Two-Face

“A foolish young man I was then, full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it… Since then, I have served him faithfully, although I have let him down many times. He has had to be very hard on me.” Quirrell shivered suddenly.

Well, I’m back! It took a bit longer to get breathing space than I thought it would, and in the meantime, my sister finished reading the Harry Potter series!!! What this means is that she is now no longer banished from my blog. (And btw, she’s pro-Severus, and really angry at Albus). Maybe she’ll peak her head into the comments at some point and say “Hi.”

But let’s get back to Quirrell.

There is something profoundly sad about Quirrell’s account of how Voldemort seduced him. Quirrell has become so deluded that he now thinks that his former belief in the existence of good and evil was a “ridiculous idea” – and that “power,” not morality, is the true foundation for action.

These views sound remarkably similar to how the philosophy of Nietzsche is described – both by those sympathetic and those antipathetic to his work. Personally, I have never managed to stomach Nietzsche enough to actually read him, but I would be curious – from those who have some better acquaintance with his work than I do – if Voldemort’s perspective is authentically Nietzschean… or if it’s a weak reading or caricature of Nietzsche’s ideas of good, evil, and power. (I welcome your comments in the Comments thread)

Regardless of Voldemort’s relationship with Nietzsche… what becomes apparent from Quirrell’s words is that the influence Voldemort exerts over this young follower is like the influence of a cult leader. Quirrell has ceased thinking for himself. He believes that in balking at Voldemort’s commands, he is in the wrong, and that it is only fitting that Voldemort “be very hard on” him when he fails.

Quirrell never considers that perhaps prior to his fateful meeting with Voldemort, his notions of good and evil were correct… or that balking at Voldemort’s commands is merely how a normal human being with a conscience would act. We know from what Harry overheard in the classroom that Quirrell begged Voldemort not to make him harm another unicorn:

“No – no – not again, please – “

For a moment in that classroom, Quirrell’s conscience made an appearance, offering a normal human reaction to Voldemort’s monstrous command. But Voldemort has so deeply programmed Quirrell (perhaps through a deadly combination of brainwashing and magic) that the young professor believes he must serve Voldemort faithfully, no matter what horrific deed the Dark Lord asks him to perform. And so, he does kill the unicorn… and now aims to kill Harry.

Quirrell does not even question the necessity of sharing his body (and, as Dumbledore mentions, his soul) with Voldemort. But all Voldemort aims to do is use Quirrell for his own ends (just as he tells Quirrell to “Use the boy… Use the boy…”). Once Quirrell becomes a liability, though, Voldemort simply leaves him to die.

This is Voldemort’s modus operandi – to seduce, use, and discard. And personally, I think there is plenty of foreshadowing here for later books in the series.

In Quirrell’s words, we get a glimpse of how Voldemort seduced the previous generation of Death Eaters – teenage boys, really, recruited from within Hogwarts. He appears to have preyed on class and “blood” prejudices, and perhaps offered visions of nearly limitless power.

Though a couple of Death Eaters (Regulus Black and Severus Snape, in particular) had experiences horrifying enough to jar loose their programming and see through to the true nature of Voldemort’s regime, most of their compatriots remained loyal to the cause.

Actually, Severus Snape becomes almost the anti-Quirrell. Just as Quirrell is the man with two faces, Snape looks two ways – towards the Death Eaters and towards the Order of the Phoenix. In fact, Rowling quite consciously made his birthdate January 9 – the celebration of the Roman god Janus, the god with two faces:

Janus

The difference between Snape and Quirrell, though, is that Snape’s “double nature” is a product of his being a double agent. He fakes loyalty to the Death Eaters. He is authentically loyal to the Order.

And just as Voldemort casts Quirrell aside the moment he has no more use for him, he kills Snape because he wants something that he believes Snape has. As Dumbledore tells Harry at the end of PS/SS:

“he shows just as little mercy to his followers as to his enemies.”

Voldemort truly believed double agent Snape to be a “good and faithful” follower. But it was the death of “faithful Quirrell” here at the beginning of the series that put the reader on notice that such things could happen… even all the way at the end.

The Unbreakable Mirror

He saw his reflection, pale and scared-looking at first. But a moment later, the reflection smiled at him. It put its hand into its pocket and pulled out a blood-red stone. It winked and put the Stone back in its pocket – and as it did so, Harry felt something heavy drop into his real pocket. Somehow – incredibly – he’d gotten the Stone.

The Dumbledore challenge is what everybody wants to talk about… even when we’re talking about the Heads of House! And wouldn’t you know I’d get to everybody’s favorite challenge just as my schedule goes into total meltdown?

I’m finishing a Math class. I’m starting up my own classes. I’ve been writing Syllabi, getting administrative stuff taken care of, and now I get to launch in to 1st week lesson plans. But I won’t completely abandon you!

We’ve talked in the Comments to previous posts about just how insurmountable Dumbledore’s Mirror enchantment is. I personally find it amusing to read Quirrell’s perplexity, and ultimately his mounting panic, as he begins to realize how far he is out of his depth.

He starts the challenge overconfident:

“The mirror is the key to finding the Stone,” Quirrell murmured, tapping his way around the frame. “Trust Dumbledore to come up with something like this… but he’s in London… I’ll be far away by the time he gets back….”

Then, he gets trapped by the very nature of the mirror itself:

Quirrell came back out from behind the mirror and stared hungrily into it.

“I see the Stone… I’m presenting it to my master… but where is it?”

Then he gets frustrated…

Quirrell cursed under his breath.

“I don’t understand… is the Stone inside the mirror? Should I break it?”

And finally…

“What does this mirror do? How does it work? Help me, Master!”

But Voldemort can’t help because he doesn’t know the answer any more than Quirrell does. All he can reply is:

“Use the boy… Use the boy…”

Note that Dumbledore entrusted an 11-year-old boy with the secret of the mirror… but did not similarly entrust one of his own staff. We learn later (as in TPT later) that Dumbledore had suspected Quirrell before the Halloween Feast. And we also learn (in TPT) that Dumbledore and Snape protected Harry for the purpose of allowing him to test his own strength.

What’s curious is that, wrong as Harry can be about Snape, he has a pretty good read on Dumbledore:

“He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don’t think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could…”

Harry intuitively has a sense of what Dumbledore is up to, even before knowing the details of why.

Unbreakable

So what is it about this challenge that turns the Mirror of Erised into an unbeatable protection? Dumbledore’s enchantment did not change the nature of the Mirror. The Mirror still shows the individual what he most desperately desires. But Dumbledore also placed an enchantment on the Mirror that would make it impossible to retrieve the Stone if the Stone were the ultimate object of desire:

“You see, only one who wanted to find the Stone – find it, but not use it – would be able to get it, otherwise they’d just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life.”

Dumbledore’s enchantment seems tailor-made for Harry – for someone who would only want to find the Stone in order to prevent its falling into the wrong hands. But the beauty of using the Mirror for this purpose is that the Mirror itself could drive greedy people like Quirrell insane with desire. Add to that an utter inability to attain the object of desire, and you get a sense of the depth of Dumbledore’s enchantment.

One of the commenters on the Snape task mentioned that the Logic Puzzle coldly leaves the unsuccessful individual dead or locked in that chamber forever. Well, Dumbledore just upped the stakes. In his challenge, the individual can get trapped in that chamber forever… and trapped with a Mirror that has the potential to drive him insane.

But enough from me. I’d like to hear your comments. What does this task tell us about Dumbledore?

It Was Quirrell!!!

[Harry] braced himself, saw the black flames licking his body, but couldn’t feel them – for a moment he could see nothing but dark fire – then he was on the other side, in the last chamber.

There was already someone there – but it wasn’t Snape. It wasn’t even Voldemort.

[chapter ends… page turn…]

It was Quirrell.

