Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
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- Chapter 1: The Worst Birthday
- Chapter 2: Dobby's Warning
- Chapter 3: The Burrow
- Chapter 4: At Flourish and Blotts
- Chapter 5: The Whomping Willow
- Chapter 6: Gilderoy Lockhart
- Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs
- Chapter 8: The Deathday Party
- Chapter 9: The Writing on the Wall
- Chapter 10: The Rogue Bludger
- Chapter 11: The Dueling Club
- Chapter 12: The Polyjuice Potion
- Chapter 13: The Very Secret Diary
- Chapter 14: Cornelius Fudge
- Chapter 15: Aragog
- Chapter 16: The Chamber of Secrets
- Chapter 17: The Heir of Slytherin
- Chapter 18: Dobby's Reward
The second book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is written from the point-of-view of the now-12-year-old Harry Potter. The book's title refers to a chamber which was, according to legend, created somewhere in Hogwarts castle by one of the founders, Salazar Slytherin, when he departed Hogwarts; much of the book's action revolves around that chamber, and what may be inside it, if, in fact, it actually exists.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we begin to see the darker side of the wizarding world that we were introduced to in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. In this story, Harry is not seen only as The Boy Who Lived by his fellow students, but instead as a suspect, as many believe him to be the heir of Slytherin, and thus the force behind attacks on students in the school. Further darkening the atmosphere is the history of Hogwarts itself, including some highlights of arguments between the Founders. We find that while Hogwarts has become, in a way, Harry's new home, his safety is not assured there, as this new threat comes from within the castle itself.
- New places visited: Whomping Willow, The Burrow, Knockturn Alley, Slytherin common room, Chamber of Secrets
- New characters met: Dobby, Mr. Weasley, Gilderoy Lockhart, Moaning Myrtle, Colin Creevey, Lucius Malfoy
- Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher: Gilderoy Lockhart
- Title refers to: the Chamber of Secrets.
Chapter 1: The Worst Birthday
Harry has returned to the Dursleys for the summer holiday, and things are hardly going well. On Harry's birthday, Uncle Vernon berates and shouts at Harry during breakfast, triggered by Dudley commanding Harry to pass him the bacon. Harry retorts that Dudley forgot to say the magic word. Merely mentioning the word magic is enough to send Uncle Vernon into a towering rage.
Uncle Vernon launches into his plans for that evening, entertaining a prospective client, Mr. Mason. Harry's role is simple: he will remain in his room, making no noise, pretending not to be there.
While in the yard later that day, Harry, looking at the hedge, sees two large, green eyes staring back at him. Before he can investigate further, Dudley nastily reminds Harry it is his birthday and asks why all his "weird friends" have not bothered to send any cards or presents. In retaliation, Harry says he is trying to magically set the garden hedge on fire, though he privately remembers that underage wizards are forbidden to practice magic outside school. Dudley tattles to Aunt Petunia, and, as a punishment for mentioning magic, Harry must clean the house all day.
As will become the series' usual framework, the first chapter recaps the previous book, while the Dursleys, earlier called "the worst sort of Muggles" by Professor McGonagall, reinforce the contrast between Harry's magical world and his family's mundane Muggle household. Although Harry now has his own bedroom (Dudley's "spare" one) rather than sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs, his overall life has hardly improved. Here, we see how his enforced non-magical life causes him spiritual poverty and deprivation, as he endures the long weeks before he can return to school. He is still physically mistreated, being nearly starved while Dudley grows even fatter. The Dursleys, crueler than ever, make his life as miserable as they can away from Hogwarts, a place he not only loves but represents a world where he is not only celebrated for his (unwanted) fame, but valued for his own self and individual talents. In the Wizarding world, he is among his own kind, and is not considered as a freak. However, once he returns to Privet Drive, his magical abilities again make him strange and abnormal to his family, and anything tying him to that world is forbidden or securely locked away. Even Hedwig must remain in her cage.
Harry has coped with his abusive treatment in various ways: by ignoring his family as they ignore him, and occasionally standing up for himself. A slight change in Harry's personality can be seen here, however. A year ago, his rebellions were limited to minor jabs at Dudley; he would never have deliberately provoked Vernon or Petunia, fearing reprisals. Now he deliberately taunts them. Harry's demeanor and self-confidence will continue to develop throughout the series, and his position within the household gradually changes as Harry becomes less passive-aggressive and more assertive in his self-defence. It is also gradually dawning on him that being a wizard makes him a powerful being that his family will eventually come to fear. Undermining all this right now is Harry's unhappy homelife being made even more glum when it seems his new-found Hogwarts friends have already abandoned him.
Another aspect of the Dursleys is exposed—they are scheming social climbers. Their ambitious plans for entertaining the Masons, as we, and Harry, see, are extremely sycophantic, and would irritate any person with even a near-average intelligence. One wonders how Vernon was ever able to earn a living, if this represents the quality of his sales pitch. This also indicates Vernon's shallow thought processes. Believing that he would like to be treated in such a condescending manner, he assumes Mr. Mason would prefer the same.
It is unknown yet who or what the green eyes belong to, but it is likely related to the Wizarding realm creeping into Harry's enforced Muggle confinement. Whether or not there is any imminent danger to Harry remains to be seen, though he is alert to that possibility.
- Have Dudley, Uncle Vernon, and Aunt Petunia changed from the previous year? If so, how?
- Why is Harry's even mentioning the word "magic" sufficient reason for him to be punished?
- Harry notices large, green eyes staring at him from the hedge. What or who might Harry think this could be?
- Why have Harry's friends not written and ignored his birthday?
- Now that Harry has completed his first year at Hogwarts, has his relationship with the Dursleys changed? If so, how? Explain how and why it might continue to change.
This chapter focuses on the Dursleys, Harry's family that he must live with each summer. We see how they remain stolidly pinned to the fabric of everyday Muggle life, and are slaves to the impression they can make on their neighbours and associates. As the series progresses, we will see some positive character growth and change in cousin Dudley, as he eventually realizes there may be some good in magic, and even in Harry. Vernon and Petunia will remain stubbornly convinced that magic is an abomination, although, over time, we will see that their distaste becomes overwhelmed by fear. Petunia's hatred of the Wizarding world is actually motivated by jealousy and rejection, as revealed in the last book. Vernon likely became Petunia's husband because he was the least magical person she could find.
- We learn much later why Harry had to return to the Dursleys every summer: the protection that had resulted from his mother dying for him would only remain in force as long as he had a home protected by his mother's blood, in this case Petunia. While this protection remains with Harry into the seventh book of the series, it is only in the fifth book that it is explained. And while the protection in question underpins the entire series, it is only in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that it is explicitly mentioned.
Chapter 2: Dobby's Warning
The strange, small creature on Harry's bed has large, green eyes, pointy ears, and is wearing a ragged pillowcase. He introduces himself as Dobby, a House-elf. Dobby is unable to reveal the Wizarding family that owns him, and hits himself uncontrollably each time he tries. He also punishes himself for speaking badly about his masters and for leaving his home without permission, which he did to deliver a dire warning: Harry must not return to Hogwarts because terrible events will happen at the school. Dobby is once again unable to provide more details. When Harry ignores his warning, Dobby taunts him about his friends not writing to him all summer. When Harry asks how Dobby knew that, Dobby admits having intercepted Harry's letters hoping Harry would think his friends no longer cared about him, and so would not return to school.
Furious, Harry chases Dobby downstairs, where the Dursleys are dining with the Masons. Dobby levitates Aunt Petunia's cake. When Harry refuses his demand to stay away from Hogwarts, Dobby drops the cake, splattering cream over Petunia's spotless kitchen before vanishing. The Dursleys blame Harry, and Uncle Vernon attempts to pacify the Masons, telling them his nephew is slightly disturbed. However, when a messenger owl arrives, Mrs. Mason becomes frightened, dashing Uncle Vernon's hopes for a lucrative business deal.
The owl-borne letter is from Mafalda Hopkirk, an official at the Ministry of Magic, stating that Harry has violated the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery. Any further magic on Harry's part while away from school may be grounds for expulsion from Hogwarts. Uncle Vernon locks Harry into his bedroom and bars the window, now knowing he is unable to use magic to escape.
Three days later, a rattling on the window bars awakens Harry; in the moonlight, Harry sees Ron peering in at him.
Harry is once again manipulated by forces he is unable to control. A House-elf wants to prevent his return to Hogwarts, nominally for Harry's own protection, though no specific information is provided as to what peril could be there. Harry, believing in his own strength, never considers any real danger awaits at Hogwarts, at least nothing serious enough to compel him to remain at the Dursleys. Dobby probably would have revealed additional information if he could, but as he appears to be a slave, he is likely prohibited from saying more. Of course, there is no definitive proof yet that the House-elf's warning is genuine, and there could even be some sinister motive behind his actions, though that seems unlikely — Dobby's character and actions seem too simplistic and transparent for such a deception, and the deception he does admit to, intercepting Harry's letters, seems almost child-like in its execution and expectation.
If Dobby is indeed being truthful, then his emotional reaction to Harry's respectful manner provides a glimpse into the Wizarding world beyond what Harry, and readers, have seen so far. Dobby's reaction suggests that non-human magical creatures are probably poorly treated in Wizarding society. Also, Dobby's reverential treatment toward Harry re-enforces his fame, and indicates it is even more wide-spread than Harry realized. Harry is still uncomfortable with the unwanted attention, and the knowledge that everyone knows more about him than he does. This fame, at least while he must stay at the Dursleys, is anything but an asset, resulting in his family treating him even more disdainfully as the magical world they so detest increasingly seeps into the Dursley household.
The Ministry's letter clearly surprises Harry. While he had been warned against using magic at home, he was unaware the Ministry could monitor him. However, they obviously are unable to detect just who performed the magic, as it was assumed it was Harry who cast the Hover charm. Harry's obvious fear while in the kitchen with Dobby was concern that Vernon would punish him for disobeying his orders, rather than the Ministry detecting him using magic. Harry knows Vernon still has significant power over him and can make his life even more miserable. Harry may also fear that Vernon will attempt to prevent him returning to Hogwarts, a fear that seems justified when Harry's bedroom becomes a jail cell.
Tension gradually mounts as Harry's chances to return to the place he loves grow ever more remote. While Ron's appearance at the window brings some immediate relief, it also raises questions: though Ron knows Harry's situation, how can he, also being underage, help Harry? And how, in fact, did he reach Harry's room without triggering a similar Ministry warning?
- Why can't Dobby reveal what the danger is to Harry?
- Why does Uncle Vernon lock Harry in his bedroom?
- Why would Dobby want to help Harry?
- How could Dobby know something bad might happen to Harry at Hogwarts? What danger might that be?
- How could Dobby, as a slave in another wizard household, be able to stop Harry's mail for all that time without his masters' noticing his absence?
- Can Dobby be trusted, or could he be involved in a plot to harm Harry? Explain.
- Why does the Ministry believe it was Harry who cast the Hover charm?
- Why did the Ministry notice Dobby's magic at the Dursley house, but not the magic that Hagrid used in the first book?
- What does Dobby's reaction to the way Harry treats him indicate?
- Why has Ron appeared at Harry's window? How can Ron, also too young to use magic, help Harry?
Dobby, we will eventually learn, is the Malfoy family's House-elf; we, like Harry, don't yet know this for certain, as he is restricted from revealing anything to Harry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dobby's poor condition reflects how the Malfoys generally treat anyone they consider beneath them, just as Harry's physical condition reflects how badly the Dursleys treat him. We have already seen the Malfoys' disdain for those they consider their inferiors, as shown by Draco's treatment of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville, treatment that will continue throughout the series. It is Dobby's similarly shabby treatment, compared with how Ron, Hermione, and Harry are treated by Draco, that leads the reader to guess, possibly before Harry, that Dobby is the Malfoy's House-elf.
Dobby is a minor character, though he proves extremely useful to Harry throughout the series. Here, he is violating orders by speaking to Harry; we gather this is because Dobby knows how House-elves' lots improved since the Dark Lord's fall following his encounter with Harry, and, aware that the Malfoys are planning some mischief at Hogwarts, has taken it upon himself to warn Harry. Dobby's freely-given loyalty to Harry will continue, and is returned with Harry's respect and treatment due an equal. The contrast between Dobby responding to Harry's needs, and his response to the Malfoys' demands, is a lesson in the difference and value of loyalty that is freely given as opposed to it being demanded.
It should be noted here that Dobby's expectations for ill-treatment from humans seems common among House-elves; we will see it again in Kreacher, and to a lesser extent in Winky. Later, we see that Ron, though treating House-elves benignly, also considers them as menials, while Harry and Hermione feel differently; Hermione is even moved to create a student organization, S.P.E.W., that advocates elf rights. Harry and Hermione have both been raised in non-magical households, and so only recently learned that House-elves existed and are enslaved. Raised as Muggle children, Harry and Hermione were isolated from the prevailing belief that House-elves are an under-class, and should be treated accordingly. Ron, having been raised in the magical world, believes it is morally acceptable to enslave these creatures, and agrees with the generally-held view that most elves are treated well, and are happy only when they have masters to serve. While this may actually be an accurate assessment, it could have resulted from centuries of selective breeding and behavioral conditioning. Bigotry towards House-elves, other non-human magical creatures, and also Muggle-born wizards and witches is a recurring theme throughout the series.
What Lucius Malfoy is planning to send into the school is Tom Riddle's Diary. It is always uncertain whether Malfoy knows exactly what the result will be, or even what the Diary is (Voldemort's Horcrux). The Diary, we later learn, was likely given to Lucius with information that it was an anti-Mudblood weapon, though without details as to how precisely how it would act. If Malfoy had known that the weapon was barely controllable and largely indiscriminate, he might have balked at putting it in such close proximity to his son, Draco, or would at least have issued Draco a stronger warning.
Interestingly, Dobby seems to be better aware of the threat's precise nature than Lucius Malfoy, who is orchestrating it. When Harry asks if the threat is connected to "He Who Must Not Be Named", Dobby claims it is not, but seems to be hinting at something. In the book's final chapter, Dobby states it was not precisely "He Who Must Not Be Named", as the threat was actually from before he stopped using the name Tom Marvolo Riddle in favour of the tabooed "Lord Voldemort". Dobby is clearly aware this early in the book that the threat, as embodied by the Diary and its embedded Horcrux, is Tom Riddle, who only later adopted his new, self-imposed title. We hear later that Lucius had told his son, Draco, that he did not know who the Heir of Slytherin was. We cannot know if Lucius was lying, but whether or not he knew that the Heir was Tom Riddle, he was probably ignorant about the precise nature of the weapon embedded in the Diary; if he had known that it was a Horcrux, he likely would have been far more careful about what he did with it, and would have known that the plan to attack Hogwarts with it would have to be placed in abeyance until Voldemort had returned and could give the go-ahead.
While Dobby knew Tom Riddle would be the threat's agent, it is unlikely he knew how the threat would be carried out. Dobby is probably unaware of what had happened the previous time the Chamber was opened, as Lucius was a student significantly after that sequence of events. (Tom Riddle had attended Hogwarts some fifty years before this; Lucius Malfoy, only about twenty years previous.)
It is mentioned elsewhere that stories involving magic have a drawback: by making anything possible and largely effortless, it becomes too easy for the hero to succeed, thus making the story uninteresting. The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery is an intriguing method for the author to impose limitations on using magic. Harry certainly could make his life easier by judiciously using magic during his summer vacations, but that would remove an interesting plot point. The Dursleys, annoying as they are, will remain useful as a contrast to Harry's life at Hogwarts, and his means of coping with his aunt and uncle without using magic becomes a ruler by which to measure his growing character and maturity. There is an exception to this in the next book when Harry reacts against his family using magic, though it is entirely unintentional, driven by extreme emotions after provocation.
The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery is significant later in the series. The decree states that it is a "reasonable" restriction, indicating that circumstances exist under which a minor can use magic, presumably in an emergency situation. While Harry is only issued a warning for the Hover charm, which he did not even cast, later, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Harry and cousin Dudley are attacked by Dementors intending to suck out their souls, Harry casts a Patronus charm to repel them. However, the Ministry of Magic immediately suspends Harry from Hogwarts and charges him with a crime, forcing him to attend a full Ministry hearing. Their sole motive at that time is to permanently expel him not only from Hogwarts, but wizard society, thus removing him as an impediment to the Ministry's official agenda regarding Voldemort. The Ministry misuses the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery solely to achieve this; Harry is forced to prove that his using magic in that situation is, in fact, reasonable, in the face of a court biased strongly against him.
- The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery is here mentioned for the first time by name. It is earlier mentioned in the previous book and in the first chapter of this book without being named. Concerns about violating this Decree will cause Harry to bolt early in the next book, only to be effectively pardoned in the following chapter. The Decree is mentioned again in the fifth book, and it is used later in that book as a weapon against Harry, at which it proves inadequate. Finally it is mentioned that the Trace enforcing the Decree has been terminated on the morning of Harry's 17th birthday.
- "Harry Potter" is the first thing Dobby says in the series. It will be also the last thing he says in the series, before he dies.
- The warning letter was sent by Mafalda Hopkirk. Mafalda will send Harry two more letters when he uses magic to protect himself and Dudley from Dementors. Later, when the Trio breaks into the Ministry, Hermione will be disguised as Mafalda by using Polyjuice Potion.
Chapter 3: The Burrow
Ron Weasley and his brothers, Fred and George, are outside Harry's window in a flying Ford Anglia. There to rescue Harry, they pull the bars off the window with the car. Fred and George gather Harry's Hogwarts belongings that are locked in the cupboard under the stairs, and load them into the car.
Hedwig screeches, reminding Harry she is being left behind. This awakens Uncle Vernon, who barges into Harry's room as Harry is half way out the window. Grabbing Harry's ankle, he attempts to pull him back in, but Harry yanks free, and he, Ron, Fred, and George head to the Weasleys' home, The Burrow.
Harry tells Ron, Fred, and George about Dobby, and they speculate about who owns him, eventually concluding that he could belong to the Malfoys. Harry learns that Draco Malfoy's father, Lucius Malfoy, once supported Lord Voldemort.
They arrive at The Burrow, an oddly crooked house. Molly Weasley is waiting, furious that they "borrowed" the car. After yelling at the Twins and Ron, Mrs. Weasley warmly greets Harry. During breakfast, Harry glimpses Ginny, Ron's younger sister, who is apparently too shy to speak.
As punishment, the Twins and Ron must de-Gnome the garden, using Gilderoy Lockhart's Guide to Household Pests technique in his book. Curious, Harry assists, even though he does not have to. He attempts to gently drop the leathery Gnomes over the fence, but after being bitten, he flings them like the Weasley boys, who first twirl them until they are too dizzy to find their way back.
Ron's father, Arthur Weasley, who works for the Ministry of Magic, arrives after a long night's work, searching for illegal and Dark magical objects. Mr. Weasley loves Muggle technology and gadgets, and he is clearly intrigued with his sons' adventure in the car until Mrs. Weasley sternly chastises him. Ron shows Harry his bedroom, which is plastered in Quidditch posters. He apologizes for his home's disorderliness, but Harry thinks it is all wonderful, and, as he watches the gnomes making their way back into the garden, looks forward to spending the remaining summer with the Weasleys.
In the last chapter we asked: how can Ron help Harry? Ron is underage, as are Fred and George, and capable though they may be, they are prevented from using magic to free Harry. However, apart from the flying car, which apparently does not violate the prohibition against underage magic, no magic is used to liberate Harry. Instead, the bars are pulled off the window with the car, and Fred and George pick both the bedroom's and the cupboard under the stairs' locks with a common Muggle hairpin. The same hairpin is used to open Hedwig's cage, freeing her for the first time all summer. It is never made clear why casting a spell triggers the prohibition trace, but using a charmed object like the flying car does not; for some speculation on this matter, please see the article on The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery.
It is worth noting how quickly Harry settles in to the Weasley household. The reader gets the feeling that Harry feels at home almost instantly, even before Mrs. Weasley tips a few extra sausages onto his breakfast plate. Some of this, no doubt, is due to the existing friendship with Ron, but that alone is not sufficient to explain it. We can speculate that part of Harry's increasing comfort in The Burrow is due to acceptance of his magical ability, and part to the healthy communication between Weasley family members. This straightforward relationship is something Harry has been hunting for during almost all of his time at the Dursleys', and has never found.
The author often mentions a character by name before they are actually seen. Gilderoy Lockhart, who plays a large role in the book, is introduced here, by name only. He is apparently handsome ("'Mum fancies him,' said Fred in a very audible whisper"), and his solutions for problems may look good on paper, but only seem to work temporarily when employed. By sunset, Harry observes the Gnomes sneaking back into the garden one-by-one through the Weasley's hedge.
Ginny Weasley is reintroduced, though she only glances at Harry from afar; every time she sees him (twice in this chapter), she squeaks and runs away. Says Ron, "You don't know how weird it is for her to be this shy, she never shuts up normally . . ." She may have a classic schoolgirl crush, building Harry up in her mind as some heroic figure, then, when physically in his presence, is too timid to speak.
- What caused Ron and the Twins to go to Privet Drive?
- What leads the boys to suspect that Dobby is owned by the Malfoys?
- Why does Mrs. Weasley punish her boys? Why does Harry volunteer to take part?
- Why would Gilderoy Lockhart's methods only work temporarily?
- Why is Ginny, who is normally very talkative, acting so shy?
- Why is Mrs. Weasley cross with Mr. Weasley? Is he acting appropriately?
- Compare and contrast life at the Weasleys' home to the Dursley household. How do these similarities and/or differences affect Harry?
- Based on what is seen and heard in this chapter, give a description of what Gilderoy Lockhart may be like.
The boys have correctly surmised that Dobby belongs to the Malfoys, though Harry will be uncertain until the book's end. Simply because Dobby is the Malfoy's property, his actions, though supposedly meant to protect Harry, would actually seem suspicious and likely motivated by that family for some sinister purpose. However, Dobby has risked his own life to warn Harry that he is in grave danger should he return to Hogwarts. Because Dobby is the Malfoys' slave, he has become aware that Draco's father, Lucius Malfoy, is behind the plot to unleash a monster within Hogwarts. Because Dobby is magically bound to protect the Malfoy family's secrets, his warning to Harry is so vague that Harry mostly disregards it. Even were Dobby able to be more explicit, however, nothing could dissuade Harry from returning to Hogwarts, the only place he feels he fits in.
Ginny's reaction to Harry makes it seem unlikely that they would ever have a significant relationship. Oftentimes, a schoolgirl crush simply fades over time, and Ginny's feelings seem more like superficial hero-worship than romantic interest. Ginny, however, will be thrust into several events that force her to mature quickly, and her feelings for Harry deepen as she gradually understands who he really is. Starting even before this chapter, a study of Ginny's character will be rewarding, as the author writes a very realistic maturation for her, ending with a true romantic relationship with Harry.
Several other minor plot points occur in this chapter. Gilderoy Lockhart soon appears, true to our expected image: physically attractive, charming, seemingly plausible, but ultimately unreliable. This tendency to believe in someone simply because they have certain desirable attributes is illustrated by other characters, notably Tom Riddle, a former Slytherin student, who, fifty years earlier, falsely implicated Hagrid in opening the Chamber of Secrets and unleashing a monster. Even though Riddle was behind the attacks, he was considered believable mainly because he was handsome, intelligent, personable, and fully human. (Hagrid, we will find out in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is half-Giant.)
The gnomes making their way back into the garden is actually a point in understanding Lockhart's character. Though we have not yet met him, this vignette is a classic example of Lockhart's style: flashy, plausible, initially appearing to work, but ultimately failing. We will see the same in the man himself and in his magic later in this book.
The flying Ford Anglia will also make a few more appearances; notably, it will carry Ron and Harry to school when they find they can't reach Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and it will save Harry and Ron when they get into trouble in the Forbidden Forest later in this book.
Arthur Weasley mentions someone named Mundungus Fletcher, who tried to jinx him when his back was turned. Mundungus reappears in the fourth book, as shady as this brief mention leads us to expect, and in each book after that. We never find him to be trustworthy, though he is an Order of the Phoenix member and apparently loyal to Dumbledore and the Order.
Mr. Weasley's job with the Ministry will also prove important, not only because it gives him the authority to investigate other characters for Dark magic, but because it showcases his apparent unambitious nature, as he actually enjoys what he does and stays with it, foregoing the traditional career-advancing track to achieve status and more money that other Ministry employees seek; this unusual trait apparently attracts unwelcome attention from the likes of Lucius Malfoy.
Also, as is typical of how the author introduces something or someone long before it plays a part in the series, it is mentioned that the Weasleys have a Ghoul in the attic. This Ghoul will play an important role in the final book, though it remains unseen to readers until then.
- The ghoul in the Weasley's attic will be made up to look like Ron with a case of Spattergroit, to explain his absence from Hogwarts when he leaves the Burrow with Harry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- Arthur Weasley's lack of ambition will be a point of friction with his son Percy. Percy, also working for the Ministry, is extremely ambitious, and cannot accept that his father is happy in what seems to him to be a dead-end job. The issue that finally results in Percy's estrangement from the family is marginally based on this. The official Ministry position, at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is that Dumbledore and Harry are lying about Voldemort's return, and Arthur refuses to reject his faith in Dumbledore for the chance to improve his Ministry position. Percy severs relations with his family to prevent any hindrance in his career that would spring from his family's support for Dumbledore.
- While we generally do not mention characters in the Connections section, this chapter's mention of Mundungus Fletcher is worthy of note. Fletcher, who will reappear next in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and will play a substantial role in each succeeding book, is worth mention here as an indication that the author had already begun to plan for a Wizarding underworld, not allied with either side of the principal conflict, but rather out for what they could get for themselves. Fletcher will develop into a small-time con-man, thief, and dealer of contraband and stolen goods, but will have a significant role to play because of his situation at the edge of respectability. When we see him next, he will be making an inflated damages claim, for the destruction of a twelve-room tent that he had never owned.
Chapter 4: At Flourish and Blotts
Life for Harry has never been this good, far better than Privet Drive. Finally, he has found a family that accepts him, and treats him as one of their own, rather than as an inferior intruder. True, he is still not allowed to perform magic, but it surrounds him, and is a natural part of life.
The letters from Hogwarts, including Harry's, arrive at the Burrow. As always, the letter has a reminder that the term starts September 1st, and include the school booklist.
Second year students will require:
- "The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2", by Miranda Goshawk
- "Break With A Banshee", by Gilderoy Lockhart
- "Gadding with Ghouls", by Gilderoy Lockhart
- "Holidays with Hags", by Gilderoy Lockhart
- "Travels with Trolls", by Gilderoy Lockhart
- "Voyages with Vampires", by Gilderoy Lockhart
- "Wandering with Werewolves", by Gilderoy Lockhart
- "Year with the Yeti", by Gilderoy Lockhart
Based on the list's content, Fred surmises that the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher is a witch and a fan of Lockhart. George has a more practical thought: "This lot won't come cheap." Mrs. Weasley says they will manage, though Harry notices she seems worried.
Hermione sends an owl suggesting they all meet in Diagon Alley. She questions the use of Errol as messenger, as he is so old and worn out. Ron says that Percy had refused to loan him his owl. The Twins mention that Percy, who is normally stuffy and annoying, has been acting odd, often remaining shut up in his room.
On the appointed day, the Weasleys head to Diagon Alley via the the Floo Network, a magical transportation system that connects fireplaces throughout the Wizarding realm. Harry, choking on ash in the Weasley's fireplace, unfortunately mispronounces, "Diagon Alley," landing him one grate too far in what appears to be a Dark magic shop. Draco Malfoy and his father are there. Mr. Malfoy appears to be selling some magical items to the proprietor, Borgin.
Exiting undetected, Harry discovers he was at Borgin & Burkes in Knockturn Alley, an unsafe area frequented by Dark wizards and other unsavory characters. Fortunately, Hagrid appears, and steers Harry back to Diagon Alley, where he locates the Weasleys and Hermione. They proceed to Gringotts Bank, where, inside, Harry is embarrassed by the wealth stored in his vault, particularly after seeing the meager sum the Weasleys have.
Later, the group arrives at Flourish & Blotts bookstore, where the popular author, Gilderoy Lockhart, is signing copies of his autobiography, Magical Me. Recognizing the famous Harry Potter, Lockhart presents him with a complete set of his autographed books while posing for photos. Lockhart then announces that he is the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher for Hogwarts.
Staggering away from the limelight, Harry dumps the Lockhart books into Ginny's cauldron. Draco Malfoy, observing this byplay, taunts Harry. Mr. Malfoy suddenly appears, and makes rude comments about Ginny's second-hand book before returning it to her cauldron. Mr. Weasley begins arguing with Mr. Malfoy. As the argument becomes physical, Hagrid drags the Weasleys away while the Malfoys stalk off. The Weasleys, Hermione, and Harry return to the Leaky Cauldron, then head home.
After only a few days at The Burrow, Harry learns what a functional, loving family is supposed to be like and how it interacts within itself. He feels at home here, realizing what he has been missing and has yearned for all these years, and will continue to desire throughout the series. Hogwarts, we have already seen, has become a surrogate home to Harry, a place where he knows everyone and everyone knows him, and where his abilities are not feared and hated but welcomed and considered normal. However, good as it is, there is no real family there; the teachers must remain, to a large extent, professionally remote. The one exception is Hagrid. who is not a teacher, and who also lacks a true family; Harry becomes a substitute for that. Here, in The Burrow, people care about Harry, he is well fed and physically comfortable, and is made to feel wanted. Harry now fully realizes just what he has always lacked. And though he is happily content amongst the Weasleys, it will perhaps be even harder to return to the Dursleys', a place that is little more than a roof over his head, where he barely has enough to eat, and offers no love or comfort.
Gilderoy Lockhart makes his first appearance. Handsome and charismatic, he has a legion of fans, comprised largely of middle-aged witches like Mrs. Weasley. He is also a vain, opportunistic fame-seeker who exploits Harry to get his photo onto the Daily Prophet's front page. Lockhart is famous for his many exciting adventures that he recounts in his books. He apparently believes that Harry is as fame-obsessed as he. When the fight erupts between Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley, Lockhart is heard planning to spin it to promote himself in the paper.
Ginny Weasley's true character also becomes more evident here. When Draco insults Harry for attracting attention in Flourish & Blotts, Ginny defensively says that Harry did nothing to warrant the attention. This shows us that, despite Ginny's schoolgirl crush on Harry, she is sensitive to his distaste for the fame that his history with Voldemort heaps on him. While it is possible she fears her attention will be misinterpreted as being rooted in Harry's fame, rather than in himself, it is more typical for a schoolgirl's crush to render her too shy to speak to the boy she likes.
Another Malfoy is introduced: Lucius Malfoy. Proud, rich, and arrogant, he is a strict and demanding parent who holds a tight rein on Draco. In the bookstore, he is insulting and bullying towards Ginny Weasley. It seems odd that his attention should fall on her, and there may be some reason behind it.
It is learned that the Malfoys and the Weasleys, both old pure-blood wizarding families, have "very different ideas about what disgraces Wizardkind." The argument that erupts between Lucius Malfoy and Mr. Weasley focuses attention on a great division among the story's characters. Malfoy, already disdaining the Weasleys for their poverty, is clearly scornful that Mr. Weasley endlessly lobbies on Muggles' behalf, where Mr. Weasley is affronted by Malfoy's belief that his ancestry is superior, as well as his suspected affiliation to Dark wizards. What is highlighted here is that some wizards feel superior to others due to their breeding, there being no non-Magical people in their bloodlines. This group believes anyone unable to perform magic is somehow sub-human, and those wizards choosing to fraternize with them or protect them are traitors to this blood purity. While the Weasley family is as old and pure a bloodline as any other, to some "pure-blood" wizards, their ongoing commerce with Muggles is considered demeaning, if not downright disloyal. This snobbery also, of course, extends to Harry, who is a Half-blood, and particularly Hermione, who is Muggle-born, and explains much of Draco's behavior to them. It also extends to Ron, who Draco, taking a cue from his father, looks down on, along with the entire Weasley family.
Fred's guess that the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher must be a witch who is a fan of Gilderoy Lockhart was likely based on his seeing how Mrs. Weasley, and apparently many female fans, idolize him. Fred is wrong, of course, but a class requiring only Lockhart's books should have tipped off the reader as to who the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher will be, and possibly some clue about Lockhart's character.
Harry's hiding in the cabinet in Borgin and Burkes' is worthy of extra study. We will see later that some story-related events would have occurred had Harry actually closed the door to that cabinet; to the student of writing, we recommend study of that passage to see how the author misdirects us into the belief that Harry has closed himself in, while actually explicitly not allowing Harry to close the door of the cabinet.
- Why is Lucius Malfoy selling objects to Borgin? What might they be?
- Why is Hagrid in Knockturn alley? Is his explanation believable?
- Why do Lucius Malfoy and Mr. Weasley get into an argument?
- Why does Lockhart grab Harry in Flourish & Blotts?
- Based on what has been seen and heard so far, give a short analysis of Lockhart's character.
- Compare and contrast what Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Weasley might think disgraces wizardkind.
- Why would Mr. Malfoy want to inspect Ginny's books?
Three items shown in Borgin & Burkes are seen again in a later book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Draco uses the Hand of Glory while he is departing the Room of Requirement. The opal necklace with the note warning that it was cursed is used in an attempt to kill Dumbledore, in October of that year. Also, the cabinet in which Harry is hiding has a twin at Hogwarts that will make an appearance.
Lucius Malfoy's inspecting Ginny's book is an excuse to slip Tom Riddle's Diary into her cauldron. As we later learn, Voldemort left this Diary with Lucius, intending it as a weapon against Hogwarts. Lucius, not knowing exactly what the Diary was, had apparently decided that, given his son's discouraging school marks (as mentioned to Borgin), it was time to create problems for the school.
While not seen explicitly yet, we can already guess that Voldemort recruited many allies from pure-blood wizard families, though there are also some Half-blood followers. Lucius is returning some Dark magic items to Borgin & Burkes, claiming it is too dangerous to keep them around in the event of Ministry raids on his house. Lucius' disdain towards anyone considered to have inferior bloodlines is seen here, as well as his annoyance that Draco, pureblood though he is, is unable to surpass Hermione's grades. In the previous chapter, we learned that Lucius is believed to be a Voldemort supporter. His possessing Dark magical objects lends credence to this, as we have been told that Voldemort was a Dark wizard. This suggests strongly that Voldemort may have been playing on the pure-blood belief in their own superiority to fuel his initial rise to power.
It is particularly interesting to note how many items mentioned in this chapter will reappear in the sixth book of the series. It is apparent that the story arc was plotted out at least as far as the sixth book in some detail when the second book was written.
- Borgin and Burkes appears in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Draco visits the shop to demand advice from Borgin on repairing something.
- Three items that Harry sees in Borgin and Burkes will appear later.
- The Hand of Glory is used by Draco as he is leading Death Eaters through magically-created darkness, out of the Room of Requirement and into Hogwarts proper. We learn about this from Ron after the attack.
- The cursed opal necklace is sent to Dumbledore by way of Katie Bell on a Hogsmeade weekend in mid-October of Harry's sixth year. Sent in an attempt to kill Dumbledore, it fails when Katie touches the necklace and is cursed by it.
- Considering the Disappearing Cabinet that Harry hides in, and the one at Hogwarts, as a unit, we will see them again several times. The Hogwarts cabinet is dropped and broken by Peeves, at Nearly Headless Nick's request, to distract Filch, later in this book. Fred and George Weasley stuff Montague into it in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Draco learns of its linkage to the one at Borgin and Burkes from Montague, and demands assistance in its repair from Borgin; the other cabinet of the pair is actually partially hiding Draco from the Trio as they watch Draco make this demand. Draco then spends all of his spare time throughout the next year attempting to repair it. Late in the year, Harry actually sees the Cabinet in the Room of Requirement where Draco has been trying to repair it. Finally, the repaired cabinet is the way that Draco smuggles Death Eaters into the school to support him while he tries to carry out his assignment from Voldemort.
- Tom Riddle's diary will be destroyed at the end of this book, but it will be mentioned again in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where we learn that it was a Horcrux.
Chapter 5: The Whomping Willow
Summer ends quickly, and it is time to return to Hogwarts. After several false starts, everything is loaded into Mr. Weasley's car, the flying Ford Anglia. Mr. Weasley has apparently charmed the car so that everyone fits in easily, though Mrs. Weasley apparently thinks it is normal for Muggle vehicles to be this large inside. With the trouble getting started, by the time they arrive at King's Cross Station, it is nearly time for the Hogwarts Express to depart. Everyone but Harry and Ron are on the platform. Something is now blocking the passageway. The clock strikes 11:00 a.m and the train has left, stranding Harry and Ron at the station.
Harry suggests waiting by the car, but Ron is worried his parents may be unable to return (except in the US edition, where Ron states that his parents can Apparate). In a panic, Ron suggests flying to Hogwarts in the car. They take off, soaring above the clouds, dipping below occasionally to see where the Hogwarts Express is. The flight is uneventful until they reach the school. On the final approach, the car loses power and crashes into the Whomping Willow, the impact breaking Ron's wand. The massive tree seemingly comes alive, violently pounding the car. The battered Ford extricates itself and lands on the ground, ejecting Harry, Ron, and their luggage, before wildly driving off into the Forbidden Forest.
Peering through a window into Great Hall, Harry and Ron see the Sorting ceremony underway. Unable to locate Professor Snape at the staff table, they speculate on why he is absent, only to find him standing behind them. In his office, Snape demands an explanation and wants to know where the car is—the Evening Prophet has reported that several Muggles saw a flying car. Snape fetches Professor McGonagall, who asks why they did not send an owl. Ron admits he never thought of that.
Professor Dumbledore enters, and, on hearing the story, says he will be writing their parents, though Harry and Ron will not be expelled. Their House Head, Professor McGonagall, will determine their punishment. After Snape and Dumbledore leave, Professor McGonagall assigns them detention but does not deduct any House points. She also mentions that Ginny was sorted into Gryffindor House. The boys are provided sandwiches before heading to their dormitory.
Hermione meets them outside the The Fat Lady's portrait and gives them the password ("wattlebird"). Though she is unhappy at what they did, as are Harry and Ron, the other Gryffindors in the Common room applaud their audacity for driving a flying car into the Whomping Willow.
Something or someone has acted to prevent Harry from getting to the Hogwarts Express. This could be related to Dobby's previous warning that Harry must not return to Hogwarts, though there is no direct proof yet to support that. Harry is starting to tie these clues together, however. Harry and Ron's reaction to this incident shows the boys' immature, illogical, and linear thinking here. Rather than go and wait by the car or return to The Burrow to see if Mr. and Mrs. Weasley return there, Ron's panicked solution is to fly directly to Hogwarts. Harry simply goes along with this ill-conceived plan, having no better idea about what they should do.
The Whomping Willow incident affects Harry and Ron in different ways. Unfortunately for Ron, in addition to being punished, it results in his wand being broken. It takes some effort to select a new wand, and they are costly. Ron, probably in serious trouble for taking and wrecking his father's car, is unlikely to admit to his parents that he also broke his wand. Just how effectively a damaged wand can perform is unclear. Even though Hagrid's wand was snapped in two after he was expelled, as mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the broken pieces hidden in his umbrella still seem able to cast spells. How that compares to Ron's wand is unknown yet, though Ron will certainly have to make temporary repairs and carry on as best he can with a damaged instrument.
