Through the Trapdoor

chapter sixteen of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry discovers that Hagrid divulged how to get past Fluffy, and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to alert Dumbledore, he decides to go after the Philospher’s Stone himself. Harry, Hermione, and Ron then work past a number of enchantments, with Ron hurt in the process, and when Hermione goes back for help, Harry turns to face the final room alone.

Through the Trapdoor, by Keith James

“See you in a minute, I hope….”


Devil's Snare, by NicoPony

“Oh, I’m so glad we know what it’s called, that’s a great help.”


Devil's Snare, by thepolestar

“Oh, right!” said Hermione, and she whipped out her wand….


Catching the Key, by reallycorking

Harry streaked after it; it sped toward the wall, Harry leaned forward….


Checkmate, by Tealin Raintree

Facing them, way across the chamber, were the white pieces. Harry, Ron and Hermione shivered slightly – the towering white chessmen had no faces.


'I'll Be a Knight' by Sahin Düzgün

“Well, Harry, you take the place of that bishop, and Hermione, you go next to him instead of that castle.”
“What about you?”
“I’m going to be a knight,” said Ron.


The Chess Board, by glockgal

He stepped forward, and the white queen pounced.


Snape's Challenge, by MioneBookworm

“Brilliant,” said Hermione. “This isn’t magic – it’s logic – a puzzle.”


Potions, by gerre

“Got it. The smallest bottle will get us through the black fire – toward the Stone.”

(by gerre)


about the chapter


Before the final book came out, there was a legion of fans who were convinced that the chess game in this chapter symbolized the wizarding war against Voldemort, and that looking at the order in which pieces were taken would give us clues as to which characters would die and when. It usually followed, then, that Ron would have to sacrifice himself for Harry to defeat Voldemort. It was fun to try to match up, and there are certainly similarities if you look hard enough, but there are also substantial problems – starting with the obvious backwards symbolism that Harry is playing for the black chess team here and not the white.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

The reason Harry thinks to go ask Hagrid about Fluffy is because he sees an owl flying overhead with a letter (and Hagrid is the only one who’s ever sent letters to Harry). It’s too bad Harry didn’t figure things out a bit sooner, though, as this owl is very likely the one with the “urgent letter” asking Dumbledore to come to the Ministry. Not only that, but by watching where it flew, Harry could have tried to figure out where Dumbledore was!

Something Else You May Not Have Noticed

After Harry drops down into the Devil’s Snare, he looks back up at the trap door with Ron and Hermione and describes it as being the size of a “postage stamp.” In other words, he fell a really long way. When you also consider that Fluffy was on the third floor and this elaborate series of rooms almost has to be in a basement or sub-basement, we’re looking at probably a fifty foot drop. Wizards are pretty hardy, and Devil’s Snare may be soft, but it seems to me an enchantment or two may also be in effect to slow the fall through this shaft.

Yet Another Thing You May Not Have Noticed

The logic puzzle Hermione solves really does work, and actually isn’t that difficult to solve (though to be fair I am a former algebra teacher). The only piece we’re missing is the relative sizes of the bottles, so we can’t quite get it done all the way, but it’s still clear Rowling thought it through and worked it out. If you’re interested, there’s an explanation here.

The Wizarding World

Like many creatures in the wizarding world, Fluffy is based off of a mythological beast – in this case, a specific creature from Greek mythology. The three-headed dog in Greek mythology was named Cerberus, and there are a couple of interesting parallels that Rowling played with when drawing up Fluffy. One is that Cerberus was responsible for guarding the underworld, not unlike Fluffy, who has been charged with guarding this underground labyrinth of sorts that leads to the Philosopher’s Stone. Another fun thing about him? When Harry asks Hagrid where Fluffy came from, Hagrid explains that he “bought him off a Greek chappie [he] met at the pub.” Any bets on whether the Greek chappie was named Hades?

Life at Hogwarts

After the first-years finish their exams, Ron exclaims that they have “a week before we find out how badly we’ve done.” Really? A week of just sitting around Hogwarts after the exams? But in subsequent years this will begin to make a bit more sense: students add more classes beginning in their third years (so would take longer for exams), and fifth year O.W.L.s and seventh-year N.E.W.T.s are far, far more involved than regular exams. So the youngest students are probably the only ones done. Can’t you just imagine how obnoxious they get around the common rooms when older students are still trying to study?

81 Responses to “Through the Trapdoor”

  1. I heard of this site on Pottercats and thought it sounded cool, and I am not disappointed! This is amazing, and I’m really impressed with how much work you’ve put into this. I also love your commentary, you bring up some really good points. For example, I never thought about the exam thing you’ve mentioned here. I eagerly await more!

  2. “Hermione seized a roll of paper lying next to the bottles.” Hm, I was under the impression that wizards used parchment instead of paper. Or are there other times when paper is mentioned? This is the first time I’ve noticed it.

  3. Kim, I’d never noticed this either, or thought to look it up. I’m looking at it now, though, and it looks like generally speaking, ‘paper’ is used to describe either a newspaper or a scrap of paper (like the one Hermione gets Lockhart’s signature on for the Restricted Section, or the one with the instructions for finding Grimmauld Place), while ‘parchment’ is usually used for the bigger stuff. There are a few instances where ‘paper’ is used, though, including this one, Lockhart’s first-day-of-class test in CS, the O.W.L. exam papers (both James/Sirius/Snape’s and Harry’s own are described as ‘papers’), and a few others. So I’d say the words are probably more or less interchangeable, though if you can find a sinister connection between those events I’d be happy to expound on the theory. ;)

  4. One thing I do find hard to reconcile is the paper is just left there in the first place. If the idea is to keep Quirrell/Voldemort out, why would the clues be there?

