Thu
Apr 17 2014 2:00pm

The Harry Potter Reread: The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 10 and 11

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneThe 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.

Chapter 10—Halloween

Summary

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.

Commentary

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.

 

Chapter 11—Quidditch

Summary

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.

Commentary

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.


Emily Asher-Perrin would probably have tried to jump that troll too. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

38 comments
Adam S.
1. MDNY
Whew! I was worried there wouldn't be a post this week. And another DOUBLE CHAPTER POST! WHOO!
I liked how Harry was so innately good at a sport that he only heard of recently, and impressed Wood with his beater skills. Totally agree that Hermione's lie showed that she belongs in Griffindor. I wonder why she didn't just tell the truth, they might have gotten 10 points and no deductions that way...
Poor, lovable Hagrid, he really doesn't know the meaning of the word "secret", does he? But his naming skills are AWESOME (except for Norbert, that is, but that one is still pretty damn funny). Fluffy...LOL.
David Levinson
2. DemetriosX
In professional Quidditch, I think the points help teams qualify for the championship cup, but not the World Cup. The World Cup teams are national and made up of members of various pro teams. This parallels the way it works in soccer.

It occurs to me that there are a lot of girls running off to cry in the bathroom in this series. Hermione here, Ginny in the next book, and Moaning Myrtle of course. It seems like a bit of a sexist stereotype for Rowling. Also regarding Hermione and her birthday, did she turn 12 and is thus a lot older than everybody else or did she turn 11 and is a lot younger. A September birthday is right on the line and could go either way.

The business with Snape during the match is an excellent bit of misdirection. It may seem a little obvious to an experienced reader, but for the assumed target audience it should work very well.

Finally, the arcaneness of Quidditch rules is supposedly based on some game popular in British colleges and universities, but the name escapes me. Can anyone enlighten me?
Tom Smith
3. phuzz
In British public schools (which a lot of the tone of Hogwarts seems to be based on), as far as I remember if your parents were rich and bought you an amazing cricket bat you were allowed to use it in matches, although from the books Harry's broom seems to be quite an advantage over the stanadard.
Michelle R. Wood
4. Michelle R. Wood
Let's see: Harry isn't very good at magic or schoolwork, yet is first widely accepted by peers due to his prowess in a game of sport. I'd file this case under "looks like a jock, quacks like a jock, it's a jock." That doesn't mean Harry's a bad person, any more than real life jocks are necessarily bad people. In fact, I've always found it rather subversive that Harry is beloved as a hero for outcasts when he in fact
typifies the jock persona.
Michelle R. Wood
5. Athreeren
It is after hearing the story of Moaning Myrtle that I thought that they really should put a sign on the toilets: "sulking here may summon monsters".
Michelle R. Wood
6. Nessa
@4: I don't love him for being an outcast. Harry's main predicament (and the one that drives a lot of his heroic actions) is his orphan status, not his outcast status. This parallels with Voldemort, who was an orphan as well, but by no means an outcast (he had a crowd of supporters in school).

For all that I believe Quiddich is an inherently unfair sport that relies on superior equipment, and more on one player being amazing (the Seeker) rather than teamplay, I still think that some of the most heartfelt moments occur during Quiddich games. This one in particular is the first time that Harry has won at something in his life, and everyone is cheering for him from the stands - It was a wonderful feeling for the 9 year old me who first read it, and I'm sure it was wonderful for 11 year old Harry too.
David Levinson
7. DemetriosX
@3
I knew there was something else I meant to mention. I don't know about cricket bats, but it's certainly true for horses. Many students on the equestrian team have to get by with the school horses, but some rich kids get to bring their highly pedigreed and well-trained horses from home.
Michelle R. Wood
8. Graham Warnken
The change in POV is especially awkward because it's the only time in the series it ever happens in the midst of the narrative; apart from the prologues of books 1, 4, 6 and 7, everything is from Harry's POV. I feel for Rowling, as there was really no way she could have done this scene entirely from Harry's POV without having Ron and Hermione go through an exposition dump afterwards explaining what happened, which is clumsy and wouldn't work either.
Adam S.
9. MDNY
Quidditch in general seems to be pretty biased by equipment. The Irish national team all rode Firebolts and won, the Slytherins were able to outfly everyone when Malfoy bought them all the new Nimbus models, etc... On the other hand, the Weasleys never have top-of-the-line brooms yet Ron is (eventually) a decent player, Fred and George are very good, and Charlie was reportedly national-team level. The only sports in real life that are comparable are things like horse racing, where the equipment (horse) clearly relates to the quality of play.
Michelle R. Wood
10. HelenS
If you get the Hogwarts letter on your eleventh birthday, that would mean Hermione had to sit on that knowledge for nearly a year before she could go. I never thought about what that would be like for those with fall birthdays. No wonder she was overprepared!
Michelle R. Wood
11. Misheru
I've always just kinda assumed that the money for the broom was deducted from Harry's bank account, maybe I'm naive ;P
Michelle R. Wood
12. Sophist
Yes, Hermione is a year older. That's why she can get her license to apparate before Harry can.
Michelle R. Wood
13. WoozleMom
@10