Bet you didn’t see that one coming!
Well, you did if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time… and I write assuming you’ve already read the entire series at least once! But I bet you didn’t see it coming before you read (or saw) PS/SS!

Or did you?
If you didn’t get sucked in by the Snape red herring, I’d love to hear from you in the Comments. But of course, I’d love to hear from you in the Comments regardless.

For most readers, going into the final chamber and encountering Quirrellmort and the Mirror of Erised is kind of like going through the looking glass. Everything Harry (and the reader) thinks is a known fact gets turned inside out and upside down.

What’s fun about the first part of this chapter is that it’s Quirrell himself who disabuses Harry of all his false notions of who his friends, enemies, and protectors are. Harry had thought that Quirrell was a poor, weak, stuttering fool who didn’t stand a chance against the unmentionable Snape. Now, he’s confronted with the reality:

You!” gasped Harry.

Quirrell smiled. His face wasn’t twitching at all.

“Me,” he said calmly.

The man doesn’t even stutter!

It’s significant that here, Quirrell’s face isn’t twitching… because his face always twitches. It is significant that he speaks to Harry calmly… because his speech is never calm. It was all an act – the hyper-nervousness, the stuttering, everything. Quirrell even mocks his own carefully-staged persona, noting that…

“Next to [Snape], who would suspect p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?”

Harry couldn’t take it in. This couldn’t be true, it couldn’t.

And therein lies one of the biggest problems still plaguing HP fandom today. Harry is not the only one who can’t take it in that the bad guy isn’t Snape. Harry has so much trouble believing the truth that he starts arguing with Quirrell.

Let’s paraphrase Harry’s objections:

It has to be Snape! Snape tried to kill me! What do you mean he was trying to save me? I saw you with him in the Forest! But he always seemed to hate me so much, and anyway, I thought that it was him threatening you in the classroom!

Now let’s paraphrase Quirrell’s explanations:

No, it’s me. I’m the one who tried to kill you. Snape was trying to save you. In the Forest, Snape was trying to frighten me because he suspected me of trying to steal the Stone. Oh, he does hate you, but that doesn’t mean he was trying to kill you. That was my master, not Snape, threatening me in the classroom. Oh, and btw, I’m the one who let the troll in at Halloween.

To nearly every one of Quirrell’s explanations, Harry offers a new objection. It’s rather like certain fans who continue arguing with Rowling that she could not possibly have meant that Snape didn’t remain a loyal Death Eater after he turned to Dumbledore. After all, he was such a nasty git to Harry!

Well, to his great credit at least, Harry eventually gets over it. Let’s hope the same for those poor, sad fans who never do.

But for now, let’s focus on one of Harry’s key objections. In it, Harry actually tells us one of his reasons for suspecting Snape:

“But Snape always seemed to hate me so much.”

11-year-old Harry confuses attitude with action. Snape apparently hates him (attitude); therefore, Snape is trying to kill him (action). This has got to be some sort of unnamed logical fallacy!
Any suggestions on what to call it?

Learning the truth at the end of PS/SS is Harry’s first big adventure into separating appearance from reality, but it is only the first. In CoS, a seemingly friendly voice in a diary is actually the voice of 16-year-old Tom Riddle/Voldemort. In PoA, the psychotic murderer who is supposedly out to kill him is actually a loving godfather who was framed for his “crimes.” In GoF, the DADA professor who inspires his career choice is actually a Death Eater trying to feed him to Voldemort. etc.,etc.,etc.

It is no wonder that when Harry emerges from the Pensieve in DH after witnessing one final reversal in perception, he believes what he’s seen immediately, without question… despite having thought only an hour before that Snape was a murderer and a traitor. By the end of DH, Harry has been well trained by experience to know that appearances can be misleading. And that experience begins right here, at the end of PS/SS.

Ickle Firsties Take On the Hogwarts Staff

“We’re nearly there,” [Ron] muttered suddenly. “Let me think – let me think . . .”

The white queen turned her blank face toward him.

