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I've read this section multiple times, and I still can't understand it. It's in chapter 32 of Deathly Hallows and starts with the line:

the tapestry at the top of the staircase on which they stood was ripped open.

So as I imagine it, the group are standing at the top of a staircase, hiding behind what amounts to a curtain on one of the walls. Presumably, the person ripping it open saw their outlines in the fabric. All good so far...

"POTTER!"
Two masked Death Eaters stood there, but even before their wands were fully raised, Hermione shouted, "Glisseo!"
The stairs beneath their feet flattened into a chute and she, Harry, and Ron hurtled down it, unable to control their speed but so fast that the Death Eaters’ Stunning Spells flew far over their heads.

And now I'm lost. Apparently, the group were on the stairs, rather than on some flat flooring at the very top of them. I can accept this, even if it makes it hard for me to picture how the tapestry could've hung. But why does Hermione creating a chute make the stairs flatten and therefore act like a ramp? My idea of a chute is something that goes straight down - like a trap door - definitely not a ramp.

They shot through the concealing tapestry at the bottom and spun onto the floor, hitting the opposite wall.

This part definitely confirms that the chute has worked like a ramp, but I also can't picture how this tapestry works. Is it a new tapestry? If so, where was it relative to the wall that's been mentioned? And if it's the old one that was ripped apart at the start, why is it at the bottom of the stairs now?

"Duro!" cried Hermione, pointing her wand at the tapestry, and there were two loud, sickening crunches as the tapestry turned to stone and the Death Eaters pursuing them crumpled against it.

And here my confusion peaks. Which tapestry? If it's the ripped one at the top of the stairs, then the Death Eaters have already ripped it and are now well past it. If it's a new one at the bottom, then hasn't Hermione just trapped her group against a wall? How far is this tapestry supposed to be from it?

"Get back!" shouted Ron, and he, Harry, and Hermione flattened themselves against a door as a herd of galloping desks thundered past, shepherded by a sprinting Professor McGonagall.

How could there possibly be a door here? They're stuck between two walls! If there was a door, they would've went through it when they went down the "chute"!

So what's actually going on in this section? I'm clearly very, very confused. English is my first language, but I feel like I need to be walked through this like a child. I can't picture these events at all. I'm at the point where I'm considering checking for Lego adaptions or drawing pictures just so I can have a visual aid.

2 Answers 2

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It's not explicitly stated, but I think the idea here is that the staircase in question is one of Hogwarts' many hidden passages. Each entrance to the staircase is covered by a tapestry instead of by a door. The text you quoted mentions "concealing tapestry at the bottom". I think concealing in this context means concealing the entrance to the bottom of the stairs rather than concealing the trio.

If you were to see it in cross section, it would look something like this...

|_
  \
   \
    \
     \_| 

The vertical lines are the tapestries. The underscores are the landings of the stairs and the slashes are the actual stairs.

Earlier in the chapter, it shows them going behind the tapestry

"Harry, in here!" Hermione screamed. She had pulled Ron behind a tapestry: They seemed to be wrestling together, and for one mad second Harry thought that they were embracing again; then she saw that Hermione was trying to restrain Ron

Since there was enough room to physically restrain Ron, you have to assume there's more room available behind the tapestry than there would be for one hanging flush against a wall.

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  • With this, I can picture the scene in my mind without issue, but the idea the scene only works if the reader realises that the staircase must be hidden doesn't sit well with me.
    – J. Mini
    Dec 30, 2020 at 13:26
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This seems to be a question about english language understanding, not about the book itself... Let me explain how I understand that sentences (as a non native speaker):

First:

the tapestry at the top of the staircase on which they stood was ripped open.

My reading: They stood on a staircase. On top of the staircase there was a tapestry. That tapestry was ripped open by the Deatheaters

Hermione shouted, "Glisseo!" The stairs beneath their feet flattened into a chute and she, Harry, and Ron hurtled down it

My reading: the stairs flattened and formed a slide (named chute here)... the three of them slid down that slide.

They shot through the concealing tapestry at the bottom and spun onto the floor

My reading: there is another tapestry at the bottom of the staircase and they slide through it. Now they are back in the floor where they started...

"Duro!" cried Hermione, pointing her wand at the tapestry, and there were two loud, sickening crunches as the tapestry turned to stone

Hermione turned that bottom tapestry into stone... they are now in that floor and protected from the deatheaters who got crushed on the stone tapestry. The next incident just happens right in that floor... and there happens to be a door when the galloping desks pass by, which they use to be out of the way of the desks...

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