Chapter 11 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Quidditch
Quidditch season starts in November, and Harry is lucky to have Hermione as his friend—the extra practices are cutting into his homework time, and only Hermione's help gets him through it. Also, she has become a bit more relaxed about rules, so when she, Harry, and Ron are out in the courtyard one day, she bends the rules to create a small wizard fire to keep them warm. Professor Snape, seeing them there, confiscates the book Harry was reading, Quidditch Through the Ages, on a flimsy pretext that library books cannot be taken outside.
That evening, Harry decides to ask Snape to return the book. Hoping to catch him with other teachers so as to defuse his anger, he peers inside the staff room. There he sees Snape with a bad leg wound, being tended by Filch, and talking about something with three heads that apparently injured him. Snape notices Harry and, enraged, orders him out. Harry, Ron, and Hermione jointly concur that his injury was caused by the three-headed dog in the forbidden third-floor corridor, but only Hermione doubts that Snape would attempt to steal anything. Both Harry and Ron are convinced he would.
The following morning is Harry's first Quidditch match, which is against Slytherin. The match proceeds well, until Harry's broom starts acting strangely, apparently trying to buck him off. Hermione notices that Professor Snape is staring fixedly at Harry and muttering, and concludes he is jinxing it. To stop it, she runs across the stands, knocking Professor Quirrell over in the process, and sets Snape's robes on fire, thus breaking his concentration. Slytherin scores five times while everyone is distracted by Harry and his cursed broom. Regaining control, Harry dives for the pitch, in the process running into and nearly swallowing the Snitch, and winning the match.
After the match, Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss recent events with Hagrid in his hut. Hagrid voices disbelief that Snape would jinx Harry's broom. Harry mentions that Snape had apparently run afoul of the three-headed dog, which Hagrid accidentally identifies as "Fluffy". Hagrid later mentions that whatever he is guarding, "that's between Professor Dumbledore an' Nicolas Flamel —", thus accidentally providing another clue to what the object being guarded is.
As with any school, sport plays an integral part in student life. At Hogwarts, that sport is Quidditch, and it serves as both a unifying force and a divisive element. Students are bound by their enthusiasm for the game, but their Houses also compete against one another to win the Quidditch Cup, as well as the House Cup. Though these rivalries are generally amicable, Slytherin and Gryffindor have always been particularly competitive, and occasionally openly antagonistic. Slytherin's Quidditch captain, Marcus Flint, actually uses the incident with Harry's broom as a means to score more points for his team, showing just how devious and exploitative Slytherins truly are. The rivalry between these two Houses is so pronounced that it is likely to be central to the series somehow.
Meanwhile, Hermione's newly-formed friendship with Harry and Ron continues to develop and strengthen, and her intelligence and generosity are already proving useful. Initially it is the small (comparative to what comes later) matter of helping Harry with his homework when he becomes overwhelmed with the extra Quidditch practices, but she moves swiftly and decisively to protect Harry when she sees that his broom has been tampered with during the game, putting his life in danger. Her quick-thinking and fast actions become even more important to the Trio later in the series.
The jinxed broom seen during the game indicates that someone has malicious intentions against Harry, and it certainly seems obvious, at least to Harry and Ron, that this person is Snape. Even Hermione has abandoned her naive view that teachers can do no wrong and agrees that it must be Snape who seeks the Stone. Hagrid adamantly disagrees with the Trio that Snape, or any Hogwarts professor, could be involved in a plot against the school or its students. Hagrid's blind faith in Hogwarts and its teachers is noble, but it is simplistic, and almost child-like, though it should be remembered that Hagrid is privy to school information that we and the Trio are not. We, however, have seen that Snape appears to have a particular interest in the forbidden third-floor corridor, the trap door, and perhaps what lies beneath it.
- What does Hagrid have to say about Harry's theory regarding Snape? Is Hagrid right or is being deceived by someone?
- Why does Snape confiscate Harry's book, and was he justified?
- Why is Snape limping?
- Harry believes the three-headed dog injured Snape. Is he correct, or could something else have caused his wound?
- Why was Harry's broom being jinxed? Is Snape responsible, or is it someone else? Explain.
- Why would Snape treat his own leg wound, or seek assistance from Filch, rather than go to Madam Pomfrey in the Hospital Wing?
- Who might Nicolas Flamel be, and how is he (and Dumbledore) tied to the mysterious package?
- How has Hermione's character altered since she was first introduced? Give examples and explain what accounts for this change.
The rivalry between Slytherin and Gryffindor becomes a metaphor for themes of good vs. evil in the series and the battle that is to come, as Wizards either align themselves with Voldemort or choose to fight him and his Death Eaters. While Gryffindor represents Voldemort's opponents and Slytherin his followers (perhaps including Snape), both Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff Houses symbolize how many in the Wizarding world become complacent or ignorant to the evil that gradually and insidiously creeps in and takes hold as they go about their usual business, barely noticing, and finally adapting themselves to whatever the resulting outcome is. Divisions will also be formed within Harry's own House, Gryffindor, later in the series, as Harry's claim that the Dark Lord has returned is endlessly disputed, and his fellow House-mates take sides either for or against him.
The name Nicolas Flamel may trigger some interest among those who recognize it. Mentioned in a number of places, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, Flamel was a 14th century alchemist who is supposed to have found or created the Philosopher's Stone. Streets in Paris are named after him and his wife, and the house he lived in is now something of a tourist attraction. Despite much excavation of the house after his death, no trace of the Philosopher's Stone or any of the gold supposedly made with it was ever found.
As can be seen here, if the Trio has a weakness, it is a tendency to become stubbornly fixated on a single-minded thought; their determined belief that Snape has malevolent intentions could have had nasty consequences at the Quidditch match had luck not favoured them. Hagrid is their opposite in this, adamantly believing that a Hogwarts teacher could never be involved in anything evil, particularly if it involves a student or the school. The truth lies somewhere in-between, and several teachers throughout the series will be involved in sinister plots.
In what has been hailed as one of the better displays in this series' interconnectedness, Harry catching the Snitch in his mouth will become an important plot point in the seventh book.
There is one timing issue in this chapter, which perhaps adds to the mounting suspicion on Snape (as opposed to Quirrell). As Hermione is rushing along the teacher's row to reach Professor Snape, she knocks Professor Quirrell over; but then "It took perhaps thirty seconds for Snape to realize that he was on fire." Thirty seconds is a long time when attempting to counter a jinx or doing something requiring intense concentration; so for thirty seconds, Snape is trying to halt a jinx that has already been interrupted, because Quirrell was knocked over and was no longer conjuring it. It is possible that the author may have been employing hyperbole here, and actually meant something closer to five seconds, which would be more reasonable all around. This was resolved in the film version by having Snape notice that he was on fire after approximately two seconds.
- Harry's catching the Snitch in his mouth in his first ever Quidditch game will be connected to the final volume of the series.
- On his death, Dumbledore bequeaths this Snitch to Harry to transfer something to Harry without the Ministry knowing about it; Dumbledore likely guesses that the Ministry will examine all his bequests. Knowing that the Snitch is charmed with "flesh memory" to identify the Seeker that caught it, the Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, watches when Harry holds the Snitch to see if Dumbledore has used that to pass something to Harry, circumventing the Ministry. The Snitch does not react to Harry's hand, but after the Minister for Magic has left, when Harry presses it to his mouth, the Snitch reveals a message.
- When Harry sets forth to meet his doom, he again puts the Snitch to his lips and says, "I am about to die." It opens to reveal the Resurrection Stone that provides Harry the means to summon the support he needs to complete his task.
- Hermione's possibly-unique ability to conjure fire, seen twice in this chapter, will be used later in this book. With the possible exception of Hagrid earlier, we do not see any other witch or wizard doing this.