Chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Nicolas Flamel
Quidditch practice is picking up again as Harry and the team prepare for an upcoming match against Hufflepuff. Harry is horrified to learn that Professor Snape will be refereeing this match, as are Ron and Hermione when he tells them.
Neville, his legs jinxed by Draco to stick together, tumbles into the Gryffindor Common Room through the portrait hole. Hermione frees his legs, and Harry encourages Neville to stand up to Draco, then gives him a chocolate frog. Neville hands back the card inside the package, and Harry sees that it is an Albus Dumbledore card. Harry suddenly recalls that it was on that card that he saw Nicolas Flamel's name: Professor Dumbledore is particularly famous for defeating the dark wizard, Grindelwald, in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel. Mentioning Alchemy reminds Hermione that the library book she checked out says Flamel is now 665 years old. Further discussion leads Harry, Ron, and Hermione to conclude that the mysterious package Hagrid brought to the school is the Philosopher's Stone. Eternal life and all the gold you could want. No wonder Snape wants it, they think...
Harry decides to play Quidditch even with Snape refereeing. During the game, a fight breaks out in the stands between some Gryffindors (notably Ron and Neville) and Slytherins (led by Draco Malfoy). The match lasts only about five minutes, as Harry spots and catches the Snitch before Snape can do more than award one penalty to Hufflepuff.
After the match, Harry sees Snape enter the Forbidden Forest. Using his broom, he is able to hover close enough to eavesdrop on Snape and Professor Quirrell. Their conversation confirms Harry, Ron, and Hermione's belief that the mysterious package is the Philosopher's Stone, and leads them to conclude that Quirrell is the only thing standing between Snape and the Stone.
This chapter largely serves as reinforcement.
- Harry gives Neville the Chocolate Frog because Neville was jinxed by Draco Malfoy. This again demonstrates Draco's disdain for rules and for Gryffindors. It also shows Neville's relative magical incompetence and his emotional insecurities. Harry has to encourage him to stand up for himself.
- Snape's refereeing the match further displays his dislike for Gryffindor House in general, and Harry in particular. As seen by how swiftly Harry ends the match, Harry is quickly learning that the best strategy is to just avoid Snape as much as possible.
- The revelation of who Flamel is, and what he is known for, introduces the uniquely valuable titular artifact, and solidifies Harry's belief that there is an object that needs that sort of heavy guard.
- Harry's overhearing the conversation between Snape and Quirrell supports Harry's belief, and thus also Ron's and Hermione's, that Snape is plotting to steal the Philosopher's Stone, and that poor, weak Quirrell is trying to stop him.
The only major plot advance is that we learn the Philosopher's Stone is not only being guarded, but also sought. A clue is given to its usefulness by us being told how old Flamel is. Clearly, part of the Stone's function has something to do with prolonging life. Hermione's description of the Stone's function explains why Flamel has managed to live for so long, and makes it more likely that the Stone is, in fact, what Hagrid brought to Hogwarts and what is being so carefully guarded, though it is still unclear at to just why, after so much time, this object suddenly needed to be so securely guarded.
It should be mentioned that there was a real Nicolas Flamel who lived at about the time suggested. Nicolas Flamel was born probably in the early 1330's, about 660 years before the time of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1991-92). He and his wife Perenelle have made many other appearances in popular culture, notably in The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.
- Why is Nicolas Flamel significant? Give examples.
- Why are Snape and Quirrell in the Forbidden Forest? What does their conversation reveal?
- Why did Draco jinx Neville? What does Harry tell Neville?
- Why did the Quidditch match end so quickly?
- Harry is convinced that what is being guarded is the Philosopher's Stone. Is he right? What evidence is there for this conclusion?
- Why would someone want to steal the Philosopher's Stone? Who might want it?
Harry notices that he seems to be running into Snape far more frequently than usual. He wonders if Snape knows that he, Ron, and Hermione have learned about the Philosopher's Stone, and he has the horrible feeling that Snape can read minds. Harry has felt this to a greater or lesser degree before, but this is the first time he has expressed that thought this clearly, even to himself. This will be a recurring concern for Harry, and will come to full fruition in the fifth book in the series, where we are told about legilimency.
Readers revisiting the series might wonder why Snape does not use his mind-reading ability on Quirrell. We can only speculate that there might be a code of ethics around Legilimency that discourages use of the ability on other wizards. It is also possible that in self-protection, Voldemort has strengthened Quirrell's ability to avoid legilimency. If there is discouragement of use of legilimency on other wizards, why does Snape still use it on Harry? Snape, as one of Harry's teachers, and given Harry's physical immaturity, may feel that as he is acting more or less in loco parentis, he has the right to inspect Harry's mind on occasion. It is also possible that Snape's hatred of Harry leads him to overstep the bounds of propriety.
Once again, Harry's single-minded and biased view of Snape's character twists his perspective on events he witnesses, so that he can only see one possible interpretation. In this particular case, what Harry overhears in the Forbidden Forest is that Snape and Quirrell are at odds. Harry has already decided that it is Snape who seeks the Stone, and allows this conversation to support his conclusion. In fact, as we will find out, Snape is attempting to prevent Quirrell from seeking the Stone. This persistent prejudice towards Snape will come back to haunt Harry as the larger story reaches its climax.
We do not yet have any idea that Voldemort is still around, apart from Hagrid's earlier comment that he thinks Voldemort was "too evil to die". We will, however, receive a large hint in that direction shortly, when a Centaur tells Harry about the uses of Unicorn blood.
- In this chapter, we have the first indication that Harry believes Snape can read his mind. We will see that Harry suspects this again in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and it will be made explicit in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, where it will be revealed that Snape is a master legilimens. Snape will use legilimency openly on Harry in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and may be attempting it at one point in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.