|Two drinks of chcolate-infused red wine with melted vanilla gelato.|
And one frothy, creamy drink for the little house elf.
|Serve with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and enjoy!|
Two chapters, back to back, like night and day. One full of intrigue and humor, the other with profundity and emotion. That's Chapters 11 and 12 in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
If we didn't get the explanation of quidditch in previous chapters, we are allowed to witness a game. And in typical Rowling efficiency, several things are accomplished. Hermione shows her mettle and saves her friend; Dean is the Muggle representative rallying behind ordinary soccer/football; if we ever doubted it before it becomes clear that someone has a death wish out on Harry; and Snape looks suspect in it all once again.
But the "Mirror of Erised" outdoes everything that has come before. Without this substance, one could argue Harry Potter is only a pretty, action-filled, clever and creative adventure. And I'm not talking about the fact that Harry sees his parents and loving family, his heart's truest desire. (Spell out "desire" backward.) It's the conversation with Dumbledore on the third night of Harry's visit to the mirror.
|Catherine Ann Hiley, Walking Tree, source|
Rowling does well to place moments of great significance in sync with the yearly cycle, lending them a sort of natural impact, like gravity--whether readers are conscious of it or not. Harry officially receives his invitation to Hogwarts on his birthday, he bonds with Hermione and Ron over the troll on Halloween, and he first discovers the Mirror of Erised on Christmas evening.
It is Harry's first personal, one-on-one conversation with Dumbledore, and it happens in a very vulnerable moment for young Harry, in the sort of privacy only a haunted castle in the dead of night can give. Dumbledore speaks to Harry without introduction (of course, we know that he has known Harry all his life, but Harry doesn't). Harry is an innocent. It suits his personality, the way he has handled the enormous challenges and changes in his life, and also serves not to distract from the bittersweet impact of seeing his parents.
|Catherine Anne Hiley, Erised, source|
Harry recognizes that he could sit in this fabricated, temporal heaven for the rest of his life if he wanted. So absorbed is he in his desire, he doesn't notice that Professor Dumbledore had been sitting there all the while. The passage merits quoting in full,, with all the meaningful phrases that reached out to me bolded obnoxiously by yours truly:
"I--I didn't see you, sir."
"Strange how nearsighted being invisible can make you," said Dumbledore, and Harry was relieved to see that he was smiling.
"So," said Dumbledore, slipping off the desk to sit on the floor with Harry, "you, like hundreds before you, have discovered the delights of the Mirrors of Erised."
"I didn't know it was called that, sir."
"But I expect you've realized by now what it does?"
"It--well--it shows me my family--"
"And it showed your friend Ron himself as head boy."
"How did you know--?"
"I don't need a cloak to become invisible," said Dumbledore gently. "Now, can you think what the mirror of Erised shows us all?"
Harry shook his head.
"Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is. Does that help?"
Harry thought. Then he said slowly, "It shows us what we want . . . whatever we want . . ."
"Yes and no," said Dumbledore quietly. "It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them. However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible."
"The Mirror will be moved to a new home tomorrow, Harry, and I ask you not to go looking for it again. If you ever do run across it, you will now be prepared. It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. Now, why don't you put that admirable cloak back on and get off to bed?"
Now, for an examination of the bold phrases:
Strange how nearsighted being invisible can make you.
I don't have any specific plot-moments at this point that directly relate to this, but it's arresting. I'm going to hold onto that sentence for future books. It's too profound not to be meaningful.
I don't need a cloak to become invisible.
A forward statement, probably the closest we've come so far to Dumbledore revealing anything about himself. It's so vague and avoids commitment, which in and of itself tells us much about him. But it also confirms my earlier instinct that there is much about Dumbledore that remains unknown. And the juxtaposition of this revelation with his lighthearted and pleasant reply to Harry's question about what he sees in the mirror--a pair of woolen socks! Dumbledore might be one of the best characters I've ever met.
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
I suspect everybody gets wrapped up in their hearts' desires from time to time. But the danger lies in sacrificing or neglecting the good we do have to a potential or a might-have or a might-be.
This mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth.
When I read this sentence, it was a writing-in-the-margins kind of revelation. On a different level, the mirror becomes a metaphor for magic in general, for anything that gives man power over his lot in life and tempts him to discontent: it gives neither truth nor knowledge. Magic is just a tool. It isn't The Answer. It won't heal real wounds like heartbreak and loneliness, and it isn't the answer to the meaning of life or the criteria by which a person's courage, loyalty, and goodness is measured.
The end of this chapter is an encapsulation of one of those experiences that manage to break through the insistent rush and the familiarity-to-the-point-of-staleness that characterize modern being, those moments in which we are touched with clarity, little intrusions of grace. An almost-instant when the clouds clear and we see the Point, or at least a point, and the rest emerges as shallow and fleeting. You can't search for these moments or try to grasp them; that's not how it works. The best you can do is be prepared to recognize one for what it is when it arrives.