“Yes . . . ” said Ron softly, “it’s the only way . . . I’ve got to be taken.”

“NO!” Harry and Hermione shouted.

“That’s chess!” snapped Ron. “You’ve got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and she’ll take me – that leaves you free to checkmate the king, Harry!”

“But – ”

“Do you want to stop Snape or not?”

So far, we’ve talked about the tasks and what they reveal about the House Heads and their Houses. But we haven’t focused much yet on what the tasks show us about the Trio. And there are actually 2 Rounds of encounters before the Trio even meets up with Fluffy and descends through the trapdoor.

Round 1: The adventure begins in the Gryffindor Common Room, when Neville tries to prevent the Trio from creeping out through the portrait hole. Hermione shows her excellent spell work by putting a “Petrificus Totalus” (Full Body-Bind) curse on Neville (foreshadowing many later uses of Petrificus Totalus: most memorably, Draco on Harry on Hogwarts Express, Dumbledore on Harry during Dumbledore’s death scene, Voldemort on Neville before Neville slays the snake). Round 1 goes to Hermione.

Round 2: The Trio encounter Peeves, who will of course make enough racket to get them caught roaming the halls at night. Harry ingeniously mimics the Bloody Baron from under his Invisibility Cloak. Round 2 belongs to Harry.

Round 3: The Trio meet up with Fluffy. Getting past the 3-headed beast is a collaborative effort. Harry quiets the dog by playing notes on a flute Hagrid carved for him. Ron opens the trapdoor, Harry goes through the trapdoor first, and Hermione continues blowing on the flute before jumping last. Round 3 belongs to The Trio.

Round 4: The Trio engage in another collaborative effort while tackling Sprout’s Devil’s Snare. Yes, Hermione is the one who recognizes the plant, notices its effects, and conjures the bluebell flames. But it’s Harry who recommends lighting a fire and Ron who reminds Hermione that she can light one without wood. Without Harry and Ron, Hermione would have frozen in panic. Round 4 belongs to The Trio, with some extra credit for Hermione.

Round 5: Flitwick’s Enchanted Keys also require a collaborative effort. However, for the collaboration to work, Harry has to rely on his Seeker skills and demonstrate a potential for leadership in Quidditch. He directs Hermione and Ron on the formation to fly so that he can catch the key he has identified. Round 5, I think, belongs primarily to Harry.

Round 6: Getting through McGonnagall’s Transfigured Chess match is entirely Ron’s task, with cooperation (not really collaboration) from Harry and Hermione. And this is one of the more difficult and risky tasks. So in taking the poll at the bottom of this post, it might be nice to weigh that difficulty and risk when considering Ron’s overall contribution toward saving the Stone. Round 6 goes to Ron.

Round 7: Getting past Quirrell’s Troll requires no effort on Harry’s or Hermione’s part because knocking out the Troll has already been accomplished… by Quirrell.

Round 8: Snape’s Logic Puzzle gives Hermione an opportunity to show her capacity for logical reasoning, and without her, Harry might have been stuck in that chamber forever. Round 8 belongs to Hermione.

Round 9: Dumbledore’s enchantment on Mirror of Erised gives Harry an opportunity to show his strength of character – the strength that helps him trump Voldemort’s attempt to attain the Stone and achieve immortality.  We will discuss the Mirror in more detail in the post after next. But for now, Round 9 belongs to Harry.

The three members of the Trio show, from this very first major confrontation with Voldemort, that they possess an ability to work together as a group – and an ability to step forward with individual skills as needed. This will, of course, have major implications for the Horcrux Quest in DH, as will Ron’s sacrifice in the chess match…

You’ve Got to Make Some Sacrifices

When Ron decides to be “taken,” he decides to risk the possibility of death to keep Snape[sic]/Voldemort from getting the Stone. He does not know if the Queen’s blow will be lethal (and Harry and Hermione seem uncertain that he’s still alive when they move on to the next task). What he does know is, at the very least, it will hurt a lot and knock him unconscious. But the sacrifice is necessary in order to move his friends forward. So he sacrifices himself with that aim in mind.

