The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 8-9: BITCHES PLEASE

I first met Harry Potter shortly after the Chamber of Secrets had been published. I’d seen them around, of course, but it was my sister who had been given the books. One day on a camping trip, she started reading The Sorcerer’s Stone to us. For whatever reason, it wasn’t until early high school that I started reading (devouring) them. I’m super excited to relive them all again with you. So, here goes nothing.

CHAPTER EIGHT: THE POTIONS MASTER

After a pretty great dream about being a Horcrux, Harry tries to make his way around Hogwarts, which proves to be pretty impossible between being a celebrity and all the fake doors. I love that the more attention Harry gets, the less sure he is about himself that he is going to live up to expectations. We get our first glimpse at a cast of professors and Hogwarts staff: from the ever annoying Filch and Mrs. Norris to adorably nuts Professor Flitwick. (Anyone else have Maggie Smith so engrained in your brain as Professor McGonagall that they’ve now become synonymous? Sometimes I get confused when I watch Downton Abbey.) And then we hear about all the fun things that Harry, Ron, and Hermione get to learn about and I get soooo jealous. Enter Severus Snape, our resident antihero archetype and this book’s scapegoat, who appears to really hate Harry for some odd reason. I’m sorry, but I have to get this out of my system:

He pelts him with impossible questions, the answers to which only Hermione seems to know, and is horribly insulting to most of the Gryffindors. Thankfully, it’s Friday afternoon and Hagrid and Fang are waiting with tea and really bad cookies. I really could have used a Hagrid in nursing school.

Anyway, back to Snape. When Ashley asked me what/who/where we wanted to be assigned to in the books, I always went back to the greasy asshole. But then I was wondering the other night, why am I so fascinated by him? There are way cooler characters in Potterland, and it’s not just that he saves the world. I mean, he is sort of a dick, a really bad teacher, and does a horrendous job showing his love for Lily Evans/Potter. And, I don’t think it’s just because I love Alan Rickman. (Although it helps, because Alan Rickman as Snape fucking rocks.) But, I really think it’s because I am in love with the antihero*. Think about it: Han Solo, Angel, Spike, Faith, Jack Bristow, Lisbeth Salander, Dexter Morgan, Beatrix Kiddo, Holden Caulfield? Excuse, I’m gonna let you finish, but these are some of the most brilliant characters of ALL TIME. Wikipedia says that an “antihero is a protagonist who has no heroic virtues or qualities (such as being morally good, idealistic, courageous, noble, or possessing fortitude), blurring the line between hero and villain.” (So that’s what Robin Thick was singing about!) They are such flawed, broken, rejected characters, with deeply troubled histories, playing by their own rules. We can’t make up our mind whether we love or hate them. We itch to know more about what made them. They are so intensely relatable they could be us or someone we love: angry, lonely, resentful, bitter, and completely aware of the destruction in their wake, obsessed with making things right. Severus Snape is our morally ambiguous not!ahero for the next seven books, and from the start we know he will play an enormous role. But, it’s his past, his fall, and his triumph that make him such a perfect character.

*I did a little Googling and there’s actually a big debate on if Snape is the anti-hero or the tragic hero. What do you think? DEBATE!

CHAPTER NINE: THE MIDNIGHT DUEL

Okay, I absolutely LOVE this chapter. There are so many wonderful firsts! It starts out with flying lessons, something the first-years and every single person who has read this book has been looking forward to. Harry is supremely worried about not being good at it in front of Malfoy, who keeps talking himself up about flying (the complete opposite of Harry, he is way over confident about everything and sucks at everything). Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan have an argument about football (I hate that my book calls it soccer. They are BRITISH.) which is kind of HILARIOUS, because everyone knows that Quidditch beats out every sport ever. Poor Neville and Hermione are both pretty nervous about flying, but that’s okay because they’re good at being other things. For example, like being awesome. Except, Neville’s still in that beginning stage where we don’t know he’s awesome yet, and gets a Remembrall from his Gran. (I need one of these to take to work.)

The first-years from Gryffindor and Slytherin head over to fly some brooms with Madame Hooch. Right away, Harry starts to feel pretty confident in his innate ability to command the broomstick. But, it’s all interrupted when Neville rockets off the ground, crash lands, and breaks his wrist. While Madame Hooch takes him to see the nurse, Malfoy finds the Remembrall on the ground. Harry demands he return it, but Malfoy takes off on a broomstick and Harry takes off after him despite Hermione’s protests. Harry LOVES flying and finds he’s finally good at something without trying- which Malfoy can see and starts to get nervous. Because he’s a coward and sucks at everything, he tosses the Remembrall, saying “catch this, bitch.” Harry dives for it and catches it an inch off the ground.

“HARRY POTTER,” roars Maggie Sm- I mean Professor McGonagall, taking Harry away from the class, making sure he looks like he’s in deep shit. Pansy-ass Malfoy laughs, and we laugh at him because we know McGonagall is actually a HUGE closet Quidditch fan. She presents him to Oliver Wood as Gryffindor’s new seeker, and he just might be more thrilled than Harry.