Harry is also punished, though he was mostly a passive participant. For him, the incident brings more unwanted attention, resulting in Hermione's stern disapproval while the other Gryffindors are mostly delighted by what they consider to have been a deliberately orchestrated prank to make a grand entrance. Rather than basking in his House's enthusiastic approval, Harry is utterly humiliated.
Snape, meanwhile, dearly wants Harry gone, and he is hoping that McGonagall or Dumbledore will expel him, along with Ron. Snape is disappointed that Dumbledore leaves Harry and Ron alone with McGonagall—Snape obviously wanted to witness Harry's punishment. McGonagall, though never losing her sternness, wants to be fair. She likely knows Ron will be strongly disciplined by his parents, and lightens her own punishment accordingly, even though this allows Harry to get off relatively easily.
Two nominally-inanimate objects play an important role in this chapter. The Ford Anglia initially seems only to be a vehicle that has been enchanted to fly, probably by Mr. Weasley. However, after dumping the boys onto the ground, it appears to be much more than that, tearing off into the Forbidden Forest like a wild animal suddenly set free. This indicates it may have become somewhat sentient, though Mr. Weasley probably never intended that. Also, the Whomping Willow is, obviously, no ordinary tree. It reacts violently when the flying car crashes into it, attempting to smash it, and Harry and Ron, to bits. No explanation is given for its behavior, though it may also have been charmed in some way. It is curious that neither boy seemed aware that the tree, planted in a very visible and accessible location on the castle grounds, has this capacity. If it is that dangerous, then why are students never warned to keep away from it? One has to wonder why such a dangerous tree is there at all.
- What kind of tree do Harry and Ron crash into?
- What House is Ginny sorted into?
- Why does McGonagall give Harry and Ron such light punishments, considering how serious their actions were?
- What or who would prevent Harry and Ron from passing through the barrier at King's Cross? Give possible reasons why.
- Why would a tree attack Ron and Harry?
- Why would such a dangerous tree be planted on Hogwarts' grounds? What is its purpose? Who might have planted it there?
- How can the car drive itself off into the Forbidden Forest? Why does it go there?
- Why did Ron fly directly to Hogwarts? Was his explanation to McGonagall believable? What should he and Harry have done instead?
- Why is Hermione angry at Harry and Ron while the other Gryffindors applaud them? Which is right?
Ron's broken wand will be a useful plot element, as it produces humorous effects throughout the story, finally backfiring at an opportune time, rendering a major threat harmless to Ron and Harry. Ron receives a new wand after his father wins a contest at the beginning of the next book.
Also, the flying Ford Anglia, which takes on a life of its own, probably due to Mr. Weasley's spells on it, later plays an important role in this book, saving Ron and Harry from a colony of Acromantulae. It will never be seen after that time, however, presumably roaming wild in the Forbidden Forest.
The Whomping Willow is also an important plot element in the next book, though no explanation is given here for its violent behavior. Unlike the Flying Car, the tree will be seen again, and it is learned later that it was planted over an entrance to a tunnel leading from the castle grounds to the Shrieking Shack, where, as a student, Remus Lupin, a Werewolf, was confined during every full moon. This tunnel, which proved useful some thirty years before the series began, and becomes an important plot device in the third book, is also utilized in the final book.
It is interesting that Snape seems to believe that Harry and Ron arrived at Hogwarts by Flying Car solely to gain attention. We will see shortly that Gilderoy Lockhart shares this misunderstanding about Harry's motives. With Lockhart this is understandable, as his main motivation is fame, but it is unclear why Snape believes this; in almost every other respect, Snape disagrees with and opposes Lockhart as best he can.
- The Whomping Willow, seen here for the first time, will be explained in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The Willow, and the passage it guards, will appear again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- The way wands behave when broken, and how and whether they can be mended, is touched upon throughout this book. We see mention of this also in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in the context of Hagrid's wand having been snapped, and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when it is Harry's wand which is nearly destroyed.
Chapter 6: Gilderoy Lockhart
The next day begins less appealingly. Errol, the Weasleys' decrepit owl, delivers a Howler for Ron during breakfast in the Great Hall. Neville urges Ron to open it, warning that ignoring it is worse. Ron opens it, and Mrs. Weasley's amplified voice scolds him for taking the car and jeopardizing his father's job, leaving Ron utterly humiliated as his bemused classmates look on.
Professor McGonagall hands out timetables; first class is double Herbology with the Hufflepuffs. Hermione, apparently no longer annoyed by Harry and Ron's antics, accompanies them to class. Professor Sprout arrives late. She was tending the Whomping Willow, "assisted" by Professor Lockhart who gave "valuable pointers."
As a disgruntled Professor Sprout directs the class to Greenhouse Three, which contains the more interesting and dangerous plants, Professor Lockhart draws Harry aside. He says he understands why he and Ron took the flying car—for fame and recognition. Lockhart blames himself for giving Harry a taste of fame at Flourish & Blotts and ignores Harry's protest that he and Ron only wanted to get to school.
The class prepares to transplant Mandrake seedlings. Mature Mandrakes have restorative properties, but their cry is fatal without ear protection. The Trio is joined by Justin Finch-Fletchley, a Hufflepuff, who casually mentions that he is Muggle-born and was headed for Eton before getting his Hogwarts letter.
Next class is Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall. Harry seems to have forgotten all he learned last year and is unable to Transfigure his beetle into a coat button. Ron is having problems with his wand. Although he repaired it with magical tape, it is producing grey smokey clouds and strange noises.
After lunch, Harry is cornered by little Colin Creevey, who wants to take Harry's picture to show his parents that he has actually met "Harry Potter." Overhearing this, Draco badgers Harry about signing photos. Lockhart comes over and forces Harry to pose for a photo, then hauls him away for some "fatherly advice" on handling fame. They enter Defence Against the Dark Arts class together, although Harry hides in the back.
Lockhart sets a test to see how much the students know about him. Predictably, Hermione, who apparently thinks Lockhart is wonderful, gets a perfect score. Next, Lockhart releases Cornish Pixies into the classroom, but he is unable to control them. At the bell, he flees, leaving it to Harry, Ron, and Hermione to get the remaining Pixies back into their cage. Ron and Harry are now suspicious about how truthful Lockhart's books really are, though Hermione still seems to suffer from hero worship.
Harry's disdain for fame is reinforced here, and it is a stark contrast to Lockhart, who can never have enough. As in Flourish & Blotts, Harry is uncomfortable with his celebrity, particularly as expressed by Colin Creevey, a rabid fan. Creevey, in his enthusiasm at meeting Harry, is oblivious that Harry may prefer to avoid being photographed, or that he dislikes fame. Of course, others take it out of context: Draco Malfoy makes noise, in his usual way, about Harry signing autographs, while Lockhart, plainly believing Harry is as fame-mongering as he, lectures Harry on going too fast with his career as a celebrity. The self-centered Lockhart assumes no one would deliberately shun the limelight, and so disregards Harry's preference to avoid being photographed. Lockhart has blatantly overstepped his bounds when he insists Harry be photographed with him, exploiting a chance meeting solely to garner even more publicity for himself.
Also, back at Hogwarts, Ron and Harry are having doubts about their Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. If Gilderoy Lockhart has accomplished so many incredible things, why was he unable to handle something as simple as the Cornish Pixies? One wonders how he was able to even catch them for the demonstration. Hermione, who may have developed a crush, defends Lockhart, claiming he has accomplished many things. Ron shows insight here when he astutely remarks that Lockhart never offers any real proof about anything apart from his word. One must wonder why Hermione is so blind to Lockhart's deficiencies, even at this early stage. Readers can see for themselves that Lockhart's charm and charisma are coupled with his arrogant and condescending behavior to the other faculty, blatantly offering advice to those more expert than he. We suspect that the faculty are fast becoming annoyed and are certainly wondering just how competent he actually is.
Readers should perhaps take notice that Professor Sprout is able to tend the Whomping Willow's injuries in, apparently, complete safety. This certainly indicates that the tree's violent behavior can be managed when needed. This begs the question that if the tree can be controlled in this way, then why is it allowed to attack anything that comes within close proximity to it?
- Does the spell Professor Lockhart uses to control the Pixies work? If not, why? Is there anything strange about it?
- Why is Professor Sprout so annoyed?
- Why does Ron receive a Howler? Who sent it?
- How was Professor Sprout able to "bandage" the damaged Whomping Willow without being injured herself?
- Is Gilderoy Lockhart's teaching likely to be useful to Harry, Ron and Hermione? Explain.
- What does Ron have to say about Lockhart's claims in his books? Is there evidence to suggest that he may be right?
- Why would Lockhart give a test that only has questions about himself?
- Why does Hermione seem to believe everything Lockhart claims about himself in his books, despite emerging evidence to the contrary?
Hermione's trust in Lockhart's abilities continues unabated throughout much of the book, despite significant evidence he is a sham. He will never again demonstrate Defensive magic, while the Dueling Club he starts proves to be a travesty, and his attempt to heal Harry's broken arm results in it being de-boned, among other less-than-stellar accomplishments. Why then, does Hermione persist in believing in his abilities? The author provides us few clues, but Ron, who is often an astute observer, speculates in later years that Lockhart's good looks enthralled Hermione (as well as many other females), and that certainly seems what is happening here. Also, Hermione has a subconscious trust in books, and a belief that if something is documented in writing, it must be true. In this chapter, she does comment, "Look at all the things he's done!" Ron, more skeptical, seems to doubt that what is printed in the books must be accurate. We will see this blind faith in published works again as late as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where Hermione stubbornly sticks to the text in her Advanced Potion-Making textbook, despite the hand-written marginal notes in Harry's copy that produce far better results.
- The Whomping Willow, which plays little further part in this book, will have a significant role in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and will reappear briefly in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs
During the first week of classes, Harry has avoided Professor Lockhart with some success and Colin Creevey with less, only to be awakened far too early Saturday morning by Oliver Wood who wants to start Quidditch practice before the other House teams. At the pitch, the team finds they have been preempted by Slytherin, armed with Professor Snape's note giving them permission to use the Pitch to train their new seeker: Draco Malfoy. Also, Draco's father has donated new Nimbus 2001 brooms that are even faster than Harry's Nimbus 2000.
