Thu
May 1 2014 8:00am

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

Harry Potter 1The 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.

19 comments
John Lobello
1. johntocaelpiano
I remember from the scene at the Pensieve in Deathly Hallows when Harry was seeing Snape's memories, there was a one-liner by Dumbledore, "Keep and eye on Quirrell, would you?" or something to that effect.

It's one of those things... would the whole series have been over early if Dumbledore managed to capture the Voldemort on the back of his head and revealed his presence to the ministry?
Chris Nelly
2. Aeryl
In one of Snape's memories from Harry's first year, Dumbledore asks him to keep an eye on Quirrell.

I can't wait for next week, that Forbidden Forest chapter is SO INTERESTING on reread.

And Neville. He's pretty much my favorite character, and it doesn't hurt that his actor grew into a young looking Clive Owen.
Kit Case
3. wiredog
Ahh, the Candyman.

A bit of a snork at "Voldy-Vision"

Rowling really is a clever writer, what with names like"Norbert" and "Fluffy". I really liked the names she came up with from the beginning.
Chris Nelly
4. Aeryl
@1, Check out How It Should Have Ended's Harry Potter edition, it's hilarious. Snape survives Nagini's attack(he's the potions master and can heal lacerations, remember?) and he uses the Time Turner Harry made Hermione keep from POA to travel back in time(262,039 turns) with Harry's cloak, to kill Riddle from cover when Dumbledore went to invite him to Hogwarts.
Adam S.
5. MDNY
"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."
The cloak itself isn't invisible until someone puts it on. When Harry first got it, it was a silky silver cloak. That said, I had the same reaction. How could they be so stupid? Especially Hermione, who's so smart but apprently not good at planning (not that any of our heroes prove themselves experts in planning). And Harry was so happy to have something of his dad's, and he just leaves it on the top of a tower? Didn't they even CONSIDER that they needed to sneak back into Gryffindor tower afterward? Major (house) points from Griffindor's young heroes for being dumbasses.
Hagrid is once again the best. Norbert is the perfect widdle fluffy-wuffy pet for him, too.
Mai Pucik
6. vampomatic
One of my favorite call-forwards in the entire first book is in Chapter 13:
Harry didn't know whether he was imagining it or not, but he seemed to keep running into Snape wherever he went. Could Snape possibly know they'd found out about the Philosopher's Stone? Harry didn't see how he could – yet he sometimes had the horrible feeling that Snape could read minds.
Hee!

There's something vaguely farcical about Snape's behind-the-scenes machinations in this book. All that work to keep Harry safe and he bulls his way right into the trap anyway – aided and abetted not only by two other bratty children but his own boss. As Emily says, you almost feel sorry for the guy.

Rereading 14 from an adult perspective, I found myself getting very frustrated with both Hagrid and Charlie for letting three eleven-year-olds get embroiled in late night dragon smuggling. Come on, there had to be a better solution than that – couldn't the smugglers have met Hagrid at his cabin, or on the outskirts of Hogsmeade?

That whole scenario also makes me wonder whether Rowling had conceived of Portkeys at this point in time. Scotland to Romania is a long flight.
Athreeren
7. Athreeren
I just imagined Hagrid walking into a fire with his dragon egg, then emerging naked with Norbert on his shoulder.

Having the Harry Potter and the Song of Ice and Fire re/read synchronized gives me troubling ideas.
Thomas Thatcher
8. StrongDreams
@6,
Maybe one of the reasons the wizarding world is like it is (small, insulated, backward in many ways) is the difficulty of long-distance transportation. Portkeys are difficult to create, regulated by the ministry, can't carry cargo, and still require at least one person to go there in person and set it up ahead of time. And portkeys we see are still only medium range (within England). The Floo network only works for certain homes (you have to get permission to be connected, and it can be blocked or interfered with). Broomsticks are terrible for long distance. The Knight Bus is strictly urban. The Hogwarts train is highly specialized and still doesn't travel very far.* Apparation only works if you've been someplace before and can visualize it. Trans-continental transport seems to require a massive magical investment (either a giant magical sailing ship or a carriage pulled by magic horses who require very expensive care).

Basically the English wizarding community is small, isolated, insulated, and weird because they can't travel. (Plus, muggle radios and televisions don't work around magic.)

*People don;t realize how small the British Isles are, London to Inverness is about the same as New York City to Columbus Ohio. At that point you're only 1/4 across the North Am continent.
Mai Pucik
9. vampomatic
@8 Well, if by "people" you mean "people who live in America" ;). Actually, that makes the British Isles larger than I realized – but I live in a middle-tier European country that's smaller both area- and population-wise than every middle-tier US state I've lived in, so I'm used to mentally scaling up US distances.

