"Funny, I never had the impression that I managed to teach Potter anything at all."
-- Snape discussing Harry's abilities at Potions (HBP15)
Potions class is the study of potion-making. All students take potions through their fifth year and take the potions O.W.L., but only selected students continue on through sixth and seventh years to take N.E.W.T.s in the subject. The study of potions directly relates to the study of Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures, since many of the ingredients are derived from magical plants and animals.
Potions classes take place in a dungeon, drafty and cold, which is filled with worktables with cauldrons over fires. For first through fifth year students, Potions is a double class (two Houses meet together). The classwork includes the memorizing the properties of various potion ingredients, the composition of specific potions, and practice preparing them. Homework typically involves essays on the properties of potion ingredients (occasionally analyzing how a student's practical assignment specifically went wrong and how to correct it).
The teacher of Potions is called the Potions Master. Severus Snape was the Potions Master at Hogwarts from c. 1980 to the fall of 1996. Horace Slughorn, who had taught Potions many years before, took over as Potions Master for the 1996 - 1997 school year.
Potions Classes by Year
- Students make simple potions such as boil cure potion (PS8).
- The final exam included a practical portion requiring the students to make a Forgetfulness Potion (PS16).
- The syllabus includes Shrinking Solution (PA7).
- Students studied antidotes extensively, taking it seriously because Snape hinted that he might poison a student before Christmas to see if his or her antidote worked (GF15). Other potions on the syllabus included Wit-Sharpening Potion (GF27).
- The syllabus includes Draught of Peace, a tricky potion that is OWL standard, and Strengthening Solution (OP12).
- drawing a diagram of a Chinese Chomping Cabbage while researching ingredients (OP16)
- researching Confusing and Befuddlement Draughts (OP18)
- Studied Amortentia, Draught of Living Death, Felix Felicis, and Elixir to Induce Euphoria
- researching Everlasting Elixirs (HBP15)
- Students prepare for the Potions N.E.W.T.
Rowling modeled Snape's Potions class on her own negative experiences with Chemistry:
Chemistry was my least favourite subject at school, and I gave it up as soon as I could. Naturally, when I was trying to decide which subject Harry's arch-enemy, Severus Snape, should teach, it had to be the wizarding equivalent. (Pm)