Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Chapter Seventeen
It would be remiss of me, in this recap of a debut book, not to mention that my very own debut novel Rape Jokes is coming out in just TWO DAYS OH MY GOD. You can still get it at a pre-release discount till then right here – it’s about rape, sexual dysfunction, misogyny, and harassment, so it’s all round a bundle of laughs. Less child abuse than Harry Potter, so…upsides? Anyway.
Well, here we are, my sweet darling friends: on the very last chapter of our Harry Potter recaps. Of course, I’d first like to offer my thanks for all the people who followed along with me over the last few months – it’s been a really interesting journey, and one that, honestly, I’ve actually enjoyed more than I thought I would. Harry Potter as a cultural phenomenon has just been a brutal affair, a society-wide cult that seems to have no beginning and no end and just exists ad infinitum, like human cruelty or that pair of underwear I’ve owned since before high school. As I wrote in the first recap, I can’t walk down the street without someone announcing their Hogwarts house at me, and I was sure that this irritation at the sheer over-saturation of the series would make reading this book an extension of that.
But honestly, this is just a damn good story. Taken out of the punishing hype and her own religious commitment to the retcon, JK Rowling knows how to craft a great fantasy world. After the existential nightmare of recapping the Fifty Shades series, and the mild disappointment of doing Carrie, it’s been really great to get into a book I actually, for the most part, enjoy: child endangerment aside, Philosopher’s Stone stands up beyond just a heady hit of nostalgia. This is just a really solid fantasy novel with some surprisingly dense and interesting ideas, as well as a brilliant and varied cast alongside some excellent world-building. And, you know, Hagrid. My sweet, sweet Hagrid. Ah.
Alright, so let’s get cracking with this, the final chapter in the first book. We left off last time with Harry entering the final part of the maze meant to protect the Philosopher’s Stone (one thing I will not miss: checking the fucking spelling of that word every time I write it), and finding an unexpected person has beaten him there.
And, of course, as we all bitches know, it’s Professor Quirrell:
““You!” gasped Harry.
Quirrell smiled. His face wasn’t twitching at all.
“Me,” he said calmly. “I wondered whether I’d be meeting you here, Potter. ””
Unf. Is it odd that I’m instantly into evil, confident Quirrell a little bit? Hey, cut me some slack, I’m pre-menstrual, I’m into hedges shaped like people right now. Harry protests, pointing out that Snape tried to kill him (by cursing him while he was on the broomstick), but Quirrell is happy to explain his Evil Plan TM because JK didn’t put this much effort into careful seeding just to let it go over the heads of her idiot readers:
““No, no, no. I tried to kill you. Your friend Miss Granger accidentally knocked me over as she rushed to set fire to Snape at that Quidditch match. She broke my eye contact with you. Another few seconds and I’d have got you off that broom. I’d have managed it before then if Snape hadn’t been muttering a countercurse, trying to save you. ””
WHAT A TWIST. But actually, thought. This book is, first and foremost, a mystery story, and all the details are there and fair for you to pick up on and figure out for yourself like an good mystery – but JK buried them just enough to make these reveals genuinely impressive. The Mirror of Erised is in the room with them, and Quirrell explains that he will discover the location of the Stone by looking into it so he can see him delivering it to his Master. Harry is confused, remarking on overhearing Quirrell sobbing with fear earlier in the book:
“For the first time, a spasm of fear flitted across Quirrell’s face.
“Sometimes,” he said, “I find it hard to follow my master’s instructions — he is a great wizard and I am weak–””
Voldemort is really not a huge presence in this installment of the series – Snape, Malfoy, and other low-key combatants are more significant antagonists in this story – but that doesn’t mean that JK isn’t committed to underlining the sheer terror that he strikes into the hearts of even those who follow him to the point of making them weep in terror. Like I said: great world-building. This is how you make one of the most terrifying villains in fiction- hard work, commitment to a bit, and a consistent undercurrent of profound fear every time he so much as comes up. He’s three books away from actually arriving properly, and yet I’m already dreading it.
A voice orders Quirell to use Harry to find the Stone, and he drags Harry to the mirror and demands that he look in it to figure out how to find it: in the mirror, Harry sees himself drop the Stone into his own pocket, apparently putting it there in real life too. And, of course, we’ve still got time for a quick meme before we sign off:
““Well?” said Quirrell impatiently. “What do you see?”
Harry screwed up his courage.
“I see myself shaking hands with Dumbledore,” he invented. “I — I’ve won the house cup for Gryffindor.”
Me too, except it’s not Dumbledore’s hand I’m shaking if you catch my
“Quirrell cursed again.”
Have the nerve to just write “Quirrel muttered “tits” under his breath”, JK, we’re all friends here.
Anyway, Voldemort figures out Harry is lying, and demands to see him face-to-face. Quirrell does as he’s told:
“Where there should have been a back to Quirrell’s head, there was a face, the most terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake.”
