Thu
May 8 2014 9:00am

The Harry Potter Reread: The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 15 and 16

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone coverThe Harry Potter Reread was getting sassy and breaking rules this week, so I put it in detention. If only that worked on rereads the same way it worked on students.

This week we’re running a marathon that leads us right up to the final showdown of The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s chapters 15 and 16—The Forbidden Forest and Through the Trapdoor. We’ll get ominous warnings of every kind, our introduction to some fantastic new species, and a series of tests hopefully leading to that special stone we were talking about before.

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 15—The Forbidden Forest

Summary

Harry and Hermione are given a round scolding by McGonagall, who also found Neville out after dark—he was trying to warn them about Malfoy. She takes fifty points each from them, throwing Gryffindor into last place for the House Cup. Harry and Co. (though mostly Harry) are roundly snubbed by the school after this comes to light. Harry vows to stay out of trouble, though he does overhear Quirrell seeming to give up some information—to a person Harry assumes is Snape, though he never sees the other party. He worries that Snape now knows who to get past Quirrell’s test for the Stone.

Eventually Hermione, Neville, Draco, and Harry get their detention, which involves going into the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid. There are signs of unicorn blood all over, and Hagrid’s trying to find out what killed one and wounded another.

When they get into the forest, Harry, Hermione ,and Hagrid run into two centaurs, Ronan and Bane. Hagrid asks if they know what killed the unicorn, but their answers are indirect at best. Malfoy pulls a prank on Neville, which leads to Neville shooting up red sparks with his wand. Hagrid switches around their forest teams, having Harry go with Draco and Fang in order to stop Neville being bullied. Harry and Draco find the bleeding unicorn dead, and a figure emerges to drink its blood. Draco freaks out and runs while the hooded figure heads for Harry, whose scar is on fire.

Harry is saved by a centaur named Firenze, which seems to be against centaur cultural norms, going by the scolding he gets from Ronan and Bane. Firenze takes Harry safely to Hagrid, but not before explaining what unicorn blood can be used for and hinting who might be after it. Turns out, unicorn blood can keep a person alive, but it curses them. The only person who would likely use it is Voldemort, to keep himself alive until he can get the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry gives all the details to Ron and Hermione, who try to assure Harry that Dumbledore is still there, so everyone is safe. Harry finds the Invisibility Cloak under his pillow, with a note tacked on it that says, “Just in case.”

Commentary

Any time anyone gets all weird about Gryffindor favoritism, I point at this lovely dressing down, which just seems so overblown. Like, am I supposed to believe that other kids never wander the halls at night at Hogwarts? Because that’s what kids do, I’m sorry. If you are sleeping over at camp or school, and there are places you shouldn’t be after lights out YOU ARE GOING THERE. I think what seems unbelievable to me is that McGonagall is acting as though this has never happened. It makes sense for her to be wary with the Stone in the school, but not for her to be so shocked.

Also, that detention takes a long time to come around. It seems like it’s at least been a week before they get their notes to report at 11pm. (Super late for eleven-year-olds, whoa. They couldn’t have just started at sundown?) You’d think that Filch is pulling their legs about the torturous sort of methods they used to use for punishing students, but considering that their actual detention is a pretty dangerous affair, maybe he’s not? Or at least maybe he’s not lying about what they did centuries back. I highly doubt he was cuffing kids to ceilings by their wrists.

The centaurs are just awesome. I really wish we’d gotten more of a window into their species and culture overall, but the few glimpses we get are fascinating. Ronan makes a comment about how the innocent are always the first to die, and then there’s the whole “Mars is bright tonight,” line that he and Bane keeping throwing out. On the reread this instantly clarified; Mars is the god of war to the Greeks Romans, (what I totally remember school,) so the centaurs are basically marking this as the start of the second war with Voldemort—starting with the death of innocents, the unicorns.

Just saying that this is where classes in normal things like mythology might be useful to wizards? I mean, it would.

Firenze going against his people to give Harry some hints about what is coming is intriguing, particularly because we don’t know what is at stake by him giving that admission. The centaurs do seem to put a lot of stock in fate, and they clearly believe Harry is fated to die at the hands of Voldemort or at least due to his machinations. This all works out in the end because Harry does (technically) die, so no harm, no foul on Firenze. I do love how appalled the centaurs are at the idea that Firenze would let someone ride on his back.

Also, in interest of pointing out character development, I love that Hermione dismisses what the centaurs say because it sounds like Divination, which she is already allergic too. While she never gains any love for the subject, an older Hermione would have likely never spoken down about centaur culture that way, out of hand without knowing more about them.

And of course, the first inklings of just how serious things are start to creep up on us.


Chapter 16—Through the Trapdoor

Summary

The trio finish up their exams, despite being nervous about Voldemort and the Stone’s safety. It occurs to Harry that it’s awfully convenient for Hagrid to inherit a dragon when it had been the thing he wanted most in the world. He asks Hagrid about the stranger he won Norbert off of. Hagrid basically explains the person was hooded and cloaked, got him very drunk, and asked about how Hagrid took care of other animals to make sure he could handle a dragon. Hagrid told the stranger how to calm down dear three-headed Fluffy; the trio assume that the person who gave Hagrid the egg must have been Snape or Voldemort.

They plan to tell Professor Dumbledore, but when they ask McGonagall about whether they can see him, she informs them that he was called away to the Ministry of Magic on emergency business. Which means that every line of defense for the Stone is out. Harry knows that Snape is going through that trapdoor tonight, and he plans to go ahead of him and get to the stone first. Ron and Hermione insist on going with him.

When they prepare leave the Gryffindor common room, they are stopped by Neville. He insists that whatever they are doing will get Gryffindor into trouble, and that he means to stand up to them. Hermione performs a Full Body-Bind spell on him, and they head off to the third-floor corridor. The door is already open, so they assume Snape is ahead of them.

Harry plays music on the flute Hagrid whittled for him to put Fluffy to sleep. They go through the trap door, which leads to a Devil’s Snare plant. Hermione briefly panics over how to make fire to stop the plant from choking Harry and Ron, but they snap her out of it, and she gets them free. Next there’s a room full of flying keys, and Harry puts his Seeker skills to use in spotting and catching the correct one for the locked door. Then there’s a life-sized chess board to contend with. Ron leads the way here, but the game is brutal, pieces getting pummeled before they’re removed from the board. Ron has to sacrifice his piece for them to win. He gets knocked unconscious and dragged from the board while Harry and Hermione rush to the next room. The final puzzle is Snape’s, a logic puzzle that allows the person playing to pick between seven filled bottles: three poison, two wine, one to send you back in the direction you came, one to send you forward. Hermione figures it all out, but there isn’t enough for both her and Harry to go forward. He directs her to go back, get Ron, and send Hedwig to get Dumbledore. Then Harry steps through to room where the Stone is kept.

But it is not Snape who awaits him there.

Commentary

In years to come, Harry would never quite remember how he had managed to get through his exams when he half expected Voldemort to come bursting through the door at any moment.

I just love that. Mostly for the hilarious visual it gives me of Voldemort bursting through a class door with noisemakers and a funny hat, shouting “Surprise!” Also for Harry being adorable and a kid. Also for the suggestion that when Harry’s middle-aged and his kids are writing him letters about how scared exams make them, he’ll just sit back in his easy chair and remember that yesteryear when he kept expecting Voldemort to barrel in and put an end to his academic torment.

There are great bits of word play going on here, my favorite probably being how they had to “remember how to make a Forgetfulness potion” in Snape’s exam. The Weasley twins and Lee Jordan are sitting by the lake, tickling the giant squid, which I can’t believe I had forgotten because that’s definitely top on the list of Fun Things to Do at Hogwarts.

Poor Harry’s scar is hurting. (It’s going to hurt for the next seven years, someone should just tell him now so he can create coping mechanisms.) Then in a moment of utter brilliance—I’m not kidding, as an eleven-year-old this is the last thing on earth that would have occurred to me—he figures out what’s funky about Hagrid suddenly receiving a dragon of his very own. Poor Rubeus. He means so well, but he just doesn’t quite have it together.

And then Dumbledore is gone, just to make sure everyone freaks out. I’m sort of surprised that McGonagall didn’t take the trio’s warning more seriously; sure, they’re just kids, but if they know about the Stone, that’s a major security leak already. A professor or someone should have been put in place to keep an eye out, just on that red flag. But at least it prompts Harry to make his first great Speech of Panic, where he explains in no uncertain terms to Ron and Hermione that House Points Do Not Matter. It’s pretty great really, to see this little wily kid just take charge because there’s no one else to rely on. It does make you wonder if this is essentially a test that Dumbledore allows to happen if only because hardens Harry’s resolve to steel instantly.

Bam—there’s your hero.

And then we have Neville’s shining moment. You have to give the kid credit for sticking to his guns even when he has no idea what’s happening.

It’s great to see the trio work together and separately on the various obstacles, more for Ron and Hermione’s sake I’d say. Ron’s performance under pressure here really proves that there’s some serious heroic mettle under there, but it’s this line that gets me—

“That’s chess!” snapped Ron. “You’ve got to make some sacrifices!”

The reason is because we know for a fact that Rowling considered killing off Ron in the final book. If any of the trio got the ax, it was going to be him. And then you realize that if he had, it would have been in total parallel to this moment, the very first time he told Harry that sacrifices had to be made, and he would make them on their behalf. You realize that if Ron Weasley had died, he probably would have walked right into it, for Hermione and Harry, for everyone, and he never would have thought twice about whether he was making the right decision. Because Ron understands, even at this tender age, about the tactical aspects of battle. And he gives himself up without hesitation on the very first run.

I… am freaking out a little right now. About something that doesn’t even happen. Thanks, Rowling.

The logic puzzle is just excellent, moreso because the fact that Hermione is the only one here high on logic is a win all over. (It’s aggravating to think about how much Snape might have actually loved her as a student if he hadn’t been so busy hating EVERYTHING.) Her comment about how some of the best wizards don’t have an ounce of logic is great, and leaves a lot to think about. It sort of implies that magic is more art than science. This, of course, explains why Potions might be such an impossible subject for some wizards—more science and precision involved—and why it worked so well as a subject for Snape.

Logistics question: if there’s only a wall of fire, no doors blocking the way in the potion room, wouldn’t they have been able to see the next room over before the flames sprung to life? Just wondering….

And then Harry moves on to his final showdown… but that’s for next week.


Emily Asher-Perrin will be over here, reminding herself that it’s okay because Ron lives. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

47 comments
Muswell
1. Muswell
Mars = Roman god of war.
Ares = Greek god of war.
Valerie Varner
2. varnerv951
I love that reading this first book about 11-year-olds doesn't seem like reading YA after a while. You get pretty invested in what they are doing, and the challenges really ARE challenges, but ones a younger kid could still figure out.

I also agree on the mythology class. That is an excellent idea, actually.
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
Harry is saved by a centaur named Firenze, which seems to be against centaur cultural norms, going by the scolding he gets from Ronan and Bane.

I don't think it's because it's against their norms, it's because the centaurs know that Harry will die in the forest at the hands of Voldemort. That's what they've seen in the stars, and Ronan and Bane think that Firenze just tried to alter the future.

Firenze, having more foresight than his brethren, knows this not to be the case.

(It’s aggravating to think about how much Snape might have actually
loved her as a student if he hadn’t been so busy hating EVERYTHING.)

I think she, in addition to Harry, was too much of a stark reminder of another Muggle born with superb wizarding in abilities to be accepted by Snape in that manner. Which doesn't excuse it, but it is what it is.
David Levinson
4. DemetriosX
I think part of McGonagall's overreaction is that Hermione is involved. I suspect she sees a bit of herself in Hermione and is somewhat taken aback at this flagrant rule-breaking. And it certainly isn't what one would normally expect from her. At this stage, she's still all about rules and authority. Her association with Harry and Ron will eventually cure her, but it will take a while.

The centaurs here are difficult to understand without a lot of what we later learn. Dumbledore (and many other wizards) seems to share Hermione's attitude toward divination, yet there does seem to be something to it. At least as the centaurs practice it; the only time the students get anything out of the class at all is when Firenze teaches it.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
5. Lisamarie
I think this may be the first time I've re-read the series since finishing it, and it is amazing how much of it - such as the dying in the forest - is present, even here.
Rich Bennett
6. Neuralnet
two things always stick out to me when I reread these chapters: 1. wow, that is a tough detention... what the hell Hogwarts, kids could have gotten seriously hurt here. 2) I love the potions/logic puzzle... I remember working it out with a sheet of paper on my first read of the book... wish they had included it in the movie. (of course my favorite puzzle/stone defense is yet to come)

I still am always bothered by what mediocre students Harry and Ron are... I know Harry always has a lot going on, but it bugs me on some deep level that he and Ron barely scrape by at school.
Muswell
7. Sophist
You’d think that Filch is pulling their legs about the torturous sort of methods they used to use for punishing students, but considering that their actual detention is a pretty dangerous affair, maybe he’s not? Or at least maybe he’s not lying about what they did centuries back. I highly doubt he was cuffing kids to ceilings by their wrists.

Given what Filch was prepared to do when Umbrage took over, I don't think there was any exaggeration here. And I can't see Filch pulling anyone's leg.
Chris Nelly
8. Aeryl
@6, They get 6 OWLS! This is a phenomenal grade! Why do people feel that Harry and Ron don't do well in school. They struggle with studying, they don't pull down top marks like Hermione, but by all indications they are above average students.
David Levinson
9. DemetriosX
@6/@8
I think at this point they might be a tad indifferent as students. Harry seems to really crack down once he finds out about aurors and what it takes to become one. It motivates him. Ron's motivation is probably more trying to be someone Hermione might consider going out with, though he also benefits from his big confidence booster when he starts playing keeper.
Birgit
10. birgit
If the point is to protect the Stone, why doesn't Dumbledore keep the key in his pocket instead of conveniently providing enough brooms for everyone to catch the keys?
Emily Asher-Perrin
11. EmilyAP
@Sophist - I do believe Filch is willing to do all of that stuff himself, but I think the reason why I have a hard time buying that he ever did previously is that Dumbledore likely wouldn't allow physical abuse of students in school.

@Aeryl - Yes, this! I think part of the problem is that we're constantly hearing Hermione go on about what a breeze things are after the fact--the exams are hard. If we're going by an American grading system here (which I'm going to use because I know it best), I'd say Hermione is a Straight A kid, Harry is all As and Bs with the ocassional misstep, and Ron is mostly Bs with a couple As and the ocassional misstep too. They are good students. Hermione is just a school savant and makes everyone look like idiots.
Chris Nelly
12. Aeryl
@10 birgit

Because Dumbledore is not invincible, keys can be summoned and stolen, and his final "lock" is nigh unbeatable anyways.
Muswell
13. Sophist
I do believe Filch is willing to do all of that stuff himself, but I think the reason why I have a hard time buying that he ever did previously is that Dumbledore likely wouldn't allow physical abuse of students in school.

There are some pretty awful stories about English public schools, but I'm sure you're right about Dumbledore. We agree re Filch.
Adam S.
14. MDNY
Mars is bright tonight. Man, centaurs are kinda cool but they can get pretty annoying, too. Malfoy is such a jerk, frightening Neville because he can and then just running when Harry needs him.
Neville shows his guts, proving why he came to Griffindor instead of Hufflepuff (a seemingly natural fit for him). You go Neville, you just helped secure the House Cup!
This scene is why I totally believe that Dumbledore has been following Harry at Hogwarts, from the very beginning. His obstacles for the Stone are designed for Harry and his friends, there's no way 3 first-year students could have beaten a truly top-level protection scheme otherwise.
Chris Nelly
15. Aeryl
@14, Exactly. The mirror was foolproof, the rest was just window dressing.
Kit Case
16. wiredog
I have to assume Dumbledore, or someone, was keeping an eye on things during the detention. Because "unknown monster killing unicorns" looks like a good way to get a couple of 11 year olds killed. And can you imagine old Lucius's reaction if Draco had been eaten by a giant spider?
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
@16, I actually think Hagrid was right, he'd have said that's how things are done at Hogwarts.
Mai Pucik
18. vampomatic
My assumption was that Astronomy has a mythology component, because otherwise what exactly are they doing in class for 5+ years? Learning the constellations doesn't take that long. But knowing who Mars is doesn't mean you'll understand when a centaur looms at you out of a dark forest and starts going on about how Mars is unusually bright tonight, over and over again.

(The obvious culture clash between the centaurs and Hagrid is one of my favorite parts of the book.)

These last two chapters have a lot of elements which echo back later in the series: Harry's death in the Forbidden Forest, the innocents – Bertha, Frank, Cedric – being the first victims of the war, arguably Snape's brilliance. On the other hand, there's stuff here I expected to come into play again which never did, like Ron as the tactician who keeps his head in a crisis and logic as a wizarding weak point. (I guess you could argue at a stretch that Harry defeats Voldemort by solving a puzzle?)
Muswell
19. Mike Cugley
Sudden thought - Dumbledore tells us that people have wasted away staring at the Mirror of Erised, and then it's the final think protecting the Stone.

The Mirror isn't the final lock - the mirror is a trap.
Raymond Seavey
20. RaySea
As to the question of mythology lessons: correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the movment of planets and prophetic implications thereof an element of one of the Divination classes a few years later?
Muswell
21. Faculty Guy
Do we know (meaning, can someone tell me) who returned the Invisibility Cloak? I'm assuming Dumbledore? Surely Sirius is not sneaking in and out of Hogwarts at this stage - he's still in Azkhaban I assume.
Adam S.
22. MDNY
@21 It's returned with a note written in thin slanted handwriting, the same as the Christmas gift and the letters Dumbledore sends to Harry in their private lessons during HBP. So yes, it's Dumbledore.
Muswell
23. James2
@6, Yeah, it's a nice symmetry that Harry encounters Voldemort in the Forrest and nearly dies both here and in the last book.
Muswell
24. Tehanu
I remember that in the Narnia books the centaurs are also stargazers and prophets. What I don't remember is whether that is actually part of Greek/Roman mythology or if C.S. Lewis put it in and then Rowling used it.
Bill Reamy
25. BillinHI
I haven't done a re-read of the series since the movies started coming out and am constantly amazed at how much stuff that I didn't remember is in the books that didn't make it into the movie(s). The movies didn't get as bad as Peter Jackson's Hobbit or even his Lord of the Rings, which I thought stayed fairly close to the original story. To me, however, Jackson took a few pieces of Tolkien's Hobbit and hung a whole new story on them. It's not a bad story/movie, but it's not the Hobbit, at least not Tolkien's Hobbit.

The Potter movies certainly left some things out and changed a few things, but overall I didn't think they strayed too far from the books. Obviously nobody can just take a book and turn the whole thing into a movie. Besides being too long for anyone to watch, there are things you can do in books that you just cannot do in movies.

All that said, I am thouroughly enjoying the re-read and am looking forward to contining through all the books.
Muswell
26. Elyn
I'm always amazed that nobody makes the connection between Quirell's obstacle: a troll, and the troll that supposedly entered the school by himself on Halloween. Come on! Doesn't Dumbledore know the obstacle of each teacher?
David Levinson
27. DemetriosX
@24 Tehanu
Generally speaking, centaurs in Greek mythology were all appetite (food, drink, women) all the time. The sole exception was Chiron, who was wise, a teacher and a healer. He is likely the ultimate source for both Lewis and Rowling.
Corey Sees
28. CorwinOfAmber
@19 if it was a trap, then maybe Harry & co. screwed things up a bit by intervening.
Also, flying keys, and you're just going to leave brooms lying around to make them easier to catch? Seriously?
Rich Bennett
29. Neuralnet
@8 and @11 - I dont want to make a big thing of it... I maintain that Ron and Harry are mediocre students. Maybe I just have a different definition of good student. My number one reason for thinking they are not good students is that they constantly have Hermione do their homework for them. Also, if you look at their OWL scores and convert it to an American grading scale... i.e. O=A, E=B, A=C etc... you will see that yes, Hermione is nearly a straight A student as expected with one B. Harry and Ron are mostly B students with mores Cs and fails than As. (and seriously, you are going to give them a pass for failing any class... that would be unacceptable for my kids??)

