Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Chapter Sixteen

by thethreepennyguignol

I’m not going to lie to you, good fam: I’ve been putting this chapter off because I KNOW it’s going to be a doozy, and maybe because my book? Is coming out? In ten days? And I’m so excited I can’t think? But hey, I’ve got a couple of hours free, a freshly-brewed pot of tea, and some just-baked vegan cookies. Now is as good a time as any to dive into the second-last chapter of the Philosopher’s Stone, and prepare to bid farewell to Harry and company for good. Well, you know, until the next time I walk past that giant Harry Potter megastore in the centre of my city. These books are fucking everywhere is what I’m saying.

Anyway, things kick off with the kids getting through their final exams of the year, and with a sentence distressingly relatable to me:

“In years to come, Harry would never quite remember how he had managed to get through his exams when he half expected Voldemort to come bursting through the door at any moment.”

You might wonder why I spent my final exams worrying about a fictional villain, to which I would reply, OCD intrusive thoughts are a comedic goldmine. Anyway! Harry is stressed about his scar hurting, which he insists means danger is afoot, and JK is good enough to provide me with a little of that sweet, sweet fanservice:

“Hagrid was sitting in an armchair outside his house; his trousers and sleeves were rolled up, and he was shelling peas into a large bowl.”

And by peas, I mean my nipples. Do I? Do your nipples not have shells on them? Moving on. Hermione, Ron, and Harry interrogate Hagrid about the person he won the dragon egg from, and he reveals that he didn’t get a proper look at him, but that he did let slip how to subdue the dog guarding the Stones. Hermione informs McGonagall that they suspect someone is after the Philosopher’s Stone, but she dismisses them, and Snape comes by to lurk threateningly and try to put them off their mission to save the Stone. You’ll notice that I’m breezing through this a little, but honestly, all this happens over the course of a couple of pages, because JK is cramming it the fuck in this chapter. There is a LOT to get through, and I’m just trying to match her pace over here.

Hermione, Ron, and Harry decide, after some debate, that they must head down to the basement to protect the Stone from Snape, the person they believe is after it, on behalf of Voldemort. Ron is worried that they’ll get expelled, but I’ll let you GUESS which bitch and queen of mine personally has this to say on the matter:

“”Flitwick told me in secret that I got a hundred and twelve percent on his exam. They’re not throwing me out after that.””

Where’s my spin-off about Hermione just going about her badass day-to-day life. Anyway, Hermione, Ron, and Harry go on their great mission of Philosophy Stoning, only to be intercepted my sweet Neville trying to do the right thing:

““Don’t you call me an idiot!” said Neville. I don’t think you should be breaking any more rules! And you were the one who told me to stand up to people!”

“Yes, but not to us,” said Ron in exasperation. “Neville, you don’t know what you’re doing. ”

He took a step forward and Neville dropped Trevor the toad, who leapt out of sight.

“Go on then, try and hit me!” said Neville, raising his fists. “I’m ready!””

As I have mentioned many times before, Neville is my son, and therefore I take credit for this formidable bravery. More to the point, though, I do think Neville’s slow rise to becoming a more confident, defined version of himself is one of the best subplots over the course of the book – it works not only as a nice “believe in yourself, kids!” sidenote for the awkward weirdos amongst us you, I assume, but as solid seeding for how important Neville stands to become.

Anyway, Hermione curses Neville to petrification, and the gang head down to take on the actual meat of the chapter. Hermione plays a small flute to distract the three-headed dog, Fluffy, while Harry and Ron slip into the pitch-black trapdoor below. There is also a harp nearby, indicating that someone else has already travelled through – and bitch, who is lugging around a fucking harp when a recorder would do? At a push, a small violin? Or, you know, a fucking CD player since music is the only prerequisite? Bringing along a damn harp is just showing off. We get it, you’re musically talented. 

Harry and Ron swiftly realize that they have been entwined by sentient vines, but thank goodness Hermione is there to not be a raging idiot and lie around getting munched by plants and rescue them. They escape, and make it to a room that is full of flying keys and a locked door. Harry soon figures out which one he’ll have to acquire to free them:

““That one!” he called to the others. “That big one — there — no, there — with bright blue wings — the feathers are all crumpled on one side. ”

There are broomsticks inside the room which all three of them use to pursue the key, which Harry eventually catches, and look, I don’t want to be a killjoy here, but…if you were that worried that people were going to come after the Stone that you set up multiple elaborate traps, maybe make them hard enough that three eleven-year-olds of middling intelligence can solve them?

Anyway, obviously, Harry catches the key and takes them into the next room, where they discover a giant wizard’s chess set. Ron figures out that they need to win the game to advance, and, as I said, maybe…don’t make the security system for the most singularly important item in your universe a fucking Crystal Maze game?

Ron instructs Harry and Hermione through a game of chess with them taking the place of some of the pieces, and Ron navigates them to one place away from checkmate – but he will have to sacrifice himself in the process. Harry protests, but Ron insists it’s the only way.

““Ready?” Ron called, his face pale but determined. “Here I go — now, don’t hang around once you’ve won. ”

He stepped forward, and the white queen pounced. She struck Ron hard across the head with her stone arm, and he crashed to the floor — Hermione screamed but stayed on her square — the white queen dragged Ron to one side. He looked as if he’d been knocked out.”

Finally! This has all seemed a little too easy till now, like navigating Monkey Island on Level Dumbass. Hermione and Harry leave Ron behind and carry on to the next room, where several potions wait to be drunk. A giant involved rap improv has been left nearby, informing the two that they must drink the right potion to get through some magic fire ahead of them- but that they will face death if they choose the wrong one.

““Brilliant,” said Hermione. “This isn’t magic — it’s logic — a puzzle. A lot of the greatest wizards haven’t got an ounce of logic, they’d be stuck in here forever. ””

Ah, so actually this does pose some genuine challenge beyond being able to spin a CD, catch a key and play some chess. Hermione figures out which one will get them through safely, and deduces that there is only enough to get a single one of them past the fire. Harry decides he’ll go, and Hermione tells him he is a great wizard:

““I’m not as good as you,” said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.

“Me!” said Hermione. “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery and — oh Harry — be careful!””

It’s International Women’s Day where I am as I write this, and I’ll be gosh-darned damned if I’m going to let Hermione put herself down like this. She is bravery! She is friendship! She is cleverness! She is books! She is the love of the life of the ten-year-old version of me who read this fifteen years ago!

Anyway, Harry being the protagonist, of course he’s the one who goes through the fire. And, on the other side, he finds somewhere has made it there before him:

“There was already someone there — but it wasn’t Snape. It wasn’t even Voldemort.”

And with that delicious cliffhanger bringing us to the end of the chapter, we’re out for this week! Tune in next time for the final chapter of the Harry Potter recaps. If you enjoyed this recap and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon! You can also find more of my writing on my film site, No But Listen.