The Harry Potter Reread is like a locomotive that can’t be stopped! But a cool kind, with sleeper cars and a dining car, and passes through some really snazzy countryside. Always wanted to travel in one of those.
This week we’re going to make friends with Hermione and then win our first Quidditch match! Because wizard sports are way better than regular sports. On to chapters 10 and 11—Halloween and Quidditch.
Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.
Harry gets his first lesson on the rules of Qudditch from Oliver Wood. The basics are thus: There are three Chasers who handle the Quaffle ball and try to score goals through three elevated hoops. There is one Keeper who tries to block those goals. There are two Beaters who beat Bludger balls away from their teammates. And there is one golden Snitch that is caught by the Seeker. Importantly, the Snitch is worth 150 points while the goals are only worth ten. (In professional Quidditch, the winning team gets points toward heading to the Quidditch World Cup by scoring a certain number of goals in addition to Snitch points, so it is in the best interest of the teams to still try and score regardless.)
The kids have a Charms class where they’re trying to make feathers levitate and fly through the air. Ron and Hermione are partners, which is rough for Ron as Hermione corrects him on everything he attempts. Then she makes their feather fly with relative ease. Ron is frustrated enough that he moans about it to Harry in the halls and Hermione hears him. She runs to the girl’s bathroom, and stays there crying all afternoon. A Halloween feast is awaiting the students in the Great Hall, but Professor Quirrell cuts the festivities short by informing Dumbledore that there’s a troll in the dungeons. The students are sent to their dormitories, but Harry realizes that Hermione is still in the bathroom and doesn’t know about the troll. He and Ron go to find her and find the troll instead, passing Snape in the process and noting that he’s heading to the third floor corridor instead of the dungeon.
The boys cleverly lock the troll in the next room it enters, not realizing that they have locked it into the girl’s bathroom with Hermione. (How were they going to find her then?) They enter and defeat the troll; Harry tries to jump the thing and Ron finally gets the levitation spell down, nabbing the troll’s club and dropping it in the monster’s head. The teachers find the trio and Hermione saves Harry and Ron from serious trouble by lying to McGonagall and claiming that she tried to head the troll off by herself. She gets away with only a five point deduction from Gryffindor, likely because McGonagall is so shocked that Hermione made such error in judgment. (Also almost being pulped by the mountain troll is sort of punishment enough.
And from that point on, Harry, Ron and Hermione are friends.
There was talk in the comments last week about this idea of Harry being a “jock,” which fandom has certainly asked some questions about, especially where favoritism toward him is concerned. It seems as though the wizarding world is crazy all around where Quidditch is concerned; the idea that McGonagall cares enough to favor Harry in this regard when she never does the same where the House points are concerned (Harry and Ron complain about this in previous chapters) proves that basically everyone is nuts about it. Maybe because it’s literally the only sport and one of the few forms of wizarding entertainment? We know they have books and radio and bands, but they don’t have television and film. (What about theater, I wonder? We don’t hear of any.)
In regard to the idea of Harry being a jock... it personally never quite read that way to me, despite the popularity that comes with it. Particularly because one of the primary aspects of Quidditch talent is being good on a broom, which actually seems more a magical inclination than a physical one. There are physical aspects to the sport, certainly, but the innate talent springs from magical ability. It’s super weird that Harry gets the brand new fancy broom, though, because you’d think that everyone should have to play on the same equipment, right? That would be like saying some people could bat with wood in baseball and everyone else got to bat with aluminum. It’s seems more a narrative device to make the reader feel vicariously good through Harry by getting special “treats.”
Poor Hermione. She learns very quickly that pushing your knowledge on others doesn’t make you friends, but everyone knows what it’s like to hear (or wonder about) others griping at your expense. I once noticed a fan point out that Hermione’s birthday is in September, meaning that she spent her first birthday at school alone in all likelihood. It makes you want those first months from her point of view, makes you wonder what it was really like for her, how isolating it might have felt.
And a perfect diversion tactic again with Quirrell, having him faint, and then the redirect with Snape. The mystery continues....
Rescuing Hermione from the troll is an interesting choice to me, primarily because it falls under your standard “rescue the princess” motif, which is not the sort of thing Rowling normally goes for, even when she is hitting archetypal points. Still, it’s hilarious and great for upping some stakes. She perfectly illustrates what makes Harry and Ron Gryffindors with lines like:
Harry then did something that was both very brave and very stupid: He took a great running leap and managed to fasten his arms around the troll’s neck from behind.
Go, go Gryffindor! Seriously, though, that’s basically engraved on the Godric’s House crest—“Something very brave and very stupid.”
Another interesting thing to note: Hermione makes the choice to tell McGonagall that she tried to head the troll off herself. She could have just said that she was in the bathroom because she had been crying (if she was worried about implicating Ron’s douche-ness, she might have simply said she were homesick), so that tells us something very specific about Hermione.... Likely that she prefers to get scolded for brashness and/or arrogance over what might be perceived as weakness.
And doesn’t that just make her a true Gryffindor as well.
Harry is panicking about his first Quidditch match by November (good thing Hermione is now checking Harry and Ron’s homework, seeing as they’re friends and all). While the Quidditch match is going down, his broom suddenly starts trying to buck him off. Hermione notices Snape muttering and realizes that he’s trying to jinx Harry’s broom. She goes to where Snape is seated (knocking Professor Quirrell over in the process) and set Snape’s cloak on fire, breaking his eye contact with Harry.
Harry accidentally wins the match by catching the Snitch in his mouth. When the trio go to see Hagrid next, they ask about Snape trying to get past the three-headed dog. Turns out that dog belongs to Hagrid and his name is fluffy. He insists Snape is not trying to steal what Fluffy is guarding and he’s not out to kill Harry—though he does accidentally admit that whatever is being guarded in the school has something to do with a man named Nicholas Flamel.
Have I mentioned that it’s awesome that the Gryffindor team has three ladies on it? It’s awesome.
It strikes me again here that for all Fred and George cause trouble, they are always the first ones to help; when Harry’s broom goes berserk they try to grab him off it, and when that doesn’t work they circle below to be there to catch him. Lee Jordan’s commentary is perfectly comical, though it’s funnier to consider that McGonagall might expect fair-minded commentary from any student.
Ugh, that adorable sign they make for Harry, I’m fine it’s nothing just, HARRY YOU HAVE FRIENDS AND THEY MAKE YOU BRAVE. But this is in fact a microcosm of truth here; that banner and the effect it has on Harry’s confidence is emblematic of what his friends do for him throughout the series. They bolster him, they make him feel capable, and as a result he becomes capable.
There is what I’d consider to be a narrative flaw here—Rowling’s switch of perspective in this chapter, particularly the first time she does it, is very awkward. We’re with Harry, then the match commentary starts, then suddenly we’re with Hermione and Hagrid and the rest. It’s not at all smooth and it’s the first time in the book that we’ve been this far from Harry’s perspective. It just doesn’t read right.
What is impressive is that Rowling’s overall structure of the match manages to keep the game interesting, something that she admits became hard in later books. And you can’t exactly blame her; writing blow-by-blows of sports games is not easy, even if there are broomsticks involved. (Also that joke about how referees go missing and end up walking out of deserts some time later is a wonderfully sarcastic jibe at the insanity of sports fans.) It does help to have the added danger and the confusion around Snape, certainly.
And poor, dear Hagrid. He just doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut.