All the same, he’d have gambled twelve Sorcerer’s Stones that Snape had just left the room, and from what Harry had just heard, Snape would be walking with a new spring in his step — Quirrell seemed to have given in at last.

What is meant by saying that bold sentence?


2 Answers 2


It's a version of a common idiom construction:

The idiom just means that the speaker is so sure of something, they're willing to bet (i.e. "gamble") something of value on their hunch being correct.

In this context, Harry believes that Snape had just left the room. He's so confident of this that he would be prepared to bet twelve extremely rare and valuable magical artefacts on his hunch being right.

As Hypnosifl points out in comments, there's also an element of exaggeration here, used for comedic effect. Not only is the Philosopher's stone extremely valuable, it's literally one-of-a-kind. Betting twelve of them is just an absurd amount of value, which further emphasizes how sure Harry is.

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    Yes, combined with a little humorous hyperbole--a single sorcerer's stone is already a priceless and extremely rare object, and he's so confident he'd bet twelve of them! (and in case Debanil is wondering, I don't think there's any significance to the specific choice of "twelve" as opposed to any other number that signifies "a bunch of 'em")
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 18:54
  • Precisely, however I'd rather see the awnser have Hypnosifl's hyperbole mention, because that's the actual punchline. That and that in the first book Harry was sure Snape was after the philosopher's stone
    – Oak
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 18:56
  • @Hypnosifl Quite right; added Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 19:01
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    @Debanil If it had been "he'd have gambled twelve Sorceror's Stones that Snape had just left IN the room", then you'd be on to something! How much a single two-letter word can change...
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 23:21
  • @JasonBaker: Is the Stone literally/essentially one-of-a-kind? In the sense that the Hallows are essentially one-of-a-kind, because there’s only one source for them, and it’s not open for business?  Slytherincess’s answer to Why was there only one Sorcerer's Stone? suggests that there might have been other stones that were lost or destroyed (or that are so well hidden that their existence is unknown),  … (Cont’d) Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 0:07

Given that the Philosopher's Stone is a unique and incredibly valuable object, Harry is obviously using a rhetorical device called "hyperbole" to describe how very certain he is (e.g. "I'd bet twelve of something insanely valuable that x has happened").

That being said, for me the more interesting question is precisely why Harry chose the number twelve in the first place. The answer to that is that JKR is very fond of the number 12 as a modifier. She tends to use it whenever she means "a lot" and not just in the HP novels, but in her other writings as well.

...“Professor 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” - HP:PS


‘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.’ - HP:PS


‘What’s been going on?’ said Ron. ‘Why haven’t you been answering my letters? I’ve asked you to stay about twelve times, and then Dad came home and said you’d got an official warning for using magic in front of Muggles …’ - HP:CS


‘Journey all right, Harry?’ Bill called, trying to gather up twelve scrolls at once. ‘Mad-Eye didn’t make you come via Greenland, then?’ - HP:OotP


Professor Trelawney broke into hysterical sobs during Divination and announced to the startled class, and a very disapproving Umbridge, that Harry was not going to suffer an early death after all, but would live to a ripe old age, become Minister for Magic and have twelve children - HP: OotP


Snape’s wand flew twelve feet into the air and fell with a little thud in the grass behind him. Sirius let out a bark of laughter. - HP:OotP


‘This isn’t your average book,’ said Ron. ‘It’s pure gold: Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches. Explains everything you need to know about girls - HP:DH


She was not going to beg. She had emptied the inbox of twelve spam emails before he spoke again, his voice heavy. - Career of Evil (as Robert Galbraith)


Jago Ross: in every respect the antithesis of Strike: handsome in the manner of an Aryan prince, possessor of a trust fund, born to fulfill a preordained place in his family and the world; a man with all the confidence twelve generations of well-documented lineage can give. - The Cuckoo's Calling (as Robert Galbraith)

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    Seriously, Richard? If you can provide evidence that "twelve" appears MORE than other numbers, then this would be a good answer. As it is, it just seems to be a list you got by doing Ctrl+F "twelve" in your ebooks.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 21:20
  • 1
    @randal'thor - This is merely a selection of those instances that specifically fit the "twelve = lots of" writer's shorthand. If you grep through, you'll find dozens of instances of the number twelve appearing, especially in conjunction with other numbers, 112%, 12,000 men, 512 house points, etc etc. Far more than other numbers above five, I might add and no other number seems to fit plus there's an example in every book. That seems reasonably conclusive to me.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 21:27
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    Pfft. Everybody knows seven is the commonest number in the HP series ;-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 0:03

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