As Harry completes his exams, he constantly worries that Voldemort is going to get the Stone. He is plagued by nightmares, and a little frustrated that Ron and Hermione don’t seem as worried about the Stone. They try to comfort him again, saying Snape won’t go after the Stone with Dumbledore there, and they still have no proof that he can get past Fluffy.
Harry’s inherent selflessness becomes more and more evident over the course of this chapter. Harry is unlike any other eleven-year-old in that he wants to make sure that the people around him are safe, and will personally put himself in harm’s way in order to ensure this.
A sudden thought strikes Harry: it’s odd that Hagrid desperately wants a dragon, and a stranger just happens to show up in town with an egg. Harry, Ron, and Hermione visit Hagrid, who reveals that the stranger’s face had been hidden by a cloak, and that he had told the stranger (after a few drinks) that the key to taking care of a beast is knowing how to soothe it: for example, he told the stranger, with Fluffy all a person has to do is play music, and he’ll fall asleep.
Hagrid’s desire for a dragon serves as another, if more minor, example, of how desires can be dangerous. Hagrid’s intense longing for a dragon becomes a weakness that Voldemort is able to exploit, which can allow him to get past Fluffy.
After hearing this information, Harry, Ron, and Hermione bolt inside, figuring that Snape or Voldemort must have been the hooded stranger. When they see Professor McGonagall, they ask to see Professor Dumbledore. McGonagall reveals that he left ten minutes prior to fly to the Ministry of Magic on urgent business. Harry is frantic, revealing that they need to see him about the Sorcerer’s Stone, as someone is going to try to steal it. McGonagall is shocked that they know about the Stone, but assures them that it is well protected.
Dumbledore’s sudden absence in this moment is suspect. While Dumbledore is called away on urgent business (perhaps a ruse from someone to get him out of the way), Harry later surmises that Dumbledore actually wanted Harry to have the opportunity to face Voldemort on his own. In this way, Dumbledore continues to encourage Harry to break the rules when necessary, and also reinforces Harry’s self-sacrificing tendencies.
When McGonagall leaves, Harry figures that Snape sent the owl summoning Dumbledore, and that he’s going to try to steal the Stone that night. Harry resolves to get to the Stone before Snape. Hermione and Ron warn that he’ll be expelled if he’s caught, but Harry is adamant. He gives an impassioned speech, saying that if Voldemort returns, “there won’t be any Hogwarts to get expelled from,” and that he can’t let the wizard return who killed his parents.
Here Harry’s heroism truly stands out, as he takes it upon himself to make sure that Voldemort doesn’t return, even if he is putting himself in grave danger. His stated reasons for doing so also demonstrate his most important motivators: doing what is right, protecting the wizarding world and the school that have become his home, and repaying the love and sacrifice that his parents gave to him.
Hermione and Ron acknowledge that Harry is right, and decide to go with him. That night, they take the Invisibility Cloak and the flute that Hagrid gave Harry for Christmas—but there’s one hitch. Neville is waiting in the common room, and tries to prevent them from going so that Gryffindor doesn’t get into any more trouble. Hermione apologizes profusely and then uses a spell on Neville that locks his whole body. They then leave through the portrait hole.
Hermione, Ron, and even Neville pick up on Harry’s humility, and demonstrate how they, too, put others above themselves. Here, Hermione and Ron put themselves in danger in order to steal the Stone just as Harry does. Neville, for his part, stands up to his friends in order to try to protect them from their own rule-breaking, and for the good of Gryffindor house as a whole.
When Harry, Ron, and Hermione arrive at the third-floor corridor, the door is already open. Fluffy is there, and as Harry plays a tune on the flute, the dog’s eyes droop. The three of them open the trap door, and Harry offers to drop down first into the darkness, falling a long way down before landing with a thump on something soft. Ron and Hermione follow suit.
Another element of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s adventure is that they know they are breaking the rules (and have broken many in their quest to solve the mystery of what Fluffy is guarding), but it is all in the name of doing what they ultimately believe is the right thing to do.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione land on a snakelike plant, which starts to wind around them and constrict their breathing. Hermione remembers that it’s called Devil’s Snare, and that it will loosen in the presence of light or fire—but says they don’t have any wood. As he and Harry start to choke, Ron reminds Hermione that she’s a witch; Hermione quickly casts a spell that sets flames on the plant. It loosens its grip and they are able to pull free. They run down the corridor that leads out of the room.
As the central trio continue through these obstacles, their friendship becomes key to achieving their goal because they need each other to pass through all of the rooms. In facing Devil’s Snare, Hermione’s knowledge of spells (as well as Ron’s logical reminder that Hermione is a witch) becomes essential in preventing them from being choked to death.
At the end of the corridor is a large, high-ceilinged chamber with hundreds of flying keys in the air and a locked wooden door on the other side. Harry spots broomsticks, and he, Ron, and Hermione each mount one, realizing that they have to find the correct key. Harry quickly spots a large silver one with a bent wing, as if it had already been caught and stuffed in the keyhole. Together, Harry, Ron, and Hermione close in on the key and Harry is able to catch it.
Just as Hermione’s knowledge was crucial to passing the Devil’s Snare, here Harry’s Quidditch skills become central to catching the key. But even though Harry takes the lead, it does require all three of them to accomplish the task, once again highlighting the value of friendship in facing challenges.
In the next chamber, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find a huge, life-sized wizard’s chess set, and Ron concludes that they have to play their way across the room. Harry takes the place of a bishop; Hermione, a castle; and Ron, a knight. Ron directs the pieces, shuddering when he sees their pieces being violently destroyed when they are taken. Eventually, Ron realizes that he must allow himself to be taken in order to win. Harry and Hermione protest, but Ron argues that they have to “make some sacrifices” to get to the Stone. He moves and the white queen pounces on him, striking him hard across the head. Harry then checkmates the king.
While Hermione took the lead on the Devil’s Snare and Harry took the lead with the keys, in this challenge Ron uses his chess skills to advance the trio (though again, only with the help of all three of them together, as they all must stand in as chess figures). Ron also demonstrates his humility by understanding that he will have to sacrifice himself, allowing the white queen to strike him, hard, in order to let Harry and Hermione continue on. This is particularly significant given that Ron feels overshadowed by his siblings and longs for his own success and fame; in letting Harry and Hermione go on without him, Ron humbly lets go of his own desires in this moment.
Harry and Hermione continue on, though they’re shaken by what happened to Ron. In the next room, they find that a troll has already been dealt with, so they press on. When they step into the next room, a fire springs up both in front of them and behind them. They see a table with seven potions and a logic puzzle. Only one potion will allow them to go forward; one will allow them to go back; three will kill them; and two will do nothing. Hermione quickly figures out the puzzle, discerning which potion is which.
Again, Hermione’s knowledge allows the two of them to get closer and closer to Voldemort. The puzzle also seems particularly suited to Hermione: the person passing this challenge must be able to solve regular logic as well as have magical knowledge. And so, Hermione’s Muggle upbringing, which perhaps made her feel like an outsider just as it did for Harry, actually becomes an advantage here.
Harry says that he will go forward, and Hermione should take the one that will allow her to go back, so that she can take care of Ron and then send an owl to Dumbledore. Worried that Voldemort will be waiting for Harry, Hermione throws her arms around her friend and says that he is an excellent wizard. When he protests that she is better than him, she tells him that bravery and friendship are far more important than being just clever. They each take a potion, and Hermione walks back while Harry continues forward.
Hermione and Ron get Harry as far as they can, and their friendship is vital to getting Harry to the Sorcerer’s Stone—which Hermione notes in her final words to him. While Harry humbly suggests that Hermione is a better witch, ultimately he understands that he is the one who must face Voldemort, wishing to put himself in harm’s way rather than putting anyone else there.