The year-end examinations go off without a hitch, although Harry fears that Voldemort will burst through the door at any second. While he is a guest at Hagrid’s, Harry learns that while drunk and playing cards, Hagrid revealed to Voldemort that anyone can get past the three-headed guard dog, Fluffy, by playing music to him. Harry and his friends rush to find Dumbledore to tell him this news, but they run into McGonagall, who informs them that Dumbledore has been called off to London by the Ministry of Magic. Harry convinces Hermione and Ron that they need to grab the stone that night. As they are heading out, Neville tries to stop them. Hermione immobilizes him with a spell, and they proceed.
When they reach Fluffy, Harry, Hermione, and Ron notice a harp by his feet and realize that someone has already passed by Fluffy. Harry plays a flute he has brought, putting Fluffy to sleep and allowing his gang to go through the trapdoor. They land on some sort of plant with twisting tendrils that wrap around Harry and Ron. Hermione gets out immediately and uses fire from her wand to stave off the plant. Next, they encounter a large locked door in a room full of birds that are actually keys. Harry uses his Quidditch skills to catch the right bird and unlock the door. They then must play a violent game of chess in which each of them is a chess piece. Ron masterfully leads them through the game, but he must allow himself to be captured—and severely beaten—by the opposing queen to win. Harry and Hermione then come upon a series of potions and a logic puzzle. Hermione figures out which potions to drink and then goes back to help Ron and Harry move forward to find the stone.
Harry’s breadth of wisdom is shown when he is forced to choose between obedience and fame on one hand and courage on the other and he opts for the latter. Hermione, who generally likes to follow rules, believes that Harry’s plan to find the Sorcerer’s Stone is crazy. Her fear that he will get expelled reflects her general concern about academic reputation. Harry, on the other hand, cares less about his status at school and more about the seemingly unavoidable battle between good and evil over the Sorcerer’s Stone. In a memorably brave response to Hermione, Harry shouts, “SO WHAT? . . . If Snape gets ahold of the Stone, Voldemort’s coming back! . . . There won’t be any Hogwarts to get expelled from! . . . Losing points doesn’t matter anymore.” Harry is able to see beyond the limits of Hogwarts and glimpse the cosmic dimension of Voldemort’s threats. He sees that the points system that dominates everyone’s thinking in the school is trivial compared to the prospect that Voldemort will unleash evil upon the world. In this respect, Hermione’s book-learning is contrasted with Harry’s practical wisdom. Hermione receives a grade of 112 percent on her final exams and has read every textbook backward and forward, but she lacks Harry’s key ability to view the broader consequences of facts. While Hermione has progressed a great deal, she fails to realize the full implications of the Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry, by contrast, seems wise beyond his years, recognizing that at a certain point the glory and fame that come from being crowned house champions are less important than the battle between good and evil.
The obstacles that Harry, Hermione, and Ron encounter on their quest for the Sorcerer’s Stone force each of them to use his or her individual talents and skills. Harry, for example, is an excellent broom-flyer, and his aerial agility enables him to grab the bird key that unlocks the door for them. Ron is a good chess player, and he willingly sacrifices his own body to win, allowing Harry and Hermione to advance. Hermione is an expert in logic, and she successfully picks out the right bottle for Harry so that he can advance toward the stone while she goes back to help Ron. Rowling thus emphasizes the importance of teamwork over individual accomplishment.