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HP 20th anniversary reread, chapters 8 & 9

I think I'm still behind by two chapters? (It's day 11 of the reread today, if I'm not wrong ... though I've been abroad for long enough that my dates are fairly mixed up.) Still, I'm doing pretty well considering I've been at the Summer Institute all week. I also can't believe it's been only a week (and a bit). My brain has taken in enough information to last the whole month!



Okay, so this one is all about Snape. I mean, yeah, there's a lot of other stuff going on as well, including the 142 staircases which are always coming up on those trivia quizzes when they really want to stump you, but the main point of the chapter--the thesis event, if we want to adapt academic terminology to fiction--is Snape. I mean, just read the chapter title, right?

So the man's reputation precedes him. Ron tells Harry before the lesson that Snape plays favourites and isn't pleasant. Here's the interesting thing though--Ron actually says, 'We'll be able to see if it's true.' (Or something to that effect.) He's heard plenty about this nasty teacher, and he's not saying, 'Oh yeah, everyone says that so it must be true.' He's saying let's find out. Just putting that out there. :)

Of course, Snape lives up to reputation perfectly. I really don't think this is a case of pre-judgement skewing their perspective. Snape goes straight for Harry and calls him out in front of the class. I do wonder what would have happened if Harry had actually managed to answer the questions (and I've heard theorising that Snape was testing here to see if Harry was more like James or Lily), but I suppose since he didn't, we can't know. Anyway, his ridiculing of Harry's knowledge is harsh, and I suppose from an old-school taskmaster perspective, Harry's calm but snarky reply (more evidence of this kid's spirit indeed!) would be considered 'cheek'. (Just read Roald Dahl if you need proof!) I'm from the school (no pun intended) though that believes if an adult is being a bullying ass, more power to the kid who calls them out on it.

By the way, anyone notice that there seems to be a points inflation throughout the series? Snape take a house point here for a minor infraction, but we're going to see the amount of points we deal in gradually increase over the series. Time value of points, or 'I'm just gonna take more away since you're older and should know better'? Who knows?

Anyway, the thing about Snape is that his behaviour sucks. Whatever you think of the man, whether you identify with him or try to understand him (and yeah, I've attempted to here and there over the years), I don't think his behaviour is justifiable. Even the argument that it's maybe all an act to keep up his status as a spy ... yeah, that doesn't really hold water when you consider he had to explain away saving Harry's life to Bellatrix in HBP. Compared to that, would he even had to explain not demonising Harry? Hell, what would he even have to explain? He wouldn't be favouring Harry, just treating him as he would Ron or Hermione or Neville--not well, but not singled out specially. Then again, he bullies all of them plenty, too, and what reason has he got for that? (Okay, I'm sure the Snape fen have a long list--but I better not open that can of Grindylows.) Anyway the point is not to bash Snape but to say we have a character portrayed as villainous and whose behaviour we're meant to dislike--and do.

I especially hate that when Neville screws up his potion and is harmed by it, Snape doesn't have the slightest show of concern, only disdain and contempt. Poor Neville. No wonder he's terrified. The lesson to be learned here is that you'd better be perfect in potions because if you screw up you'll die and no one will care. Ouch.

After all that discussion of Snape, perhaps ironically, what I picked up on to write when I did the chapterfic was Minerva's perspective of the first day of lessons.



I mentioned that I'm doing this reread on audiobook, right? So chapter 9 came up and it was noisy at that moment and I missed the narrating of the chapter title. And I had to think, hm, what was it again? I thought of the events this chapter--the flying lessons, Neville's Remembrall, Malfoy's challenge, the trapdoor, Fluffy--and I felt like the chapter title could have been so many things but 'The Midnight Duel', which is the one thing that didn't happen. It's kind of misleading since the duel is nonexistent!

Up to this point, the chapter titles have all been pretty appropriate, targeting the main points or events of the chapter. What do you think of this one? Was it meant to mislead? To hide the real action? Or just an unfortunate misnomer?

The other thing I realised when listening to this chapter was how simple and direct the narration is in telling the tale. The mystery part of the plot is beginning properly now, and last chapter ended with Harry figuring out that the package is at Hogwarts, then this one telling us he's worked it out to be guarded by Fluffy. The suspicious nature of Snape is also clearly stated.

This is a children's book, too (remember it was marketed that way long before the rest of the series arrived) and so you think, okay, like most others aimed at kids that age, it's gonna be a straightforward sort of mystery where we pick up the clues along with Harry and just go along for the ride. And I think this is why Harry Potter blew us all away. We thought we knew what we were in for--fun and exciting, sure, but the twist came out of the blue. It did for me, anyway. But then, I was also 11.

I'm curious, did any of you who read it as an adult, or an older teen, guess the twist? Or okay, even as a kid. I know I'm patently bad at guessing because I get so absorbed in the story I just focus on what's going on in the present.