Ribbing aside I think you raise a good point about the isolation of wizarding populations. Wizards aren't very industrialized, and that seems to apply to their transporation methods as well – aside from the Express there's no sense of transport that gets large groups of people from Point A to Point B on a regular schedule.

It does seem as though international Portkey travel is possible, though, since there are hundreds of Quidditch World Cup attendees, and not all the non-Brits can have flown, unless international broom flight infrastructure is organized enough to have floating rest stops above the Atlantic or some such.
Thomas Thatcher
10. StrongDreams
@9, well, yes, "Americans" (by in large) don't realize how small Europe is.

I can certainly see that significant international travel arrangements are possible, but again, that seems to involve the Ministry (portkeys are one office, international magical cooperation is another office) and a large amount of concentrated magical effort to make it happen. It actually reinforces the idea that wizards rarely travel very far or in large groups, so that when a special event requires it, the government has to get involved.
Chris Nelly
11. Aeryl
Well, there's a guy with carpets....
Mai Pucik
12. vampomatic
You can make under-the-radar Portkeys, but it's not very clear how difficult such a task is. We've only seen two wizards do it on page and while both are quite powerful (Dumbledore and Barty Crouch), it's not a very large sample size... still, I doubt Charlie's friends would want to add illegal Portkeys to their crimes, in case they got caught.
Athreeren
13. mutantalbinocrocodile
I don't know to what extent this counts as canon (I know JKR was involved, but I don't know how obsessively involved), but according to the timetable posted at the Hogwarts Express stop at Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the train system does cover a pretty broad swathe of England and Scotland, not just the London-Hogwarts run. If you ever get a chance to go, take a moment to really read it. You have to know something about British geography in order to get the joke, but if you do, it is utterly hilarious.
Athreeren
14. Muswell
@8 - The British Isles aren't small. Everywhere else is just ridiculously over-sized ;)

The way I was always taught the difference between the US and the UK is that in the US, 100 miles away is next door and 1000 miles away is a bit of a trek. In the UK, 100 miles is a bit of a trek and 1000 miles is inconceivable. That's balanced by the fact that in the UK, 100 years ago was yesterday and 1000 years ago is history. In the US, 100 years ago is history and 1000 years ago is inconceivable.

I know that doesn't universally hold true, but from my experience of American tourists (I used to work as a bus tour guide in London, for I'm not sure whose sins) it's a remarkably good guideline.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
15. Lisamarie
This is actually one of my least favorite parts of the book, just because the leaving behind the cloak thing is sooooo cringeworthy. I always hope they remember it every time I re read the book, LOL. Never happens ;)
Emily Asher-Perrin
16. EmilyAP
That issue with the difference between time on the road in the US and the UK is hilarious to me. I remember flooring British university students when I studied abroad, explaining that going from one major city to another--say Chicago to New York--took 13-14 hours. Not 2 or 3. They were horrified.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
17. Lisamarie
Yeah, America is weird that way. In some ways, it's annoying (I live about 8 hours away from my parents) but there is something rather awesome about it too, and there is so much to explore - I am definitely a fan of international travel and wholeheartedly encourage it, but there's still a lot to see even if you never left the US your whole life. It definitely provides challenges for government though. It's relatively easy to propose universal health care for a country that is the size of a few of our states, but a lot harder to implement it here. And while I love the varied cultures and settings that exist within our own country...it also sometimes results in a lot of divisiveness and us vs. them and regional superiority. Although I suppose that's not a unique issue.

That said, I'm going to Europe this fall and I'm super excited about how easy and fast it will be to see all sorts of things :)
Mai Pucik
18. vampomatic
@14 Yeah, that rule of thumb works pretty well in my experience. My favorite way to give a sense of European scale to my North American friends is to explain that people here can easily take impulse weekend trips to one of three or four other countries – and they wouldn't need a long weekend, either.

On the other hand, once after a few semesters at US college I went to a summer course in Cambridge (UK, not Massachusetts), where the student-porter who helped me get my suitcase to my room explained to me that the building I was staying in wasn't very old because it had been renovated sometime in the, you know, late Renaissance.
Athreeren
19. Muswell
@ 18 - Cambridge is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately university, and a very bad one from what I understand. I studied at a vastly superior university (which, to be fair, means any university in the world other than Cambridge) and went to a college first founded in 1525 (I say "first founded" because it was technically founded three times... Henry VIII could be very indecisive). My dad, whose college was founded in 1314, mocks me for having gone to one of the "modern foundations".

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