In the eighth chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcererâ€™s Stone, Harry experiences his first disorienting day inside Hogwarts, where Filch and Mrs. Norris are super annoying and snaaaaaaappppppppeeeeeeeeee. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to re-read Harry Potter.
CH. 8: THE POTIONS MASTER
Oh, Harry Potter. How I have missed you! As we take the time to spend a few chapters in this world, itâ€™s such a neat thing to be re-reading this with the context and knowledge of the entire series. Hell, especially this chapter, which contained so many clues to the end reveal of this book and the series as a whole. Also: SNAPE. Oh, we are going to have a conversation about Snape. WE MUST.
Itâ€™s neat that there are hints to the whispering celebrity issue that comes up in Chamber of Secrets, that who Harry is, is going to be used against him in the near future. But itâ€™s just one of many things that distract, terrify, and disorient Harry on that first day of classes at Hogwarts. WHERE IS MY HOGWARTS LETTER, BTW.
Since my initial review completely missed all the clue-dropping and foreshadowing present here because I was so beautifully ignorant in those days, I focused on the absurdity of all of this. The school itself no longer feels that way, as Iâ€™ve come to understand that itâ€™s almost a living entity in a sense, that corridors can change at will and that no one will ever quite understand what the buildingâ€™s actual layout is. (Dumbledore got pretty close. And now Iâ€™m thinking of the Room of Requirement and wondering when Rowling will first drop a hint of it.)
But reading back through this again, I love how just fucking weird it is. Rowlingâ€™s matter-of-fact tone throughout all of this feels like she was writing this and had a DEAL WITH IT look on her face. One hundred and forty-two staircases? Doors that are pretending to be doors? Ghosts that would drop wastebaskets on your head? A cat named Mrs. Norris? Itâ€™s all so magical and I know thatâ€™s a silly word to use, but it really is. While I commend the fact that Rowling does capture the strangeness and the unfamiliarity of the first day at a new school incredibly well, Iâ€™m more interested in how she uses this chapter to continue to build the magical world, especially around the outside in this case. While Harry has experience later with students who come from Muggle families, itâ€™s not nearly the same thing because the very specific context of where Harry has come from.
Itâ€™s nice to cycle through all of the teachers as well, from the adorable Professor Sprout, to the inevitably boring Professor Binns. I meanâ€¦.reading this again made me laugh:
Professor Binns had been very old indeed when he had fallen asleep in front of the staff room fire and got up next morning to teach, leaving his body behind him.
CAN WE DISCUSS THIS. Ok, the way this is wordedâ€¦.did he discover the staff room fire and just go MEH WHATEVER and fall asleep right there in front of it? Or is this an instance of him falling asleep in the staff room and then it caught on fire? Actually, it almost doesnâ€™t even matter which one it is, because the result of such an act is even more hilarious: He woke up, completely dead, and decided that there was nothing heâ€™d like to do more for the remainder of eternity than bore the fuck out of students at Hogwarts. That is some fucking dedication to boredom. My god, Professor Binns is now the best character in the whole book.
Thereâ€™s an entire paragraph that is RIDICULOUS in terms of how foreshadow-y it is of Quirrellâ€™s true identity and I laugh at the fact that I did not catch a single detail regarding it at the time I first read this. His turban story is obviously fake since he doesnâ€™t seem to want to tell the story of how he got it and his class is full of garlic to block out the smell of FUCKING VOLDEMORT, who is smelling up the back of his head. I mean…ITâ€™S RIGHT THERE. HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS. Oh, to be so blissfully unaware again.
Actually, Iâ€™m glad Iâ€™ve read this whole series because now I can finally begin to openly talk about Snape. I never really wrote a huge piece about what I thought about him after I finished the series. And look, I can admit to being so absurdly foolish about hating him and thinking he was clearly the worst villain ever. But that also made the reveal of â€œThe Princeâ€™s Taleâ€ much more powerful to me. But seriously, I was pretty committed to the idea that he was completely and totally evil. Given that, and given what I now know about his whole story, this chapter is justâ€¦.weird. Fascinating, but really, really weird.
I suppose that it all has to involve some imagining on our parts to put the pieces together. But I think about Snape seeing Harry that first time in the Great Hall, and I imagine that there must have been a rush of memories, of emotions, thoughts of what he wanted with Lily but couldnâ€™t ever have, of knowing that she was dead inherently because of what he had done years ago, and now this boy waltzes into that hall as a physical reminder of it all. Harryâ€™s existence is because of Lilyâ€™s love for him, and now Snape has to see him. So what does a man in this situation do?
