Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Chapter Eleven
The cat’s down for a nap, I have a cup of tea and a fully-charged vape next to me, and I am ready to rock and roll with this recap so I can spend the rest of this evening doing this:
Hurrah! So much to look forward to. We’re well over halfway through the book at this point, and last week saw our famous trio finally perma-bonded over the defeat of a rogue mountain troll (yes, yes, “troll in the dungeon!”, we did this all last time). And since we’ve got such a good chunk of the book behind us, now seems like a good time to sit back for a minute and take in the course of Philosopher’s Stone so far.
I’ve talked a lot about these books with people over the last few months, since I started these recaps, and most of my friends – the generation that grew up with this series – are pretty much agreed: we loathe almost everything, including JK Rowling, that surrounds the series in 2019, but the books themselves are still really solid beyond just simple nostalgia. There’s some great world-building, highly memorable characters (mainly quarantined to the adult cast for now, but still), and a general sense of wonder that overcomes even the memory of that girl who once told me straight-faced that Slytherins were a discriminated-against class of people. I really expected to be snarking a lot more with these recaps (you know, after the Fifty Shades debacle), but this is just a pretty great book, to be honest. Sometimes, I’ve found myself forgetting that I’m writing these recaps at all, and just reading like I did when I was seven and couldn’t stuff myself full enough of Hogwarts and Harry and Hagrid. I mean, I still want to stuff myself full of Hagrid now, but – no, we’re just going to leave that there and move on.
So we’re on Chapter Eleven, Quidditch, which is finally the Rashomon-style retelling of the narrative via Hermione’s perspective that we’ve all been – oh, wait, no, they’re playing shinty on brooms. Sorry to get everyone’s hopes up there. On the bright side, at least Hagrid is there, taking care of business in a fabulous menswear concoction:
“Hagrid could be seen from the upstairs windows defrosting broomsticks on the Quidditch field, bundled up in a long moleskin overcoat, rabbit fur gloves, and enormous beaverskin boots.”
We forgive the fur because we know our man slays in couture. Harry has been getting help from Hermione in keeping up with his homework in between Quidditch training, and she has allowed him to borrow Quidditch Through the Ages, which is has been thoroughly enjoying. And here, this is just what I’m talking about with regards to the world-building:
“Harry learned that there were seven hundred ways of committing a Quidditch foul and that all of them had happened during a World Cup match in 1473; that Seekers were usually the smallest and fastest players, and that most serious Quidditch accidents seemed to happen to them; that although people rarely died playing Quidditch, referees had been known to vanish and turn up months later in the Sahara Desert.”
I read my first Terry Pratchett book last year (I know, I know) and it took me a while to figure out what a lot of his gloriously detailed and witty universe creation reminded me of – and it’s these little asides in the early Harry Potter books, where Rowling was clearly having a great time peppering in these sharp, colourful details that help everything feel a little richer.
Hermione, Ron, and Harry are getting closer, and they run into Snape in the courtyard, who is nursing a mysterious limp of some kind. Later, Harry catches Snape getting treated for his wounds, which Snape implies came from the three-headed dog guarding the trapdoor that they ran into a few chapters ago. Honestly, go ahead and chew is leg off, babe, he does somewhat deserve it for being such a reprehensible prick to a kid because his mum wouldn’t dick down with him.
Anyway, Harry’s first Quidditch match is finally upon us, and I’m doing my best not to think about how much I secretly wanted to join the local Quidditch society when I was in university. Oh, and how much I wished I hadn’t taken that joint history degree out of social awkwardness. Anyway!
Oliver Wood (porn star name? All signs point to yes) gives the team a rousing speech, and Fred and George are already sliding swiftly into “the only kid characters I truly love except Neville who I would die for probably, the wee sausage” territory:
““The one we’ve all been waiting for,” said George.
“We know Oliver’s speech by heart,” Fred told Harry, “we were on the team last year. ””
The match begins, and Lee Jordan kicks things off with some relatively awful commentary:
““And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Angelina Johnson of Gryffindor — what an excellent Chaser that girl is, and rather attractive, too–””
Hermione has this guy’s number, and you know it. The game kicks off in earnest, and JK has Jordan narrate most of the goings-on in unbroken paragraphs, which is a choice that I’m surprisingly alright, with actually – it’s obviously written as football commentary, and as a football fan, I think she gets it really spot-on. Eventually, Harry spots the Golden Snitch (I just realized that I never explained the rules of Quidditch to you, but I feel as though they’ve been absorbed into the cultural hivemind so completely that it would feel oddly patronising to do so) and makes chase for it, but is fouled by the other team’s Seeker. Hagrid also turns up, probably in another fabulous haute couture outfit; it’s not mentioned, but I think we’re safe to assume.
Suddenly, Harry’s broom begins to malfunction, leaving Harry dangling off it by only a hand (this is a a weirdly-written sequence, actually, because this scene has gone between Harry’s POV and Hagrid, Hermione, and Ron’s, and for some reason this section is told in the latter and loses a lot of the immediacy of the impact as a result of being translated via the crowd and not through Harry’s own reactions), and Hermione (my bitch and queen) figures out what’s going on:
““I knew it,” Hermione gasped, “Snape — look. ”
Ron grabbed the binoculars. Snape was in the middle of the stands opposite them. He had his eyes fixed on Harry and was muttering nonstop under his breath.
“He’s doing something — jinxing the broom,” said Hermione.”
Hermione goes to take care of business, and I’ve got to say this scene has a lovely little bit of foreshadowing:
“Hermione had fought her way across to the stand where Snape stood, and was now racing along the row behind him; she didn’t even stop to say sorry as she knocked Professor Quirrell headfirst into the row in front. Reaching Snape, she crouched down, pulled out her wand, and whispered a few, well-chosen words. Bright blue flames shot from her wand onto the hem of Snape’s robes.”
I think with any mystery story, it’s only fair that the author gives the reader all the clues they need to figure out the big reveal before it comes, and here’s a prime example of JK doing just that – that reference to Quirrel (who, as we know, is the one actually perpetrating the jinx) being knocked over is so quick you could miss it as nothing more than a bit of colour, but it ties in with the end reveal neatly and is another nod in the direction of the truth for the close-readers amongst us. Hermione sets Snape lightly on fire, oh my GOD could I love this woman any more, and Harry is saved:
““Neville, you can look!” Ron said. Neville had been sobbing into Hagrid’s jacket for the last five minutes.”
Oh, my husband and my son! It’s a whole family reunion moment, we’re here for it, we’ll put that on our Christmas cards this year. Harry accidentally swallows the Snitch and Gryffindor win the game. Afterwards, The Unholy Trinity (Harry, Ron, and Hermione) confront Hagrid about Snape’s apparent indiscretions – and run-in with the three-headed dog, who is revealed to have been nicknamed “Fluffy”, because #BaeOfGiants2k19 (you didn’t really think I was going to let this recap slide by without one, did you?). Hagrid, like any good boyfriend of mine, denies everything and leaves at once. And that’s where we close out the chapter.