“Weird!” he said, “What a shape! This is money?”
“You can keep it,” said Harry, laughing at how pleased Ron was. “Hagrid and my aunt and uncle — so who sent these?”
“I think I know who that one’s from,” said Ron, turning a bit pink and pointing to a very lumpy parcel. “My mom. I told her you didn’t expect any presents and — oh, no,” he groaned, “she’s made you a Weasley sweater.”
Harry had torn open the parcel to find a thick, hand-knitted sweater in emerald green and a large box of homemade fudge.
“Every year she makes us a sweater,” said Ron, unwrapping his own, “and mine’s always maroon.”
“That’s really nice of her,” said Harry, trying the fudge, which was very tasty.
His next present also contained candy — a large box of Chocolate Frogs from Hermione.
This only left one parcel. Harry picked it up and felt it. It was very light. He unwrapped it.
Something fluid and silvery gray went slithering to the floor where it lay in gleaming folds. Ron gasped.
“I’ve heard of those,” he said in a hushed voice, dropping the box of Every Flavor Beans he’d gotten from Hermione. “If that’s what I think it is — they’re really rare, and really valuable.”
“What is it?”
Harry picked the shining, silvery cloth off the floor. It was strange to the touch, like water woven into material.
“It’s an Invisibility Cloak,” said Ron, a look of awe on his face. “I’m sure it is — try it on.”
Harry threw the cloak around his shoulders and Ron gave a yell.
“It is! Look down!”
Harry looked down at his feet, but they were gone. He dashed to the mirror. Sure enough, his reflection looked back at him, just his head suspended in midair, his body completely invisible. He pulled the cloak over his head and his reflection vanished completely.
“There’s a note!” said Ron suddenly. “A note fell out of it!”
Harry pulled off the cloak and seized the letter. Written in narrow, loopy writing he had never seen before were the following words:
Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you.
Use it well.
A Very Merry Christmas to you.
There was no signature. Harry stared at the note. Ron was admiring the cloak.
“I’d give anything for one of these,” he said. “Anything. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” said Harry. He felt very strange. Who had sent the cloak? Had it really once belonged to his father?
Before he could say or think anything else, the dormitory door was flung open and Fred and George Weasley bounded in. Harry stuffed the cloak quickly out of sight. He didn’t feel like sharing it with anyone else yet.
“Hey, look — Harry’s got a Weasley sweater, too!”
Fred and George were wearing blue sweaters, one with a large yellow F on it, the other a G.
“Harry’s is better than ours, though,” said Fred, holding up Harry’s sweater. “She obviously makes more of an effort if you’re not family.”
“Why aren’t you wearing yours, Ron?” George demanded. “Come on, get it on, they’re lovely and warm.”
“I hate maroon,” Ron moaned halfheartedly as he pulled it over his head.
“You haven’t got a letter on yours,” George observed. “I suppose she thinks you don’t forget your name. But we’re not stupid — we know we’re called Gred and Forge.”
“What’s all this noise?”
Percy Weasley stuck his head through the door, looking disapproving. He had clearly gotten halfway through unwrapping his presents as he, too, carried a lumpy sweater over his arm, which Fred seized.
“P for prefect! Get it on, Percy, come on, we’re all wearing ours, even Harry got one.”
“I — don’t — want —” said Percy thickly, as the twins forced the sweater over his head, knocking his glasses askew.
“And you’re not sitting with the prefects today, either,” said George. “Christmas is a time for family.”
They frog-marched Percy from the room, his arms pinned to his side by his sweater.
Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys; mountains of roast and boiled potatoes; platters of chipolatas; tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce — and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table. These fantastic party favors were nothing like the feeble Muggle ones the Dursleys usually bought, with their little plastic toys and their flimsy paper hats inside. Harry pulled a wizard cracker with Fred and it didn’t just bang, it went off with a blast like a cannon and engulfed them all in a cloud of blue smoke, while from the inside exploded a rear admiral’s hat and several live, white mice. Up at the High Table, Dumbledore had swapped his pointed wizard’s hat for a flowered bonnet, and was chuckling merrily at a joke Professor Flitwick had just read him.
Flaming Christmas puddings followed the turkey. Percy nearly broke his teeth on a silver Sickle embedded in his slice. Harry watched Hagrid getting redder and redder in the face as he called for more wine, finally kissing Professor McGonagall on the cheek, who, to Harry’s amazement, giggled and blushed, her top hat lopsided.
When Harry finally left the table, he was laden down with a stack of things out of the crackers, including a pack of non-explodable, luminous balloons, a Grow-Your-Own-Warts kit, and his own new wizard chess set. The white mice had disappeared and Harry had a nasty feeling they were going to end up as Mrs. Norris’s Christmas dinner.
Harry and the Weasleys spent a happy afternoon having a furious snowball fight on the grounds. Then, cold, wet, and gasping for breath, they returned to the fire in the Gryffindor common room, where Harry broke in his new chess set by losing spectacularly to Ron. He suspected he wouldn’t have lost so badly if Percy hadn’t tried to help him so much.
After a meal of turkey sandwiches, crumpets, trifle, and Christmas cake, everyone felt too full and sleepy to do much before bed except sit and watch Percy chase Fred and George all over Gryffindor Tower because they’d stolen his prefect badge.
It had been Harry’s best Christmas day ever. Yet something had been nagging at the back of his mind all day. Not until he climbed into bed was he free to think about it: the Invisibility Cloak and whoever had sent it.
Ron, full of turkey and cake and with nothing mysterious to bother him, fell asleep almost as soon as he’d drawn the curtains of his four-poster. Harry leaned over the side of his own bed and pulled the cloak out from under it.
His father’s … this had been his father’s. He let the material flow over his hands, smoother than silk, light as air. Use it well, the note had said.
He had to try it, now. He slipped out of bed and wrapped the cloak around himself. Looking down at his legs, he saw only moonlight and shadows. It was a very funny feeling.
Use it well.
Suddenly, Harry felt wide-awake. The whole of Hogwarts was open to him in this cloak. Excitement flooded through him as he stood there in the dark and silence. He could go anywhere in this, anywhere, and Filch would never know.
Ron grunted in his sleep. Should Harry wake him? Something held him back — his father’s cloak — he felt that this time — the first time — he wanted to use it alone.
He crept out of the dormitory, down the stairs, across the common room, and climbed through the portrait hole.
“Who’s there?” squawked the Fat Lady. Harry said nothing. He walked quickly down the corridor.
Where should he go? He stopped, his heart racing, and thought. And then it came to him. The Restricted Section in the library. He’d be able to read as long as he liked, as long as it took to find out who Flamel was. He set off, drawing the Invisibility Cloak tight around him as he walked.
The library was pitch-black and very eerie. Harry lit a lamp to see his way along the rows of books. The lamp looked as if it was floating along in midair, and even though Harry could feel his arm supporting it, the sight gave him the creeps.
The Restricted Section was right at the back of the library. Stepping carefully over the rope that separated these books from the rest of the library, he held up his lamp to read the titles.
They didn’t tell him much. Their peeling, faded gold letters spelled words in languages Harry couldn’t understand. Some had no title at all. One book had a dark stain on it that looked horribly like blood. The hairs on the back of Harry’s neck prickled. Maybe he was imagining it, maybe not, but he thought a faint whispering was coming from the books, as though they knew someone was there who shouldn’t be.
He had to start somewhere. Setting the lamp down carefully on the floor, he looked along the bottom shelf for an interesting-looking book. A large black and silver volume caught his eye. He pulled it out with difficulty, because it was very heavy, and, balancing it on his knee, let it fall open.
A piercing, bloodcurdling shriek split the silence — the book was screaming! Harry snapped it shut, but the shriek went on and on, one high, unbroken, earsplitting note. He stumbled backward and knocked over his lamp, which went out at once. Panicking, he heard footsteps coming down the corridor outside — stuffing the shrieking book back on the shelf, he ran for it. He passed Filch in the doorway; Filch’s pale, wild eyes looked straight through him, and Harry slipped under Filch’s outstretched arm and streaked off up the corridor, the book’s shrieks still ringing in his ears.
He came to a sudden halt in front of a tall suit of armor. He had been so busy getting away from the library, he hadn’t paid attention to where he was going. Perhaps because it was dark, he didn’t recognize where he was at all. There was a suit of armor near the kitchens, he knew, but he must be five floors above there.
“You asked me to come directly to you, Professor, if anyone was wandering around at night, and somebody’s been in the library — Restricted Section.”
Harry felt the blood drain out of his face. Wherever he was, Filch must know a shortcut, because his soft, greasy voice was getting nearer, and to his horror, it was Snape who replied, “The Restricted Section? Well, they can’t be far, we’ll catch them.”
Harry stood rooted to the spot as Filch and Snape came around the corner ahead. They couldn’t see him, of course, but it was a narrow corridor and if they came much nearer they’d knock right into him — the cloak didn’t stop him from being solid.
He backed away as quietly as he could. A door stood ajar to his left. It was his only hope. He squeezed through it, holding his breath, trying not to move it, and to his relief he managed to get inside the room without their noticing anything. They walked straight past, and Harry leaned against the wall, breathing deeply, listening to their footsteps dying away. That had been close, very close. It was a few seconds before he noticed anything about the room he had hidden in.
