In the seventeenth and final chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry faces the man responsible for attempting to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to re-read Harry Potter.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: THE MAN WITH TWO FACES
It was Quirrell.
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BEST REVEAL OR BEST REVEAL. I don’t care that I know how this ends, this is still one of the best literary endgames I’ve ever read. Still. It’s so terribly exciting to read this now, as I can see how well the pieces fit together, and I can see all the tiny plot crumbs that Rowling leaves behind that I never picked up the first time around.
I think out of all the expository villain dialogues, this one and the one at the end of Goblet of Fire are the most sensical in terms of how well they fit into the narrative and into the characters we’ve been given. What’s so shocking about the Quirrell reveal is that we find out he’s been lying about his own character. He’s not the bumbling, stuttering coward we were given the entire book. (He is a coward, but for a completely different reason.) It’s a nifty sleight of hand on Rowling’s part because we could never possibly believe that this man would willingly do such a thing. In that sense, after having pretending to be a frightened fool the entire time, doesn’t it seem likely that he’d stretch out his ego to prove to Harry that he has the upper hand? It’s almost as if his villainous monologue is more of a pat on the back from himself than an explanation for us.
Beyond that, this final moment is so genius it hurts. Of course, people like myself bought into the notion that Snape was the villain because of his blatant repulsion with Harry Potter. I mean, seriously:
“Yes, Severus does seem the type, doesn’t he? So useful to have him swooping around like an overgrown bat.”
WHY IS THIS SUDDENLY THE FUNNIEST LINE EVER? Oh, because it is very deeply true. Sorry, Snape fans, sometimes my personal head canon is that Snape mopes about the castle listening to Joy Division and the Sisters of Mercy and wishes he could go to Blue Monday in Los Angeles and stand on the edges of the room staring wistfully at other folks dressed in black and combat boots while Bauhaus blares out of speakers in the bar.
I’m sorry that I’ve put that in your head.
I can’t ignore that this book is written with an eleven-year-old as the main character, and that other children the same age read this. This is a compliment, because this shit is scary. Quirrell just outright tells Harry he’s going to kill him, and in his most villainous-like monologue, he says some disturbing things:
“Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it….”
Right there, she sets up Voldemort to fail, and she sets up one of her biggest themes for all seven books, that the pursuit of power for the mere sake of it is inherently destructive and immoral. A life in pursuit of power and control is devoid of love, and there’s no character who’s more devoid of love than Voldemort. These themes are right here! In the first book! SHE FUCKING KNEW. I mean, of course she did, but this re-read thing….damn, this is so fun.
And let’s just talk about the shit-getting-realer here in the final chapter. Rowling brings in the Mirror of Erised, a creepy disembodied voice of Voldemort (well, at the time, I didn’t think it had a body OH MARK, HOW LITTLE YOU KNEW), and uses them to build dread. We know the Stone is in that room somewhere, and we know that the mirror shows a person’s deepest desires. Would it show Quirrell how to find the Sorcerer’s Stone? Strangely, it doesn’t; instead, the mirror seems to magically place the stone in Harry‘s pocket, something that utterly perplexed me. I now know how this was pulled off, and it’s a way for Rowling to use all of these details we believed were disconnected in order to show us just how silly our predictions were. SHE LAUGHS AT YOU. SHE CACKLES FROM HER WRITING DESK.
But really, this chapter’s emotional high comes from the reveal that Voldemort is basically living on the back of Quirrell’s head. I seriously love the moment I realized that the name of this chapter was literal. I think I am finally seeing how ridiculous it must be to follow me sometimes, especially when things this obvious completely escape me. I like to imagine this scene in my own head, rather than how it was portrayed in the movie, if only because I think it’s the only small detail that’s not spot-on. I may have laughed a bit during that part. May have. But this scene in the book is legitimately creepy to me, and a reveal so far from my expectations that I didn’t even know how to process it for a few minutes. There’s a dark lord living on the back of someone’s head. However, I find the way that Voldemort teases Harry about his parents’ death to be the worst of this all. At this point in time, Harry only vaguely knows some details of what happened, and now Voldemort is telling him what can only be the truth: his father died fighting to save him, and his mother died in a final effort to protect him.
This is fucked up.