My interpretation is that the letters are sent out during the month of July (or at least during the summer), and that they are sent to every magical child that has turned 11 since the start of the previous school year. Harry just happens to not read his letter until his 11th birthday, July 31, because the Dursleys keep taking the letters from him as they are delivered. Harry's first letter was delivered about a week before his birthday (I went to the book and counted the days), and the letter instructs students to respond by July 31. If this is all correct, then Hermione wasn't sitting on her letter for almost a year before she actually went to Hogwarts, she's just one to always make sure to be overprepared!

@OP: I'd never thought of that reason for why Hermione claimed she'd gone after the troll. I like it!
Michelle R. Wood
14. WoozleMom
That should have read, "...they are sent to every child that has turned 11 since the start of the previous school year or who will turn 11 before September 1." Sorry!
Don Barkauskas
15. bad_platypus
Golf and tennis are other examples of sports where good equipment can really make a difference and where (especially with golf) richer people would have an advantage.

Nessa @6:
For all that I believe Quiddich is an inherently unfair sport that relies on superior equipment, and more on one player being amazing (the Seeker) rather than teamplay...
While that is true to a certain extent, remember that at the Quidditch World Cup, Ireland wins even though Viktor Krum catches the Snitch---the rest of the team play was just too good for the Seeker to overcome.
janet vaughn
16. geochic1
Yeah re-read.
I never thought of Harry as a jock but it does make some sense.
Gaining new perpectives is why I like reading all the read/re-reads on Tor.
Ursula L
17. Ursula
For Quidditch, didn't total points over all games determine who won the Quidditch Cup at Hogworts?

I seem to remember a year where Harry could only catch the snitch once Griffendore was ahead by a certain number of points, or they'd win the game but loose the cup. Harry's role as Seeker became distracting the other Seeker from ending the game too soon, as well as catching the snitch.

That also explains the time Snape let Harry win a game against a non-Slythern opponant quickly. In the larger contest for the Quidditch Cup, Slythern is helped if both of the teams they're competing against have a low-scoring game.

It adds a layer of complexity to the game and it makes what the other players do count, if total points determine who wins a series of games, while catching the snitch often , but not always, determines who wins a specific game.
Chris Nelly
18. Aeryl
@4, I'll grant you that Harry's not that good at schoolwork, but why on Earth do you think he's not good at magic?

@5 LOL

@9, Yeah, it seems speed is really only helpful for the Seeker, and maybe the Chasers. If the Beaters go to fast, they'd have a hard time aiming at bludgers, and the Keeper would overshoot the goals they are supposed to be protecting. And, as your Charlie Weasley example, and Harry's own skill against Malfoy proves, speed ain't everything.
Michelle R. Wood
19. caladria
@2 - British schooling system tends to draw the line at 31st August/1st September to the point where it never occured to me that Hermione wasn't essentially a year older than Harry even before more explicit comments.

@9 - Motorsport, at least, top tier F1, as well as anything with horses. Americas cup. Basically everything down to running (spikes or no spikes etc). And yet..

@7, and just like the Weasleys, sometimes the better riders can make the school ponies look better than the rich kids make the fancy well bred things look.
Michelle R. Wood
20. Muswell
@17 - I assumed it worked on the same basis as football (soccer) and rugby and the like, in that when you're in a group tournament, or the group stages of a knock-out tournament, where two sides in a group have the same number of wins, losses and draws, who goes through is determined by point difference, i.e. the number of points they've scored less the number scared against them. For Gryffindor, who had lost to Hufflepuff, to win, they needed to win by 200 points to get the points difference, and therefore Harry couldn't catch the snitch until they were 50 points up.