I could be mistaken, but I think this is the first mention of sacrifice in the books. But it becomes a key theme in the series – as we will begin to understand when Dumbledore tells Harry of his mother’s sacrifice.

Perhaps most graphically, though, Ron’s sacrifice is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice that Harry will be asked to make in DH, when he goes out to meet Voldemort. Once again, it will be a situation in which sacrifice is “the only way” to halt evil from triumphing. And once again, it’s a conscious decision to face death for the sake of something bigger than oneself.

Harry makes his sacrifice in order to prevent Voldemort from attaining immortality. And 6 years earlier, he watched a young boy make the cold, calculated decision to face the possibility of death in order to prevent Voldemort from attaining immortality.

Foreshadowing? Perhaps.

Coincidence? Perhaps not.

And now… let’s have another poll – this time on the Trio’s individual contributions. And let’s discuss your responses in the Comments thread! Multiple choice is possible this time:

T, for Troll

That’s the grade I’d give Professor Quirrell’s protection for the Stone. Why? Because, it’s bogus! It’s just a waste of space!

As I mentioned in the Comments to the previous post:

He had a way with trolls, so he planted a troll in order to get past it easily. Since his method for getting past it meant knocking it out, he basically allowed anyone who came after him to get past the troll as well. So Quirrell, I don’t think, really counts.

And so that means that the next task we’ll discuss is…

Professor Snape’s Logic Puzzle!

So here’s a little question I have for all of you. Is there any remotely canonical visual representation of how the bottles should be arranged – size and all? Is it possible to recreate the bottle presentation by means of the poem? Is it possible to figure out the answer to the Logic Puzzle without the visual aid of seeing the bottles?

Please let me know in the Comments thread.

Thanks!

A Pack of Enchantments

“I don’t know how you found out about the Stone, but rest assured, no one can possibly steal it, it’s too well protected.”


“I suppose you think you’re harder to get past than a pack of enchantments!” she stormed.

Poor Professor McGonnagall. She’s left to guard the castle while Dumbledore’s running off to the Ministry, and now some ickle firsties are claiming that someone’s going to steal the Stone! As much sympathy as I have for the Deputy Headmistress, though, I do find her confidence in the enchantments disturbingly overconfident.

Yes, the Stone is guarded, as Hagrid earlier told the Trio:

“… he borrowed Fluffy from me … then some o’ the teachers did enchantments …. Professor Sprout – Professor Flitwick – Professor McGonnagall -” he ticked them off on his fingers, “Professor Quirrell – an’ Dumbledore himself did somethin’, o’ course. Hang on, I’ve forgotten someone. Oh yeah, Professor Snape.”

But the enchantments will fall… first to a determined thief, and then to a very determined group of 11 and 12 year olds!

So now that we know who is guarding the stone (and it reads largely like a staff roster of House Heads at Hogwarts!), let’s get a brief overview of the how:

  1. Hagrid (Care of Magical Creatures): Fluffy
  2. Professor Sprout (Herbology): Devil’s Snare
  3. Professor Flitwick (Charms): Enchanted Keys
  4. Professor McGonnagall (Transfiguration): Living Chess Pieces
  5. Professor Quirrell (Defense Against the Dark Arts): Troll
  6. Professor Snape (Potions): Logic Puzzle, Potions, Enchanted Fire
  7. Professor Dumbledore (Headmaster): Re-Enchanted Mirror of Erised

Fluffy

As guardian of the trapdoor (and we have discussed the Fluffy/Cerberus connection before), Fluffy should prove a formidable foe. After all, he nearly ripped off the leg of Severus Snape… who wasn’t even trying to steal the Stone!

