He saw his reflection, pale and scared-looking at first. But a moment later, the reflection smiled at him. It put its hand into its pocket and pulled out a blood-red stone. It winked and put the Stone back in its pocket – and as it did so, Harry felt something heavy drop into his real pocket. Somehow – incredibly – he’d gotten the Stone.
The Dumbledore challenge is what everybody wants to talk about… even when we’re talking about the Heads of House! And wouldn’t you know I’d get to everybody’s favorite challenge just as my schedule goes into total meltdown?
I’m finishing a Math class. I’m starting up my own classes. I’ve been writing Syllabi, getting administrative stuff taken care of, and now I get to launch in to 1st week lesson plans. But I won’t completely abandon you!
We’ve talked in the Comments to previous posts about just how insurmountable Dumbledore’s Mirror enchantment is. I personally find it amusing to read Quirrell’s perplexity, and ultimately his mounting panic, as he begins to realize how far he is out of his depth.
He starts the challenge overconfident:
“The mirror is the key to finding the Stone,” Quirrell murmured, tapping his way around the frame. “Trust Dumbledore to come up with something like this… but he’s in London… I’ll be far away by the time he gets back….”
Then, he gets trapped by the very nature of the mirror itself:
Quirrell came back out from behind the mirror and stared hungrily into it.
“I see the Stone… I’m presenting it to my master… but where is it?”
Then he gets frustrated…
Quirrell cursed under his breath.
“I don’t understand… is the Stone inside the mirror? Should I break it?”
“What does this mirror do? How does it work? Help me, Master!”
But Voldemort can’t help because he doesn’t know the answer any more than Quirrell does. All he can reply is:
“Use the boy… Use the boy…”
Note that Dumbledore entrusted an 11-year-old boy with the secret of the mirror… but did not similarly entrust one of his own staff. We learn later (as in TPT later) that Dumbledore had suspected Quirrell before the Halloween Feast. And we also learn (in TPT) that Dumbledore and Snape protected Harry for the purpose of allowing him to test his own strength.
What’s curious is that, wrong as Harry can be about Snape, he has a pretty good read on Dumbledore:
“He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don’t think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could…”
Harry intuitively has a sense of what Dumbledore is up to, even before knowing the details of why.
So what is it about this challenge that turns the Mirror of Erised into an unbeatable protection? Dumbledore’s enchantment did not change the nature of the Mirror. The Mirror still shows the individual what he most desperately desires. But Dumbledore also placed an enchantment on the Mirror that would make it impossible to retrieve the Stone if the Stone were the ultimate object of desire:
“You see, only one who wanted to find the Stone – find it, but not use it – would be able to get it, otherwise they’d just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life.”
Dumbledore’s enchantment seems tailor-made for Harry – for someone who would only want to find the Stone in order to prevent its falling into the wrong hands. But the beauty of using the Mirror for this purpose is that the Mirror itself could drive greedy people like Quirrell insane with desire. Add to that an utter inability to attain the object of desire, and you get a sense of the depth of Dumbledore’s enchantment.
One of the commenters on the Snape task mentioned that the Logic Puzzle coldly leaves the unsuccessful individual dead or locked in that chamber forever. Well, Dumbledore just upped the stakes. In his challenge, the individual can get trapped in that chamber forever… and trapped with a Mirror that has the potential to drive him insane.
But enough from me. I’d like to hear your comments. What does this task tell us about Dumbledore?