Ralph Fiennes, ladies and gentlemen, in the greatest role he’ll ever have that nobody actually associates with him because of the fantastic make-up he’s caked in for his whole run in the series. Voldemort demands Harry gives him the Stone, and taunts him about his parents:
““How touching. . . ” it hissed. “I always value bravery. . . Yes, boy, your parents were brave. . . I killed your father first; and he put up a courageous fight. . . but your mother needn’t have died. . . she was trying to protect you. . . Now give me the Stone, unless you want her to have died in vain.”
Look, let’s be real, part of the reason that kids loved this series so much is because it’s fucking brutal when it wants to be. And kids love nothing more than feeling like they’re getting a peep into the adult world – this scene, where Voldemort torments Harry with his own grief and the guilt he feels for the loss of his parents, is precisely that, and that’s exactly why it works so well even for an adult audience (which I would consider myself, mostly).
Anyway, Harry refuses, and Voldemort forces Quirrell to go after Harry; he does, but finds that his skin burns and blisters whenever he actually touches the boy. Harry uses this to his advantage, and-
And, uh, we cut to Harry waking up in the hospital wing with Dumbledore standing over him. Look, I get it, there’s only so much blistering, peeling skin on fire we can actually have in this book before it makes a move to the young adult section, but this is just insanely abrupt. There’s a whole lot going on in this chapter – a whole climactic scene, plus an epilogue – and I get why it’s compressed like this. But we spent a lot of time on Quidditch matches for the actual confrontation between Harry and his arch-nemesis to be that short, if you know what I’m saying.
Dumbledore explains that he arrived back just in time to pull Quirrell off Harry, and that the Stone is now safe after a still-alive Voldemort made his flight:
“He left Quirrell to die; he shows just as little mercy to his followers as his enemies.”
We STAN a consistent villain. Harry asks why Quirrell couldn’t touch him without pain, and honestly, get ready to DAB your EYES in a MANFUL fashion, team:
“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign. . . to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”
One of my favourite themes in the story is the one that explores the impact of those we’ve lost on the way we live our lives, both practically and spiritually: the Harry Potter series is peppered with loss, put into motion by death, and brought to a close by the leading man accepting his own demise. That Harry’s mother’s death saves his life is a perfect summation of this idea – death, when it comes with love, has roots in life.
Dumbledore wanders off again, as he is wont to do, and Hermione and Ron turn up to comfort Harry. But there’s still time, my bitches and queens, for one last check-in with our prince, our king, our boyfriend, Rubeus Hagrid. Thank God.
““It’s — all — my — ruddy — fault!” he sobbed, his face in his hands. “I told the evil git how ter get past Fluffy! I told him! It was the only thing he didn’t know, an’ I told him! Yeh could’ve died! All fer a dragon egg! I’ll never drink again! I should be chucked out an’ made ter live as a Muggle!”
We adore a man who can admit his mistakes, express his emotions, and cares for the children in his life. Truly, he is the #BaeOfGiants2K19. Hagrid also gives Harry a book filled with pictures of his parents, which smile and wave at Harry and make me tear up a little bit because why the fuck did I write this recap a single day before my period is due fuck.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione head to the end-of-year feast, where the house cup is being awarded. All three of them recieve points for their bravery and skill in keeping the Stone safe, and again, I would like to add that if your security system can be busted by three eleven-year-olds, we have an issue here, but still. Anyway, it’s my personal son who puts Gryffindor over the edge to win:
““There are all kinds of courage,” said Dumbledore, smiling. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr. Neville Longbottom.”
Neville’s arc is one of my favourite subplots in this book, and I think this is just the sweetest way to put a pin in it. Neville’s rise from self-doubting loser to crucial cog in the machine that defeats Dumbledore is a magnificent one, and the acknowledgement of his unconventional bravery here is the first major step towards that.
Gryffindor win the house cup, Harry is happy, he passes his exams, etc. The end of term is upon them, and Harry bids his farewells to his friends for the summer. Uncle Vernon is there to pick him up, and we finish up the story on one of the most consistent themes we’ve seen across the course of our recaps as Hermione wishes Harry a good break:
““Oh, I will,” said Harry, and they were surprised at the grin that was spreading over his face. “They don’t know we’re not allowed to use magic at home. I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer. . .”
What would this be without a chance to hint at some child torture? And that’s where we bid farewell to Harry and company for good – I may come back and do later books in the future, but for now, I have a few other projects in the works (including Game of Thrones, God have mercy on my battered soul). If you’d like to read all my recaps of this book from the start, you can go ahead and do so right here. Once again, thanks so much for tuning in – I hope you stick around for more of my deep dives into pop culture, and if you’d like to support my work on the Guignol, please consider supporting me on Patreon!