Quidditch would be a much more sensible game if catching the snitch ended the match but didn't score any points, which would make it a tactical call, not an almost-certain match-winner.
Thomas Thatcher
21. StrongDreams
Rationally (hah), broomsticks would have to be engineered with trade-offs; do you want rapid acceleration/deceleration, or a high top speed, or quick changes in direction, or load carrying capacity. One broom shouldn't be able to be best at everything, so individual players would pick brooms that best suited their position.
Michelle R. Wood
22. TrueBlonde
@2 - Draco cried in the bathroom a lot during HBP. It's not just limited to females!
Chris Nelly
23. Aeryl
@21, Or comfort in riding. Look at Moody's "Chopper" broom from the movies
Michelle R. Wood
24. Michelle R. Wood
@6: Good to know you have a more nuanced view of Harry's story; I only report what I have repeatedly heard from many outlets. I've always found such a description ... strange, and a tad ironic.

@18: He's really not that gifted in magic. He can fly well, but he's only passable in most subjects. The only times he really excells at a magical ability are when he's been granted extra "help," either through cheating (via Hermione most of the time, or Snape in HBP), or via his connection with Voldemort. Otherwise he's mostly a "C" student all the way around. That's not to diminish his good qualities, just an example of how scholasticism (in either the magical or prosaic sense) is not his forte. Harry's much more comfortable with the physical: he's more prone to doing something than thinking about it first. To me, that's a jock. Again, that's not an insult, just a description.
Chris Nelly
25. Aeryl
@24,
Otherwise he's mostly a "C" student all the way around. That's not to diminish his good qualities

He got what would translate to As and Bs on his OWLS, except for Divination and History of Magic. He's never shown to have the issues performing magic that Ron has, though he is nowhere as skilled as Hermione. Many times in the movies, he is shown to hear a spell used by others and is able to use it perfectly(for example, Erinia Exemay(sp) in CoS, which I believe is the Conjuctivitis Curse used on giants, dragons and other large magical creatures, he uses it on the acromantulas). He has very little trouble with the practical application of magic, it's the theory work he has trouble with, which again, just points to his lack of scholarly application.
Mai Pucik
26. vampomatic
@24 (and on preview, @25) Harry is definitely more of an intuitive thinker than an intellectual one, but I think his bigger problem as far as schoolwork goes is that he's very goal-oriented yet almost entirely lacking in adult supervision to give him some focus. (Witness his floundering when picking third year electives and deciding what OWLs to take.) He's got a natural knack for flying and defense/dueling, but those are also the skills he puts the most work into, both out of validation and necessity. He holds his own on his own (or at least as much as any Champion is on their own) in two of the three Triwizard events despite being several years underage and mastered a difficult defense spell that many adult wizards never manage at age 13 -- and was able to teach it to a number of his peers two years later.

He still appears to be a decent-to-good student otherwise, judging by his OWL scores. The only subjects he didn't get at least an Exceeds Expectations in were Astronomy, History of Magic, and Divinations, and Astronomy had the extenuating circumstance of being interrupted by Hagrid's arrest. He even did above average in the subject taught by the professor who virulently despised him, and that was before getting Snape's old textbook.

tl;dr Harry's a pretty good but unfocused student who also happens to be modest and surrounded by geniuses-- of course "pretty good" is going to look mediocre compared to the likes of Hermione, James and Lily, Sirius, Snape, arguably Remus, the Weasley twins, Dumbledore, Voldemort and Bellatrix...
Michelle R. Wood
27. Lsana
Interesting idea about why Hermione lied about the reason she was in the bathroom. That was one of the things I'd always wondered about: Harry and Ron are shocked about Hermione lying to a teacher and seem to assume that it is because she's trying to keep them out of trouble, but I was screaming at the book that telling the truth would have done the same thing and kept Hermione out of trouble besides. I'd never considered that telling the truth would have meant admitting to weakness, and her pride wouldn't let her do that.