  5. Great site, really enjoying it!
    I’ve never really understood why it was so easy for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to get to the Stone, though. Dumbledore and the other teachers did their best in protecting the Stone, and then three 11-year olds managed to get through? I agree with Pam, why leave the clues? Why even leave the right potion? The whole protection seems more like an interesting challenge than something that would actually stop a grown-up witch or wizard, not to mention Voldemort…

  6. Hey Alex, thanks for your comment! I actually wrote an essay on this site that addresses your question:

  7. When I read the book, I tried to solve the puzzle, then was disappointed to realize that you needed the sizes of the bottles. I wish JKR would have let the readers solve the puzzle.
    I do question the security of the Philosopher’s Stone. Why not just make a spell that repels all but Dumbledore? It couldn’t be that hard.
    I love NicoPony’s Devil’s Snare drawing, by the way. :)

  8. love the way Keith James’ invisibility cloak drapes over Hermione. And Glockgal’s Ron really captures his bravery as he stands there bracing himself for what he knows will be a brutal blow. (WB really disappoints in their depiction of Ron, though Rupert Grint does a great job)

  9. You’re right, woadisme! The ‘real’ Ron is more loudmouthed and funny, in my opinion. Whereas they make Rupert Grint seem bumbling and overall just a sidekick.

  10. “Why not just make a spell that repels all but Dumbledore? It couldn’t be that hard.” – Mickey

    I shouldn’t think that’s possible. Jo has talked about how important it is to decide what magic can’t do. Like there are rules as to why you can’t conjure money and food and anything else you might desire. Likewise I should think there are rules as to why you can’t make a place impenetrable to all but any one person. I shouldn’t think the Ministry would allow it for a start – the Aurors would never be able to find any Dark Wizard’s hiding place… ever. It’s one of those things that, in terms of storytelling, has to be impossible otherwise the wizarding world wouldn’t work.

    “I’ve never really understood why it was so easy for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to get to the Stone, though. Dumbledore and the other teachers did their best in protecting the Stone, and then three 11-year olds managed to get through? I agree with Pam, why leave the clues? Why even leave the right potion? The whole protection seems more like an interesting challenge than something that would actually stop a grown-up witch or wizard, not to mention Voldemort…” – Alex

    It was so easy because there were three of them. Jo’s talked before, and it might even have been in HBP, about the difference between the way Harry operates and the way Voldemort opperates. Voldemort works alone, has to because he can’t really trust the people he recruits. If Harry had gone alone like he originally intended he would have been instantly overpowered by the Devil’s Snare and that would have been it. The trio used Hermione’s academic knowledge and logic, Harry’s seeker skills and Ron’s chess skills. How many individual wizards are going to have all those skills themselves? Voldemort and Quirrell had to find out how to do it all before they even attempted it. And I should think the reason why the puzzle had to be solvable is in case Dumbledore or Flamel wanted to remove it.

    One odd thing I noticed though – Gryffindor tower is on the seventh floor, and yet the trio climbed UPstairs to get to the third floor corridor. Whoops!

  11. Actually, I’ve just re-thought it and realised that there is a spell to stop anyone except Dumbledore entering – the Fideleus Charm. But maybe you can’t do that on one chamber, maybe it has to be an entire building.

  12. The Fidelius Charm is the first thing that came to mind, but I think the reason it wasn’t appropriate is that it protects people, not things.
    If that’s the case, I guess the Charm protecting Grimmauld Place was protecting the Order, as an entity, rather than the house. The Order members were safe as long as they were in the house and not outside… Just like the Potters would have been unprotected if they took a stroll around Godric’s Hollow.

  13. It was Snape’s riddle that always annoyed me the most, as some of it just never made sense to me.
    What I was always wondering… If the smallest bottle had the potion inside that allowed you to move forward, wouldn’t Quirrel have had to drink it all? Shouldn’t it be empty? Does it just refill itself (It’s magic!)? Is that possible, keeping in mind the first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration? Or does Quirrel simply not need to take the potion thanks to his little friend, making the whole riddle kind of pointless.

  14. There is one thing which has always bugged me about this chapter. If Hagrid told the man who sold him the dragon egg about how to get past Fluffy, why wasn’t the information used right away? Why did Quirrell/Voldemort wait until the end of term to use send DD on a fake journey? Or did DD just use a call from the ministry as a cover story to give Harry time to try to stop the stone from being stolen?

  15. i think the reason it was so easy was because 1. dumbledore was kind of expecting/leading the kids to the stone. Also, I agree that the three of the them made it easier, but also, voldemort would have never gotten to the stone if Harry hadn’t been there. Harry’s presence made it easier,because he actually got it out of the mirror. quirrell would have never been able to, so all the obstacles were just extra protection. I’ve read this earlier, but I can’t cite where (soo many HP articles!), sorry!

  16. Logan, I love what you said about the smallest bottle refilling itself. You’re right that Quirrell went through already, and therefore it follows that the bottle must have refilled itself. But why enchant it to refill itself? Clearly Snape (or Dumbledore) must have intended a second person to go through that door….

    Pam, I always assumed that Quirrell has been working out how to get past the enchantments over time. He may have known how to get past Fluffy ages ago, but some other obstacle was holding him up – and then once he figured them all out, he was the one to send the owl to Dumbledore to buy himself time to deal with the mirror.

  17. In regard to the smallest bottle, could it have been made to refill itself so, if Dumbledore got wind that someone might be going after the stone, he could still get through to stop the person?