It looked like an unused classroom. The dark shapes of desks and chairs were piled against the walls, and there was an upturned wastepaper basket — but propped against the wall facing him was something that didn’t look as if it belonged there, something that looked as if someone had just put it there to keep it out of the way.
It was a magnificent mirror, as high as the ceiling, with an ornate gold frame, standing on two clawed feet. There was an inscription carved around the top: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.
His panic fading now that there was no sound of Filch and Snape, Harry moved nearer to the mirror, wanting to look at himself but see no reflection again. He stepped in front of it.
He had to clap his hands to his mouth to stop himself from screaming. He whirled around. His heart was pounding far more furiously than when the book had screamed — for he had seen not only himself in the mirror, but a whole crowd of people standing right behind him.
But the room was empty. Breathing very fast, he turned slowly back to the mirror.
There he was, reflected in it, white and scared-looking, and there, reflected behind him, were at least ten others. Harry looked over his shoulder — but still, no one was there. Or were they all in-visible, too? Was he in fact in a room full of invisible people and this mirrors trick was that it reflected them, invisible or not?
He looked in the mirror again. A woman standing right behind his reflection was smiling at him and waving. He reached out a hand and felt the air behind him. If she was really there, he’d touch her, their reflections were so close together, but he felt only air — she and the others existed only in the mirror.
She was a very pretty woman. She had dark red hair and her eyes — her eyes are just like mine, Harry thought, edging a little closer to the glass. Bright green — exactly the same shape, but then he noticed that she was crying; smiling, but crying at the same time. The tall, thin, black-haired man standing next to her put his arm around her. He wore glasses, and his hair was very untidy. It stuck up at the back, just as Harry’s did.
Harry was so close to the mirror now that his nose was nearly touching that of his reflection.
“Mom?” he whispered. “Dad?”
They just looked at him, smiling. And slowly, Harry looked into the faces of the other people in the mirror, and saw other pairs of green eyes like his, other noses like his, even a little old man who looked as though he had Harry’s knobbly knees — Harry was looking at his family, for the first time in his life.
The Potters smiled and waved at Harry and he stared hungrily back at them, his hands pressed flat against the glass as though he was hoping to fall right through it and reach them. He had a powerful kind of ache inside him, half joy, half terrible sadness.
How long he stood there, he didn’t know. The reflections did not fade and he looked and looked until a distant noise brought him back to his senses. He couldn’t stay here, he had to find his way back to bed. He tore his eyes away from his mother’s face, whispered, “I’ll come back,” and hurried from the room.
“You could have woken me up,” said Ron, crossly.
“You can come tonight, I’m going back, I want to show you the mirror.”
“I’d like to see your mom and dad,” Ron said eagerly.
“And I want to see all your family, all the Weasleys, you’ll be able to show me your other brothers and everyone.”
“You can see them any old time,” said Ron. “Just come round my house this summer. Anyway, maybe it only shows dead people. Shame about not finding Flamel, though. Have some bacon or something, why aren’t you eating anything?”
Harry couldn’t eat. He had seen his parents and would be seeing them again tonight. He had almost forgotten about Flamel. It didn’t seem very important anymore. Who cared what the three-headed dog was guarding? What did it matter if Snape stole it, really?
“Are you all right?” said Ron. “You look odd.”
What Harry feared most was that he might not be able to find the mirror room again. With Ron covered in the cloak, too, they had to walk much more slowly the next night. They tried retracing Harry’s route from the library, wandering around the dark passageways for nearly an hour.
“I’m freezing,” said Ron. “Let’s forget it and go back.”
“No!” Harry hissed. “I know it’s here somewhere.”
They passed the ghost of a tall witch gliding in the opposite direction, but saw no one else. Just as Ron started moaning that his feet were dead with cold, Harry spotted the suit of armor.
“It’s here — just here — yes!”
They pushed the door open. Harry dropped the cloak from around his shoulders and ran to the mirror.
There they were. His mother and father beamed at the sight of him.
“See?” Harry whispered.
“I can’t see anything.”
“Look! Look at them all … there are loads of them. …”
“I can only see you.”
“Look in it properly, go on, stand where I am.”
Harry stepped aside, but with Ron in front of the mirror, he couldn’t see his family anymore, just Ron in his paisley pajamas.
Ron, though, was staring transfixed at his image.
“Look at me!” he said.
“Can you see all your family standing around you?”
“No — I’m alone — but I’m different — I look older — and I’m Head Boy!”
