Category Archives: The Philosopher’s Stone

Final Thoughts

New Harry Potter

Note from Ashley: My post about the Epilogue is still to come next week, which is why I’ve abstained from writing final notes, myself. I get an entire post to wax poetic about the end of this series and the end of this project, so it’s only fair everyone else gets a space, too.

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I’ve had so much fun with this, not only writing my own posts, but getting to read what everyone else thinks about Harry Potter (SPOILER ALERT: you all love it). I’ve enjoyed all the insights everyone has had that I’ve never, ever had in all of my rereads, and the discussions that followed, but my very most favorite thing was getting to see new GIFs I’d never seen before. You guys are good at GIFs, is what I’m saying.

Also, I can’t believe it’s over. Again. Sads. Don’t mind me, I’m just going to be over here in the corner, rereading all the books and pretending Harry Potter is never going to end ever ever. Continue reading


The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 16-17: Here’s What Happened…

I’m old, you guys. Very old.

That basically means that I probably came to the Potter books long after y’all did. I had seen the first movie when it came out (there was a girl involved…shut up!), but hadn’t read a single word of Rowling’s writing until 2004. I knew about the books (obviously) and had even gone so far as to buy the box set of the first four paperbacks. I just didn’t get around to reading them until the third movie was about to come out and, before I knew it, I was halfway through the fourth book. Since then, I’ve read the entire series several times, and even taught The Philosopher’s Stone one semester. What does all of this mean? I have no idea. Wait. No. That’s a lie. What it means is that I adore the world that Rowling created. Even in these early books, when details were only vaguely sprinkled throughout the text, it was obvious that a larger world of wonder awaited the readers.


This is it! The moment we have all been waiting for! Harry Potter vs. … Final Exams? That’s right, it’s end of term and the students of Hogwarts are all settling in for their final exams, complete with special quills that have been “bewitched with an Anti-Cheating spell.” You’d think that a school that created a racist, murdering sociopath would be more trusting. I kid, I kid. But, seriously, with all of the wand-waving and crazy broom-flying that happens in this book, one of my favorite aspects of the series is how Rowling takes the time to remind us that these kids are in school. (I just had a flashback to my dad watching an episode of Friends and shouting “DO THESE PEOPLE HAVE JOBS!?!?”) I’ve never been to a school with dormitories or much of a campus, so whenever Rowling gives us a glimpse of everyday life at Hogwarts, I’m happy.

But, no matter how much I love reading about life at a private school, we’ve got work to do. With their final test behind them, Hermione wants to review all of her answers and Ron just wants to relax by the lake (where Fred, George, and Lee Jordan are tickling the tentacles of a giant squid, which in any other book would have been a euphemism). Unfortunately, Harry’s Voldy-sense is tingling again, which means danger is on the way. Being students at a magical school–which happens to include a forest full of unicorns and centaurs–Ron and Hermione try to convince Harry that he’s imagining things and that, no, his magical scar isn’t trying to warn him of danger, it’s just post-exam nerves. (It’s really something of a pet peeve when characters in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy story suddenly become incredulous about something that would clearly exist in a sci-fi, horror, or fantasy world.)

Besides, they tell Harry, the Stone is safe at Hogwarts with Dumbledore around. Also, the only person who knows how to safely get by Fluffy is Hagrid, and Hagrid is not easily tricked.


Look, I love Hagrid. How can you not? But, he’s not the brightest guy in the world. Loveable, yes. But not savvy. He’s Jerry Gergich, both the schlemiel and the schlemazel of Hogwarts. I mean, who else would tell a cloaked stranger how to get past a giant three-headed guard dog? I’m sure there are a bunch of hep, snarky folks out there who are all “Why does Dumbledore keep giving Hagrid important stuff to do?” Because that’s who Dumbledore is. Dumbledore is all about second chances. He’s all about taking the screw-ups–the half-giant wash-out, the seemingly incompetent seer, the lovesick traitor–and giving them a chance to shine. Back in the day, all a DC hero needed to succeed was to have Superman say that he has faith in them. That’s Dumbledore’s true power: faith in others.

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The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 14-15: Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!

There are two things that I’ve learned from the Medicinal Re-Read in the last thirteen chapters, and those two things are these: (1) I’m the only non-English major in this bunch of re-cappers (so far?), and (2) I am really fucking old.  I am ancient.  I am dirt.  I was HALFWAY THROUGH LAW SCHOOL when I found myself sick in bed for an entire week, deliriously drifting in and out of a feverish consciousness, and luckily for me, HBO was running the first HP movie pretty much on repeat.  So that is what I watched that week, in out-of-order snippets, mainly because Alan Rickman was in it, and I do so love me some Alan Rickman.