Harry reports back to Ron, who is shocked and proud of his new friend. Malfoy shows up with Crabbe and Goyle, still believing that Harry is about to get expelled, and challenges them to a wizard’s duel that night. Ron and Harry sneak out of the common room that night, but are joined by Hermione who is still in her goody-toe-shoes phase and attempts to get them to stay, getting herself locked out. Then Neville shows up, not remembering the password. Eventually, roaming the halls, dodging Peeves, Filch,and Mrs. Norris, the four of them realize Malfoy tricked them (dick move). But, hey FIRST ADVENTURE AS A TEAM! And they accidentally find themselves in the forbidden part of Hogwart’s and staring up at Fluffy, the three-headed puppy, who as Hermione points out was standing on a trap door. DUN DUN DUNNNNN. Too bad they’re not friends yet. They need the smart, bad ass chick on their team.

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44 thoughts on “The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 8-9: BITCHES PLEASE

  1. Gretchen Alice says:

    Snape…Snape…Severus Snape…

  2. Kevin O'Shea says:

    The problem with having such fantastic casting (for the most part) means that these actors will ALWAYS be these characters in my mind. Always.

    • Ashley says:

      Characters who were miscast . . . GO.

      Mine: Lupin (too weaselly), Sirius (too old), Barty Crouch Jr. (as much as I love David Tennant, everything about this was wrong), Voldemort (too hammy and whispery), and Fred & George. (The last two grew on me in later years when they got all cool with their long hair, but for the first couple of movies I was like, really?) I was also never really a huge fan of Dumbledore (either version). And even though I really like Daniel Radcliffe and his version of Harry, book Harry is very different for me and I prefer that version.

      • Gretchen Alice says:

        Aw, I liked David Thewlis. David Tennant was no bueno. I loved Richard Harris’ Dumbledore–Michael Gambon never did it for me. And I adore Emma Thompson, but I think they could’ve done better for Trelawney.
        The worst offense, in my opinion, would have to be Voldemort. I didn’t buy Fiennes’ portrayal for a second and that’s always bothered me. He’s the freaking Dark Lord, for crying out loud!
        My favorites are Evanna Lynch as Luna, Imelda Staunton as Umbridge, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix, and Emma Watson as Hermione.

      • Kevin O'Shea says:

        I agree on your observations of the first three, though I posit that Lupin got the “shabby, down-on-his-luck and possibly underfed” look just right. Gary Oldman is too old for Sirius but I think he still got the spirit of the character right, even though he was not what I was picturing.

        My favorite part of the Umbridge casting is that, even though she looked ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like Book-Umbridge, she personified the spirit of the character FLAWLESSLY.

        • Ashley says:

          Look, this might be shallow, but . . . Lupin and Sirius were supposed to be young and handsome (well, worn out and withered young and handsome, what with the prison and werewolf thing). I think you’re right that Oldman did the part justice, I just wish he had been in the right age bracket. Thewlis always rubbed me the wrong way. My head Lupin is SO different.

          • Kevin O'Shea says:

            I do not disagree with anything that you have said. The ages always bothered me, but I still think they got the spirit of the characters down. Agree to disagree?

          • Jen says:

            I’m watching the third movie right now, and I’m wondering if they went with older casting for those two because they needed to be the same age as Snape.

      • Jen says:

        In the first two movies, I was basically wondering if they had cast the Weasley twins because they were the only good-looking ginger twins of appropriate age in Britain. They get better, though.

        The problem with the movies in the beginning is everyone pretty much sounds like they are reading lines from the book, just a little bit too fast to fit everything in.

      • baxlala says:

        It drives me nuts when Fred and George speak in unison. For fuck’s sake.

        I don’t really have a problem with any of the casting, though Ginny is super bland to me in the movies. And Gambon’s Dumbledore is a bit too shouty for me, but I’m still OK with him (I’m sure he’s thrilled).

      • Lindsay says:

        Emma is so good as Hermione, as are the castings for Luna and Umbridge. I’m half convinced that Jo wrote Bellatrix FOR her.

        And I hate Fiennes as Voldemort, and have never been able to wrap my head around Lupin and Sirius’s castings either.

        Oliver Wood- YESYESYES. I remember drooling over him seeing Prisoner of Azkaban with my high school boyfriend.

        Basically, I have no new ideas and agree with ALL YA’LL. But also, I don’t remember a whole lot about the early movies.

        OH! Neville anyone?! How is it that they picked the perfect dorky kid who grew into this good looking guy? It’s like they knew.

    • toshspice says:

      They out did themselves when they casted Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix. It was like the character was written for her.

      • Jenen says:

        I saw a teaser trailer with Carter and no context that would reveal which character she was playing, and I turned to my friend and said “Oh! I bet she’s Bellatrix!”. That’s excellent casting.

      • Kevin O'Shea says:

        Cleolinda said it best when she said that, after seeing these movies and Sweeney Todd back to back, that Helena Bonham Carter is so great of an actress that she finds the differences between two homicidal insane women who are in love with an even more insane murderer.

