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J. K. Rowling «Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone» / Chapter VIII. The Potions Master
J. K. Rowling «Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone»
Chapter VIII. The Potions Master
"Next to the tall kid with the red hair."
"Wearing the glasses?"
"Did you see his face?"
"Did you see his scar?"
Whispers followed Harry from the moment he left his dormitory the next day. People
lining up outside classrooms stood on tiptoe to get a look at him, or doubled
back to pass him in the corridors again, staring. Harry wished they wouldn't,
because he was trying to concentrate on finding his way to classes.
were a hundred and forty-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow,
rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday; some with a vanishing
step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldn't
open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and
doors that weren't really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was
also very hard to remember where anything was, because it all seemed to move around
a lot. The people in the portraits kept going to visit each other, and Harry was
sure the coats of armor could walk.
The ghosts didn't help, either. It
was always a nasty shock when one of them glided suddenly through a door you were
trying to open. Nearly Headless Nick was always happy to point new Gryffindors
in the right direction, but Peeves the Poltergeist was worth two locked doors
and a trick staircase if you met him when you were late for class. He would drop
wastepaper baskets on your head, pull rugs from under your feet, pelt you with
bits of chalk, or sneak up behind you, invisible, grab your nose, and screech,
"GOT YOUR CONK!"
Even worse than Peeves, if that was possible,
was the caretaker, Argus Filch. Harry and Ron managed to get on the wrong side
of him on their very first morning. Filch found them trying to force their way
through a door that unluckily turned out to be the entrance to the out-of-bounds
corridor on the third floor. He wouldn't believe they were lost, was sure they
were trying to break into it on purpose, and was threatening to lock them in the
dungeons when they were rescued by Professor Quirrell, who was passing.
Filch owned a cat called Mrs. Norris, a scrawny, dust-colored creature with bulging,
lamp like eyes just like Filch's. She patrolled the corridors alone. Break a rule
in front of her, put just one toe out of line, and she'd whisk off for Filch,
who'd appear, wheezing, two seconds later. Filch knew the secret passageways of
the school better than anyone (except perhaps the Weasley twins) and could pop
up as suddenly as any of the ghosts. The students all hated him, and it was the
dearest ambition of many to give Mrs. Norris a good kick.
And then, once
you had managed to find them, there were the classes themselves. There was a lot
more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a
few funny words.
They had to study the night skies through their telescopes
every Wednesday at midnight and learn the names of different stars and the movements
of the planets. Three times a week they went out to the greenhouses behind the
castle to study Herbology, with a dumpy little witch called Professor Sprout,
where they learned how to take care of all the strange plants and fungi, and found
out what they were used for.
Easily the most boring class was History of
Magic, which was the only one taught by a ghost. Professor Binns had been very
indeed when he had fallen asleep in front of the staff room fire and
got up next morning to teach, leaving his body behind him. Binns droned on and
on while they scribbled down names and dates, and got Emetic the Evil and Uric
the Oddball mixed up.
Professor Flitwick, the Charms teacher, was a tiny
little wizard who had to stand on a pile of books to see over his desk. At the
start of their first class he took the roll call, and when he reached Harry's
name he gave an excited squeak and toppled out of sight.
was again different. Harry had been quite right to think she wasn't a teacher
to cross. Strict and clever, she gave them a talking-to the moment they sat down
in her first class.
"Transfiguration is some of the most complex and
dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts," she said. "Anyone messing
around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned."
Then she changed her desk into a pig and back again. They were all very impressed
and couldn't wait to get started, but soon realized they weren't going to be changing
the furniture into animals for a long time. After taking a lot of complicated
notes, they were each given a match and started trying to turn it into a needle.
By the end of the lesson, only Hermione Granger had made any difference to her
match; Professor McGonagall showed the class how it had gone all silver and pointy
and gave Hermione a rare smile.
The class everyone had really been looking
forward to was Defense Against the Dark Arts, but Quirrell's lessons turned out
to be a bit of a joke. His classroom smelled strongly of garlic, which everyone
said was to ward off a vampire he'd met in Romania and was afraid would be coming
back to get him one of these days. His turban, he told them, had been given to
him by an African prince as a thank-you for getting rid of a troublesome zombie,
but they weren't sure they believed this story. For one thing, when Seamus Finnigan
asked eagerly to hear how Quirrell had fought off the zombie, Quirrell went pink
and started talking about the weather; for another, they had noticed that a funny
smell hung around the turban, and the Weasley twins insisted that it was stuffed
full of garlic as well, so that Quirrell was protected wherever he went.
Harry was very relieved to find out that he wasn't miles behind everyone else.
Lots of people had come from Muggle families and, like him, hadn't had any idea
that they were witches and wizards. There was so much to learn that even people
like Ron didn't have much of a head start.
Friday was an important day
for Harry and Ron. They finally managed to find their way down to the Great Hall
for breakfast without getting lost once.
"What have we got today?"
Harry asked Ron as he poured sugar on his porridge.
with the Slytherins," said Ron. "Snape's Head of Slytherin House. They
say he always favors them -- we'll be able to see if it's true."
McGonagall favored us, " said Harry. Professor McGonagall was head of Gryffindor
House, but it hadn't stopped her from giving them a huge pile of homework the
Just then, the mail arrived. Harry had gotten used to this
by now, but it had given him a bit of a shock on the first morning, when about
a hundred owls had suddenly streamed into the Great Hall during breakfast, circling
the tables until they saw their owners, and dropping letters and packages onto
Hedwig hadn't brought Harry anything so far. She sometimes
flew in to nibble his ear and have a bit of toast before going off to sleep in
the owlery with the other school owls. This morning, however, she fluttered down
between the marmalade and the sugar bowl and dropped a note onto Harry's plate.
Harry tore it open at once. It said, in a very untidy scrawl:
I know you get Friday afternoons off, so would you like to come and have a cup
of tea with me around three?
I want to hear all about your first week.
Send us an answer back with Hedwig.
Harry borrowed Ron's
quill, scribbled Yes, please, see you later on the back of the note, and sent
Hedwig off again.
It was lucky that Harry had tea with Hagrid to look forward
to, because the Potions lesson turned out to be the worst thing that had happened
to him so far.
At the start-of-term banquet, Harry had gotten the idea
that Professor Snape disliked him. By the end of the first Potions lesson, he
knew he'd been wrong. Snape didn't dislike Harry -- he hated him.
lessons took place down in one of the dungeons. It was colder here than up in
the main castle, and would have been quite creepy enough without the pickled animals
floating in glass jars all around the walls.
Snape, like Flitwick, started
the class by taking the roll call, and like Flitwick, he paused at Harry's name.
"Ah, Yes," he said softly, "Harry Potter. Our new -- celebrity."
Draco Malfoy and his friends Crabbe and Goyle sniggered behind their hands. Snape
finished calling the names and looked up at the class. His eyes were black like
Hagrid's, but they had none of Hagrid's warmth. They were cold and empty and made
you think of dark tunnels.
"You are here to learn the subtle science
and exact art of potionmaking," he began. He spoke in barely more than a
whisper, but they caught every word -- like Professor McGonagall, Snape had y
caught every word -- like Professor McGonagall, Snape had the gift of keeping
a class silent without effort. "As there is little foolish wand-waving here,
many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really
understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes,
the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind,
ensnaring the senses.... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even
stopper death -- if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have
More silence followed this little speech. Harry and Ron
exchanged looks with raised eyebrows. Hermione Granger was on the edge of her
seat and looked desperate to start proving that she wasn't a dunderhead.
"Potter!" said Snape suddenly. "What would I get if I added powdered
root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
Powdered root of what
to an infusion of what? Harry glanced at Ron, who looked as stumped as he was;
Hermione's hand had shot into the air.
"I don't know, sit," said
Snape's lips curled into a sneer.
"Tut, tut -- fame
clearly isn't everything."
He ignored Hermione's hand.
try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"
Hermione stretched her hand as high into the air as it would go without her leaving
her seat, but Harry didn't have the faintest idea what a bezoar was. He tried
not to look at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, who were shaking with laughter.
"I don't know, sit." "Thought you wouldn't open a book before coming,
eh, Potter?" Harry forced himself to keep looking straight into those cold
eyes. He had looked through his books at the Dursleys', but did Snape expect him
to remember everything in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi?
still ignoring Hermione's quivering hand.
"What is the difference,
Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?"
At this, Hermione stood
up, her hand stretching toward the dungeon ceiling.
"I don't know,"
said Harry quietly. "I think Hermione does, though, why don't you try her?"
A few people laughed; Harry caught Seamus's eye, and Seamus winked. Snape, however,
was not pleased.
"Sit down," he snapped at Hermione. "For
your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful
it is known as the Draught of Living Death. A bezoar is a stone taken from the
stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons. As for monkshood and
wolfsbane, they are the same plant, which also goes by the name of aconite. Well?
Why aren't you all copying that down?"
There was a sudden rummaging
for quills and parchment. Over the noise, Snape said, "And a point will be
taken from Gryffindor House for your cheek, Potter."
improve for the Gryffindors as the Potions lesson continued. Snape put them all
into pairs and set them to mixing up a simple potion to cure boils. He swept around
in his long black cloak, watching them weigh dried nettles and crush snake fangs,
criticizing almost everyone except Malfoy, whom he seemed to like. He was just
telling everyone to look at the perfect way Malfoy had stewed his horned slugs
when clouds of acid green smoke and a loud hissing filled the dungeon. Neville
had somehow managed to melt Seamus's cauldron into a twisted blob, and their potion
was seeping across the stone floor, burning holes in people's shoes. Within seconds,
the whole class was standing on their stools while Neville, who had been drenched
in the potion when the cauldron collapsed, moaned in pain as angry red boils sprang
up all over his arms and legs.
"Idiot boy!" snarled Snape, clearing
the spilled potion away with one wave of his wand. "I suppose you added the
porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off the fire?"
whimpered as boils started to pop up all over his nose.
up to the hospital wing," Snape spat at Seamus. Then he rounded on Harry
and Ron, who had been working next to Neville.
