, “Harry Potter. Our new – celebrity.“
(by Laura Freeman)
“Potter!” said Snape suddenly. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
(by Keith James)
“And a point will be taken from Gryffindor House for your cheek, Potter.”
(by Michael Greenholt)
“Make yerselves at home,” said Hagrid.
(by Michael Greenholt)
As Harry and Ron walked back to the castle for dinner, their pockets weighed down with rock cakes they’d been too polite to refuse, Harry thought that none of the lessons he’d had so far had given him as much to think about as tea with Hagrid.
(by Maria Abagnale)
about the chapter
Harry’s classes seem so extraordinary to us (and to him!) that we barely notice how mundane his school life really is. It’s part of what is so captivating about Rowling’s writing – it’s always interesting to hear what Harry’s studying, because from our perspective it’s so outlandish; yet at the same time, we can relate to his experiences because they’re so familiar. After all, it feels to me like every single year in school I had a teacher who was super strict and gave loads of homework (McGonagall), one who taught fairly well but whose classes tended to devolve into chaos (Flitwick), one who was just plain mean (and also gave loads of homework – Snape), one whose classes seemed like the most boring thing on earth (Binns), and one who was a bit of a joke (Quirrell). Even the interesting part – the subject material – will soon be little more to the students than something else they have to study and write papers on.
Something You May Not Have Noticed
Listen to Harry’s descriptions of Snape’s eyes – “black like Hagrid’s, but they had none of Hagrid’s warmth;” or “cold and empty and made you think of dark tunnels.” Meanwhile the whole time Snape is calling him out in class, Harry is forcing “himself to keep looking straight into those cold eyes.” As time goes on we’ll learn that Snape’s maintaining eye contact with Harry is significant on a couple of levels, and this won’t be the last time their interactions are described this way. It’s worth paying attention to and thinking about what’s going on behind those eyes.
Life at Hogwarts
Binns being a ghost is just a side note for Harry’s class, but I can’t help but wonder what kind of reaction his students had the day he died. After all, he’d been in class as a living teacher the day before, and now was still there, but as a ghost. I’m sure there was plenty of shock to go around, but given his age and the nature of his classes, I’d have to guess that a common reaction was something along the lines of, “Are you SERIOUS? He DIED and he’s STILL teaching???” I can almost hear Seamus Finnigan shouting his disbelief around the Gryffindor common room.
Something to Remember
When Harry and Ron accidentally found themselves near the locked corridor, there were two adults nearby – Filch, who was obviously looking for troublemakers, and Quirrell, “who was passing.” There are lots of reasons he could be walking by, but we’ll find out the real one later on.
The Final Word
“I get letters from children addressed to Professor Dumbledore headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and it’s not a joke, begging to be let into Hogwarts, and some of them are really sad. Because they want it to be true so badly they’ve convinced themselves it’s true.”–J.K. Rowling, July 2000