Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Summary and Analysis of Chapter 16 and 17


Harry successfully completes all of his final exams, though he is constantly distracted by thoughts of Voldemort and the Sorcerer’s Stone. His scar throbs regularly, and he is plagued with nightmares about a hooded figure dripping blood. After their final exam is over, Ron and Hermione try to help Harry relax by assuring him that the Sorcerer’s Stone is well protected. Still, Harry cannot shake the suspicion that he is missing a piece of the puzzle. Suddenly, it hits him: with Hagrid as the only person who knows how to get past Fluffy, the unexpected gift of a rare dragon’s egg could not be just a coincidence.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione rush to Hagrid’s cottage and trick him into telling them how exactly he won the dragon’s egg in the power game. More importantly, the three friends learn that Hagrid got drunk and told a mysterious stranger that he could use music to lull Fluffy to sleep. Harry, Ron, and Hermione now know that Snape has the key to getting to the Sorcerer’s Stone, and they immediately run back to the castle to warn Dumbledore. On their way, they run into Professor McGonagall, who informs them that Dumbledore has left the castle for the day. Professor McGonagall scoffs at their warnings about Snape and the Sorcerer’s Stone and urges them to enjoy the weather outside.

Although none of the teachers will listen, Harry refuses to accept that Snape will get the Sorcerer’s Stone without a fight. He decides that he will steal the Stone himself that night. Even if he is expelled for breaking rules, he cannot sit back and wait for Voldemort to steal the Stone and use it to regain his former power. Inspired by his passion, Ron and Hermione vow to help him steal the Stone.

That night, Harry, Ron, and Hermione run into Neville on their way out of the portrait hole. Neville refuses to let them pass and lose more points for the House. When they fail to convince him of the importance of their actions, Hermione uses a body-bind spell to incapacitate Neville. When they reach the forbidden third-floor corridor, Harry plays the flute that Hagrid gave him for his birthday and successfully lulls Fluffy to sleep. Harry, Ron, and Hermione jump through the trapdoor and land on Devil’s Snare, a large plant with long tendrils that starts to strangle them. Hermione is able to recall their Herbology lesson on the plant and uses magical fire to free Ron and Harry before they suffocate.

The next challenge is to pass through a small room that is filled with small flying keys, one of which will unlock the door to the next room. Harry uses a nearby broomstick and, using his Quidditch skills, manages to grab the correct silver key and unlock the door. Harry, Ron, and Hermione walk into the next room, which is a massive chessboard: they must win the game in order to access the next challenge. As an expert at wizard’s chess, Ron takes the lead and directs all of the pieces. Ultimately, Ron sacrifices himself in order for Harry to checkmate the King and win the game.

In the next room, Harry and Hermione are faced with a difficult wizard’s riddle. On a table full of bottles, one potion will allow them to move into the next room, while another potion will allow them to return to the previous room. Hermione is able to use her skills of logic to unravel the riddle and allow them to pass through the flames. She gives Harry the potion he needs to move into the next room, and she takes the potion to return to the wizard’s chessboard and help Ron. Harry walks through the flames toward the final room but, unexpectedly, finds neither Snape nor Voldemort waiting for him, but rather Professor Quirrell.

Quirrell immediately binds Harry’s body with several ropes, and then explains that he is the one who has been trying to kill Harry throughout the year. Not only did Quirrell jinx Harry’s broom during the first Quidditch match, but he let in the troll on Halloween and has been trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone since Dumbledore brought it to Hogwarts. Harry is shocked at this revelation, particularly since it means that he has been blaming Snape for Quirrell’s actions. Harry also realizes that Quirrell has been serving Voldemort all along, and he blames himself for not realizing that fact when he met Quirrell in Diagon Alley.

Harry notices that Quirrell is standing in front of the Mirror of Erised; this is the final challenge separating him from the Sorcerer’s Stone. Quirrell looks in the mirror and sees himself holding the Sorcerer’s Stone, but he cannot figure out how to retrieve the actual Stone. Suddenly Harry hears a disembodied voice telling Quirrell to use Harry to retrieve the Stone. Quirrell positions Harry in front of the mirror and demands to know what he sees. Determined to keep Voldemort from getting the Stone, Harry lies and tells Quirrell that he sees himself winning the House Cup for Gryffindor. In actuality, he sees himself holding the Sorcerer’s Stone and putting it in his pocket. Harry feels a sudden weight in his pocket and realizes that he has inadvertently retrieved the Stone from the mirror.

The disembodied voice speaks again, this time ordering Quirrell to let him speak directly to Harry. Quirrell slowly unwraps his turban and shows Harry that Voldemort’s face is protruding from the back of his head; too weak to possess a body of his own, Voldemort had been using Quirrell’s body to survive. Voldemort tells Harry that he knows that the Sorcerer’s Stone is in his pocket, and Harry should give it to him before he is killed. Harry refuses, and Voldemort angrily orders Quirrell to seize Harry and kill him. Quirrell tries to grab Harry, but his hands blister every time that they come into contact with Harry’s skin. Seeing an advantage to this, Harry presses his hands on Quirrell’s face to cause purposeful blisters. As the two struggle amid Voldemort’s furious screams, the pain in Harry’s scar becomes unbearable and he faints.

