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Chapter Eight The Potions Master
(Harry gets to know his classes and teachers, gets picked on in class by Snape, and tries to pump Hagrid for information about Snape and the Gringotts break-in.)
Harry is learning the ins-and-out of Hogwarts, including how to avoid trick staircases, Peeves the poltergeist, ghosts, Filch the caretaker and his cat Mrs. Norris, and still get to class on time. Harry gets his first taste of Herbology with Sprout, History of Magic with Binns, Charms with Flitwick, Transfiguration with McGonagall, Defense against the Dark Arts with Quirrell, and Potions with Snape. In Potions class, Snape goes out of his way to make Harry look bad.
Harry and Ron visit Hagrid and discuss Snape and the Gringotts break-in that was in the news. Hagrid thinks Harry is imagining Snape’s bias towards him, but seems shifty on the subject. Harry figures out that whoever broke into Gringotts was trying to steal what Hagrid had taken out that day they went to Diagon Alley.
Snape’s potion ingredients are not made up. Asphodel is, according to Greek mythology, the flower of Hades and the dead that is sacred to Persephone. Wormwood is a bitter extract used to make both liquors and narcotic poisons. In the Middle Ages people actually believed that bezoars, indigestible masses of hair and such found in the stomachs of animals, were antidotes. And monkshood (also known as wolfsbane or aconite) was used medicinally in medieval Europe.
Fang is an example of how Rowling’s characters can have deceiving appearances: “[Fang] bounded straight at Ron and started licking his ears. Like Hagrid, Fang was clearly not as fierce as he looked.”