He lashes out. Iâ€™m not comfortable excusing Snapeâ€™s actions, but I want to make sure I understand them. Itâ€™s like Harry is a trigger for Snapeâ€™s rather traumatic past, and it doesnâ€™t help that there are probably a few things that remind Snape about James Potter, either. I guess thatâ€™s why I ultimately think that of everyone in the Harry Potter series, Snape gets the best story. Heâ€™s a man tortured by his conscience, of the memory of what never was, and heâ€™s forced to protect a child that reminds him of how fucking unbearably depressing his life is. Again, this does not excuse the way that Snape bullies Harry, and it most certainly does not excuse the way he enables Draco Malfoy to do the same. Dracoâ€™s character doesnâ€™t get the depth that Snape has until the sixth book and even then, itâ€™s not enough for me to care. Sorry, I donâ€™t like Draco and he doesnâ€™t redeem himself in my eyes. THERE I SAID IT, BRING IT DRACO STANS.
I suppose, though, that it would be so much easier to like Snape had he not come off as a presumptive asshole in this first true introduction to him, and I do understand why I was so averse to liking him. As much as I get that Snape is just unhappy with the way things have turned out for himself, he has no idea what life has been like for Harry at the Dursleys, that he has not lived a life of entitlement in the years he lived away from his parents after their death. Wait until The Order of the Phoenix, Snape, and then you will have plenty of time to whine about Harryâ€™s entitled attitude. FOR REAL.
But here, in that first Potions lesson, Snape purposely picks on Harry, singles him out to answer questions that he knows Harry wonâ€™t know the answers to, and punishes his entire house for these things. Was he trying to get others to dislike Harry, too? Either way, I elaborated on this idea during Mark Reads Harry Potter that I am not one to love figures of authority abusing their power as Snape has done here. Of course, this is nowhere near as bad as what Dolores Umbridge does (AAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH JUST THE NAME SENDS ME INTO A RAGE), but half of my experience in junior high school and high school involved teachers, counselors, and even a vice principal either picking on me purposely or enabling said bullying to happen. So thatâ€™s part of the reason I side eye Snape really, really hard while also understanding the traumatic motivation he has for his actions. On top of all of that, heâ€™s incredibly hard on Neville during this first lesson and you do not pick on my Neville Longbottom without serious consequences.
On a completely unserious note, I love that Hermione is already begging to be be chosen to answer a question. COULD I BE HER ANYMORE THAN I ALREADY AM.
The seeds of the wonderful friendship that Harry, Ron, and Hermione have with Hagrid is all built right here, too. Obviously, since Hagrid was the first source of sorcery that Harry ever saw, and because Hagrid â€œsavedâ€ him from the Dursleys, I never doubted that Hagrid would always be a staple to Harryâ€™s life. But itâ€™s great to know that so early on, Hagrid was sending Harry sweet little notes to join him for tea. Hagridâ€™s an outsider, too, unable to perform magic, kind of a bit rubbish as a teacher, and an easy target for a lot of the schoolâ€™s more shittier student population, so thereâ€™s a part of me that believes Hagrid doesnâ€™t want Harry to go through the same thing. He knows that Harry is also never going to get a post from his owl that originates from the Dursley residence, so itâ€™s pretty fantastic that he takes it upon himself to send what he can to Harry.
Hagridâ€™s painfully dodgy and not-concealed-well knowledge of outside information is displayed in all its beautiful glory here in chapter eight as well. It almost seems like Rowling has this unspoken joke that runs throughout the entire series that involves the trio going to Hagrid to learn whatever they need to about that bookâ€™s events because Hagrid is really shit at keeping a secret. Itâ€™s clear he knew way more about Snape than he let on, and that whatever was in the vault had to do with the Gringotts break-in. (Did Dumbledore tell Hagrid about Snapeâ€™s allegiance? I honestly canâ€™t remember. I mean…did Dumbledore tell anyone else or did everyone just trust Dumbledoreâ€™s judgment?)
Chapter eight ends on that sort of note. Youâ€™re intrigued by the concept of it all, but itâ€™s still not quite enough to send you into overdrive. SOON THOUGH.