Summary: Chapter 12

Your father left this. . . before he died. It is time it was returned to you.

See Important Quotations Explained

Christmas is approaching. Malfoy teases Harry about having to stay at Hogwarts for the holiday as he does not have parents. Harry, however, is looking forward to spending Christmas away from the Dursleys, especially because Ron is also staying at Hogwarts. The day before vacation, Hermione tears Ron and Harry away from a conversation with Hagrid to look in the library for more information about Nicolas Flamel. The librarian catches Harry prowling around the restricted-books section of the library and kicks him out.

On Christmas day, Harry and Ron awaken to presents, though Harry’s are fewer. Harry receives candy and a knitted sweater from Ron’s mother. He also receives an invisibility cloak accompanied only by an anonymous note telling him that the cloak once belonged to Harry’s father. That night, after a satisfying Christmas dinner and after Ron has fallen asleep, Harry tries on his invisibility cloak. Unseen, he is able to go to the library’s restricted-books section. But one of the books starts screaming when he opens it, so he quickly leaves. He passes Filch and hides in an old classroom marked with an inscription that includes the word “Erised.” Inside stands an old mirror. Harry looks in the mirror and sees many people standing behind him, but when he turns around in the room, he sees no one. Suddenly, he recognizes that two of the people in the mirror are his dead mother and father. He tries to speak to them, but they can only communicate by waving. Harry lingers there a while but eventually returns to his room.

The next night, Harry brings Ron with him to the mirror room. Ron does not see Harry’s parents in the mirror, but instead sees himself holding a Quidditch cup. Mrs. Norris, Filch’s prowling cat, notices them. On the third night, Ron is afraid of being caught and does not want to go back, so Harry returns alone. There he finds Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore explains to Harry that the mirror displays the deepest desire of whoever looks into it. Harry is relieved to find that Dumbledore is not angry.

Summary: Chapter 13

Harry heeds Dumbledore’s advice to stop visiting the Mirror of Erised. After Christmas break, Harry, Ron, and Hermione resume their search for Nicolas Flamel, though Harry’s time is increasingly consumed by Quidditch practice. At practice one day, Harry learns that Snape will be refereeing the next game. He and his friends wonder whether Snape might try to harm Harry during the game. As they are talking, Neville hops by; Malfoy has cast a spell on him that has locked his legs together. Harry tells Neville that Neville needs to learn to stand up to Malfoy. Neville turns to leave, but not before giving Harry a Famous Wizard card for his collection. Suddenly Harry remembers where he has seen the name Nicolas Flamel before—on the back of the Albus Dumbledore Famous Wizard card that Ron gave him on the train trip to Hogwarts. Hermione runs to her room to get a book informing them that Flamel, once Dumbledore’s partner, was the only wizard ever to make a Sorcerer’s Stone. They learn that the Sorcerer’s Stone transforms any metal into gold and produces an elixir of everlasting life. Harry and his friends conclude that the fierce dog on the third floor must be guarding Flamel’s stone.

Harry’s nervousness grows as the big Quidditch match approaches. If Gryffindor wins, it will take first place in the house championship. But Harry is concerned about Snape’s evil plans. His fears are allayed when he learns that Dumbledore will be at the game, because Snape would never commit any wrongdoing in front of Dumbledore. In the game, Harry catches the Golden Snitch within the first five minutes, and the crowd roars. Dumbledore congratulates Harry for this astonishing feat. Afterward, Harry notices Snape heading off into the forest. He flies to follow him and hears Snape talking harshly in the forest to Professor Quirrell and mentioning the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Analysis: Chapters 12 & 13

Harry’s discovery of the Mirror of Erised is important both as plot development and as a revelation of Harry’s own character. The mirror room is a taboo zone, and thus once again, Harry’s entry is another violation of the rules. Harry finds the mirror in a room where he is not supposed to be, having just fled from the restricted-books section of the library where he is also not supposed to be. But it is a crucial scene, as it is the room in which the climactic encounter of the story later takes place. It is also the site of the first intimate and friendly conversation between Harry and Dumbledore, foreshadowing Harry’s future successes in fighting for Dumbledore’s side in the coming clash. Symbolically, the Mirror of Erised is a mirror into the soul, because it depicts the heart’s deepest desire (“Erised” is “desire” spelled backward). Harry finds out nothing about the mysterious Nicolas Flamel, but he finds out a lot about his love for his long-dead parents and his wish that they were alive again. Like the invisibility cloak that also appears in this chapter, the Mirror of Erised helps Harry connect his present adventures with the past world of his parents and the fond feelings that dwell in his heart. As it turns out, this understanding of desire is much more important for Harry than the information that any book could convey. The turn from the outer world of library research to the inner world of memories and desires suggests that part of Harry’s search involves an inward investigation of his own self.

Read more about the Mirror of Erised as a symbol.

Harry’s growing intimacy with Dumbledore is an important development. At the beginning, Dumbledore is a rather abstractly presented grand person whom we glimpse from afar when he gives the students a welcome speech the night of their arrival. But when Dumbledore comes upon Harry in the mirror room, the old wizard and the young boy are alone for the first time in the story, conversing privately, and we see a more human side of Dumbledore. There is an increasing sense that Dumbledore cares about Harry as an individual, as there is no mention of him having a private audience with any other Hogwarts student. Even more important, Dumbledore surprises Harry at a very intimate moment of self-exploration, when Harry is examining his soul’s deepest desires. Dumbledore’s explanation of the mirror and gentle advice that Harry not consult it anymore show that the great wizard is a wise psychologist, as well as almost a father figure for Harry.

Read more about the importance of Harry’s meeting with Dumbledore.

Dumbledore continues to be a protective force for Harry. His advice to refrain from looking in the Mirror of Erised stems from his understanding that the mirror’s powerful images might overwhelm the young Harry. In contrast to Snape, who mocks Harry’s celebrity status without hesitation, Dumbledore understands that Harry is a still a little boy with emotional needs. The later revelation that Dumbledore is the one who gives Harry’s father’s invisibility cloak to Harry reinforces his fatherly role. Finally, with Harry’s discovery that the secret of Nicolas Flamel’s identity is actually in his own possession the whole time, in a collector’s card in his pocket that depicts Dumbledore, we feel even more strongly that Dumbledore occupies a very personal and intimate place in Harry’s life.

Read more about the dangers of desire as a theme.