Harry wakes up in the hospital wing, where Dumbledore has been waiting for him. Dumbledore assures Harry that the Sorcerer’s Stone has been saved from Voldemort’s clutches; after Dumbledore arrived on the scene in the dungeon, Voldemort fled and left Quirrell to die. Nicolas Flamel and Dumbledore had decided to destroy the Stone to ensure that it could never be used by a dark wizard. Dumbledore explains that Quirrell’s skin blistered against Harry’s because Harry is protected by his mother’s love, something that Voldemort failed to take into account. Dumbledore also explains that Harry was able to find the Stone in the Mirror of Erised because he was the only one who wanted to Stone for unselfish reasons.

After recuperating in the hospital wing, Harry goes to the end-of-year feast. Slytherin House is set to win the House Cup, and the dining hall is decorated festively in silver and green. Before making the official announcement of Slytherin’s victory, however, Dumbledore decides to give out some last minute points. Ron and Hermione are awarded fifty points each and Harry is given sixty points, all for their courage and strength in protecting the Sorcerer’s Stone. Finally, Dumbledore awards ten points to Neville for his bravery in standing up to his friends. With Neville’s ten points, Gryffindor is ahead of Slytherin in terms of house points and is pronounced the winner of the House Cup.

As the book comes to a close, Harry, Ron, and Hermione pack their trunks and head to the train station to take the Hogwarts Express back to London. Although they will all go their separate ways for the summer, Harry knows that he will see his friends again in a few short months when they come back to Hogwarts for their second year. In the meantime, Harry is looking forward to frightening Dudley with his magic wand.


In the final two chapters of the novel, Harry demonstrates the extent to which he has grown in wisdom and maturity over the course of the year. Of the three students, Harry is the only one who fully understands what will happen if Voldemort is successful in his attempt to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone. Ron is preoccupied with Gryffindor’s battle for the House Cup against Slytherin, as demonstrated by the vision that he sees in the Mirror of Erised, and he is unable to see the larger picture beyond the world of Hogwarts. Hermione is similarly oblivious: although she received a score of 112% on her charms final exam and has read nearly every book in the library, she does not grasp the severity of the situation.

Only Harry comprehends Voldemort’s true capacity for evil, and only because of Voldemort’s murder of his parents. He realizes that Voldemort’s return to power will only mean loss and death for other innocent people, and, in another return to the theme of justifiable causality, he knows that this is a circumstance that demands disobedience and rebellion. Compared to the return to Voldemort’s days of tyranny and dark magic, the hours of detention and possible expulsion that Harry might face for breaking Hogwarts rules seems to be an acceptable sacrifice.

Harry’s willingness to sacrifice his education, future with magic, and even life positions him as a savior figure in the narrative. Harry does not know whether or not he will be successful at protecting the Sorcerer’s Stone, just as he does not know if his disobedience will even be recognized. Yet, he gives no thought for his own wellbeing and quickly comes to the ultimate decision that, if anyone must be sacrificed in order to defeat Voldemort, it will be him.

This concept of sacrifice can be explained in part by Harry’s inherent guilt over the death of his parents. Voldemort killed both Lily and James Potter but, for some unbeknownst reason, was unable to murder Harry as well. As the sole survivor of his family, Harry feels that he is undeserving of the gift of life. His parents were both exceptional wizards, while he is simply ordinary, and he cannot help but think that his survival was nothing more than a comical twist of fate. The wizarding public expects amazing things from him as the “boy-who-lived”, but Harry knows that he lacks the unique talents that would make him a true hero figure. A personal sacrifice is the one opportunity that Harry has to prove his worth to himself and to those around him, as well as show that his parents did not die in vain.

In the final chapter of the book, Rowling continues to express the importance of friendship above all else. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are only able to pass through the protective challenges of the Sorcerer’s Stone by combining their strengths and depending on each other as friends. Each of them has a different strength – Harry has courage, determination, and his flying skills; Ron has his skill at wizard’s chess and his loyalty to his friends; Hermione has logic and a vast magical knowledge. Only by using their strengths together and protecting each other are the three students able to achieve the same feat as Voldemort and ultimately access the final room of the challenge.

The importance of friendship is further emphasized in contrast to Voldemort’s isolated position. Although he inhabits Quirrell’s body for the lack of a better one, Voldemort views him with disdain and treats him as nothing more than a servant. Quirrell, in turn, does not help Voldemort out of a sense of love or loyalty, but because the fear that he has for the dark wizard. Because Voldemort does not understand the power of love and friendship, he is always isolated and thus, remarkably weaker than a wizard who has the support of his friends.