But perhaps that’s whole point. Fluffy’s presence would dissuade all but the most determined of thieves (or, apparently, the most determined of Gryffindors!). And that is why Snape asked Quirrell if he had figured out how to get past the dog. As Voldemort’s slave, Quirrell does have the determination required. This is a man who made an attempt on the Stone at Gringotts after all! And since the time Snape cornered Quirrell in the Forbidden Forest, Hagrid has rendered Fluffy’s protection null by unknowingly revealing Fluffy’s weak spot to “Quirrellmort.” Consequently, when the Trio arrive at the door to the 3rd floor corridor, an enchanted harp has already played the beast to sleep.

Their reaction to seeing the harp? Predictably: “Snape must have left it there.”

Gryffindor Determination

But the Trio, too, came prepared to play Fluffy to sleep. Harry brought a flute, and that flute proves their salvation when the harp stops playing.

The young Gryffindors’ determination to get through the trapdoor comes not from a desire to steal the Stone but from the desire to prevent Voldemort’s return to power – a determination spearheaded by Harry’s reminder of the threat that he… and Hogwarts… and the Wizarding World as a whole would face if Voldemort returns:

“If Snape gets hold of the Stone, Voldemort’s coming back! Haven’t you heard what it was like when he was trying to take over? There won’t be any Hogwarts to get expelled from! He’ll flatten it, or turn it into a school for the Dark Arts! Losing points doesn’t matter anymore, can’t you see? D’you think he’ll leave you and your families alone if Gryffindor wins the house cup? If I get caught before I can get to the Stone, well, I’ll have to go back to the Dursleys and wait for Voldemort to find me there, it’s only dying a bit later than I would have, because I’m never going over to the Dark Side! I’m going through the trapdoor tonight and nothing you two say is going to stop me! Voldemort killed my parents, remember?”

He glared at them.

“You’re right, Harry,” said Hermione in a small voice.

As DH shows, 6 years later, Harry is quite on target with his analysis of what the return of Voldemort would mean. And this is before he learns about blood prejudice or about the blood prejudice campaign that would also target the likes of Hermione (Muggle-born) and Ron (blood traitor)… and it is well before Harry learns that he himself was the target on the night his parents were killed.

The only thing Harry is substantially wrong about (apart from the Snape bit) is that Voldemort would be able to kill him at the Dursleys. Actually, the Dark Lord can’t. In fact, as we learn much later, Harry is under special blood protection under his aunt’s roof because of his mother’s sacrifice. And this is the reason Dumbledore “inexplicably” keeps sending him back to the Dursleys during school breaks.

Because of the Trio’s determination to stop Voldemort’s return, nothing is going to stop these kids from going through that trapdoor – not Neville (on whom Hermione, regretfully, uses a Petrificus Totalus), not Peeves (on whom Harry tests his best “Bloody Baron” voice), and not Fluffy.

I’ll be back later to discuss, individually, the enchantments created by the House Heads on the other side of the of the trapdoor … and how the Trio overcome them. But this, at least, should get us started on our journey into the bowels of Hogwarts.

What is Slithering in the Forest

Firenze suddenly reared on his hind legs in anger, so that Harry had to grab his shoulders to stay on.

“Do you not see that unicorn?” Firenze bellowed at Bane. “Do you not understand why it was killed? Or have the planets not let you in on that secret? I set myself against what is lurking in this forest, Bane, yes, with humans alongside me if I must.”

The confrontation between Firenze and the other centaurs takes place after the thing that’s lurking in the forest – the thing that’s drinking unicorn blood – stands up and comes straight at Harry Potter. It is, of course, Voldemort, or Quirrellmort (as some like to call him at this stage of his “comeback”). And this is the first encounter between Harry and Voldemort since Voldemort gave Harry his scar.

The sound that “Quirrellmort” makes, curiously enough, is a “slithering” sound, and it is definitely out of place. It doesn’t sound like anything Hagrid has heard before in the Forest. This out-of-place sound appears twice – first, while Harry is with Hagrid and then later when Harry is with Draco. The fact that the sound is “slithering” conjures images of snakes… and reminds us subconsciously (or perhaps not so subconsciously) of Slytherin. And in reminding us of Slytherin, it reinforces the “Slytherin = Evil” notion that Hagrid first introduced to Harry in Diagon Alley.