Eventually I got better (obviously), and I never much thought about anything other than The Law again until suddenly, everywhere, everyone was talking about the Brand! New! Harry! Potter! Book! that was Coming! Out! Soon!  And I was all*, “What is this Harry Potter about which everyone speaks?” And my friend Erin was all, “Blah blah blah Alan Rickman blah blah,” and I was all, “Oh yeah, that sounds vaguely familiar now.  Maybe I should check that out.”

So I found myself with four (non-law) books to read before the fifth was released, and read them I did.  And liked (obviously). And here we are, TEN YEARS after the release of the first Harry Potter book I read in real time along with the rest of y’all, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is not the book that I’m supposed to be writing about right now.  The book I’m actually supposed to be writing about right now is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone, specifically chapters 14 and 15, and I’ve had two vodka sodas to calm my writin’ nerves, so let’s do this thing.


Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback

I’m now ten years removed from schoolin’, but boy howdy does the beginning of this chapter still resonate.  At what age do we finally stop waking in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, heart pounding from the nightmare of showing up to finals, only to realize we’ve skipped AN ENTIRE SEMESTER of classes?  I mean, what was Dream Me doing all that time?  Sleeping?  And if Dream Me was sleeping, was Dream Me also having nightmares about finals?  And if so, WHY DIDN’T DREAM ME START GOING TO CLASS?  Life is a mystery.  Everyone must stand alone.

ANYWHO, we start the chapter with Hermione in full Hermione mode, which is pretty much the complete opposite of Dream Me mode; i.e., she’s in the library studying her bum off according to meticulously color-coded study schedules.  And she’s dragged Harry and Ron with her.  One person she hasn’t dragged to library with her is Hagrid, but he shows up anyway because:


So the gang’s all invited down to Hagrid’s hut to have yet another chat about the titular Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone, and while there, our intrepid heroes discover exactly what Hargid’s been arming himself against: a big black egg in the fireplace.  This is going to go well.  Well, maybe it will:

‘Well, I’ve bin doin’ some readin’,’ said Hagrid, pulling a large book from under his pillow.  ‘Got this outta the library–Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit–it’s a bit outta date, o’ course, but it’s all in here.  Keep the egg in the fire, ’cause their mothers breathe on ’em, see, an’ when it hatches, feed it on a bucket o’ brandy mixed with chicken blood every half hour.  An’ see here–how ter recognize diff’rent eggs–what I got there’s a Norwegian Ridgeback.  They’re rare, them.’

He looked very pleased with himself, but Hermione didn’t.

‘Hagrid, you live in a wooden house,’ she said.

Ehhhhh, maybe not.

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The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 12-13: Nicolas Flamel was the Elvis of His Time

Hello fellow Potterphiles. Since it’s my first post, I get to regale you with stories about how I first met Harry Potter. I was in high school, the summer before senior year, and the fourth book was about to be released (yes, I’m old, you can do the math). My brother, Jeff, had been geeking out all over the series for a while, and kept telling me over and over that I had to read them, and that I would love them. This was, however, before I realized my brother was super awesome and he became one of my best friends ever. Back then, he was my annoying little brother so I basically just ignored things that he said, including the best book recommendation I have ever gotten. One day, I was looking for a book to read and randomly grabbed his copy of Book 1. I ended up devouring the first three books in one week. Then, when the fourth book was released, my mom bought the usual copy for Jeff, not realizing that I was also totally obsessed at this point, so I would steal the book from him at his bedtime to read it until my later bedtime. One of my earliest HP memories is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with two bookmarks in it. The rest is history, and involves my husband and I going to midnight release parties, taking pictures in our round faux glasses, and then trying to stay up all night reading, racing to finish*. Also, crying. Lots of crying. I, like Gretchen, burst into tears at my first sight of Hogwarts, and I am not ashamed.

In short, I’m just so very happy to be here with you guys, showing the love for my favorite series of all time. Let’s get to it!


The lake froze solid and the Weasley twins were punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban.

Right off the bat, let’s just talk about how Fred and George are chucking snowballs at Voldemort’s face. Maybe he’s sitting there, thinking about all the bad things he’s done, and praying for repentance or some shit, and then he gets whacked in the face repeatedly with a bewitched snowball. Aah…Ack…fucking snowballs! DAMN, I WILL KILL EVERYONE IN THE WORLD!** So, thanks for that, Gred and Forge. I wonder if they ever think about that later. “Hey, remember when we hit He-who-must-not-be-named in the face with snowballs? Wicked.” If it was one of the movies, they would say that last part in obnoxious, unnatural unison.

After the description of how wonderful Hogwarts is in winter, the gang has to look into this Nicolas Flamel guy one last time before Christmas break. My grad student might be showing a little here, but I really love when they go into the library and research things. I like when they do it on Buffy too. So much of magic is apparently looking up esoteric references in musty books. Delightful. I often wonder about Madame Pince. She is sort of this disembodied sense of potential punishment and shushing. What are her hopes and dreams other than to have a library in perfect order that contains no actual Hogwarts students?

This chapter is an excellent transition and it sets up a whole lot of stuff. But first, we have to say goodbye to Hermione. Rowling is packing in all kinds of relationship building between Harry and the Weasleys, and Harry and Dumbledore, but not Hermione yet. Sending her home makes perfect sense, since she has muggle parents***. First you find out your daughter is a witch, magic is real, that you have to send her off to a mysterious boarding school, and then she doesn’t even come home for the holidays? Yeah, that would be a bit of a stretch. No worries Hermione, you will get plenty of plot time in the future.

“And you could ask your parents if they know who Flamel is,” said Ron. “It’d be safe to ask them.”

“Very safe, as they’re both dentists,” said Hermione.

Do you know how much that made me laugh when I first read this? It’s so matter of fact, which is totally in character for Hermione, but it is also pretty damn funny and unexpected. Good job, Jo.

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The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapters 10-11: Hermione Granger is Queen of Everything

I started reading Harry Potter when I was in the second half of 5th grade—which, in my opinion, is the perfect time to start, and clearly my teacher, Mr. Coulter, agreed.  One day before we were dismissed for the afternoon, he read our class the first chapter, and by the time he was finished I had to know what happened next.  I was 10 years old, and already a voracious reader; though the funny thing is, I literally cannot remember what I read before then.  (Except Holes, probably, which remains to this day one of my favorite books, and I still have my copy from childhood sitting on my shelf, since I can’t bring myself to part with it.)

In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s really difficult for me to imagine my life before Harry Potter, since it’s been with me for more than half the time I’ve been alive.  (I suddenly feel very young and very old at the same time, it’s a strange feeling.)  I grew up with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of these characters that we’ve all come to know and love.  They, and the book series, are an intrinsic, very personal part of my life, and it’s difficult to separate myself from them.  And why would I?  They’re some of my oldest friends that I’m able to revisit again and again whenever I feel like it.

And speaking of friends…


When I realized I’d been assigned this chapter by pure luck of the draw, I was so excited.  Not only is “Halloween” one of my favorite chapters in the entire series, I really feel like it’s an incredibly pivotal moment, and one that is very personal to me, so I’m very happy I get to discuss it.

After their midnight adventure and their run-in with the three-headed dog on the third floor corridor, Hermione isn’t on very good terms with Harry and Ron, and understandably so.  It’s really a stark difference in opinion, which is highlighted quite well by this gem on the first page of the chapter:

Indeed, by the next morning Harry and Ron thought that meeting the three-headed dog had been an excellent adventure, and they were quite keen to have another one.

It’s a credit to Rowling’s writing that she’s so capable of capturing the spirit of two eleven-year old boys in so few words.  She does that a lot, I’ve noticed on this re-read, little tidbits of character thrown in economically and wonderfully, not distracting from the narrative at all, but rather enhancing it. Another example that stood out to me in this chapter comes later on when Harry and Ron are rescuing Hermione from the troll, and she describes Harry doing “something that was both very brave and very stupid.”  Which is incredibly telling of Harry’s character throughout the rest of the series, really.  He means well, and he is very courageous, but you really have to question his life choices sometimes.

But before I go down that rabbit hole, I want to get back to the real reason I was so excited to be talking about this chapter: Hermione.  Hermione Granger is one of my favorite literary characters in the history of ever, and I think the reason behind that is because I’ve always identified with her, as well as admired her.  Growing up, I was very shy, but also very smart, so in the classroom it was always a battle between knowing the answer to the question and my ability to raise my hand and say it in front of people.  Hermione, however, has no qualms with answering questions in a public setting.  She’s smart, and she knows it, and she has no issue with telling people how it is, even though she gets an awful lot of shit for it in these early chapters.


“I know the answer! It’s ‘fuck you I’m awesome.'”

I’ve had discussions with people before where they insist that Hermione would have probably been better suited to Ravenclaw, but I respectfully disagree, and here’s why: yes, she’s smart, but the ability to speak one’s mind regardless of potential shaming or consequences is definitely courageous, and I absolutely think that this is something that should be presented more in mainstream media, especially to young girls.  I’m very passionate about feminist representation and strong female characters, and I really think that my intense love and interest in such things came from Hermione, which I adore Rowling for.  She’s just so adept at writing compelling and realistic characters who aren’t perfect and make mistakes, yes, but that just lends them more credibility and offers a contrast to when they do something really extraordinary.  It’s something I’ve constantly been striving to incorporate in my own writing, and I really think it changed my life. Continue reading

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