Ron and Hermione arrive to watch the practice. As Draco mocks Gryffindor's brooms, Hermione comments that nobody on the team had to buy his way in, they made it on pure talent. Malfoy, angered by the aspersion, calls Hermione a "filthy mudblood." When Ron retaliates by casting a jinx at Malfoy, his broken wand backfires, jinxing him instead. Hermione and Harry carry him, belching slugs, to Hagrid's hut. Hagrid uncharacteristically criticizes Professor Lockhart, suggesting that his books may not be entirely truthful. He also mentions that Lockhart was the only applicant for the Defence Against the Dark Arts job. Apparently word is out that the position may be jinxed.
Hagrid is shocked that Malfoy called Hermione a mudblood, a most insulting term used to denigrate a Muggle-born's ancestry. Hagrid also says Lockhart was annoyed when he told him that Harry was more famous than Lockhart would ever be. Hagrid then shows the Trio his pumpkin patch. Apparently, despite being prohibited from performing magic, he has used an Engorgement charm. The pumpkins, with a month to go before Hallowe'en, are the size of small boulders.
That evening, Harry arrives at Professor Lockhart's office, which is decorated with pictures of Lockhart. As midnight nears, Harry, worn out with stuffing envelopes, hears a low voice muttering violently. Jerking to attention, Harry strains to understand the words. Lockhart hears nothing, but noticing the late hour, dismisses Harry.
Ron arrives at the dormitory soon after. He had one final slug attack on a Special Award for Services to the School. Ron thinks it odd that Harry could hear the voice and Lockhart could not, particularly since the door had remained closed. Even if someone was invisible, they would need to open the door to get in.
Several main plot points are highlighted. The first is Draco's addition to the Slytherin Quidditch team, and the team's new brooms, which are probably related. Slytherin House students are known to use any advantage to achieve their goals, and it is likely that Draco, wanting to oppose Harry in Quidditch, used his father's influence to be made Seeker, while the team willingly accepts the Malfoys' generous terms to gain a competitive edge with superior racing brooms. Likely Draco's plan was to humiliate Harry by out-flying him. We do not yet know how well this will work.
Bigotry, a recurring theme throughout the books, is brought into focus here by Draco's animosity towards those he perceives as inferior. Though the Weasley family is pure-blood, Draco despises them for their poverty and their concern for Muggles, in a pattern he almost certainly learned from his father. Similarly, he taunts Hermione about her Muggle parentage, calling her a "Mudblood," a term so derogatory that it shocks Ron and Hagrid, though neither Harry nor Hermione are sure what it means. Hermione, on the other hand, accuses Draco of buying his way onto the Slytherin team through his father's gift, using money and influence, rather than talent and hard work, to obtain what he wants. Although he would claim otherwise, Hermione's words apparently do sting Draco, and his ongoing resentment is likely as much about his jealousy over Hermione's superior intellect and Harry's fame and talents, as about their Muggle antecedents. Being an only child with a cold, disciplinarian father, Draco may even subconsciously envy Ron's large, loving family and the close friendship he enjoys with Harry and Hermione. Draco lacks true friends, instead garnering hangers-on like Crabbe and Goyle, who he also considers inferior to himself, and as little more than lackeys to support him. Ironically, Draco is likely talented enough to have become Slytherin's Seeker on his own merits, but rather than work hard to make the team, he instead opts for a short-cut method to immediately achieve what he thinks he already deserves.
Mr. Malfoy's "gift" also reflects much about his character. Rather than teaching his son to work hard to achieve his goals on his own merits, and already dismayed by Hermione, a Muggle-born, outperforming Draco academically, as well as Harry's superior talents, he freely abused his position to elevate his son's prestige, as well as enhance the Malfoy family's image; now Mr. Malfoy can brag about Draco's "accomplishments".
Another point is Ron's damaged wand. Even after mending it with Spell-o-Tape, it performs unpredictably, producing gray smoke clouds and odd noises, and now we see it may not cast spells in the desired direction, even when it does work. Ron, naturally, is frustrated, not only because he is unable to perform magic correctly, further lowering his confidence, but with knowing that, as poor as his parents are, he will probably have to make do with a damaged wand that was already a shoddy hand-me-down, for a long time to come.
Solidarity is shown among the faculty, and one teacher will rarely criticize another. This is stated explicitly in a later book, but has been only implied so far. Given that Hagrid mentions that Lockhart's books might not be entirely truthful, one gathers that there is probably much suspicion in the staff room that Lockhart is far less competent than he claims. Given this, and Ron's previous comment that Lockhart offers no proof to back his claims, readers may surmise that Lockhart's abilities are suspect.
Lockhart's personality is served up in large quantity as Harry performs detention. Lockhart clearly believes Harry is as celebrity-driven as he, and therefore needs tips on how to handle fame. Lockhart revels in being famous, to the extent that spending hours every week sending out multitudes of autographed pictures is tolerable. Possibly, Lockhart's self-image is fueled by the belief that, being so widely known, he is universally loved, and he is unable to conceive that anyone is not similarly craving affirmation by the masses.
This also marks the mysterious voice's first appearance. Something seems murderously angry in the castle, and Harry is concerned enough that he needs to discover what it is, despite his worries that only he can apparently hear it.
- Why was Draco made the new Slytherin Seeker? Is he capable?
- Why does Draco call Hermione a Mudblood? What does this mean and what is her reaction?
- Why would Snape give the Slytherin team permission to use the Pitch, even though it was previously reserved for Gryffindor?
- Why is Lockhart unable to hear the voice that Harry can? Where is the voice coming from?
- Why would Hagrid be forbidden to perform magic?
- Why does Hagrid believe Lockhart's books may not be entirely truthful? What evidence is there?
- Why does Draco consider the Weasley family inferior, even though they are pure-blooded wizards like himself? Is there more than one reason? If so, what?
- Why would Harry and Hermione take Ron to see Hagrid, rather than to the Hospital Wing, after he accidentally curses himself?
The Award for Special Services to the School is specifically singled out in later chapters because it was the one given to Tom Riddle. Tom plays a large part later in this book, and a significant part in the overall series.
The voice Harry heard in Lockhart's office was the Basilisk, the monster in the Chamber, which has been released and is roaming the school. Only Harry can hear the voice because he is a Parselmouth; to everyone else, the sound is a low and undefined hissing noise. Interestingly, Harry perceives Parseltongue as English, something that is an important plot point later in the series.
When Hermione learns Harry can understand snakes, knows the Monster's effect, and determines it is probably using the plumbing to move through the castle, she eventually concludes it is a Basilisk. Harry is able to obtain this information from her after she has been Petrified.
It is also important to note that Ron's wand backfired, jinxing him, rather than Malfoy, the intended target. While we have seen Ron's wand produce unintended strange sounds and smoke, producing the wrong spell, this is the first time a wand malfunctioning this way has been shown. This plays a big part when Harry, Ron, and Professor Lockhart delve into the Chamber of Secrets to rescue Ginny.
It is also interesting to note, though it is unrelated to the plot, that Hagrid's wand, which Harry correctly suspects is hidden within Hagrid's umbrella, was snapped in two when he was expelled from Hogwarts. However, even in its severed state, it appears to work reasonably well when he has occasionally been seen using it, while Ron's badly damaged and barely intact wand performs quite poorly, even when wrapped with Spell-O-Tape. Also, when Harry's wand is severely damaged by Hermione's ricocheting spell in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it becomes totally unusable, though it will later be repaired with singularly powerful magic. It is unknown why Hagrid's wand continued to work and the others did not, though the way in which each was damaged likely had some effect. While Ron's and Harry's wands are broken beyond normal repair, the inner core in Hagrid's wand may only have been slightly damaged when the wand was snapped in two. Hagrid, in fact, comments that his broken wand is less powerful than he expects it to be. It has been suggested that, as Dumbledore's wand seems to be capable of mending Harry's broken wand in the final book, Dumbledore, who never believed that Hagrid was the one who opened the Chamber, may have mended Hagrid's wand on condition that Hagrid keep it secret. Harry's wand does regain its full power after being mended, but we can assume that Hagrid's, being deliberately snapped, was more thoroughly broken, and so the repair might not have been as effective. This would explain why Hagrid's broken wand does not show the same random behaviour as Ron's, or the complete failure of Harry's.
- The effects of a wand being broken are noted here. This will be important later in this book, and will also play a part in the final book.
- Harry's being unable to distinguish between Parseltongue and English, which we first see in this chapter, will be noted again twice in this book, in The Dueling Club and the chapter named The Chamber of Secrets. This also proves to be a plot point in the final book.
- When Professor Lockhart reappears in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the only part of his persona which remains intact seems to be his handling of his fan mail. As he has done in this chapter with Harry, he immediately co-opts the Trio and Ginny to address envelopes for him.
- Hagrid's almost-overlooked comment that the Defence Against the Dark Arts position may be jinxed, and that there are few applicants for it, is part of a larger and as yet unrevealed pattern. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the twins run down the list of the four incumbents in that position during Harry's career at Hogwarts, and note that all four of them have lasted only one year. By early in the school year of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is common knowledge, apparently, that Professor Snape dearly wants that post, but despite Professor Dumbledore's reported difficulty filling the position not only in Harry's second year, as reported here by Hagrid, but in his fifth year, as reported by the Twins, it is only in Harry's sixth year that Dumbledore appoints Snape to it. It is also in Harry's sixth year that we learn of Dumbledore's belief that the post has been jinxed by Voldemort. Clearly, Dumbledore expected that Snape would also only last a year in that post, and, as Snape was at that point secretly Dumbledore's ally against Voldemort, Dumbledore did not want to risk his going mad, dying, or otherwise losing his ability to help Dumbledore after the year was complete. It is only in the final book in the series that we learn Dumbledore planned to have Snape become Headmaster upon Dumbledore's death, fated to happen at the end of Harry's sixth year, which was also Snape's first and only year as teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Dumbledore apparently believed that once he was gone, Voldemort would place one of his own stooges in that post and would vacate the jinx on the post, thus, probably, saving Snape to carry on Dumbledore's mission after his death.
