The Harry Potter Reread

The Harry Potter Reread: The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 13 and 14

The Harry Potter Reread is like the candyman—it mixes everything with love and makes the world taste good. Sorry if I made you want candy just now. (Not sorry?)

We’ve got harbingers of things to come, plus a tiny wee dragon! This week we’re onto Chapters 13 and 14—Nicolas Flamel and Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback. How many mysteries can Harry solve in two chapters? (None? A few minor ones that only sort of count?)

Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.

Chapter 13—Nicolas Flamel

Summary

Harry is having nightmares about his parents ever since his encounter with the Mirror of Erised. His next Quidditch match is coming up, and the team finds out that Snape is refereeing for some reason. Harry, Ron and Hermione are concerned, but Harry can’t back out of the match of Gryffindor would have to forfeit. (Not having reserves is pretty crazy.)

Neville gets bullied by Malfoy; Harry, Ron and Hermione all try to help them in their own ways. Harry gives Neville a chocolate frog, and Neville leaves the card with him. It’s Dumbledore again, which prompts Harry to realize that this is where he first saw Nicolas Flamel’s name—and that he is the only known maker of the Philosopher’s Stone. So now the trio know what is being hidden at the school.

Harry is comforted about the match when he sees Dumbledore in the stands, knowing the Snape can’t hurt him if the Headmaster is there. Malfoy gets nasty to both Neville and Ron, leading to a scuffle in the stands while Harry quickly catches the Snitch and ends the game, putting Gryffindor in the lead for the House Cup. On his way back to the common room, he spots Snape heading into the Forbidden Forest. Harry follows him on his broom and lands in a tree where he can listen to Snape and his clandestine meeting with Professor Quirrell. Snape seems to be threatening him, and Harry surmises that there are various charms and spells warding the Stone, but Snape only needs to find out the way past Fluffy and Quirrell’s wards to get to it.

Commentary

Harry having the nightmares about his parents is a super fun diversion, and only serves as a reminder of what’s to come on a reread. When you think about what he’s going to have to look forward to between getting Voldy-vision and better remembering the deaths of his parents, these little nightmares seem like a breeze. Ron and Hermione seem to innately understand that what they are meddling in is far more serious than anyone would like to admit—they’re both comically gloom and doom about the Mirror, Flamel, and Snape being referee to the upcoming game.

It’s amusing as all get-out to think of everything the Snape is trying to do in this book, between keeping Quirrell from the Stone and keeping Harry from getting murdered. One has to wonder what’s going on behind the scenes here; has Snape told Dumbledore of his suspicions? Does he simply feel he has to do all of this himself, or did the headmaster not react quite as worriedly as he’d hoped? We don’t really have an indication. It seems more likely to me that Snape just took it on himself to manage all of this, being the self-sufficient grump that he is. So kind of his own fault, but also far too much to do on your own. Feeling kind of bad for the guy.

The POV swaps during the Quidditch game still doesn’t work well. I’m interested to get to it in later books, to see if that improves the longer Rowling is writing.

Some info on the historical Nicolas Flamel: He was born sometime in the 14th century, a French seller of manuscripts and scrivener (someone who can read and write legal documents). It wasn’t until long after his death that the legends started cropped up—a book on alchemy was attributed to him in 1612, beginning the speculation and frenzy surrounding his life. The story goes that Flamel had a strange text that he spent his life trying to decipher, and that this strange book may have given him the knowledge he needed to create the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life.

In short, he’s the perfect sort of figure to create fantastical speculation around. Which is why many stories have, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Devil Rides Out.

We also get the first glimmerings of the trio pulling Neville into the fold, the ways in which Neville is going to internalize encouragement. Specifically Harry’s encouragement. In this chapter we can see so clearly what makes Harry a hero. While Hermione advises Neville to tell a teacher and Ron insists that Neville stand up for himself like a big boy, Harry offers some chocolate and the words, “You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,” reassuring Neville that Gryffindor House is where he belongs.

And that is what Neville internalizes, that message of self-worth that gives him courage the next time he sees Malfoy. It may end with he and Ron getting into a schoolyard scuffle that results in nothing but bruises and scrapes, but it’s worth it for Neville to discover that internal reservoir of strength. And Harry is the one who prompts it, just by being a genuinely great kid.
Chapter 14—Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback

Summary

Hermione is already panicking over impending exams and the trio discover Hagrid checking out books from the library on dragons. They tell Hagrid everything they know about the Stone and what’s guarding it, hoping he’ll give more away, but he’s not talking (much). He does reveal that Snape is one of the people helping to guard the Stone, making the crew more nervous than ever. Hagrid invites them into his hut and reveals that he’s got a dragon egg, about ready to hatch.

Once Norbert the dragon does come into the world, he proves far more trouble than he’s worth. Hagrid doesn’t want to care, but the trio insist that he give him to Ron’s brother Charlie, who can look after him in Romania. They arrange to have friends of Charlie pick up the dragon at midnight in the astronomy tower. Unfortunately, Malfoy has been spying on them, and knows everything—they still have no choice.

Ron gets bitten by Norbert and is spending the night in the hospital wing, so it’s up to Harry and Hermione to deliver the dragon, which they do, under the Invisibility Cloak. McGonagall catches Malfoy out at night waiting for them (Malfoy doesn’t know about the cloak at least), and he gets in trouble. Harry and Hermione leave the Invisibility Cloak up in the tower by accident, however, and are caught by Filch sneaking about after dark.

Commentary

I remember being horrified that someone would nab the cloak after it was forgotten in the tower. I know it’s invisible, but if anyone had tripped over it! But seriously, guys—I know you’re eleven, but you got to keep it together.

Poor dear Ron, going through all the trouble to help Hagrid with lil’ Norbert because he’s the only one out of the three kids who knows a lick about dragons, and then getting all bit up for his trouble. Ron, I love you. Also, I love this:

Not until they’d stepped out into the cold night air did they throw off the cloak, glad to be able to breathe properly again. Hermione did a sort of jig.

“Malfoy’s got detention! I could sing!”

“Don’t,” Harry advised her.

Adorable Gleeful Hermione and Sassy Harry: the only dynamic duo you’ll ever need!

What’s weird about rereading, though, is recognizing the structure of these books above all else. The first the second tomes are without the padding that the rest of the series is afforded and I’m struck by how little happens in these two chapters. It is literally all setup. All setup to get detention, which leads Harry to get the prophecy that’s coming up….


Emily Asher-Perrin wants her own astronomy tower. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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