  3. Gretchen Alice says:

    I had a major flashback when I was reading The Midnight Duel to my days of being a 14-year-old girl who was OBSESSED with Oliver Wood. In my mind, Sean Biggerstaff was my soul mate. Also, the fact that his name was Biggerstaff and that he was playing a character named Oliver Wood still makes me giggle.

  4. Ashley says:

    1. Yes, Maggie Smith IS McGonagall. I try to revert to my imaginary casting for most of the characters, but her and Luna and Hagrid are in there as their actors forever.

    2. I get jealous when they go to classes, too! I WANT TO GO TO WIZARD SCHOOL AND HAVE WIZARD HOMEWORK.

    3. Every time I re-read, I still hate Snape all the way until we learn about his love for Lily in DH. He just acts like such a dick! And he’s too proud to let anyone know he’s secretly a good person! HE DRIVES ME CRAZY.

    I definitely think he falls into the ‘tragic hero’ category, though. Walter White is an anti-hero (holy shit). Don Draper is an anti-hero. Snape is a hero. He’s just an asshole one with lots of conflicting feeeeelings.

    4. I absolutely love that McGonagall is a huge Quidditch fan. She’s so laced up about everything else, and she totally loses her cool where Quidditch is involved.

    • Lindsay says:

      1. Yes. My imaginary casting for McGonagall would have disagreed, but now I can’t go back.

      2. I would never leave school. It would be so bad.

      3. The more I read, the more I realize how much I forget how much of an ass he is. And, I don’t know if I can argue with an expert in Shakespeare on archetypes. But, I don’t know if you’ve convinced me yet. Maybe I’ll have a better argument in a few months.

      4. Seriously! It makes me giggle.

  5. kerrinify says:

    OMG, yes, the whole Barty Crouch Jr.-situation was pretty bad in the movies. He was way too manic, but I kind of blame the writing for that.

    I also loved Evanna as Luna and Emma as Hermione. Ron and Harry were different than I imagined, but I could live with what Rupert and Daniel did with them pretty well.

    I would have liked another casting decision for Ginny, but I guess that was due to the fact that they were all so young during the first movie and didn’t really know where her story (or the whole thing, for that matter) was going. But Ginny seems to be a polarising character per se, a lot of people seem to at least dislike her…what do you guys think?

    • Jen says:

      Yes, let’s put the blame where it truly lies – with whoever decided to tell Tennant to do that tongue-darty thing and act nuts.

    • Dan says:

      People dislike Ginny? Who!? Who are these people? Are they Harry/Hermione people? Those people suck. (I can see people having a problem with the casting, though; Bonnie Wright went and got all super-model-y on us.)

      • Ashley says:

        I was unaware of this as well. I love her.

        • kerrinify says:

          I do too. I don’t get it. The arguments I’ve seen were along the lines of too perfect and Mary-Sue-ish, but the only thing I don’t like about her is that we don’t learn enough about her. I feel like there’s a lot more than we discover. And that makes her interesting to me.

  6. toshspice says:

    Snape is the anti-hero, having no characteristics of a hero. I always thought Snape had a secret and when it was revealed he loved Lily I wasn’t surprised. For someone to be that melancholy he had to have loved and lost.

    • Ashley says:

      I definitely have to disagree with you on this. Snape was brave and sacrificed much of his life to the cause of stopping Voldemort. He was a (very) flawed person who had problems overcoming his childhood grudges, and his pride always got the better of him. He was also kind of petty and vindictive. But he almost never let those things get in the way of doing the right thing, even if he was (again) to proud to admit it. (I say almost, mostly because he lost his temper with Harry in OOTP and stopped teaching Harry Occlumency, which was a pretty big deal and contributed to Sirius’s death).

      Snape’s definitely not a traditional hero, but i think tragic hero might be a good label. In the end, his actions helped to defeat Voldemort, even if he had to die, and even if his own prejudices caused him to act like an ass most of the time.

      An anti-hero is just what it sounds like. They are the protagonists of their stories, but instead of working towards some noble goal or overcoming obstacles, anti-heroes exist to sink deeper into their own vices, usually to act as a sort of commentary on the society they’re placed in as characters. I said this above, but Walter White from Breaking Bad is the perfect example of this. That series uses Walt’s descent from emasculated ‘nice-guy’ teacher who is just cooking meth for money, to a power hungry murderer druglord who enjoys the fruits of his misdeeds, in order to examine issues of crime, violence, and masculinity. It is not going to to end well for anybody.

  7. Jen says:

    Whenever Harry and Ron complain about their coursework I’m like IT’S MAGIC HOMEWORK, GUYS! I would be all over that shit.

    • Alyssa says:

      OHMYGOD, YES. I totally agree with this! Especially for Harry, who didn’t grow up in the Wizarding World, you’d think he’d be like, “I could be doing chemistry right now, but instead I get to fill out star charts!” I always envied them for their homework.

  8. Dan says:

    I’ve seen people write manifestos against liking Snape, saying he’s a horrible person because of how obsessed he was with a girl who clearly wanted nothing to do with him. I think if people can forgive (and seemingly forget) Spike for almost raping Buffy (honestly, why is Dawn the only person who remembers the sixth season finale?!?), then Snape should get a pass, especially since his only crime in the books is being a jerk.

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