Prior Incantato: In Harry Potter, a spell that can reveal the last spell performed by a particular wand. In other words — magic revisited.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Several months after part 5, here we are at Part 6 (of 7) of my re-read of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And here I thought I’d knock this thing out in just three short essays. I apologize for the delay, but Jurassic Park knows best when it tells us that “life finds a way”, and that includes interrupting all of our plans to write about wizards.

In this edition, we talk about Ridgebacks, centaurs and the stars. The end of our last session found Harry spying on Severus as he threatens Quirrell for the Sorcerer’s Stone. Or so it seems. Dun dun dun, and so forth.

Chapter Fourteen: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback

Now that they expect the Sorcerer’s Stone to be stolen at any minute, Harry and the gang are feeling particularly stressed about their days at Hogwarts. I’m not sure what all they expect will happen when Snape gets the Sorcerer’s Stone (since they don’t realize Voldemort is behind it) other than having the moody Professor around for 665 years, but they’re worried. However, it seems that Quirrell is made of stronger stuff than they first thought: although he is paler and thinner and looking rather sickly, he is holding out on divulging information, and rather admirably at that. Of course, the stronger stuff he’s actually made out of is the disembodied spirit of Lord Voldemort mooching on the back of his noggin, but that’s neither here nor there.

They actually take to defending Quirrell of all things, because they feel pretty sorry for him. When they’re not advocating for the rights of stuttering evil wizards everywhere, they’re getting ready to study for their exams. Hermione is already freaking out about finals and just like us, still has no idea what the twelve uses of dragon’s blood are. I think I’ll make up a few: baking a cake, making an everlasting fire and highlighting blonde hair. Also: why was it that in school, the smartest and most prepared people were always the ones freaking out the most? Guess that’s something Muggles and magic-folk have in common.

During one day of their studies, the gang stumbles upon Hagrid the giant (which is the same as saying they stumbled upon Shaquille O’Neal) in the library researching dragons. Because they’re so very nosy, they decided to see what Hagrid is up to at his hut, in addition to bugging him some more about the stone’s security measures.

After some flattery from Hermione, who really might be some kind of con artist or cat burglar at this point, the grounds master dishes out the following: several teachers, including Dumbledore, all put their own forms of protection on the Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry jumps to the conclusion that the only thing Snape now needs is whatever Quirrell did to guard the stone. Perhaps a magical turban or a stuttering riddle?

Before Hagrid can jump too far into his annoying “trust Snape” speeches, Harry and the others spot Hagrid’s new prize: a dragon egg he won from a Nigerian prince in the exchange for a small amount of galleons. Of course, this thing is going to hatch soon, tear apart the countryside and eat Hagrid whole, but the friendly giant could care less about that. He’s going to be a mommy, you see.

Ever the nosy nannies up in everybody’s business at Hogwarts, the trio gets worried. Who dubbed these guys as the Everyone’s Problems Police? Seriously. Anyway, their blabbering on about Hagrid’s business catches the attention of their worst enemy, Malfoy. Draco happens to roll up right when the three of them watch Hagrid become a dragon’s mummy, which of course spells doom for their illegal activities.

In order to help Norbert the dragon get out of the castle, they all hatch a complicated Children of Men plot (with Ron as Clive Owen and Harry as the pregnant chick, I guess) to smuggle him out of the castle to Ron’s older brother Plot Device, er, Charlie. Of course, Malfoy comes in and guffs everything up as always, and it looks like the jig is up – but not before they realize they left the Invisibility Cloak in the tower.

Chapter Fifteen: The Forbidden Forest

This chapter starts with a good old-fashioned scolding from Professor McGonagall. Now that I’ve been watching Downton Abbey, all I can see in my head is the Dowager Countess pursing her uppity lips at all the trouble makers involved, and somehow it’s fairly entertaining. What’s even crappier for Harry than everyone dumping on him for being kind of an idiot is the fact that Neville gets in trouble, too, because he was trying to cover for them. Not only that, but he’s then led to believe that there was no real dragon in the first place, and it was all an elaborate joke at his expense.

Even though everyone is like, woah, that’s a pretty good idea for a way to screw with Neville in the future, they’re even more shocked when they find out that McGonagall is going to remove 50 points each for the transgression. It doesn’t take a mathematics spell for all of them to realize just how totalis screwedicus they actually are. Soon enough, everyone in Hogwarts hates them, including their own house. All I can say, yet again – get used to it, Harry.

The hatred starts to get to the boy wizard so much that he even wants to quit Quidditch. In fact, it’s starting to get to him so much that he finally doesn’t even want to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong – imagine that! Eventually, Harry’s new found mind-your-own-business streak gets compromised when he hears Quirrell being threatened, followed by catching a glimpse of the professor straightening his turban as he leaves the classroom. Harry assumes it’s Snape doing the threatening, but the classroom appears to be empty. For the first time, Hermione says they should tell Dumbledore. If only these kids could adopt this motto for the rest of the entire series.

Soon enough, they brush the haters off their shoulders and get suited up for their detention assignment – The Forbidden Forest. I’ve always wondered, is there another Unforbidden Forest somewhere else on the grounds of Hogwarts? If they have to single this one out, then it only makes sense. Like maybe there are four forests, and people got confused which one was the Forbidden one.

Anyway, Filch says some really creepy stuff to the kids on the way to detention, which pretty much makes him a prime suspect if a kid in your neighborhood ever goes missing. It’s OK if you torture children as long as you’re just a harmless squib, right? Once they get to Hagrid’s, Malfoy drops his first “just wait until my father hears about this” comment, which would make for part of an excellent Harry Potter drinking game. Hagrid, rather wrongly, says he thinks his father would want Malfoy to be punished. Maybe he got Lucius confused with a different Malfoy. Perhaps a distant second cousin, Luscious.

Forbidden ForestSo out into the forest they go. We learn that something is out there killing unicorns, which is a huge shame because they are so awesome or something. For some reason, it’s especially bad to kill a unicorn in the wizarding realm, and not, say, zebras. Sidenote: could the unicorns have wandered over from the Unforbidden Forest? Like when you cross the train tracks and don’t realize it and then get jumped for your iPad?

Everyone splits up, which is the obvious move when hunting for something sinister that kills awesome pure virgin unicorns. Harry and Hermione end up first with Hagrid. Occasionally, in a fun bit of foreshadowing, they hear something “slithering” across the ground near them. Eventually Ronan the centaur rolls up, high on huffing some star and constellation fumes, and talking crazy talk about prophecies and signs. Bane shows up, too, who is a slightly angrier high. After they leave, Hagrid tells Harry that “centaurs know things”, like where to get the best blue star stuff on the market.

After a series of goofy mishaps involving false sparks and a cowardly Neville, Malfoy and Harry end up together in search for this dark evil. Which, of course, makes total sense. As one might expect, they stumble across a dead unicorn and a hooded figure drinking its blood. Harry’s scar flashes in pain, and the hooded figure creeps towards him. Fortunately for the Boy Who Lived, centaur Firenze gallops up (is that offensive to centaurs?) and saves the day. He totally wants Harry’s autograph and even lets Harry ride him, which pisses off centaur Bane because he totally wanted to be the first centaur Harry rode.

Anyway, before they depart, Firenze says some more wacky stuff about the stars and the planets, and that he’s ready to stand behind humans no matter what. He also says that he hopes the stars are wrong (about Harry’s death, presumably by Voldemort’s hands, which makes the centaurs think that Voldemort could ultimately win). Also, that Voldemort is probably behind everything.

This entire ordeal resolves with Harry getting reunited with the others. Later that night, he receives his Invisibility Cloak back with a hand-written note: just in case.

Random Observations:

– Hagrid shows his habitual love for terribly dangerous creatures. One could even speculate that he loves the unlovable because he was first shown love by Dumbledore. Again, that Deeper Magic business I’ve been rambling about.
– Harry’s Invisibility Cloak proves early on that the Deathly Hallows lead to nothing but trouble.
– It’s interesting that Harry and Malfoy’s little encounter happens up in the tower. This won’t be the last time that these two face some difficult penalties because of that tower. And again, Harry will be hiding.
– We’ve been talking about Dumbledore’s design as we’ve gone through the book – do you think the Forbidden Forest encounter with Voldemort was also by his design? Interesting that Harry gets sent out into the Forest on that particular night.
– Harry’s first encounter with the dead-but-not-dead wizard Voldemort is in the Forbidden Forest. Some years later, the two return there before Voldemort triumphantly brings the dead-but-not-dead Harry back to Hogwarts.

And phew, that’s the end of Part 6. I had a lot to say because I’ve been so quiet about Harry Potter for so very long. Expect Part 7, the final installment of The Sorcerer’s Stone, sometime next week. Any thoughts on these two chapters? Discuss in the comments!

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