Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
J. K. Rowling
Contributed by Sung Miele
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Chapter 16
Summary

The exams were now upon the pupils of Hogwarts, but Harry still took time to ensure that Fluffy was on guard.

Certainly, recent events had not been an ideal build up for the exams, but Harry felt he was doing reasonably well. The pupils were provided with new quills for the exams that had been bewitched with anti-cheating spells. 

During the Potion Exam, Snape made them very nervous, “breathing down their necks while they tried to remember how to make a forgetfulness potion”.

As well as worrying about the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry had also been bothered with stabbing pains on his forehead scar since his trip to the forest. Was this an indication that Voldemort was near?

Suddenly, Harry realized the significance of the dragon’s egg. It had been used by the dark side to obtain information from Hagrid.  Perhaps the stranger who Hagrid met at the Inn had obtained information concerning Fluffy that would be valuable in order to achieve access to the trapdoor.  Harry quizzed Hagrid about his meeting at the Inn and deduced that the way past Fluffy was to play him music. Clearly Snape or Voldemort would now know this. With this information, Harry felt confident about advising Dumbledore concerning his suspicions.  He went to see the Headmaster, but Professor McGonagall told Harry that he had been called away on urgent business to the Ministry of Magic. 

He then met Snape who warned Harry not to be caught wandering at night, or he would see to it that Harry was expelled. Harry was convinced that tonight an attempt would be made to steal the stone. Harry shared this news with Hermione and Ron and they came to the conclusion that they must try to get to the stone first.

At first Hermione and Ron were reluctant to break school rules yet again, but Harry explained that if the stone was stolen, there would be no school to be expelled from. Using the cloak of invisibility, they started to leave the Common Room, but were confronted by a determined Neville, who didn’t want to see his house losing any more points.  In the end, Hermione had to cast a body-bind spell over him before they could leave. The gang negotiated their way to Fluffy avoiding Mrs. Norris and Peeves the poltergeist, to find them confronting an alert Fluffy. However, nearby was a harp, which indicated that somebody had already put Fluffy to sleep. Using Hagrid’s flute, the dog was soon fast asleep again and they opened the trapdoor to reveal a black void.  At the bottom of this long drop was a soft plant that broke their fall, but they soon found themselves bound by ‘snake-like tendrils’. The well-read Hermione recognised this plant as Devil’s Snare, and with the aid of her wand she was soon able to free Harry and Ron.

They entered another room that was full of ‘jewel bright birds’ and on the opposite side of the chamber was a heavy wooden door.  Harry soon realized that the birds were in fact winged keys and one of these would open the door. Using broomsticks conveniently placed in the room, they chased these keys, but sharp-eyed Harry noticed one key with a crushed wing and captured this to find it was the key that had already been used by whoever had gone before them.

They entered the next room and found a huge chessboard and the large stone pieces came to life when they were spoken to.  Ron, the chess player, took command of this situation taking the place of one of the black knights, while Hermione and Harry took the places of one of the bishops and castles.  The game progressed towards a climax where checkmate was only possible if Ron sacrificed himself. He was knocked out by the white queen, but Harry and Hermione were able to secure checkmate on the white king.  This spell was broken and Hermione and Harry had to quickly pass on, not knowing exactly what Ron’s fate had been.

The next room contained a large troll, but he was out cold with a bloody lump on his head.

In the next room there was just a table with seven differently shaped bottles standing in a line.  When they approached the table, their exit and their entrance was sealed by flames. To secure passage, they had to solve a riddle that was contained on a piece of paper lying on the table. Hermione solved the riddle by using logic, but she was only able to provide Harry with the exit. She would take the route back, see how Ron was, and then try and send word to Dumbledore to return to Hogwarts.  Hermione said farewell to Harry, telling him that he was a great wizard. Harry didn’t believe this, but Hermione told him that its not books and cleverness that is important, but friendship and bravery.

Harry entered the last chamber, but what he met wasn’t Snape and it wasn’t Voldemort.

Analysis

This is perhaps the most exciting Chapter of the book, full of tension, drama and the unexpected.

Rowling is in full flow fuelling the reader’s imagination.

The attributes of Ron, Hermione and Harry come to the fore, although it is the first two that manage to get Harry to the final chamber, where he will meet his fate.  Rowling emphasizes that this is a team effort and that the three working together are much better than one blindly going on his own.

The problem that Harry and his friends have had is that they have not been able to see their enemy clearly. Where is Voldemort?  Harry thinks he has identified Voldemort’s servants in Snape and Fitch, but when will Voldemort make an entrance. This is a skilful technique by Rowling, for like Harry, the reader is not sure where the enemy is, and what form it will be in.

Right at the end of the Chapter, we suspect that there will be a twist in the tale.

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