@20,

I've had much the same thoughts about Quidditch, particularly the part about using the Snitch simply as a timer rather than a "you win" plot coupon. That would have put some interesting strategy into when to catch the Snitch.
Michelle R. Wood
28. Nessa
@15: There was also that time in Order of the Phoenix where Ginny caught the snitch for Gryffindor but they still lost. But still, catching the snitch is a huge advantage - each time a Chaser scores (through teamwork!), they only get 10 points but a Seeker can get 150 in one go.

@20: That would be a more sensible idea!
Michelle R. Wood
29. (still) Steve Morrison
The only mention of theater I can think of is in The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Dumbledore’s notes to “The Fountain of Fair Fortune” tell us that once, long ago, Hogwarts chose it for a Christmas pantomime. The idea came from the Herbology teacher, Professor Beery, who was “an enthusiastic devotee of amateur dramatics”, and who later left Hogwarts to teach at the “Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts”.
Andrew Barton
30. MadLogician
@2

> Finally, the arcaneness of Quidditch rules is supposedly based on some
> game popular in British colleges and universities, but the name escapes
> me. Can anyone enlighten me?

Possibly the Eton wall game - although that is not played at any other school or college.

Qidditch just doesn't make sense as a game, and I doubt that Rowling ever intended it as anything but satire.
David Levinson
31. DemetriosX
@30
I don't think it's that. In the back of my mind it's something that starts with H. Like hurling, but not that.
Michelle R. Wood
32. littlebit_liz
Not sure if it was brought up yet, but Hermione is a year older, I believe. In HBP, she is able to go get her Apparating license in March (with most everyone else) because she is already 17. Harry, Draco, and Ernie on the other hand, have to wait because their birthdays are later and they aren't 17 yet. (Draco's bday is in June, I believe, no idea when Ernie's is.)
Michelle R. Wood
33. Mike Tempest
Here's something nobody else seems to notice either: In that scene with the broom-jinxing, Snape and Quirrell (spoiler) areNOT USING THEIR WANDS. What's up with that? Is there wandless magic or isn't there? It just seems to me that Rowling doesn't have the rules of magic quite clearly down yeat.
Chris Nelly
34. Aeryl
@33, Magic is possible without wands. it's not impossible just easier. That is why unschooled children, house elves and goblins can still do magic. Humans use wands to focus their magic.
David Levinson
35. DemetriosX
@33/34
Perhaps more questionable is that Snape is visibly muttering the whole time. While this is necessary to draw suspicion to him, it is contradicted later when Snape is shown to be quite adept at silent spellcasting. I suppose we can justify it by saying the effort of casting without a wand forces him to at least move his lips while casting, but it's obviously just a minor continuity error.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
36. Lisamarie
I love that explanation of Hermione's lie :)

I also noticed the perspective jump this time too -it happens again in a few chapters, I think in another Quidditch match.

I got the impression Harry was definitely good at magic - especially practical magic and the Defense Against the Dark Arts stuff. He was able to impress the OWL test proctor with his patronus, even. I don't think he was a bad student either, just average, maybe even a bit above given his OWL scores...but just not as book smart or as well read as Hermione, or industrious when it comes to school work and studying, etc.

I wonder how many people recognized Nicholas Flamel as the chocolate frog card guy! I know I didn't, but I read the book really fast!
Mai Pucik
37. vampomatic
@36 It's funny Harry has such an easy-come, easy-go attitude towards schoolwork juxtaposed with his burning curiosity towards everything else, including knowledge that would fall under the rubric of schoolwork if he hadn't learned it independently first. Occlumency aside he seems to do much better with individual tutoring or independent study with his friends -- maybe because he's more comfortable asking questions that way. (A possible legacy of the Dursleys? They never managed to stamp out his asking questions, but he does tend to be politely wary of authority figures as a default response, and individual lessons give him more time to warm up to his instructor. I don't remember him speaking up in class very often.)
Adam S.
38. MDNY
@37 That's true, but other than Hermione, nobody EVER asks questions at Hogwarts (though admittedly, Potions was pointless to ask questions while Snape ran it, Herbology it mostly hands-on and they wear earmuffs often, and Binns is a ghost who apparently hasn't changed from his boring living self and is unaware of the concept when Hermione finally asks one).

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