Chapter 18 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Dobby's Reward
Inside Professor McGonagall's office, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley immediately sweep Ginny into a hug. As they, and also Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall, listen, Harry recounts what happened, omitting Ginny's role and the Diary as much as possible. Professor Dumbledore wonders how Lord Voldemort enchanted Ginny, as he is currently hiding in Albania. Harry is relieved, as Dumbledore clearly knows Ginny was not at fault, and explains how Ginny was controlled by Riddle's Diary. Harry has brought the diary, along with the Sword and the Sorting Hat. Dumbledore confirms that Riddle and Voldemort are one and the same. Mr. Weasley chastises Ginny: "Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain!" Dumbledore says there will be no punishment for Ginny. "Older and wiser wizards than she have been hoodwinked by Lord Voldemort." He sends her to the Hospital Wing, saying that Madam Pomfrey will still be there, dispensing the Mandrake juice to the Petrified students. He recommends bed rest and also recommends Ginny have hot chocolate, something that always cheers him. Ron is relieved to hear that Hermione will not suffer any permanent damage. As Mr. and Mrs. Weasley leave with Ginny, Dumbledore dispatches Professor McGonagall to alert the kitchens to prepare a feast.
Professor Dumbledore awards Ron and Harry Special Awards for Services to the School plus two hundred House points each. Noticing Professor Lockhart's vacant gaze, Dumbledore has Ron take Lockhart to the hospital wing. When Professor Dumbledore and Harry are alone, Harry admits he is distressed by Riddle, noting their similarities: both are orphans, dark-haired, and speak Parseltongue. Dumbledore believes Voldemort transferred some of his powers, including the ability to speak Parseltongue, when his curse on the one-year-old Harry failed. Harry says the Sorting Hat saw Slytherin's power in him and wanted to place him in Slytherin House. When Dumbledore notes it put him in Gryffindor instead, Harry says it was only because he asked it to. Dumbledore replies that, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." He then shows Harry the sword. Engraved on the blade is, Godric Gryffindor. "Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the Hat, Harry."
The door bursts open and Lucius Malfoy strides in, accompanied by, to Harry's amazement, Dobby. Lucius is furious that Dumbledore has returned after being suspended. Dumbledore replies that after Mr. Weasley's daughter was attacked, the other Governors asked him to return. Some were under the impression that Malfoy would curse their families if they refused to expel Dumbledore. Lucius demands to know if the culprit has been found. Dumbledore responds it was the same as last time, via the diary, and most ingeniously. If the plot had succeeded, Ginny Weasley would have been blamed, reflecting badly on Arthur Weasley and his Muggle Protection Act. Behind Mr. Malfoy's back, Dobby is performing a charade, which Harry suddenly understands: Malfoy gave the diary to Ginny at Flourish & Blotts. Lucius demands that they prove this accusation. Dumbledore says that is impossible with the diary destroyed, but if other such artifacts are passed to anyone, Arthur Weasley will be sure to trace them to Lucius Malfoy. Lucius stomps off, kicking Dobby along the way. Harry takes Riddle's diary, wraps it in one of his socks, and runs to return it to Lucius. Lucius angrily strips the sock off, tossing it aside. Dobby catches it, and, having been given clothes by his master, is free at last. Malfoy, enraged, lunges at Harry, but Dobby magically hurls Lucius backwards. Lucius leaves Hogwarts, defeated on all fronts. When Dobby asks how he can repay Harry, he replies he wants Dobby to never try to save his life again.
The feast is an odd one, even for Hogwarts, with everyone in pyjamas, lasting all night, and enlivened by the Petrified students' and Hagrid's return. Everyone, except Hermione, is further cheered when it is announced that exams are canceled.