"You -- Potter -- why
didn't you tell him not to add the quills? Thought he'd make you look good if
he got it wrong, did you? That's another point you've lost for Gryffindor."
This was so unfair that Harry opened his mouth to argue, but Ron kicked him behind
"Doi* push it," he muttered, "I've heard
Snape can turn very nasty."
As they climbed the steps out of the dungeon
an hour later, Harry's mind was racing and his spirits were low. He'd lost two
points for Gryffindor in his very first week -- why did Snape hate him so much?
"Cheer up," said Ron, "Snape's always taking points off Fred and
George. Can I come and meet Hagrid with you?"
At five to three they
left the castle and made their way across the grounds. Hagrid lived in a small
wooden house on the edge of the forbidden forest. A crossbow and a pair of galoshes
were outside the front door.
When Harry knocked they heard a frantic scrabbling
from inside and several booming barks. Then Hagrid's voice rang out, saying, "Back,
Fang -- back."
Hagrid's big, hairy face appeared in the crack as he
pulled the door open.
"Hang on," he said. "Back, Fang."
He let them in, struggling to keep a hold on the collar of an enormous black boarhound.
There was only one room inside. Hams and pheasants were hanging from the ceiling,
a copper kettle was boiling on the open fire, and in the corner stood a massive
bed with a patchwork quilt over it.
"Make yerselves at home,"
said Hagrid, letting go of Fang, who bounded straight at Ron and started licking
his ears. Like Hagrid, Fang was clearly not as fierce as he looked.
is Ron," Harry told Hagrid, who was pouring boiling water into a large teapot
and putting rock cakes onto a plate.
"Another Weasley, eh?" said
Hagrid, glancing at Ron's freckles. I spent half me life chasin' yer twin brothers
away from the forest."
The rock cakes were shapeless lumps with raisins
that almost broke their teeth, but Harry and Ron pretended to be enjoying them
as they told Hagrid all about their first -lessons. Fang rested his head on Harry's
knee and drooled all over his robes.
Harry and Ron were delighted to hear
Hagrid call Fitch "that old git."
"An' as fer that cat,
Mrs. Norris, I'd like ter introduce her to Fang sometime. D'yeh know, every time
I go up ter the school, she follows me everywhere? Can't get rid of her -- Fitch
puts her up to it."
Harry told Hagrid about Snape's lesson. Hagrid,
like Ron, told Harry not to worry about it, that Snape liked hardly any of the
"But he seemed to really hate me."
said Hagrid. "Why should he?"
Yet Harry couldn't help thinking
that Hagrid didn't quite meet his eyes when he said that.
brother Charlie?" Hagrid asked Ron. "I liked him a lot -- great with
Harry wondered if Hagrid had changed the subject on purpose.
While Ron told Hagrid all about Charlie's work with dragons, Harry picked up a
piece of paper that was lying on the table under the tea cozy. It was a cutting
from the Daily Prophet:
GRINGOTTS BREAK-IN LATEST
continue into the break-in at Gringotts on 31 July, widely believed to be the
work of Dark wizards or witches unknown.
Gringotts goblins today insisted
that nothing had been taken. The vault that was searched had in fact been emptied
the same day.
"But we're not telling you what was in there, so keep
your noses out if you know what's good for you," said a Gringotts spokesgoblin
Harry remembered Ron telling him on the train that someone
had tried to rob Gringotts, but Ron hadn't mentioned the date.
said Harry, "that Gringotts break-in happened on my birthday! It might've
been happening while we were there!"
There was no doubt about it,
Hagrid definitely didn't meet Harry's eyes this time. He grunted and offered him
another rock cake. Harry read the story again. The vault that was searched had
in fact been emptied earlier that same day. Hagrid had emptied vault seven hundred
and thirteen, if you could call it emptying, taking out that grubby little package.
Had that been what the thieves were looking for?
As Harry and Ron walked
back to the castle for dinner, their pockets weighed down with rock cakes they'd
been too polite to refuse, Harry thought that none of the lessons he'd had so
far had given him as much to think about as tea with Hagrid. Had Hagrid collected
that package just in time? Where was it now? And did Hagrid know something about
Snape that he didn't want to tell Harry?
Chapter I. The Boy Who Lived
Chapter II. The Vanishing Glass
Chapter III. The Letters From No One
Chapter IV. The Keeper Of The Keys
Chapter V. Diagon Alley
Chapter VI. The Journey From Platform Nine And Three-Quarters
Chapter VII. The Sorting Hat
Chapter VIII. The Potions Master
Chapter IX. The Midnight Duel
Chapter X. Halloween
Chapter XI. Quidditch
Chapter XII. The Mirror Of Erised
Chapter XIII. Nicolas Flamel
Chapter XIV. Norbert The Norwegian Ridgeback
Chapter XV. The Forbidden Forest
Chapter XVI. Through The Trapdoor
Chapter XVII. The Man With Two Faces
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