I will give Harry credit for really becoming a good student when it comes to Defence against the dark arts... he studied hard for that, organized and lead a study group (dumbledores army) etc... I would expect that would be the norm for good students at a school like hogwarts. too bad he didnt do it for any other subjects.

Think about it a minute, if someone came and told you that you were a wizard and could learn magic, then gave you a text book full of charms... I cant believe you wouldn't be eager to learn it all immediately... guess I am too much like Hermione.

Also, we will get into it later when we hit book 6, but I believe that Harry was basically cheating using the half blood prince potion book. he was using the teacher guide, a resource no other students had access too. The students were expected to come up with these recipe variations on thier own to make their potions better by learning the fundamental concepts of potion making... not just read it out of the teacher guide. If Hogwarts had an honor code like most elite private schools, he would have gotten in trouble for using it.
Muswell
30. mster
I suppose we'll get to this next week as well, but if the Mirror of Erised lock works as describes doesn't that imply that Harry showing up was basically the worst possible outcome? Had he not been there, Quirell/Voldy would have just sat around unable to get the stone out. Unless it was an easily breakable lock, in which case what was the point really.
Mai Pucik
31. vampomatic
@29 I think the mistake you're making is in comparing OWL scores to American grades instead of the British GCSEs. Unless things have changed a lot since my high school days (possible!), GCSEs are graded more rigorously and a British student who gets a mix of As and Bs on their GCSEs is considered a better student than an American student with the same letter grades. No, Harry and Ron aren't top students, but they're still well above the curve and nowhere near mediocre. And in Harry's case we're talking about a kid with minimal parental supervision who's constantly being distracted by people trying to kill him, so I'd say he's done pretty well for himself.

There are extenuating circumstances in all three of the exams he failed – one was for a class he should never have been allowed to take because he didn't have the skillset for it (and which was taught by a quack besides), and two were disrupted by the Aurors arresting Hagrid and putting McGonagall in the hospital.

Regarding the Half-Blood Prince's textbook, Harry's behavior didn't sit well with me and I suspect wasn't supposed to, but I don't think old annotations scribbled in a textbook are the equivalent of a teacher's guide, nor is there any indication that Potions students are supposed to come up with recipe variations – on the contrary, what's suggested is that they're expected to follow instructions precisely, even though said instructions might be literally decades out of date. I think the fact that Hermione (both a natural stickler and a prefect!) grumbles a lot but never tries to make Harry stop using the book suggests that his actions are ethically borderline but not actually cheating according to Hogwarts norms. But of course we'll get to that further down the line.
Muswell
32. Sophist
I believe that Harry was basically cheating using the half blood prince potion book. he was using the teacher guide, a resource no other students had access too.

I understood that the book had belonged to Snape when he was a student. The notes were student notes, not a teacher's guide.

It's very common to buy used textbooks, and those will always have notes from the previous student. There's nothing wrong with that; Harry was just lucky that the previous owner was extraordinary at Potions.
Muswell
33. Dr. Cox
A student's notes would be just serendipity, even if the book had belonged to the prof when a student. I took a grad class where some excerpts in the photocopied-from-books-and-spiralbound book we used were from books the prof had used as a student and written in and that was interesting and helpful. I still took copious notes 'cause that's my learning style :).
Mai Pucik
34. vampomatic
@32, 33. Yeah, pretty much! What bothers me about Harry using the notes isn't really his using the notes as letting Slughorn pile him with accolades about his "natural talent." It's sketchy, but it's not cheating.
Muswell
35. Sophist
I'd maybe feel more strongly about Harry's undeserved praise if Dumbledore hadn't told Harry to let Slughorn "collect" him. Harry couldn't very well suck up to Slughorn and at the same time be seen as an average student in Slughorn's class.
Muswell
36. Random22
Slughorn would have tried to "collect" Harry anyway, for the same reason Lockhart did. Harry is the Boy Who Lived, and that is worth a place in his collection all on its own.
Muswell
37. Sophist
Hermione briefly panics over how to make fire to stop the plant from choking Harry and Ron, but they snap her out of it

Ron says, "Are you a witch or not?"

