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Chapter Twelve The Mirror of Erised
(Harry is anonymously given his dad’s invisibility cloak for Christmas, which he uses to sneak back to the Mirror of Erised he stumbled upon.)
At the start of Christmas break, Hermione leaves for home while Harry and Ron stay at Hogwarts for the holidays. Harry and Ron get in little searching for Flamel in the library since they are too busy playing wizard’s chess. On Christmas morning Harry receives a flute from Hagrid, Chocolate Frogs from Hermione, and his dad’s old invisibility cloak from an unnamed giver.
That night, Harry uses the cloak to sneak into the restricted section of the library to continue the search for Flamel. Therein, Harry accidentally causes a ruckus by opening up a cursed book that lets out a blood-curdling scream. As Filch rushes to the scene, Harry runs down the hall and dives into an open classroom. Therein Harry finds a mysterious mirror.
Looking into the Mirror of Erised, Harry sees his parents and extended family. Over the next couple days Harry takes Ron to see the mirror and grows increasingly obsessed over it until Dumbledore confronts Harry in the mirror room. Dumbledore tells Harry that the mirror is being moved and that he should avoid the mirror now that he is familiar with it.
The holiday foods at Hogwarts are very British and some may be foreign to American minds and palates. Chipolatas are a type of fairly thin, pork sausage. Christmas pudding (Plum Pudding) is a rich dried-fruit/cake mixture that is steamed. It is usually served with brandy butter, or doused with brandy and lit at the table. Christmas cake is a very rich fruitcake, covered in marzipan and white icing (a bit like Wedding Cake) and decorated with holly and berries, silver accessories or snow scenes. Crumpets are a sort of yeasty, rubbery bread formed into small, flat circlets and baked. The texture is not only rubbery, but full of holes. Trifle is a layered dessert of sponge cake soaked in sherry, topped with chopped fruit in jello, topped with custard, topped, in turn, with whipped cream.
The Mirror of Erised’s inscription, “Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi,” reads “I show not your face but your heart’s desire” backwards. Erised is “Desire” backwards.
Mirrors were thought to have magical powers in Western mythology because they were so expensive and rare in Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Medieval Europe.
Rowling says that the Mirror of Erised has a direct connection to her real life: “...when Harry looks in the mirror and sees his family waving to him. That was a very important image from my life, when I lost my mother [to multiple sclerosis].” (Conversations, 20)
The Mirror’s negative effects first seem apparent the next day: “Harry couldn’t eat. He had seen his parents and would be seeing them against tonight. He had almost forgotten about Flamel. It didn’t seem very important anymore.” The fact that Harry and Ron nearly get in a fight over whose turn it is to stand in front of the mirror isn’t a good sign either.