Well, someone’s skin burning another person just by touching them is also pretty darn awesome. Sometimes, I wish I could turn on this power for presumptive assholes who see that I’m tattooed and think that this is an invitation for them to walk up to me and grab my arms in order to get a better look at them. Well…then I suppose my mother would have to die saving me from Voldemort, so maybe this is not the best thing to wish for. But then….would that make this world real? MORAL DILEMMA. Oh god, mom, if you’re reading this I AM NOT SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING SACRIFICING YOU IN ORDER TO MAKE HARRY POTTER REAL.
Dumbledore arrives to save the day, and this might be the only time he does so blatantly. I think Harry (and a combination of Hermione and Ron) generally handle things on their own. (Well, maybe not the case in Order of the Phoenix. ugh, that wand fight…SO GOOD.) Of all the moments where Dumbledore just explains what’s happened, I may like this one the most. (Does the King’s Cross chapter count? That one’s a doozy, too.) Harry’s eleven, and he needs a figure like Dumbledore in the moments that he wakes up from a three day rest. He slept for three days!!! I WANT TO DO THAT. Or do I?
Even if you find book-ending monologues/explain-a-thons irritating (and I totally get it if you do), you have to admire both the mind-blowing wisdom that Dumbledore drops on us, and the fact that THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING WAS RIGHT HERE BEFORE US. May I?
“What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows.”
YES. YES. PERFECTION.
“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
THINK ABOUT DEATHLY HALLOWS. NOW THINK OF THIS. NOW WEEP FOR THE GENIUS OF J.K. ROWLING.
“…the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
OH, DON’T STOP DROPPING KNOWLEDGE JUST YET, DUMBLEDORE.
“Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
Oh, I just can’t handle this, y’all!
“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.”
Oh, sorry, just have some dust in my eyes or something. This isn’t even magic. This is just…my god. Dumbledore. Who knew. It’s a statement about that everlasting sensation, that rare feeling when you have been loved so fiercely and so completely as Harry’s mother did here.
Dumbledore, you are deeply flawed, but you are still a wonderful character. oh god SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE WHAT.
It’s weird that there’s so much happiness at the end of this book. I think my brain just naturally goes towards the ending of books four through seven, and it’s just TRAGEDY and PAIN, and ONLY SOME THINGS GO WELL. But this goes remarkably well! There is Hermione and Ron story time, the realization that Dumbledore gave the trio the choice to get involved, Hagrid being all sobby and then being forgiven, and the feast at the end of the first year. Seriously, is there a way that we, as Harry Potter fans, can organize a feast like this? WHY HAVE WE NOT DONE THIS ALREADY. Wait, y’all probably did but I was out being a total loser and not reading the series. what is my life. LOOK AT IT. LOOK AT MY CHOICES.
I think the most important aspect of the feast, though, is Neville. I think it’s more significant to see him get rewarding and positively reinforced for choosing to stand up to the trio, and it certainly helps that his actions are what help send Gryffindor over the point level needed to win the house cup. I also think Rowling wanted to give these kids a victory. Part of me wonders if she did it knowing what was to come, almost conceding some sort of consolation. “There, there, my precious characters. I’ll hold you just this once.” OH GOD THIS SERIES.
It was the best evening of Harry’s life, better than winning at Quidditch, or Christmas, or knocking out mountain trolls…he would never, ever forget tonight.
I believe. I believe this so much, and thinking about what Harry’s life has been until his first year at Hogwarts, it’s just heartbreaking to me. And I mean that in a positive sense! Harry’s life has been so full of sadness and vacancy, and the thought of his time with the Dursleys is so depressing to me. His first year at Hogwarts means so much more than just an introduction to the magical world. It’s about Harry finding freedom, about finding real friends who care about him, and finding a new family that will welcome him with open arms.
In that sense, the end of Sorcerer’s Stone is joyous, but it’s tinged with a bittersweet aftertaste. Harry must return to the world of the Dursleys and become the boy who lived under the stairs again. Still, this time he has a whole world in his head, the promise of a summer visit to the Weasley house, and the ability to do something none of the Dursleys can. For once, he has an advantage, and for once, he has hope. And sometimes, hope is all a person has to go on.
Love this book. For real, y’all.
(Note: Just a reminder that I’m posting my horrific predictions for A Storm of Swords tomorrow, and then my first review for the “mystery” one-off book starts Wednesday.)