    My theory when I read the book was that Voldemort instructed Quirrell to not drink the entire thing in the hopes that Harry would come in after them—he might have wanted to kill him, or maybe even thought that he might be useful in getting the stone (which he was).

  18. Well, Quirrell was also in on the whole set up of obsticales from the beginning, he used the troll remember. So is stands to reason he did know how to get past them.

  19. It was so easy for the kids to get through the obstacles because Dumbledore intended Harry to try to get through them.

    Plain and simple.

    After all, why did he instruct Harry on how the mirror works? Why did he leave the real key to the door flying around, instead of keeping it with him? Why was there even a riddle written, explaining which potion to pick? Yes, by leaving all these clues, Dumbledore opened up the possibility that Voldemort could get to the stone. However, he also opened up the possibility that Harry could get to the stone, if he so wanted to. He just wanted to find out if Harry wanted to.

  20. Jane, I can think of one other possible explanation to answer your questions (one I’ve seen posed elsewhere), which is that it was all set up to lure Quirrell/Voldemort into a trap. It was set up so that he could get in, but not out, so that Dumbledore could get after him. And the Mirror of Erised was the only real protection the Stone needed; Dumbledore knew that Quirrell would never be able to get the Stone out of the Mirror. After all, while the challenges seem to cater to Harry and his friends’ abilities, we don’t know much about Quirrell – he may have been a Seeker, too.

    However, I agree with your conclusion and not this one, for other reasons. I devoted a little more space to the ideas here:

  21. i can see how DD would see the humor in setting up some elaborate (and easy) obstacle that voldie/quirrell can get past only to be stumped at the mirror of erised. it would be a great way to trap him long enough for DD to meet him in a duel. however, as great as it was that DD revealed the properties of the mirror to harry, it seemed to have almost backfired on him since the closest voldie/quirrell could have ever gotten the stone was when it ended up in harry’s pocket. i agree that DD had wanted harry to be tested, to see how far he would go to keep voldie from returning. maybe DD needed to see how much the chosen one would be able to handle if he was going to spend the next five years preparing him to face his enemy. it also seems so fitting that harry would also recieve his father’s invisibility cloak in his first year when any other authoritative figure would wait until he was more mature and old enough to be using it. DD knew exactly what he was doing.

  22. Kayno, I think it’s clear that the obstacles were not for Quirrell. Like any other adult wizard, he could get through all but the last without much trouble. They were for Harry, who was too young to reach the Mirror without guidance and his friends, but could nevertheless “win his spurs” by making the effort. The riddle is a dead give-away that the obstacles were supposed to be defeated (although I hadn’t notcied the key – nice catch!). Only the Mirror plays any real role in protecting the Stone.

    The Stone only falls into danger when it lands in Harry’s pocket. It wasn’t at risk inside the Mirror. Of course, DD expected to be at hand to rescue Harry if possible. But he knew Harry couldn’t die, so he wasn’t seriously worried.

    I once read a great theory pre-HBP that the seven potions bottles represent the seven DADA teachers. I have no idea whose idea it was, but it’s easy enough to see in retrospect that this is correct. Three of the DADA teachers were killers; two were fools; one connected Harry “backwards” (with his past); and one helped him forwards to his final destiny.

    The seven chambers also represent the seven Harry Potter books. Again, not my theory; more likely a folk wisdom than any one person’s idea.

    1. Fluffy = his three heads represent the Trio, and his role as the guardian of eternal life sets the death-theme of the whole series. (Incidentally, Orpheus was able to lull Cerberus by playing music.)

    2. Devil’s Snare = the herbological theme of CoS.

    3. Flying Keys = the “flight” and “disguise” themes of PoA.

    4. Chessboard of Doom = the “game” of the Triwizard tournament.

    5. Dead Troll = stagnation of OotP, in which Harry is forced to be passive. The fact that someone has to wrestle the troll may be a reference to the D.A.

    6. Potions = the potions theme of HBP, which is a very “watery” book. (CoS is “earthy” and PoA is “airy”.)

    7. Mirror = we come face to face with reality; this is the place where evil is actually defeated.

  23. First Comment:

    I just have to say, firstly, that this site is AMAZING! As an HP fan, I like a new outlet for me to be able to geek out.

    So, I an glad that somebody (Grace has Victory) finally made the last connection between Fluffy and Cerberus. That is that both were placated by the playing of music, although there is room for argument that the random flute playings of a few eleven year old children are nothing compared to the unearthly melodies played by Orpheus in lament of his beloved Euridice, though, the Trio’s mission was a far nobler one than that of Orpheus. ;)

    I digress.

    Thanks for the site.

  24. Kayno, now I come to think of it, the only puzzle is why Quirrel thought the obstacles might have been for him. They were far too easy – he must have known that DD knew that they weren’t intended to keep Quirrell out.

    It seems that Quirrell intended all along to lure Harry after him. If he couldn’t work out how to extract the Stone, then Harry would, after which Voldemort would kill Harry. (Quirrell didn’t know that Harry couldn’t be killed.)

    So the only mystery is: Why did Quirrell assume Dumbledore was so stupid? Did he think Dumbledore was setting up such easy obstacles because he couldn’t think of any harder ones? Or did he recognise that Dumbledore intended to tempt some student to look for the Stone, and wonder what on earth Dumbledore was playing at?

    It is a somewhat unexplained case of villains underestimating heroes because the plot requires it.