The remaining year is peaceful. The only grim face is Draco Malfoy's, as Lucius was fired from the school's Board of Directors. On the train back home, Harry asks Ginny about what Percy did not want her to tell anyone. Ginny reveals that Percy has a girlfriend, the same Penelope Clearwater who was Petrified with Hermione. She saw Percy and Penelope kissing. Fred and George intend to have some fun with Percy about this over the summer, while Harry, not expecting to have any fun at all, asks Hermione and Ron to telephone him so they can arrange to meet. And then the train pulls into Platform Nine and Three Quarters.
Having used the time-honoured technique, where the villain explains to the hero exactly what happened, in the previous chapter, the author completes the story by laying out the parts that the other characters played in the events. We learn here that the Diary originated with Lucius Malfoy, and that Dobby, as suspected, was his House-elf. We also suspect that Dumbledore perhaps knew much about what had been going on, but may have been constrained from acting, possibly by forces still unknown to us. Finally, we also see, with almost breakneck speed, the Basilisk victims' recovery, Hagrid's return, the school year's closing days, and the return trip to London on the Hogwarts Express. Ginny is naturally quite distraught over her role in helping Tom Riddle, even though she was entirely blameless due to her being possessed by Riddle's Diary. It is unknown whether or not Lucius Malfoy specifically chose her before setting his plan into motion or if he only happened upon an opportune moment to slip Ginny the Diary while at Flourish & Blotts in Diagon Alley. Other than it being a convenient time to pass on the Diary, he may also have been motivated to use Ginny based on his disdain for the Weasley family in general, and his dislike for Mr. Weasley in particular. Overall, it seems a poor choice by Malfoy, considering how close Harry has become to the Weasleys; once Harry became aware that something was amiss with one of the Weasley children, he could more easily trace this back to Voldemort.
It is interesting to note that Tom Riddle, Ron, and Harry all received Special Awards for Services to the School for closing the Chamber of Secrets. Fifty years on, other students may be wondering what Ronald Weasley did to merit this award. It is unlikely that Harry's role will be questioned: after all, he is the famous Harry Potter.
A guiding principle in the series is voiced by Dumbledore: "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Although another character, such as Percy Weasley, speaking those words would seem overly sententious, Dumbledore can utter this without pontificating, partially, perhaps, because he is considered eccentric. It is perhaps worthwhile to review just what choices Harry has been given, and which decisions he made. Harry has seldom taken the easy path, often choosing the more difficult route because he believed it was right. It will be instructive to see if Harry maintains this habit.
This particular instance is interesting in another direction. Throughout this book, we have seen Harry's increasing doubt that he was meant to be sorted into Gryffindor House. When he meets Tom Riddle, this doubt is echoed again, though it has no affect on his course of action. It is Dumbledore's pronouncement about making choices, coupled with the Sword being Gryffindor's, that finally removes Harry's uncertainty about the Sorting Hat's decision. We can safely assume that Harry will never be troubled by this matter again.
Many students are probably suited to more than one House. Hermione, for instance, would seem destined for Ravenclaw. Instead, the Sorting Hat, perhaps detecting her strong personality and willingness to act upon her beliefs, placed her in Gryffindor where, influenced by her Housemates, she is developing abilities she might otherwise have underutilized or completely ignored. Another such student is Neville Longbottom, perhaps the most timid and frightened student at Hogwarts. Though we still have no idea why he was also sorted into Gryffindor, it should be assumed he has unseen abilities, including non-magical ones. It is prudent to realize that courage comes in many forms; we recall Dumbledore's statement at the end of the previous year, where he said, specifically of Neville's actions, "it takes courage to stand up to our friends."
Harry also failed to consider that even if he was Slytherin's descendant, then so was one half of his family, yet both his parents were sorted into Gryffindor. Just how and why the Sorting Hat makes a final determination regarding which House a student is sorted into is not entirely understood, though the students' individual preferences are apparently considered, as well as family tradition. It appears most students are generally satisfied with the Sorting Hat's choice. Whether or not a student can request a change of House after being Sorted is unknown, but interesting to consider.
