Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Chapters 9-13

Chapter 9 – The Midnight Duel

  • Flying lessons must just be for first years, and possibly in just the first term, because they’re never mentioned again after that first lesson. Yet Madam Hooch remains around to referee Quidditch (and later watch over practice in Prisoner of Azkaban) – presumably she’s only part-time.
  • You can imagine that Harry feels so strongly about Malfoy’s behaviour having been the target of Dudley’s bullying for so many years. There was little he could do against Dudley, but with the advantages he has in this new world, he feels he can act against Malfoy, so he doesn’t hesitate even though he might get into trouble for it. It’s as if he’s letting out his pent-up frustration at being helpless against the Dursleys.
  • Ah, the first of many, many times that Harry sneaks out at night – and this time, he’s even doing it without the benefit of an Invisibility Cloak!
  • The forbidden door on the third floor can be unlocked with a simple Alohomora – yet on the path to the Stone, there’s a door that’s locked in such a way that Alohomora doesn’t work. Might it not have been worth sealing the door with a gigantic vicious dog on the other side in that fashion?
  • Obviously Fluffy is based on the three-headed dog Cerberus from Greek mythology – this incorporation of existing mythology is another great aspect of Rowling’s world-building.

Chapter 10 – Halloween

  • Indeed, by next morning Harry and Ron thought that meeting the three-headed dog had been an excellent adventure and they were quite keen to have another one.” Which is why we love these guys.
  • Yet again, at my age, I’m thinking a lot more about how dangerous Quidditch really is. When Harry asks if the Bludgers have ever killed anyone, Wood can only say, “Never at Hogwarts.” And Harry’s last Quidditch match at Hogwarts will end with him sustaining a fractured skull! The Rifftrax commentaries on the films put it thus: “So you need parental permission to go on a field trip to the toffee shop, but Quidditch? The less parents know, the better.”
  • Hermione may have been quite interfering and annoying up to this point in the book, but I do feel sorry for her here. It’s easy to imagine that in Muggle primary school, Hermione didn’t have many (if any) friends because she was always so focussed on her studies, and probably because she considered herself more mature than those around her. Perhaps this troubled her deep down – but once she learned she was a witch, she was so entranced by this new well of knowledge that she reverted to her natural instincts and buried herself in her books. Then Ron flatly points out that “no one can stand her” and Hermione finally lets it get to her. Thank goodness that changes by the end of this chapter.
  • The fight with the troll feels very chaotic – there’s no planning involved, just spur-of-the-moment teamwork and trying whatever comes to mind. In other words, exactly what you’d expect when two eleven-year-old boys go into battle with a huge monster.
  • So here we have the turning point in Harry and Ron’s relationship with Hermione. On the one hand, Harry and Ron demonstrate that they do care about Hermione by saving her from the troll; on the other, Hermione goes against her own values by lying to a teacher – and thus the two sides end up meeting in the middle very neatly.

Chapter 11 – Quidditch

  • The story’s big red herring now begins in earnest as Harry and his friends start suspecting Snape of wrongdoing. It is, of course, ridiculously easy to see this unpleasant, vampire-like man as a bad guy; and the eventual twist definitely left an impression on me before I had learned to expect that sort of thing from mystery stories (and Rowling herself).
  • The Quidditch is certainly very exciting – and the commentary hilarious – but you can see why Rowling got tired of writing it later on: it would be difficult to think of new aspects to bring to the scenes.
  • Rowling doesn’t appear to have quite established all the rules of magic yet in this story. Quirrell and Snape using wandless magic on Harry’s broom doesn’t seem to fit what we know about magic later on – or perhaps it’s part of the Dark Arts so Harry would have no need to learn more about it himself.
  • Who would have thought that Harry catching his first Snitch in his mouth would prove to be relevant in the seventh book?
  • Another good element in a mystery story: things that the reader is able to figure out for themselves. Though I can’t remember whether I recalled Nicholas Flamel’s name the first time I read this book.

Chapter 12 – The Mirror of Erised

  • “...the Weasley twins were punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban.” Yes, other people elsewhere have already mentioned it, but let’s bring it up again: Fred and George are throwing snowballs at Voldemort’s face. The most powerful and feared Dark Lord of all time – and he’s being pelted with snowballs without anyone but him and Quirrell realising.
  • There’s a lot of heartwarming moments in this chapter before the sadder stuff starts. It’s really lovely to see Harry and Ron just having fun together during the Christmas holidays. And then there’s how much Harry values the presents he gets (in stark contrast to Dudley), which reminds us just how lacking his life has been until this year. And his best friend’s mother goes to the trouble of knitting him a jumper just because Ron mentioned Harry wasn’t expecting any presents! Later in the chapter, Ron says to Harry, “Just come round my house this summer,” very casually – it’s a bit unfortunate that Harry is so distracted at the time he says it.
  • Harry getting the Invisibility Cloak feels like a truly significant moment – after all, it’s going to be one of the most essential and used tools in his inventory. However, I do like the recognition that the Cloak isn’t infallible – Harry is still solid and still makes noise when he’s using it – which means there’s still tension when he goes sneaking around in it.
  • The Mirror of Erised scenes, which were sad on the first reading, are even more so now. Harry hasn’t been dwelling on having no family up to now; he’s used to it. Now he gets an actual glimpse of what he could have had, what most people already do have – no wonder he becomes obsessed with it.

Chapter 13 – Nicholas Flamel

  • It’s awful how Harry’s increased awareness of what he doesn’t have continues into this chapter, as he starts having nightmares about his family being killed.
  • Ron gets a particularly good quote about standing up to Malfoy: “He’s used to walking all over people, but that’s no reason to lie down in front of him and make it easier.”
  • We know from Deathly Hallows that Dumbledore specifically asked Snape to keep an eye on Quirrell – Snape not only has experience of the Dark Arts, but certainly has the power to intimidate. Whether Dumbledore asked Snape to watch over Harry as well, it’s hard to say (“Harry didn’t know whether he was imagining it or not, but he seemed to keep running into Snape wherever he went“), but no doubt Snape would be very frustrated about this work either way, hence why “Potions lessons were turning into a sort of weekly torture, Snape was so horrible to Harry.”
  • The POV of the prose completely changes from Harry to Ron and Hermione during the Quidditch match against Hufflepuff; as far as I recall, this only ever happens for entire chapters in later books, rather than parts of them. It looks a bit awkward here.
  • Neville hasn’t gotten much attention through the story, but we still see a little progression for his character here: after getting some heartfelt encouragement at the beginning of the chapter, he hesitates before helping Ron fight Malfoy, but he does still help.

About R.J. Southworth

Hi there. I've been blogging since January 2014, and I like to talk about all sorts of things: book reviews, film reviews, writing, science, history, or sometimes just sharing miscellaneous thoughts. Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you!
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