  25. I’ve always been a believer that Dumbledore set up the chambers exactly for Harry, Hermione, and Ron to get through because he wanted Harry to “step up to the plate” so to speak. He wanted to see if he had what it takes to stand up to Voldemort and face him in the end (otherwise, why leave the cloak for him with the mysterious note attached?). As for the chambers that fit for Ron and Hermione, he obviously saw that these three were becoming a “Golden Trio,” much like James and his own pals (though that was obviously more than three). He obviously knew very early on that nothing was gonna separate three, and that they would ultimately be extremely involved in Harry’s destiny. As for the Mirror, I think Dumbledore knew that if Harry didn’t end up trying to stop him, Quirrell couldn’t get the Stone out and Dumbledore could defeat him. But if Harry did manage to get that far, he knew that Harry would get the Stone out of the mirror, and be able to keep it safe because of his Love Protection. It is dabatable, however, whether Dumbledore knew of this protection beforehand or not. He probably had one of his famous “hunches” that usually turn out to be right, and decided to rely on it.

    As for Grace has Victory’s post, the coincidences between the chambers and the seven books is very interesting to think about, but it seems like a lot of the connections are trying too hard. Such as the “earthy” and the “airy” descriptions. Certain parts of the book can be pulled out, sure, and called elements, but I never got the overall feeling from any of the books that it was focusing heavily on one particular element. Like I said, interesting, but too heavily thought out, like it’s trying too hard to make a connection. I did, however, enjoy the connections between the seven potions and the different DADA teachers! That made much more sense to me, and created a lot of mystified thought of how funny those kind of connections can be made sometimes.

  26. Casey, lots of us believe that the chambers were set up with Harry in mind (I have a whole essay about my view of it here), but the one thing I keep running into problems with is the timing of everything. Sure, broomsticks, chess, and logic obviously make sense for the trio – but wouldn’t the chambers have to have been set up before the school year even began? Or, in other words, before Dumbledore knew that Harry would be friends with Ron and Hermione? (and *long* before he knew they’d be good at chess and logic). The realistic answer is probably that Rowling just wrote the chambers based around her characters, without thinking much about how they were planned. But for our purposes I’m not sure what to think… perhaps just that they were designed to be easy, and the trio got lucky. ;)

  27. That’s true, Mike, but as we saw in The Mirror of Erised, that chamber had obviously not been set up yet. So, this begs the question, how many of the chambers had been set-up as the year went on, and how many had been there from the beginning? I think we can safely assume that Fluffy had been there since before the start of the year, and possibly the Devil’s Snare and the Mountain Troll, but isn’t it also possible that along with the Mirror, the others had not been set-up yet either? Or perhaps they were there, yet were different challenges? I think any of these possibilities are certainly plausible, given the world that they live in.

  28. But what I still don’t understand is: What was Quirrell supposed to think? Dumbledore was obviously luring some students down after the stone, but what did the other teachers think of that trick? Surely Quirrell/Voldemort had some big questions about why Dumbledore was tempting students?

  29. I don’t think Voldemort was aware of what Dumbledore was doing at all, Grace. I think his sights were set on the Stone, and only the Stone. I don’t think while trying to figure out how to get past the chambers, Quirrell/Voldemort stopped and thought “huh, I wonder why Dumbledore did this challenge?” I think they were just completely focused on getting past them and getting to the Stone. Voldemort rarely ever sees past his own goals. He’s very blinded that way.

  30. As for the other teachers, I don’t think any of them questioned him. I think McGonagall and Snape might be the only teachers that Dumbledore ever let in on some of his secrets regarding Harry, and I think most of the time they just went along with it, because it’s Dumbledore. He’s always been able to put the pieces together better than anyone, so they follow him. I mean it’s the same question of why they follow him as the leader of the Order. Because he knows things. And they trust him. It’s as simple as that.

  31. Two thoughts:
    1. The Lexicon link you provided, Josie (thanks a million, by the way) does indeed show how awesome JKR’s understanding of logic is (not to mention her creative skill), and two things follow for me from this: firstly, it gives extra creedence to the idea of Hermione as Jo’s author avatar, and secondly, I have encountered people who believe they can solve the riddle just from the book, and thus may get it, as the Lexicon article proves, demonstrably wrong. I hope that if they’re ever trapped in a Potion Riddle room, they have JKR with them. I’m also glad I wasn’t in one when I got it wrong last week. JKR’s logical skills are thus accurately describable as superior, as well as per se awesome.
    2. Once Hermione has gone back through the purple flames, Harry should be able to work out (eventually) exactly which bottle is which. If he were a little older and needed to psych himself up to go forward, there are two wine bottles readily available and identifiable.

  32. P.S. Josie, did you get your exam results back really fast in sixth grade (sixth grade is Harry’s age here right?) then? I seem to remember that when I took Y7 (same year) exams in England in 2000, I had to wait a week for those results.

  33. rtozier, sixth grade is right. As far as exam results go, I don’t think I was reacting to the amount of time they took so much as the fact that the students were sitting around the school for a week with nothing to do. If the exams take a week to grade, that’s fine (though it seems silly, given that they can be done with magic); but why not send the kids home and then send the results by owl? Any teacher will tell you that kids with nothing to do for that amount of time are going to cause some serious problems….

  34. The Gryffindor common room is on the seventh floor yet it says “They didn’t meet anyone else until they reached the staircase up to the third floor” (S.S. pg. 274). So they must have walked down the second floor, then to the third floor. You may think that it was a mistake by J.K., but observe this from the The Midnight Duel. “At every turn Harry expected to run into Filch or Mrs. Norris, but they were lucky. The sped up a staircase to the third floor and tiptoed to the trophy room” (S.S. 157). They started out at Gryffindor common room again so they must have walked down to the second floor first.
    So is it possible the the third floor can only be accessed from below?

    As for Dumbledore not knowing that Harry would be friends with Ron or Hermione, perhaps Fluffy was the only protection for a while since Quirrell didn’t know how to get passed anyway. As the plot progressed Dumbledore saw who Harry was spending time with and created rooms accordingly and Quirrell was also making progress on getting passed Fluffy so it worked out.

  35. Timbus Christ: An interesting observation about the third floor. I have something to add to your theory about when the protections were added: Harry encounters the Mirror of Erised in the eponymous chapter, Chapter 12. It is shortly thereafter moved to a new location. This shows that at the very least, the final safeguard wasn’t put in place until after HRH had become obvious friends. Perhaps the same is true for the rest of them.

  36. Hmmm, very interesting. Is it possible that the Devil’s Snare was put in place after Hermione used the blue fire on Snape? Not sure about the others though.

  37. It’s been speculated that Dumbledore may make himself “invisible” to and enter the Common Rooms to understand his students more. Perhaps he learned about Ron and Hermione’s strengths for the different chambers protecting the Stone? For instance, he could have seen Ron playing chess at an extremely high level, and saw that Hermione pays attention in all her classes and is has a very logical thought-process.

    The troll must have been put in early, though, because it was set loose at Halloween by Quirrell before Harry and Ron fought it off. We also k ow Fluffy was there early.

  38. Sorry about the bad grammar and everything on that. I typed it on an iPhone haha.

  39. Casey: That doesn’t really make sense because Quirrell didn’t know how to get past Fluffy until Hagrid gets Norbert. And we know Fluffy is guarding because Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville run into to Fluffy in the chapter, The Midnight Duel, which is earlier than Halloween.

  40. I don’t quite understand what you mean by it doesn’t make sense. What doesn’t make sense? I don’t think any of the professors have to get by Fluffy every time they need to get to their chamber and set up their enchantments. That would be ridiculous, because then Quirrell would have known how to get past Fluffy from the get-go. All the teachers would have been informed on how to get past it. Not to mention Quirrell says he released the troll at Halloween when he explains everything in the last chapter, and as you said, Halloween was after The Midnight Duel, where we first see Fluffy. So therefore, all of the teachers must be able to get to their respective chambers without having to get past the other enchantments, but only their chambers, because obviously then Quirrell could have gotten to the Mirror of Erised no problem. Unless, of course, the troll was kept in a separate part of the school at one point, and Quirrell released it from there.

  41. Casey/Timbus Christ: Seems like it has to be two separate trolls, no? That’s the impression I get from reading the way Quirrell talks about them in the next chapter (“I have a special gift with trolls — you must have seen what I did to the one in the chamber back there?”). Quirrell definitely can’t have the ability to access his chamber without getting past Fluffy first, or he wouldn’t have needed to get past Fluffy.

  42. Josie, your theory is good, but there’s a glaring flaw I see in the fact that Quirrell can’t enter his chamber. If he can’t enter his chamber at all, then how does he set up his chamber in the first place? I doubt that the professors just tell Dumbledore what they want to do, and then he does it instead of them. There must be some way for them to get in to set it up in the first place. Probably under the watchful eye of Dumbledore or something, but remember Quirrell has the power of Voldemort’s mind with him. I don’t know, I suppose this could all be flaws in JKR’s plot, as the early books are nearly riddled with them. I do think it’s possible there was more than one troll, though. They were probably together in the chamber, and they never replaced the injured one or something.

  43. Casey, couldn’t they have simply set them up in reverse order? Snape first, then Quirrell, etc., then Fluffy goes in last. Dumbledore can get the Mirror of Erised out over the holidays (and then put it back) because, well, he’s Dumbledore. It’s not as though the challenges are all that hard; they’re really just a ruse designed to let Quirrellmort through and then trap him there, since the Mirror is pretty much failproof. Even Quirrell only seems to have any trouble with Fluffy.

  44. That’s true, but I don’t know, I don’t like the idea that all of these chambers just *happened* to be tests that Harry, Ron, and Hermione could get through together. What are the chances that every single one of them would be something that one of the Trio could get through because of their own skills, before anybody at the school even knew about said skills? Even Dumbledore couldn’t have known which students Harry would take a liking to, so it’s not like he could have watched Ron and Hermione before term started and based some of the chambers on them. It’s just too coincidental, Josie, I’m sorry.

  45. Casey, I don’t see any evidence that the chambers were set up before Harry, Ron and Hermione arrived. The only one we know is in place by Hallowe’en is Fluffy – we know the Mirror of Erised is not. As Josie’s said (I also agree with Josie’s thoughts on setting up the chambers in reverse order – I had the same idea myself), the only necessary protection is the Mirror of Erised – the rest are just a ruse. This means that there is absolutely no need to protect the Stone from Quirrell with anything other than the Mirror – it’s very arguable that the other chambers were only set up at all because Harry, Ron and Hermione might try to combat Quirrell. Timbus Christ on Devil’s Snare – very possibly. I like it.

  46. Casey, I’m not quite sure what you are tryin to argue. We know for sure that Fluffy was there before Halloween, and we also know the Stone was being kept safe at Hogwarts starting the day Harry went to Gringotts. So something must have been guarding the Stone then and my guess is that it was only Fluffy and maybe the Mirror. I doubt that any of the other rooms with set in place because they all seem to mirror things that happened to the trio over the course of the year. The question is when were the other ones were put in place and how.