The old chapterfic for this chapter.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
author_by_night
Jun. 15th, 2017 12:40 pm (UTC)
Ron actually says, 'We'll be able to see if it's true.' (Or something to that effect.) He's heard plenty about this nasty teacher, and he's not saying, 'Oh yeah, everyone says that so it must be true.' He's saying let's find out. Just putting that out there. :)

It's interesting how in the earlier books, Ron's actually very often the voice of reason. I've been re-reading the later ones and it's there too, but he actually seems to get more dim later. In the earlier books he's... more or less a normal eleven year old, I suppose?

e man, whether you identify with him or try to understand him (and yeah, I've attempted to here and there over the years), I don't think his behaviour is justifiable. Even the argument that it's maybe all an act to keep up his status as a spy ... yeah, that doesn't really hold water when you consider he had to explain away saving Harry's life to Bellatrix in HBP. Compared to that, would he even had to explain not demonising Harry?

Not to mention his complaints about Harry in the flashback in DH, where he's talking to DD about him. He just didn't like that Harry was James's son and dared have Lily's eyes. I think he may have in part justified his extreme behavior as a cover, and Dumbledore (being a little overly trusting* at times) might have believed it, but he also took it too far.



I'm curious, did any of you who read it as an adult, or an older teen, guess the twist? Or okay, even as a kid. I know I'm patently bad at guessing because I get so absorbed in the story I just focus on what's going on in the present.


Hm... hard for me to say, as I read the books 18 years ago! But no, I don't think so, actually. Honestly, I hadn't even wanted to read it, I thought the books (there were just two at the time!) sounded stupid and was talked into trying it. So I think for me, the twist was "this book is actually really good." :P

*I mean, that's not quite the right phrasing , because for all his humor and "blubber, nitwit, oddment and tweak" he's actually in many ways an intensely serious and cynical person. If anyone's truly "overly trusting", it's probably Percy Weasley, who believed the MoM only had good intentions to a serious fault. But I think Dumbledore also believes people will do the right thing. It's why he fell under Grindlewald's spell as a teenager, it's why he believed Snape would put aside his grudge in OoTP and help Harry with Occlumency, it's why he's done a lot of things - and often he was right. It's just... when he was wrong that problems were created. So I can see him having faith in Snape's character, whereas Snape actually did a lot of damage. I think even in HBP, Harry himself notes that side of Dumbledore.

Edited at 2017-06-15 12:45 pm (UTC)
shiiki
Jun. 16th, 2017 11:25 am (UTC)
he actually seems to get more dim later

I'm not sure about that either--it's just that he seems very dim on the subject of girls and feelings. (Then again, I haven't read the whole series for a while, so perhaps I'll see this soon!)

If anyone's truly "overly trusting", it's probably Percy Weasley, who believed the MoM only had good intentions to a serious fault.

Interestingly enough, Percy seems very much in awe and respectful of Dumbledore at this point in the series, too. I wonder how he descended into his 'about-face', and who might have influenced it.

Might Penny's getting petrified in CoS and Dumbledore's failure to prevent it have seeded some doubt?

But I think Dumbledore also believes people will do the right thing.

The flip side of trust--naivety. I love it, the way JKR gives us both sides of the coin; both the strength and the flaw.

And yeah, I think we can all agree that throughout the series, we observed Dumbledore's slow falling from the pedestal we initially set him up on.
kp_mushu
Jun. 17th, 2017 05:58 am (UTC)
Most definitely did not guess at the twist and I read it as an adult. I'm also notoriously inept at guessing twists, so maybe that's not saying much ...

As for Snape's behavior, as an adult he should act like one. Yes, he had a (presumably) sucky childhood and he was bullied while at Hogwarts, but he's an adult now. He's just repeating the cycle of bullying, acting as he does towards his students. Stern and strict is one thing; McGonagall manages to keep order *and* teach while NOT bullying her students.

Not to say Snape deserved how he died. I still wonder how much therapy Harry (and Neville!) needed to go through before they could fully process all the hurt Snape caused.
shiiki
Jun. 17th, 2017 01:55 pm (UTC)
I'm also notoriously inept at guessing twists, so maybe that's not saying much ...

Most of the time I don't even think that a twist might be coming, let alone guess at them--that's how bad I am at seeing them coming!

He's just repeating the cycle of bullying, acting as he does towards his students.

I'm glad neither Harry nor Neville (apparently) perpetuated the cycle. (I guess, anyway. We don't have concrete evidence about how Neville teaches, but I can't imagine him being like Snape!) The thing about all the characters is that they all had tragedy in their lives and stuff to put up with. Not all of them behaved in ways that lashed out against the world. I think we can understand why Snape is bitter and vengeful without needing to justify his behaviour.

I still wonder how much therapy Harry (and Neville!) needed to go through before they could fully process all the hurt Snape caused.

I imagine there might be an entire generation of students that were potentially scarred by him, to be honest ... we don't see what he was like to other classes, but I bet he had a number in them that he bullied, too.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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