This chapter is one of my favourites because we've got Christmas at Hogwarts, as well as the Mirror. I love the atmosphere of Hogwarts in general, so getting to read about winter holidays there is painful in a great way, what with the food and decorations and Harry's delight at not having to go back to the Dursleys :'D I'm looking at my notes and I've got a whole paragraph of Christmas dinner highlighted.
Malfoy's schoolboy attacks on Harry ("wide-mouthed tree frog") is seriously all about him just wanting to be his friend and it is killing me over here. :)) But, ha, in the land of friendship and goodness, Ron teaches Harry wizarding chess, one of my favourite Ron-related things (and /foreshadowing/), that he is a great strategist and tactician. The chess battle has wonderful touches of humour as well, with Harry's borrowed pieces being insubordinate.
Christmas morning is fucking awesome at Hogwarts, especially when you get an Invisibility Cloak(!!!) and the first real presents you've ever received, and from people who care about you. I still get a bit choked up with Mrs. Weasley's package.
But on a more plot-related note, the Trio's research on Nicolas Flamel is hilarious because the titles they're reading are all pointedly recent ones, and it makes me think of the days prior to the Internet when researching could be that terribly difficult to do. It just takes one wrong tangent, and you're stuck in about fifteen of the wrong books for an untold amount of time. :)) Harry's little sojourn into the Restricted Section is still very, very cool to 27 year-old me and I still wish we'd gotten more about it than this bit.
THE MIRROR OF ERISED. Like most of the magical items of dubious alignment in the Potterverse, the mirror really gets into your head and makes you start forgetting about important things the more you use it. I am really sad that this mirror is a one-off deal though (like the Restricted Section!!!).
Also, Scabbers was on your pillow, Harry. Ew. on every level.
"Snape's sudden, sinister desire to be a Quidditch referee." Okay, alliteration aside, how does one just become a Quidditch referee? Does Snape secretly have Quidditch experience? I mean, hello. Also, when Harry catches the Snitch, and Snape spits on the ground, I JUST. SNape why would you spit on the ground, ew. EW. This is one of the reasons why people think you are greasy and gross :c and don't give you the benefit of the doubt, like ever.
Okay so the Trio find out who Nicholas Flamel is, "the noted alchemist and opera-lover", I love little details like, and we get foreshadowing re: Grindelwald!!! I'd like to think that Dumbledore became a sort of bioalchemist after the whole Grindelwald kerfuffle, and that wizards tend to specialise. Because it's a cool idea!
Everyone is so much sassier in the book, btw.
It is the chapter of bad ideas, where one horrible idea has a million terrible idea babies, and they lose a hundred and fifty house points.
So, final exams are coming up, and the Trio have to get ready for those, figure out how to stop Snape, and also take care of the dragon. That Hagrid raised from an egg, in a teakettle. :)) In a wooden house! as Hermione reminds him.
What I don't understand it a) why Dumbledore never does anything about the obvious stuff happening in his school and b) why didn't Dumbledore make Hogwarts employees make an Unbreakable Vow with him never to fuck over the school. Are there no wizarding lawyers who could do this? Is it just too draconian (heh)? Possibly?
The thing is the only possible answer to these questions is that Dumbledore views Hogwarts and Harry Potter as his very own, personal Dark Lord dowser and bait. Seriously.
Also why does Hagrid not have any window coverings despite caring for an illegal dragon???
PHEW, okay this is yesterday's chapter!
Harry and Hermione get caught coming down from "the tallest astronomy tower" which implies there's a whole lot of them? This jumped out at me because I always assumed that there was only one, you know, where all the older kids made out and stuff and it's funny how my memories of the canon are so messed up due to the films and fan fiction.
Neville gets stuck in what would be, from his point of view, second Harry Potter-related after school hours incident. Which would explain why he reacts so strongly in the next chapter when they go off to you know, have climax of the book. I like how McGonnagall is terrifically hard on her own house. :')
So the major consequence of Hagrid's dragon is that the Trio get to study really hard for the exams despite everything going on around them. I think that is a good thing, as otherwise, they'd never have had the time.
The detention that Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Draco have to serve in the Forbidden Forest feels really weird because we never see anything like that happen again. Hagrid's really guilty about getting Harry and Hermione into trouble though, but it's nice to see him so on-point and adult-like in this chapter. We never actually see this again later on. He's awfully harsh about getting expelled as well, since he knows what it's like "Yeh've done wrong an' now yeh've got ter pay fer it". The only reason all four of these kids are in detention is YOU, Hagrid.
(I just don't know what the levels of punishment at Hogwarts are? Like, a few points can be removed, or you could go traipsing through the entire forest of possibly dangerous things the whole night? Is there a school handbook that one could peruse?)
The thing with the centaurs though, how they don't want to interfere with fate, they basically were saying, "Welp, none can live while the other survives, let's see what happens if we put them together in one place." And that whole, "Mars is bright tonight." stuff, I noted earlier that Harry was having to memorise Jupiter's moons, and I've always wondered if the wizarding world had the same myths and legends as our world, because it would save EVERYONE a lot of trouble if they just paid attention to everyone's names in this universe and used it as a handy-dandy guide to stuff. How can "Mars is bright tonight." not be an indicator of war-stuff-might-be-happening. This is what comes of treating your magical beings as second class citizens: they won't explain shit to your basic ass.
So, Harry gets his Invisibility Cloak back, with a note that says "Just in case." on it, and I swear to Merlin, Dumbledore you are terrible from book one.