Chapter 8: The Deathday Party
October is marked by continuous rainstorms; the lake rises, the flowerbeds turn into muddy streams, and Hagrid's pumpkins have grown as big as garden sheds. Oliver Wood, however, sees no reason to let up on Quidditch practice, so it is hardly surprising that Harry is soaked and dripping mud as he heads to Gryffindor Tower after practice. On the way, he meets Nearly Headless Nick, and they discuss their respective troubles: Nick is upset because his application to join the Headless Hunt has been rejected again; being only nearly headless disqualifies him. Harry, meanwhile, dreads the coming game with the Slytherin Quidditch team, mounted on their new Nimbus 2001 brooms. Mrs. Norris, Filch's cat suddenly appears, and Nick warns Harry that Filch is in a bad mood. Filch's sudden appearance through a tapestry thwarts Harry's escape attempt. Incensed by the water and mud dripping off Harry's Quidditch robes, Filch orders him to his office where he fills out a form recommending punishment for "befouling the castle." A loud noise interrupts him, and Filch charges off after Peeves, hoping he has done something unforgivable that will permanently ban him from Hogwarts. During Filch's absence, Harry notices an envelope on his desk for a correspondence course called "Kwikspell," for home-study magic. When Filch returns, he notices the envelope has been moved and, embarrassed, lets Harry go.
On exiting Filch's office, Harry meets Nearly Headless Nick again. Nick arranged for Peeves to tip over a black and gold cabinet to distract Filch. Nick invites Harry to his Deathday Party to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of his death, which occurred 31 October, 1492. He also invites Ron and Hermione, who are both keen to attend.
On Hallowe'en, the Trio descend to the Dungeons and are met by Nick and a panoply of ghosts, including Moaning Myrtle and Peeves. The gathering is rather uncomfortable for the living, and when Peeves insults Moaning Myrtle, causing her to run off sobbing, Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide it is time to leave.
As they exit the dungeon, Harry hears the same voice as in Professor Lockhart's office. He follows it, with Hermione and Ron tagging behind, through the Entry Hall to the first floor. Sloshing through water covering the hallway's floor, he sees writing on the wall: "The Chamber Of Secrets Has Been Opened. Enemies Of the Heir, Beware." Mrs. Norris is hanging from a torch bracket, apparently dead. Before the Trio can react, students leaving the Hallowe'en Feast surround them. Malfoy's voice rings out: "Enemies of the Heir, beware! You'll be next, Mudbloods!"
The Deathday Party gives readers a rare glimpse into how Hogwarts' ghosts interact with one another, as well as with the living. Even in death, they appear to be a typical community, behaving and interacting much the same as living people, socializing, arguing, cooperating, and even deliberately annoying and upsetting one another, as Peeves (who is a poltergeist) does when he insults Myrtle, causing her to rush off sobbing. The Ghosts generally like Harry and welcome the Trio's presence at the party, though it all seems rather odd to Harry, Hermione, and Ron. The ghosts, and Nick, in particular, always appear willing to help Harry whenever he needs it, such as when Peeves and Nick distracted Filch. Whether or not Ghosts can actually be happy in their dead state is unclear, but they appear to adapt and some find useful roles for themselves, such as the mascots for the school Houses, and Professor Binns, who continues teaching at Hogwarts after his death, apparently unaware at first that he had died. Moaning Myrtle, however, remains perpetually morose, possibly over her premature death, though it is not entirely clear why. It is also unclear, just yet, why some people become ghosts and remain within the living world, while others, such as Harry's parents, apparently do not. Harry must also wonder why this is, as well as what happens to those who are not ghosts. Also, Nick's Deathday party must be making Harry somewhat uncomfortable, it being the same day, October 31, that his parents were murdered by Voldemort.
The author excels at what is called "the set-up and the pay-off", the ability to write something that begs a question, then is followed later by an answer that illuminates more than the question asked. This chapter contains a small example: on Filch's desk is an envelope for a correspondence course that apparently teaches basic magic. Filch is horribly embarrassed when it is seen. Why?
And though it had been apparent only to Harry and readers that unusual events have been unfolding at Hogwarts, the bloody writing on the wall is the first concrete evidence that something sinister is underway. While this apparently strikes fear in most students, Malfoy, as smug as usual, seemed unsurprised and uses it as an opportunity to threaten those he considers inferior. It is unclear if he is in any way involved, though his earlier insult to Hermione, calling her a Mudblood, and his callous attitude now, indicates that while he may not be directly responsible, he may know something about what has happened.
This is the first concrete date given in the books for when the series is taking place. Unfortunately, it conflicts with many days of the week reported in the story; specifically, for instance, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, we learn that Harry was orphaned on October 31. If his second year at Hogwarts starts in September 1992, as here implied by the date given for Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday, then he must have turned 11 on 31 July 1991. As his birth date then would be 31 July 1980, he would have been orphaned on October 31, 1981. The book explicitly states that the next day was a Tuesday; but November 1, 1981 was a Sunday. Similarly, days of the week are given for Hallowe'en and for all three tasks in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but do not line up with the days of the week in 1994 and 1995.
These failures of correspondence between the series timeline and our physical calendar are unimportant to the story's overall sweep, so while they may be mentioned, they are provided more as a curiosity than as something the scholar need concern himself with.
- Why do Peeves and Nick create a distraction? Is it effective?
- Why does Nick invite Harry, Ron, and Hermione to his Deathday Party? Why might this be particularly unpleasant for Harry?
- Why does Moaning Myrtle run off sobbing? Is she over-reacting?
- Why does Filch suddenly seem embarrassed?
- What does "Enemies of the Heir beware" mean?
- Who or what attacked Mrs. Norris? Why?
- Does Draco know something about the message on the wall? Explain.
The voice Harry hears is, as mentioned in the Greater Picture section of the previous chapter, the voice of the Monster in the Chamber, now temporarily released. We will learn that the Monster is a Basilisk, navigating within the walls by means of the pipes, and entering the school via Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. It is no accident that the writing on the wall and Mrs. Norris' body are found outside Myrtle's bathroom, but this is never mentioned, even when Harry later guesses that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets lies there.
It is also mentioned that Professor Lockhart does not hear the voice, despite its obvious anger and violence, when Harry hears it in Lockhart's study. We note that in this chapter, neither Ron nor Hermione can detect it either; they simply follow Harry's lead, bemused. Ron will remark that, even among wizards, hearing voices nobody else can hear is a sign of insanity; this will have some effect on Harry's actions in a later chapter, when Professor Dumbledore asks him if there is anything else Harry wants to mention.
Moaning Myrtle departing the party proves somewhat critical for reasons explained later in this book. Because Peeves upset her, Myrtle deliberately floods the hallway outside her bathroom. While we do not see the bathroom here, in a later instance, when someone "throws a book through Myrtle's head," Harry and Ron enter the bathroom, finding all the taps turned on, the gushing water overflowing onto the bathroom floor and into the hall. As an aside, a popular slang term for crying is "turning on the waterworks;" it seems Myrtle takes the expression literally. We will shortly find that Mrs. Norris is petrified, rather than dead; if the hallway had not been flooded, the Basilisk's glance would have killed her. Because Mrs. Norris saw the Basilisk's reflection from the water, rather than looking at it directly, she was spared. Mrs. Norris is the first to avoid directly sighting the Basilisk, and through luck or design, the Basilisk's other victims all avoid direct eye contact, saving their lives. However, fifty years earlier, another victim met a different fate.
Harry has inadvertently discovered something generally unknown about Filch: he is a Squib. Squibs are born into Wizarding families but have no magical abilities themselves. Filch is apparently hoping to overcome this "accident-of-birth" by taking a correspondence magic course. While Harry now knows that Filch is trying to learn magic, he does not yet understand this fact's import. Ron explains the details to Harry in the next chapter.
It is worth noting that though the cabinet that Peeves knocks over to distract Filch is insignificant to this book's storyline, it reappears in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince it is a major plot device. In both appearances, its being broken is important.
- The Disappearing Cabinet that Peeves knocks over and breaks here is twin to the one that Harry hid inside at Borgin and Burkes earlier. The twins will force Montague into it in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Montague will sense, somehow, that the other cabinet of the pair is the one in Borgin and Burkes, and Draco will get that information from him. Draco will then spend most of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince attempting to repair it; once he succeeds, he will use it to allow Death Eaters to enter the school, avoiding the school's protective spells.
- While Neville had previously mentioned that he was "almost a Muggle", the discovery that there is a market for courses to teach magic is our first indication that Neville's lack of magical ability may be common enough to make commercial exploitation of it possible. In the next chapter, we will learn that "squibs", non-magical offspring of magical families, exist. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix we will learn that they are sometimes employed by people in the Wizarding world. And in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows we will learn that having a Squib child was, in the past, considered somehow shameful, a prejudice that likely remains active to some degree even at the time these books are set.
Chapter 9: The Writing on the Wall
Filch appears and immediately accuses Harry of killing his cat. The arrival of Professor Dumbledore and several other teachers defuses the situation. Professor Lockhart volunteers his office so Dumbledore can examine Mrs. Norris. Professor Dumbledore asks Filch, Harry, Ron, and Hermione to accompany him, while Professors Lockhart, McGonagall, and Snape tag along. While Lockhart babbles on about deaths he has prevented, Dumbledore examines Mrs. Norris, concluding she is still alive, but petrified, and that someone other than Harry is responsible. Filch still believes that Harry must be involved because he knows Filch is a Squib, though Harry has no idea what that is. Snape suggests that while Harry, Ron, and Hermione were possibly just in the wrong place at the wrong time, their absence during the Hallowe'en feast is suspicious. They explain that they were at the Deathday party. Harry, wanting to avoid revealing that he heard voices, gives a rather flimsy excuse for why they skipped the Feast afterwards. Snape, suspecting he is lying, suggests punishment for dishonesty, but is overruled by McGonagall and Dumbledore, much to Filch's disappointment. Ron explains to Harry later that a Squib is a non-magical person born to wizard parents.
