Harry is upset by news that the Gryffindors will have flying lessons with the Slytherins, because he does not want to spend more time with his Slytherin enemy Draco Malfoy. Madam Hooch leads the class, gently sending the new fliers off the ground. Neville has an accident and breaks his wrist. Madam Hooch takes him to the hospital, telling everyone to stay on the ground while she is away. Malfoy notices a magic ball belonging to Neville, picks it up, and begins to fly around with it. Harry goes after Malfoy, who throws the ball in the air. Harry catches it spectacularly and lands safely back on ground. Just then, Professor McGonagall arrives, reprimanding Harry and ordering him to follow her. But instead of punishing him, McGonagall introduces him to Oliver Wood, captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, explaining that Harry will make an excellent Quidditch player.

At dinner, Harry excitedly tells Ron about joining the Quidditch team but tells him that Wood wants it to be a secret. Malfoy comes over with his cronies Crabbe and Goyle and teases Harry about getting in trouble earlier. The tension grows and Malfoy challenges Harry to a wizard’s duel. Harry accepts, in spite of Hermione’s attempt to dissuade them from breaking the school rules. As Harry and Ron sneak out later that night, Hermione tries to stop them but gets locked out of the dorm and must tag along. Neville, wandering around lost, also joins them. They arrive at the trophy room, the site of the duel, but Malfoy is nowhere to be found. Suddenly, they hear Argus Filch, the school caretaker, and his cat, Mrs. Norris, enter the room. They begin to hide and then run away. Not sure where they are going, they accidentally end up in the forbidden area on the third floor, staring at a large and scary three-headed dog. The children manage to get back to their dorm safely, though they are terrified. Hermione reprimands Harry but stirs his curiosity by pointing out that the dog was standing on a trapdoor.


Harry’s chance discovery of the forbidden hallway on the third floor is important in several ways. It reminds us that there is more happening at Hogwarts than simply education and that the classroom is only one part of his experience at the academy. Furthermore, the hallway discovery serves as Harry’s entry into the snooping and sleuthing role that he maintains throughout the rest of the story. When Hermione tells him that the dog was standing on a trapdoor, Harry realizes that whatever Hagrid took from vault seven hundred and thirteen is being guarded by the dog at Hogwarts. It is significant that Harry’s first discovery of an important clue in the mystery at the heart of the story involves a transgression of a school rule. Dumbledore clearly spells out in his welcome speech that the hallway is forbidden, yet this hallway is precisely where Harry ends up. Harry’s willingness to commit misdemeanors even at the start of his Hogwarts career makes him a more complex character. We feel with certainty that he is not bad, but we see that he has the healthy curiosity of any child in a new, exotic, and fascinating place.

We see that Harry’s rebellious disregard for the rules may lead to some important knowledge, echoing an idea in the biblical story of Adam and Eve’s fall in Eden: seeking forbidden knowledge may be punishable, but it is also what makes us human. The same association between breaking the rules and transcending one’s position is noticeable in Harry’s flying-lesson escapade. Harry clearly flouts the law by flying into the air after Neville’s stolen ball, but his act is noble and displays his flying talents. Professor McGonagall may go through the motions of punishing Harry for breaking the rule, but her true feelings are praise and admiration. The idea that a little rule-breaking may be acceptable and even valued is one of the most interesting aspects of the novel’s moral dimension.

Read more about the occasional necessity of rebellion as a theme.