If we need any more reinforcing, the thing making the slithering sound – Voldemort – is a Slytherin… as is Draco. But Draco is not quite up to the horror of this encounter. In fact, here is how Draco handles this first encounter with his future Lord:

The cloaked figure reached the unicorn, lowered its head over the wound in the animal’s side, and began to drink its blood.

“AAAAAAAAAAARGH!”

Malfoy let out a terrible scream and bolted – so did Fang.

I find Draco’s reaction worth noting. It is easy to assume that it’s simply cowardice… except that Harry (who is hardly a coward) will find his own feet bolted to the Forest floor in fear. In addition, about 6 years from now, Draco will endanger his own life to save Harry and his friends at Malfoy Manor, and will endanger his life to save Gregory Goyle when the Room of Requirement is engulfed in Fiendfyre. So I’m not as certain as I was when I first read this passage that Draco is simply a coward. Surely he’s scared. He’d be a fool not to be. Harry’s scared too. But his response indicates to me that he is more than merely frightened. He is horrified. After all, he watched the cloaked figure slither up to the unicorn. It was only when it began to drink the unicorn’s blood that he let out the cry.

I find this potentially significant because this is the boy who will ultimately find that he is unable to commit murder. And this is his first encounter with the person who will charge him to commit murder. And he is as horrified here as he will later be when Voldemort murders Charity Burbage over the dinner table at Malfoy Manor. In other words, I think that this could very well be our first hint that Draco is not as “bad” as he’d like to believe he is.

And as for Voldemort himself, I find it curious that he’s driven away by Firenze. True, he doesn’t have his full powers. He doesn’t even have his body, and he is reduced to drinking unicorn blood in order to preserve some semblance of life. But still… this is Voldemort himself! The Dark Lord! You Know Who! He Who Must Not Be Named! And he’s slinking – or slithering – around in the Forest and getting chased away by centaurs!

And in this encounter, Harry has his first experience of the blinding pain in his scar. Though he had a flitting pain during the Great Feast at the beginning of term, this is much worse:

The hooded figure raised its head and looked right at Harry – unicorn blood was dribbling down its front. It got to its feet and came swiftly toward Harry – he couldn’t move for fear.

Then a pain like he’d never felt before pierced his head; it was as though his scar were on fire. Half blinded, he staggered backward. He heard hooves behind him, galloping, and something jumped clean over Harry, charging the figure.

The pain in Harry’s head was so bad he fell to his knees. It took a minute or two to pass.

He has never felt anything like this before. And this pain – this connection between Harry and Voldemort – will only grow stronger during the course of the series.

Now, here’s my question about the Voldemort-Quirrell-Harry encounter:

We know (or will soon know) that Quirrell encountered Voldemort during a trip to Albania and allowed the Dark Lord to become his master. Since that trip, he has developed the “stuttering Quirrell” persona – so much so that Hagrid mentions it on their trip to Diagon Alley. This indicates to me that he has probably already taught at least one term since his return. If that’s the case, then did Voldemort time his attempt to steal the Philosopher’s Stone (and gain eternal life in bodily form) to coincide with Harry’s appearance at Hogwarts?

Yes, I know the whole thing is contingent upon encountering Quirrell in Albania. But I mean afterward. If Quirrell has already taught a term, then did Voldemort decide that the time would be right when Harry arrived? Or is this Quirrell’s first term back, and is this actually Voldemort’s first opportunity to resume bodily form, and is it merely coincidental that it all coincides with Harry’s first term at Hogwarts? But let’s not forget… Harry was the target of the attack that murdered his parents. And Voldemort is scared of this boy.

Whatever the case, in their discussion about the properties of unicorn blood, Firenze gives Harry the clues he needs in order to figure out who the hooded figure is and why Harry’s life is in danger – clues that ultimately enable Harry to score his first Hogwarts defeat of Voldemort… and escalate his misinterpretation of Snape’s motives.