“We’re nearly there,” [Ron] muttered suddenly. “Let me think – let me think . . .”
The white queen turned her blank face toward him.
“Yes . . . ” said Ron softly, “it’s the only way . . . I’ve got to be taken.”
“NO!” Harry and Hermione shouted.
“That’s chess!” snapped Ron. “You’ve got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and she’ll take me – that leaves you free to checkmate the king, Harry!”
“But – ”
“Do you want to stop Snape or not?”
So far, we’ve talked about the tasks and what they reveal about the House Heads and their Houses. But we haven’t focused much yet on what the tasks show us about the Trio. And there are actually 2 Rounds of encounters before the Trio even meets up with Fluffy and descends through the trapdoor.
Round 1: The adventure begins in the Gryffindor Common Room, when Neville tries to prevent the Trio from creeping out through the portrait hole. Hermione shows her excellent spell work by putting a “Petrificus Totalus” (Full Body-Bind) curse on Neville (foreshadowing many later uses of Petrificus Totalus: most memorably, Draco on Harry on Hogwarts Express, Dumbledore on Harry during Dumbledore’s death scene, Voldemort on Neville before Neville slays the snake). Round 1 goes to Hermione.
Round 2: The Trio encounter Peeves, who will of course make enough racket to get them caught roaming the halls at night. Harry ingeniously mimics the Bloody Baron from under his Invisibility Cloak. Round 2 belongs to Harry.
Round 3: The Trio meet up with Fluffy. Getting past the 3-headed beast is a collaborative effort. Harry quiets the dog by playing notes on a flute Hagrid carved for him. Ron opens the trapdoor, Harry goes through the trapdoor first, and Hermione continues blowing on the flute before jumping last. Round 3 belongs to The Trio.
Round 4: The Trio engage in another collaborative effort while tackling Sprout’s Devil’s Snare. Yes, Hermione is the one who recognizes the plant, notices its effects, and conjures the bluebell flames. But it’s Harry who recommends lighting a fire and Ron who reminds Hermione that she can light one without wood. Without Harry and Ron, Hermione would have frozen in panic. Round 4 belongs to The Trio, with some extra credit for Hermione.
Round 5: Flitwick’s Enchanted Keys also require a collaborative effort. However, for the collaboration to work, Harry has to rely on his Seeker skills and demonstrate a potential for leadership in Quidditch. He directs Hermione and Ron on the formation to fly so that he can catch the key he has identified. Round 5, I think, belongs primarily to Harry.
Round 6: Getting through McGonnagall’s Transfigured Chess match is entirely Ron’s task, with cooperation (not really collaboration) from Harry and Hermione. And this is one of the more difficult and risky tasks. So in taking the poll at the bottom of this post, it might be nice to weigh that difficulty and risk when considering Ron’s overall contribution toward saving the Stone. Round 6 goes to Ron.
Round 7: Getting past Quirrell’s Troll requires no effort on Harry’s or Hermione’s part because knocking out the Troll has already been accomplished… by Quirrell.
Round 8: Snape’s Logic Puzzle gives Hermione an opportunity to show her capacity for logical reasoning, and without her, Harry might have been stuck in that chamber forever. Round 8 belongs to Hermione.
Round 9: Dumbledore’s enchantment on Mirror of Erised gives Harry an opportunity to show his strength of character – the strength that helps him trump Voldemort’s attempt to attain the Stone and achieve immortality. We will discuss the Mirror in more detail in the post after next. But for now, Round 9 belongs to Harry.
The three members of the Trio show, from this very first major confrontation with Voldemort, that they possess an ability to work together as a group – and an ability to step forward with individual skills as needed. This will, of course, have major implications for the Horcrux Quest in DH, as will Ron’s sacrifice in the chess match…
You’ve Got to Make Some Sacrifices
When Ron decides to be “taken,” he decides to risk the possibility of death to keep Snape[sic]/Voldemort from getting the Stone. He does not know if the Queen’s blow will be lethal (and Harry and Hermione seem uncertain that he’s still alive when they move on to the next task). What he does know is, at the very least, it will hurt a lot and knock him unconscious. But the sacrifice is necessary in order to move his friends forward. So he sacrifices himself with that aim in mind.
I could be mistaken, but I think this is the first mention of sacrifice in the books. But it becomes a key theme in the series – as we will begin to understand when Dumbledore tells Harry of his mother’s sacrifice.
Perhaps most graphically, though, Ron’s sacrifice is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice that Harry will be asked to make in DH, when he goes out to meet Voldemort. Once again, it will be a situation in which sacrifice is “the only way” to halt evil from triumphing. And once again, it’s a conscious decision to face death for the sake of something bigger than oneself.
Harry makes his sacrifice in order to prevent Voldemort from attaining immortality. And 6 years earlier, he watched a young boy make the cold, calculated decision to face the possibility of death in order to prevent Voldemort from attaining immortality.
Coincidence? Perhaps not.
And now… let’s have another poll – this time on the Trio’s individual contributions. And let’s discuss your responses in the Comments thread! Multiple choice is possible this time: