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HP Musings

November 26th, 2005 · No Comments

I know, I know. Shocking! Emily’s posting about HP!

Seeing GoF has reawakened my love for HP. Not that it was ever particularly asleep. Anyway, I’ve been re-reading canon. Sometimes I forget how truly delightful canon is. JKR is a friggin’ genius, no matter what some people say. On almost every page is a reminder of why I love this series so much– the whimsy of Dumbledore, the antics of Fred and George, the swottiness of Hermione, the Ron-ness of Ron, the mixture of sweetness and archness that is Ginny, and above all, the adorableness of Harry.

So I’m rereading HBP, and I just read chapter 9, The Half-Blood Prince. And something struck me.

Harry doesn’t really have an unfair advantage, in using Snape’s old book. Rather, everyone else has an unfair disadvantage, with Slughorn.

Now, now, hear me out.

What Harry has is the same advantage he and the rest of the school has been enjoying for the past 14 years– the guidance of Severus Snape. Harry has an advantage, yes, but only because the rest of the students are now at a disadvantage.

You see, even though Harry, in his first year, bought Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger, we never actually see him using any recipes from it. In fact, in OotP, Snape explicity puts the recipe on the chalkboard:

“Today we will be mixing a potion that often comes up at Ordinary Wizarding Level: the Draught of Peace, a potion to calm anxiety and soothe agitation. Be warned: if you are too heavy-handed with the ingredients you will put the drinker into a heavy and sometimes irreversible sleep, so you will need to pay close attention to what you are doing.” On Harry’s left, Hermione sat up a little straighter, her expression one of utmost attention. “The ingredients and method ???” Snape flicked his wand “??? are on the blackboard ???” (they appeared there) “??? you will find everything you need ???” he flicked his wand again “??? in the store cupboard ???” (the door of the said cupboard sprang open) “??? you have an hour and a half???. Start.” (OotP, 232-233, emphasis mine)

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On the other hand, Slughorn works exlusively from Advanced Potion Making. The recipe and the method are Libatius Borage’s, not Severus Snape’s. But Harry’s using Snape’s recipe, just like he’s been using for the first 5 years. Hermione’s still doing better than most of the class, but not as well as she used to when Snape was teaching. Harry, on the other hand, is doing much better–not only because he’s using the Half-Blood Prince’s book, because he’s been using Snape’s recipes and methods forever– but because Snape himself isn’t there. It’s a combination of the two.

It’s a testament to what could have been, I think, had Snape been able to set aside his feelings about James Potter and actually bothered to evaluate what Harry was really like. Harry was kept from suceeding by Snape’s teaching methods, not by any lack of ability in Potions. Of course, with Slughorn he would have failed because of inferior instructions. Harry’s success with the combination of an encouraging environment and superior instructions proves that had Harry and Snape been able to have a positive relationship rather than a negative one, great things could have happened.

Anyway. Food for thought.

Tags: Fandom · Jane Austen