Hermione gets to ask him the same question in DH2.
Muswell
38. Sophist
Gah. That first sentence of 37 is a quote from the OP. Forgot to italicize it.
Muswell
39. Sophist
Ok, it's not my day: should be just DH (the book), not DH2 (the movie).
Ursula L
40. Ursula
The notes in the potions book were, as others have pointed out, notes from an older student (one who went on to become a teacher), but not a special teacher's edition.

And Harry needed the skill to follow the instructions, and to recognize that they were worth following. For example, when getting juice out of a small object, that it would be more efficient to crush rather than slice. He needed the initiative to take the risk of following the suggested variation.

And he needed to care enough about his studies to be looking for a better way to learn that how Snape had previously taught them - to follow the book, but no instruction on how to improve recipes, and no instruction on improvements on the book that Snape had discovered.

The students clearly had been given no instruction on understanding why steps were done in a certain way, or how techniques were used for a specific end. You might want to slice something if you need to strain it out later, but it might work better to crush it if you're trying to get out the juice.

Harry didn't know enough about potions theory to figure this out on his own. But he saw that the slicing wasn't working well for others, and when he saw the suggestion to crush, instead, he recognized that it was worth trying.

Which suggests that he had the potential to be good at potions, with proper instruction, and the initiative to take advantage of information when it was available.
Phil Boswell
41. NotACat
I think part of McGonagall's overreaction is that Hermione is involved.
@4, I saw an amusing theory that the reason McGonagall freaked out is that another thing the Astronomy Tower is infamous for is snogging…and she was rather appalled at the possibility that two of her favourite students were "up to no good", aged 12 and 11!
I love the potions/logic puzzle... I remember working it out with a sheet of paper on my first read of the book
Remind me, is this actually possible just from the text? Doesn't part of the solution depend upon knowing the various sizes of bottle, which JKR signally fails to give us?

I'm still not understanding on what basis anybody is alleging that Harry is a "mediocre" student: are perceptions being clouded by comparing him with Hermione? I have a feeling that non-British people might be working with a different system, whereby anything less than straight "A" grades seems to brand a student a dismal failure. I can assure you, the way British exams were marked at that time, getting all passing grades was a definite achievement…not so sure how that compares nowadays, I'll have to ask my sister the teacher! I am fairly confident, however, that the grade named "Outstanding" was intended to mark a result as being truly that.
Chris Nelly
42. Aeryl
@41, Yes, it's possible to solve the puzzle.
Muswell
43. (still) Steve Morrison
The solution to the potions puzzle is worked out in detail at the HP Lexicon: http://www.hp-lexicon.org/essays/essay-potionriddle.html
Clay Blankenship
44. snoweel
It's funny to me that the punishment for being out in the hallways at night is having to go out into the Forbidden Forest at night.
Chris Nelly
45. Aeryl
@44, Ah, but it's not on a school night! No classes Saturday!
Mai Pucik
46. vampomatic
@42, @43: Surely narrowing down the possible solutions isn't the same thing as solving it. Yes, we can work out that the "forward" potion is one of the three in the middle, but not exactly which one, and one of them is poison.
Muswell
47. Scy
@20 You're right but that class was taught by the Centaur Firenze. I don't think Trelawny ever goes into the motions of the stars/planets and what not.



I also agree with another commentor, sorry not going back to read the comment and find the number!, but if I discovered I was a witch you bet your butt I'd be studying like Hermione. Now I was never a studious student in school. I did enough work and studying to get by because I was bored by the whole thing. Had I taken time to apply myself I would have done better. My goodness though! If I got a letter to Hogwarts I would have been just like Hermione.
I can understand Ron maybe not wanting to study as much because he grew up in a wizarding family but Harry? Growing up with those buttholes the Dursleys? I'm surprised he didn't take more pride in his work.


Also I think Potions would be my favorite subject ever. I love Alchemy and potion brewing. In games and books its always piqued my interest. I just wish we could delve more into it. Like the properties of the different ingredients and how temperture has an effect on the solution you are brewing and time has an effect. Or how many of each you should use before the potion becomes to saturated or what-have-you. Ah! Okay I'm done.

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