  47. What you’re trying to argue, Timbus Christ, is the exact same thing I’m trying to argue. For some reason, something is getting lost in translation. I don’t see how the chambers could be set-up in reverse order if we know Fluffy was set-up by The Midnight Duel. By that time, Harry and Ron had not become great friends with Hermione, and as far as we know, Ron wasn’t showing off his exceptional chess skill by then. I don’t think all of the chambers were set up so early, because as Timbus Christ said, the chambers all have something to do with the Trio, and their abilities had not really been tested in school at this point. Perhaps Hermione’s had, but there’s no way Dumbledore or anyone could know beforehand that Hermione would become a part of the Trio (unless there was some Prophecy made, of course, which I highly doubt). If you need further clarification about what I’m trying to argue, the general idea is that I think the chambers were set-up throughout the year as Dumbledore witnessed the Trio come together and show their strengths, that the teachers set those chambers up themselves (if only under the supervision of Dumbledore), and that they were not, in fact, set-up in reverse order early on. Does this help at all?

  48. Yeah, they could still be set up in reverse order with Fluffy gaurding the entrance. Nobody knew how to get passed Fluffy until Norbert and that gave Dumbledore plenty of time to set everything up. It would also make sense if Dumbldore was in the room when each professor was setting up their “task”. But I’m still very skeptical on that part

  49. But Timbus, this whole conversation started because Quirrell didn’t know how to get past Fluffy, so how did professors set up their chambers if they couldn’t get past him? My idea was that the professors had a way of setting up their chambers without having to get past Fluffy, under the watchful eye of Dumbledore (who is the one that probably got them to their chamber without going by Fluffy in the first place). This is when my idea started to get disputed. I don’t think Dumbledore is the one that set up the chambers. That would ruin the mystique of having each professor set up a defense, wouldn’t you agree?

  50. Hmm, I see. I guess I’ve been assuming Dumbledore could access them without getting past Fluffy. All the chambers are in the dungeons so maybe there is some magic way to enter one but without being able to go to the next. Though that sounds kinda wrong.

  51. Timbus Christ, I think you just inadvertently answered the question. The only chamber that isn’t in the dungeons in Fluffy (it’s in the third floor corridor, and then they drop into the dungeons). This would certainly create a way to get to the other chambers somehow without needing to get past Fluffy, and would create a way to set up the chambers in reverse order (or possibly in correct order) at any time they wished. This would also explain Quirrell’s increasing desperation to grt past Fluffy as the year went on, as more and more protections got set up. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this! Great discussion everyone! =D

  52. Is* and get* sorry everyone. Touch screen keyboard typing at it’s worst.

  53. I’m still not convinced. If one could access each chamber in the dungeons, what’s preventing Quirrell from just bypassing all the chambers and starting in the room where the Mirror is?

  54. Well, that’s just a hole, isn’t it? I mean, no matter how you look at it, you ask yourself why, if Quirrell set up his own chamber, couldn’t he just go onto the other chambers? There seems to be two areas of thought here. Either Dumbledore set up the protections himself, or the professors did it with him watching or something. Personally, I don’t like to think Dumbledore did everything. It doesn’t allow for the mystique that almost every professor had a hand in the protection of the Stone. And just telling Dumbledore their ideas isn’t enough for me. But everyone has an opinion, and I think this way allows for either, based on your own feelings about it.

  55. I refuse to accept there is a plot hole and it definitely wasn’t only Dumbledore cause Percy says something like “my brother got passed McGonagall’s chess set.” (How did Percy know it was McGonagall’s?) so something else is afoot. I’ll have to ponder this a little more… I extremely bored at work right now so this discussion is keeping me sane.

  56. I can’t decide how I feel about this. On the one hand, it doesn’t make any sense to me that all of the protective enchantments wouldn’t have been in place from day one. If Dumbledore’s going to make a show about all these fake protections, wouldn’t he do it from the get-go? On the other hand, broom-flying, logic, chess, and a troll just seems *too* big of a coincidence.

    I will say that a plot hole in the Harry Potter series is not unprecedented. Rowling does very well, but she’s human and there are certainly mistakes of this magnitude. The existence of Apparition causes about twelve big plot holes all by itself when wizards don’t use it in obvious situations.

    But the only solution that really makes sense to me in this case is that the protection started out as simply Fluffy and the Mirror. Then, midway through the year, Dumbledore makes a big show of needing more protection for whatever reason, asks the teachers to chip in, tells them exactly what he wants so they don’t get suspicious of how easy the whole thing is (or maybe he simply tells Snape, McGonagall, etc. that he’s trying to trap Quirrell in there), and then has Hagrid move Fluffy into an adjacent room for a while as the teachers do their thing. I don’t know. The whole thing is really weird no matter how you look at it.

  57. It is very weird, but I do believe there is a solution. J.K. had said on multiple occasions how she hated loop holes in plots when she was a young reader and I really trust that she’s delivered a watertight story. Without faith in the author, the story can’t ever take flight.

    Anyway, do we think the troll that was set loose on Halloween was the same one that Quirrell knocked out at the end? He said it was in the dungeons, but where is the bathroom where Hermione was. I don’t have the book in front of me.

  58. Timbus, J.K. may have said that, but there’s no denying that there are holes in the earlier books. Just check out all the comments for them and all of the discussions. It becomes evident that Jo overlooked some things in her writing. But I don’t think that means people will like it less. She’s not perfect, nobody is.