“I am — I’m wearing the badge like Bill used to — and I’m holding the House Cup and the Quidditch Cup — I’m Quidditch captain, too!”
Ron tore his eyes away from this splendid sight to look excitedly at Harry.
“Do you think this mirror shows the future?”
“How can it? All my family are dead — let me have another look —”
“You had it to yourself all last night, give me a bit more time.”
“You’re only holding the Quidditch Cup, what’s interesting about that? I want to see my parents.”
“Don’t push me —”
A sudden noise outside in the corridor put an end to their discussion. They hadn’t realized how loudly they had been talking.
Ron threw the cloak back over them as the luminous eyes of Mrs. Norris came round the door. Ron and Harry stood quite still, both thinking the same thing — did the cloak work on cats? After what seemed an age, she turned and left.
“This isn’t safe — she might have gone for Filch, I bet she heard us. Come on.”
And Ron pulled Harry out of the room.
The snow still hadn’t melted the next morning.
“Want to play chess, Harry?” said Ron.
“Why don’t we go down and visit Hagrid?”
“No … you go …”
“I know what you’re thinking about, Harry, that mirror. Don’t go back tonight.”
“I dunno, I’ve just got a bad feeling about it — and anyway, you’ve had too many close shaves already. Filch, Snape, and Mrs. Norris are wandering around. So what if they can’t see you? What if they walk into you? What if you knock something over?”
“You sound like Hermione.”
“I’m serious, Harry, don’t go.”
But Harry only had one thought in his head, which was to get back in front of the mirror, and Ron wasn’t going to stop him.
That third night he found his way more quickly than before. He was walking so fast he knew he was making more noise than was wise, but he didn’t meet anyone.
And there were his mother and father smiling at him again, and one of his grandfathers nodding happily. Harry sank down to sit on the floor in front of the mirror. There was nothing to stop him from staying here all night with his family. Nothing at all.
“So — back again, Harry?”
Harry felt as though his insides had turned to ice. He looked behind him. Sitting on one of the desks by the wall was none other than Albus Dumbledore. Harry must have walked straight past him, so desperate to get to the mirror he hadn’t noticed him.
“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 Mirror 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 or 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?”
Harry stood up.
“Sir — Professor Dumbledore? Can I ask you something?”
“Obviously, you’ve just done so,” Dumbledore smiled. “You may ask me one more thing, however.”
“What do you see when you look in the mirror?”
“I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks.”
“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
It was only when he was back in bed that it struck Harry that Dumbledore might not have been quite truthful. But then, he thought, as he shoved Scabbers off his pillow, it had been quite a personal question.
Dumbledore had convinced Harry not to go looking for the Mirror of Erised again, and for the rest of the Christmas holidays the Invisibility Cloak stayed folded at the bottom of his trunk. Harry wished he could forget what he’d seen in the mirror as easily, but he couldn’t. He started having nightmares. Over and over again he dreamed about his parents disappearing in a flash of green light, while a high voice cackled with laughter.
“You see, Dumbledore was right, that mirror could drive you mad,” said Ron, when Harry told him about these dreams.
Hermione, who came back the day before term started, took a different view of things. She was torn between horror at the idea of Harry being out of bed, roaming the school three nights in a row (“If Filch had caught you!”), and disappointment that he hadn’t at least found out who Nicolas Flamel was.
They had almost given up hope of ever finding Flamel in a library book, even though Harry was still sure he’d read the name somewhere. Once term had started, they were back to skimming through books for ten minutes during their breaks. Harry had even less time than the other two, because Quidditch practice had started again.
Wood was working the team harder than ever. Even the endless rain that had replaced the snow couldn’t dampen his spirits. The Weasleys complained that Wood was becoming a fanatic, but Harry was on Wood’s side. If they won their next match, against Hufflepuff, they would overtake Slytherin in the House Championship for the first time in seven years. Quite apart from wanting to win, Harry found that he had fewer nightmares when he was tired out after training.
Then, during one particularly wet and muddy practice session, Wood gave the team a bit of bad news. He’d just gotten very angry with the Weasleys, who kept dive-bombing each other and pre-tending to fall off their brooms.
“Will you stop messing around!” he yelled. “That’s exactly the sort of thing that’ll lose us the match! Snape’s refereeing this time, and he’ll be looking for any excuse to knock points off Gryffindor!”
George Weasley really did fall off his broom at these words.
“Snape’s refereeing?” he spluttered through a mouthful of mud. “When’s he ever refereed a Quidditch match? He’s not going to be fair if we might overtake Slytherin.”
The rest of the team landed next to George to complain, too.