- Why does Ginny think she will be expelled? Have her actions warranted that?
- Why does Dumbledore call for a feast at 3:00 am?
- What does Dumbledore mean when he tells Harry it is choices rather than abilities that make a person what they are? Give examples.
- Compare and contrast Tom Riddle's and Harry's personalities, backgrounds, abilities, and the choices each one chooses to make.
- Does having similar characteristics to someone automatically mean you will become exactly like that person? Explain.
- How could a restorative potion be administered to Nearly Headless Nick, who is a Ghost? How could it have any effect on him?
- Why was Harry still so troubled that the Sorting Hat had wanted to put him in Slytherin House? Is he convinced he is a true Gryffindor?
- How could Dumbledore know, or believe, that Voldemort is in Albania?
- What led Dumbledore to suspect that Lucius Malfoy was responsible for the Diary being given to Ginny? Give specific examples to prove or disprove this.
- What might Lucius Malfoy have done to Harry if Dobby had not intervened?
- If House-elves are so magically powerful, how did Wizards enslave them?
Curiously, that Voldemort is currently believed to be hiding in Albania will prove germane to the overall story arc. Voldemort had found an artifact there that he used to create a Horcrux, and had apparently returned there as a disembodied spirit after his initial encounter with Harry. This is where Professor Quirrell likely encountered him, and Peter Pettigrew will rejoin him there between books three and four. One wonders what attracted Voldemort to Albania, or what the author intended him to find there.
In the sixth book, we discover that this "memory of Tom Riddle" is a Horcrux, greatly troubling Dumbledore when he discovered it, though that is not seen here: Dumbledore, throughout this story, seems as imperturbable as ever. Later, however, Dumbledore tells Harry that the Diary Horcrux's discovery worried him. As long as a Horcrux remains intact, its creator remains alive, the Horcrux tethering his soul to the living world. Thus, a Horcrux's primary purpose is immortality, and the wizards who create them invariably protect them as they would their own lives. Yet the Diary was apparently also crafted as a weapon, to be placed into an unsuspecting accomplice's hand—in this case a naive schoolgirl. Dumbledore concludes that this is not Voldemort's only Horcrux, and attempts to determine how many there might be. Harry secures a memory suggesting that Tom Riddle saw seven as the most magical number, and so Dumbledore concludes, correctly, that Voldemort had intended to have seven soul shards: one remaining within himself, and six stored in Horcruxes.
We can see immediately that Harry freeing Dobby from servitude, and Dobby's gratitude for that, will affect Harry's future when Dobby rejoins the story in the fourth book, helping Harry solve a major problem he is set. True to Harry's request, Dobby will never again attempt to save Harry's life until directed to do so by another person late in the seventh book; but in the meanwhile, Dobby will assist Harry in his work with Dumbledore's Army in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and his attempts to determine Draco's mission in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
- Voldemort's affinity for Albania is first seen here, and revisited in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the last book, we learn that Rowena Ravenclaw's lost diadem had been stolen by her daughter and hidden in a tree in Albania; and also that Voldemort had retrieved it from there. It is possible his attachment to Albania was due to his having found the Diadem, one of the few remaining artifacts of the Founders of Hogwarts.
- Riddle's diary is the first Horcrux we see, and is where we discover some of the abilities of these soul fragments. Horcruxes will form a major part of the plot in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- It is Percy's letters to Penelope that had kept Percy's owl Hermes busy all the previous summer. The ongoing romance between the two of them may only continue through the next book; it is mentioned early in that book, but makes no appearance after that.
- Dobby becoming a Free Elf will be a lesser plot point in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and his ongoing gratitude for his rescue from the Malfoys will result in Dobby helping Harry and the Trio in that and all succeeding books. Dobby's freedom will also bolster Hermione's efforts to free House Elves in general from slavery; her first efforts in that direction include the creation of a charitable organization, the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.