    And I don’t have my book with me right now either, but I’m almost positive that bathroom is in the dungeons as well. I could be wrong, though, and relying too much on the film of the book. I always thought it was the same troll, but it’s possible there was more than one. This also coincides with the location of the chambers, since the troll was released in the dungeon and that’s where the chambers are. I never thought of that before. Dumbledore must have known what was going on the minute Quirrell ran into the Great Hall and told him about the troll.

  59. On the night that Quirrell lets the troll in, he goes up to the third floor to try to get past Fluffy and Snape goes there to head him off, which means that the chambers are, on the night of Hallowe’en, already on the third floor – at least Fluffy is. Which raises the question: does anyone but Dumbledore know the Stone is in the Mirror? Why would Snape bother trying to head Quirrell off if he, Snape, knew Quirrell was chasing a decoy? I lend my support to the two-trolls theory, as it’s what I’ve always believed, for Josie’s reasons. As for plot holes, my solution? Eliminate them yourself by coming up with explanations. If there’s a direct contradiction anywhere in the books that makes this impossible, I’m not aware of it.


  60. Hi, firstly I never thought Dumbledore knew that it was Quirrell who was trying to get the stone. Secondly is it possible Dumbledore made a temporary door to the dungeons? And took a teacher one by one down there to set them up backwards? And then after made the sort disappear or hidden or something like that. Then they wouldn’t have had to get past Fluffy and neither one would know what previous teachers tasks were. I would like to thinly they were all set up before school started, it seems like a lot of hard work to add them through the year, but as already said I agree its too Mich of a coincidence that they related so well to the 3. Lastly as for the troll, there was 2 different ones because in the book it says ‘s troll even larger than the one they had tackled’ although not sure where Quirrell would have got him from.

  61. I have an essay that touches on a lot of these things here, for what it’s worth:

    It doesn’t address the question we’ve been discussion, of when specifically the challenges were put in. But Fluffy was on the third floor on the first day of school (remember Dumbledore warning everybody to avoid the corridor at the Welcoming Feast).

  62. LillyPink, Dumbledore definitely had an idea that it was Quirrell doing everything, because remember, in Half Blood Prince, during The Prince’s Tale, he asks Snape to “keep an eye on Quirrell for him”. Why else would he tell him that? But you’re correct about the two trolls, I completely forgot Harry had thought that as they passed it in this chapter. I had the same idea for how they set up the chambers. Some kind of hidden door, or a door that was only available when Dumbledore took them to set the chambers up.

    As for the plot holes, yes, you can always come up with your own explanations. But every once in a while there’s one that comes up where it seems all explanations are illogical. But people can believe what they want to believe, as it is as Dumbledore says “their party” (paraphrase).


  63. Guys, let’s please not take things personally and just discuss the books. Nobody here is trying to attack anyone or single them out.

  64. You can’t prove whether Fluffy was actually guarding the stone at the welcoming feast. Dumbledore only says the third floor is out of bounds “for those who don’t wish to die a very painful death”. For all we know, he could have been telling the student that to give himself time to put up protection. Everyone one who take his word seriously because he’s Dumbledore.

  65. Everyone would take his word seriously*

    my bad.

  66. I suppose, Timbus Christ, but the Midnight Duel is less than two weeks later and Fluffy is there by then. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable assumption to think he was there from the start.

  67. You’re right, Josie, but what if the Stone wasn’t at the third floor at the start but Fluffy was? What if Dumbledore put Fluffy there above a trapdoor leading to an empty chamber, then trapped the Stone in the Mirror and kept the Mirror somewhere else, perhaps bringing it out to teach Harry a lesson? Then he moves the Mirror to the chamber whose entrance Fluffy guards, and has the teachers set up the chambers in reverse order? Quirrell’s chamber is separated from the Mirror’s by Snape’s; thus not only is Snape metaphorically as well as literally between Quirrell and the Stone, it also provides an opportunity for Snape to keep an eye on him, if the chambers are set up in very quick succession.

  68. Okay, I wasn’t confused about this chapter until I came here and read the discussion. I think all that I’m going to say has been discussed but I need to say it to get it clear in my head. I think Dumbledore set up the protection intending the trio to be able to get through it. Simple, or so I thought. He must have added to it as the year went on. Clearly Fluffy has been there since the start of the year. Other protection was added as Dumbledore got to know what the trio was capable of. But that leaves the question of how the teachers added their protection without knowing how to get past Fluffy/the other protection. I don’t know, maybe Dumbledore put them in a deep sleep and woke them when they got to the area they were to protect. I don’t like that idea but can’t come up with a better one.

  69. Oh, sorry, I hadn’t read rtozier’s comment before I posted. I like that idea. So the protection is set up in reverse order so the teachers only know what they’ve done. Perhaps Fluffy was moved whilst the protection was being set up.

    Oh but Quirrell tried to get passed Fluffy at Halloween. This was before the trio was the trio and before Dumbledore knew what they were capable of together. Do you think Quirrell thought he just had to get past Fluffy and he would get the stone? Or perhaps he didn’t even know about Fluffy. He knew the third floor was out of bounds so assumed that was where the stone was. On Halloween he went to have a look to assess the protection.

    To be honest I think that JKR intended the protection to be set up before the start of the year. It would seem stupid to have the stone there without much protection (even if it was just to delay the thief). She also made it so the trio was able to get through. I like to think Dumbledore had set it up so they could but maybe the trio were just lucky. So the teachers did their bit before term started and the trio just happened to be able to get through.

  70. Ok, I went to sleep thinking about this and came up with a solution that I was happy with. What if Dumbledore got all the teachers to do their own protection before school starts i.e. as soon as the stone arrived at Hogwarts. They did it in reverse order so none of the teachers knew what the others had done. Then as Dumbledore gets to know what the trio are capable of he gets the teachers to alter their protection to suit the trio. He makes up an excuse that he thinks the thief has found out what some of the protection is and advises the teachers what to change it to. By this point he basically knows it’s Quirrell so doesn’t ask him to change his. After all there is a big chance that when Quirrell goes through the trapdoor he’ll leave the troll knocked out. If not the trio have defeated one before so could do again. Since he suspects Quirrell and trusts the other teachers it doesn’t matter that they see what the other protection is. Or he could still do it in reverse order so the tasks they pass are the old ones. That’s my theory anyway.

  71. Amy, I like some of your ideas, but I do think that the Mirror would be sufficient protection against Quirrell – he wanted to use the Stone, so, according to what Dumbledore says in Ch17, he should be unable to get it. As for Fluffy, perhaps it was either a way to convince Quirrell that Dumbledore needed more mundane protection of the Stone, hence that Quirrell might think he stood a better chance than he did of reaching it, or Fluffy was a way to prove once and for all that Quirrell was in league with Voldemort, by telling everyone where the suddenly forbidden and dangerous area was and waiting for him to make his move.

  72. There IS substantial evidence scattered throughout the series that Dumbledore orchestrated the obstacles, specifically, for the trio. After all, he is like the “man behind the scenes” – quite the manipulator of almost the whole plot. Josie’s essay is an excellent one and it further reinforced my beliefs regarding Dumbledore’s huge contribution in the way Harry’s life turned out.

    Anyone noticed that Dumbledore didn’t Apparate to the Ministry in this chapter? After all, he left while the sun was still shining and arrived back at Hogwarts at nightfall. My guess is that he must have been quite fed up by Fudge at this moment, and opted to travel via slower means. Of course, we later found out that the note was only a false lure by Quirrell. And Quirrell must have known that Dumbledore’s trip to the Ministry would take all day; in short, he knows DD wouldn’t use Apparition. Question is: how did he know?

  73. In regards to the small bottle with the potion to send the person forward, I had always thought the bottle was filled up more and Quirrel had simply drank more with a little left over. I may be wrong, but that is how I always saw it.

  74. Love the new artwork here! And I’d like to jump in on the debate. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think the obstacles were custom-made for the Trio. I think they were just specifically designed to need several sets of skills, so no one would try it alone. They’re actually a good set of obstacles – you need someone logical, a chess player, and a good flyer. I don’t think the Trio has a monopoly on these attributes in Hogwarts. This would just ensure that Harry wouldn’t be alone and wouldn’t fail in the first few tasks. It seems clear to me that the obstacles were all set up before the schoolyear began, in reverse order.

    Also, if I can veer off in another direction, I think the chess match does actually reflect the series, just not in the way we expected. Ron is represented by Dumbledore, who sacrifices himself to the white queen (Snape, who is Voldy’s right-hand DE at this point) so that Harry can defeat Voldemort.

  75. Good going. Am I the only one who was itching to find out what would happen if you offered Fluffy drugged honey cakes (á la Aeneas) rather than play him music (á la Orpheus)?
    OK, I probably am.
    Also, just a point, but the riddle doesn’t work in the films. Could just be the camera angle, though.

  76. these pictures are gr8. i love them. now you can see how the readers see these characters, not the actors. But, i would LOVE to see a new picture of malfoy,

  77. I just finished reading the books for the first time. I just noticed that in this chapter in the first book, Ron yells at Hermione, “are you a witch or what?” during the Devil’s Snare incident. Since it’s fresh in my mind, I remember that towards the end of the last book, Ron wishes Crookshanks was around to get into the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack, and Hermione yells at him, “are you a wizard or what?”

    I don’t know if it was common in the series and I only noticed those two incidences, but I really like the idea of it just being in the first and last books, and reversing the characters – especially given the dynamic between Ron and Hermione specifically.

  78. Completely disregard that last comment. What I mean to say is what of Dumbledore placed the troll in there after it was knocked out on Halloween and Quirrell had no idea? It seems like something he would do, throwing curve balls at people. He obviously knew that Quirrell was good with trolls so why not give him one last chance to execute his “special gift” with them? Just a thought…

  79. Also, it’s very obvious that Dumbledore set up the chambers as they were as a progression that reflected the past year, otherwise there wouldn’t be any humor in the fact the the troll would be knocked out, or when Harry got the the mirror, he wouldn’t know what to expect if he didn’t know he had to wish for the stone, otherwise he would possibly see what he initially desired. Dumbledore made sure Harry had “lessons” with the mirror, that way when he put it in the dungeon, Harry would understand how to use it with logic where as Quirrell kept on questioning on how the mirror worked… that alone is proof that Dumbledore progressively set up these chambers to reflect the trio’s first year.

  80. Incidentally, I think that the closing sentences of this chapter make a great cliffhanger. Rowling reveals that the would-be thief isn’t either of the two main suspects (though it turns out later, of course, that the “wasn’t even Voldemort” wasn’t quite correct). Can’t you just see the reader turning the page at once to find out who it is, after that?

  81. About Dumbledore’s lack of Apparition: it does seem to present a plot hole but, in accordance with my earlier point about how to deal with plot holes, I have a solution: perhaps Apparition is actually much less popular than the events of the books make it seem, and the only reason they have an instructor show up to teach it to the 6th years is because it’s available/in case of emergency. Perhaps Apparition lessons are the witcharding world’s compulsory version of helicopter pilot lessons. Another point that occurred as I wrote the above: in a Voldemortless world, would Apparition lessons be conducted in Hogwarts at all?

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