“It’s not my fault,” said Wood. “We’ve just got to make sure we play a clean game, so Snape hasn’t got an excuse to pick on us.”
Which was all very well, thought Harry, but he had another reason for not wanting Snape near him while he was playing Quidditch. …
The rest of the team hung back to talk to one another as usual at the end of practice, but Harry headed straight back to the Gryffindor common room, where he found Ron and Hermione playing chess. Chess was the only thing Hermione ever lost at, something Harry and Ron thought was very good for her.
“Don’t talk to me for a moment,” said Ron when Harry sat down next to him, “I need to concen-” He caught sight of Harry’s face. “What’s the matter with you? You look terrible.”
Speaking quietly so that no one else would hear, Harry told the other two about Snape’s sudden, sinister desire to be a Quidditch referee.
“Don’t play,” said Hermione at once.
“Say you’re ill,” said Ron.
“Pretend to break your leg,” Hermione suggested.
“Really break your leg,” said Ron.
“I can’t,” said Harry. “There isn’t a reserve Seeker. If I back out, Gryffindor can’t play at all.”
At that moment Neville toppled into the common room. How he had managed to climb through the portrait hole was anyone’s guess, because his legs had been stuck together with what they recognized at once as the Leg-Locker Curse. He must have had to bunny hop all the way up to Gryffindor Tower.
Everyone fell over laughing except Hermione, who leapt up and performed the countercurse. Neville’s legs sprang apart and he got to his feet, trembling.
“What happened?” Hermione asked him, leading him over to sit with Harry and Ron.
“Malfoy,” said Neville shakily. “I met him outside the library. He said he’d been looking for someone to practice that on.”
“Go to Professor McGonagall!” Hermione urged Neville. “Report him!”
Neville shook his head.
“I don’t want more trouble,” he mumbled.
“You’ve got to stand up to him, Neville!” said Ron. “He’s used to walking all over people, but that’s no reason to lie down in front of him and make it easier.”
“There’s no need to tell me I’m not brave enough to be in Gryffindor, Malfoy’s already done that,” Neville choked out.
Harry felt in the pocket of his robes and pulled out a Chocolate Frog, the very last one from the box Hermione had given him for Christmas. He gave it to Neville, who looked as though he might cry.
“You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,” Harry said. “The Sorting Hat chose you for Gryffindor, didn’t it? And where’s Malfoy? In stinking Slytherin.”
Neville’s lips twitched in a weak smile as he unwrapped the frog.
“Thanks, Harry … I think I’ll go to bed. … D’you want the card, you collect them, don’t you?”
As Neville walked away, Harry looked at the Famous Wizard card.
“Dumbledore again,” he said, “He was the first one I ever —”
He gasped. He stared at the back of the card. Then he looked up at Ron and Hermione.
“I’ve found him!” he whispered. “I’ve found Flamel! I told you I’d read the name somewhere before, I read it on the train coming here — listen to this: ‘Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel’!”
Hermione jumped to her feet. She hadn’t looked so excited since they’d gotten back the marks for their very first piece of homework.
“Stay there!” she said, and she sprinted up the stairs to the girls’ dormitories. Harry and Ron barely had time to exchange mystified looks before she was dashing back, an enormous old book in her arms.
“I never thought to look in here!” she whispered excitedly. “I got this out of the library weeks ago for a bit of light reading.”
“Light?” said Ron, but Hermione told him to be quiet until she’d looked something up, and started flicking frantically through the pages, muttering to herself.
At last she found what she was looking for.
“I knew it! I knew it!”
“Are we allowed to speak yet?” said Ron grumpily. Hermione ignored him.
“Nicolas Flamel,” she whispered dramatically, “is the only known maker of the Sorcerer’s Stone!”
This didn’t have quite the effect she’d expected.
“The what?” said Harry and Ron.
“Oh, honestly, don’t you two read? Look — read that, there.”
She pushed the book toward them, and Harry and Ron read:
The ancient study of alchemy is concerned with making the Sorcerer’s Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The Stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal.
There have been many reports of the Sorcerer’s Stone over the centuries, but the only Stone currently in existence belongs to Mr. Nicolas Flamel, the noted alchemist and opera lover. Mr. Flamel, who celebrated his six hundred and sixty-fifth birthday last year, enjoys a quiet life in Devon with his wife, Perenelle (six hundred and fifty-eight).
“See?” said Hermione, when Harry and Ron had finished. “The dog must be guarding Flamel’s Sorcerer’s Stone! I bet he asked Dumbledore to keep it safe for him, because they’re friends and he knew someone was after it, that’s why he wanted the Stone moved out of Gringotts!”
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