The Chamber's possible opening causes some students to behave differently: Justin Finch-Fletchley now seems to be avoiding Harry, and Hermione, among other things, spends even more time in the library than usual. Harry goes there to speak with Ron and finds Hermione is upset because there are no copies of Hogwarts: A History available. In their next class, History of Magic with Professor Binns, she persuades the old ghost to recount the Chamber of Secrets legend. Binns explains that over a thousand years ago, the school's four founders, Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Helga Hufflepuff had a falling out over whether Muggle-borns and Muggles' descendants (half-bloods) should be admitted to Hogwarts. Slytherin alone believed only pure-bloods should learn magic, and he left the school when the others rejected his beliefs. According to the legend, he created a secret Chamber beneath Hogwarts and hid a monster within it. Only Slytherin's true Heir can open the Chamber or control the monster. Although the Chamber has never been found, Binns is unable to convince the class it does not exist.
While passing between classes, little Colin Creevey mentions that someone said Harry could be the Heir; Harry realizes this probably explains why Justin, who is Muggle-born, avoided him earlier. At the spot where Mrs. Norris was petrified, the Trio spies a clutch of spiders scurrying away, frightening Ron, who suffers from arachnophobia. Water flowing from Moaning Myrtle's bathroom covers the floor. The unused bathroom is in disrepair; it is also very wet, evidently because a moping Myrtle causes floods whenever she is upset. She is less than communicative with them. Percy catches the three leaving the bathroom and docks Gryffindor five House points.
During a later discussion, Ron thinks that, logically, Malfoy is the Heir. Hermione suggests they find out by using Polyjuice Potion to impersonate someone else. To get the formula, Hermione needs a teacher's signature to check out Moste Potente Potions from the library's restricted section. "But what teacher," asks Ron, "would be so thick?"
Although Filch is a minor character, he serves an important function in this chapter for several reasons. First, we see the pay-off to the set-up the author made when Filch's Kwikspell course was previously discovered. Filch is a Squib, born into a Wizarding family but lacking any magical powers, which is why he bought a beginner's magic course. While Filch is lucky to have employment at Hogwarts, it has left Filch a bitter man. Year after year, he sees children, possibly some from his own family, enter Hogwarts, be trained in the magic he can never know, then leave for careers he possibly once dreamed of, while he always remains behind. Being a Squib is a horrible half-life, knowing the magic world exists, being surrounded by it, but unable to participate magically. And while Filch's attempt to learn magic seems a desperate act, it may not be entirely futile; the author has mentioned in interviews that in rare instances, a person's magical ability can suddenly appear later in life. Filch may be harboring such a hope, though, at his age, that possibility seems virtually non-existent, and the author has stated that Filch's attempt is doomed to failure.
Filch's character also spotlights the multi-layered class divisions that exist within wizard society; human wizards top the hierarchy, while Squibs and non-human magical creatures occupy the descending levels. Readers have also seen that some wizards, like the Malfoys, believe an even finer distinction exists within the wizard strata, with pure-blooded wizards superior to Half-bloods and Muggle-borns. And among purebreds, there seems to be the belief that those with wealth and power reside at the apex. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and other characters continually encounter these social and racial prejudices.
The story's core plot line is also revealed here. Though Binns states the Chamber of Secrets is non-existent, and that multiple headmasters spent years searching for it without finding so much as a Broom-closet of Secrets, it is evident to the reader, as well as the students, that the Chamber does exist and a monster dwells within. There could be few, if any, other possible explanations for Mrs. Norris being Petrified.
A bit more insight into Gilderoy Lockhart is offered here. Inside his office, we see his pictures whisk themselves from their frames, hiding, when Harry and the others enter; some, overcome by curiosity, reappear later, and Harry notes a few are wearing hairnets. This may reflect something about Lockhart's true nature. Lockhart himself, rather than helping with the investigation, babbles on about deaths he has supposedly prevented. When Mrs. Norris is found to be not dead, but merely Petrified, Lockhart suggests that he could whip up a restorative potion in short order, though he never does so. This boast irritates Snape, who of course, as Potions master, would assume any potion-making task to be his.
This also highlights Snape's dislike for Lockhart, who has probably been dismissed as a fraud by most teachers at this point; Snape likely shares that opinion. We suspect Professor Dumbledore is also aware, and he may have hired Lockhart only because he was the lone applicant (according to Hagrid). We should also note that Snape was particularly irritated by Harry's fame in the previous book; it was Harry's celebrity that Snape dwelt on in Harry's first Potions lesson. Harry avoids the spotlight, but Lockhart chases it, and almost everything he does is aimed at gaining him more attention. This can only increase Snape's dislike of Lockhart, a dislike heightened even more by Lockhart's self-serving attempt to usurp Snape's duties.
Considering that Snape, according to rumour, has always desired the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, it seems curious that Dumbledore would instead hire someone as incompetent as Lockhart rather than appoint Snape. The reader may begin to wonder about this; it likely will be revisited as the series progresses.
- Why did Salazar Slytherin leave Hogwarts?
- Why does Filch accuse Harry of Petrifying Mrs. Norris? Is there any truth to his accusations?
- Why would anyone want to Petrify a cat?
- Since Mrs. Norris is just a cat (not an Animagus), why would she be the first victim?
- Why is Harry suspected as being the Heir of Slytherin? Is the evidence credible or merely coincidental? Explain.
- What does Hermione hope to find in the library?
- Why would Percy dock the Trio House points for being in a bathroom?
- Despite evidence, why has no one been able to locate the Chamber of Secrets?
- What kind of monster might be in the Chamber? How can it be controlled?
- Why do Lockhart's pictures run and hide when someone enters the room, and what does that say about him?
While Harry, Hermione and Ron are examining the area where Mrs. Norris was found, they notice some strangely-behaving spiders. Ron admits he fears spiders, which is confirmed later in this book, and also in the next two books: by his Boggart in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and his behavior during Mad-Eye Moody’s Unforgivable Curse demonstration in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The spiders' peculiar behavior here gives a clue about the monster Slytherin concealed within the Chamber.
Percy claims that he is penalizing Harry and Ron House points despite Prefects lacking this power. It is possible, however, that anyone challenging Percy's over-inflated ego and self-importance, as Ron does here, causes Percy to react by threatening that he is docking House points. It may also be that the prefects, reporting any misbehavior to the House Head, can recommend docking points. While that may be what Percy intended, technically, he apparently has overstepped his bounds. In an interview, the author stated that Percy is more likely to be right than Ron, who says in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that prefects could not dock House points; she also reinforced this statement on her official web site. Against this, however, we must mention that Draco Malfoy, a prefect in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, agreed that prefects lacked the authority to dock House points. One can be sure that if Draco were able to dock House points from Gryffindors, he would, as later, as a member of Dolores Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad, he acquires that power and freely abuses it. In this particular case, however, it makes more sense that Percy is merely overstepping his boundaries through over-officiousness, a very Percy-like trait, than to have Draco later refrain from abusing a power he has been given.
One must wonder about Professor Binns' vehement denial that the Chamber of Secrets exists. We will learn that the Chamber had been opened some fifty years previously, and Headmaster Dippet considered closing the school as a result. While it is possible this was before Professor Binns joined the school, that seems unlikely; Binns' apparent refusal to teach anything later than about the nineteenth century argues for his having been a teacher for many more years than a mere fifty, and indeed suggests that his curriculum may have stopped changing when he died.
There is an interesting side note to this. Professor Binns tells the class that, according to the legend, only the true Heir of Slytherin can open the Chamber of Secrets. This part, at least, will be proved wrong. Not only does Harry open it later in this book by speaking Parseltongue (snake language), but presumably Ginny Weasley, controlled by Tom Riddle's memory, must have been instructed by Riddle on how to open it. Much later in the series, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron will also open the Chamber by repeating the same Parseltongue words he heard Harry speaking when he unlatched Slytherin's Locket Horcrux. This suggests a great conceit by Slytherin, in that he apparently believed that only his heirs would be able to speak Parseltongue. And while it could technically be argued that Voldemort's small soul portions residing within Harry and Ginny—Harry through Voldemort's attempt to murder him, and Ginny through the Diary—gave them this ability, Ron had no such connection. Considering how interconnected the many Wizarding families are, some, including Harry and the Weasleys, could be descended from Salazar Slytherin's family. Even though this connection may be quite diluted and even indirect, it may still be enough to open the Chamber. Ron, however, attributes his limited ability to simply mimicking what Harry had done to unlatch Slytherin's Locket Horcrux.
This conceit will be furthered mirrored later by Voldemort, who, smugly believing only he knows about the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts, uses it to hide a Horcrux. Dobby, however, will suggest to Harry (in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) that he use this room for his secret Dumbledore's Army meetings, which he does. Dobby gives the impression that this room is well-known to the other Hogwarts House-elves.
While Mr. Filch seems consumed with bitterness over being a Squib, not all such non-magical persons are so resentful; presumably some even marry witches or wizards and can produce magical offspring, just as a Muggle married to a magical spouse can. Mrs. Figg, Harry's neighbor, is also a Squib who, unbeknown to Harry just yet, has been helping to guard him since his arrival at Privet Drive. It will be learned much later that she also belongs to the Order of the Phoenix, a secret organization dedicated to fighting Voldemort. It is uncertain whether Squibs are encouraged to integrate themselves into Muggle society, as the only two we see are Filch and Mrs. Figg, both of whom have presumably been kept in the Wizarding world by direct or indirect action of Professor Dumbledore. Mrs. Figg has apparently adjusted to her non-magical status and is useful to Dumbledore, apparently eking out a living in the Wizarding world by breeding her unusual cats, which may be Kneazles or cat-Kneazle crossbreeds, that she presumably sells to wizards. Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, that she purchases in the next book, is likely such a creature, and plays an important role in that book.
Filch's character also highlights another recurring theme: how easily innocent and vulnerable people (and non-humans) are accused of and punished for crimes they never committed. Here, Filch, in a rush to judgment and already biased against Harry (and most students), claims that Harry petrified his cat, Mrs. Norris, even though there is no evidence other than Harry's early arrival on the scene. Fortunately, the Hogwarts faculty dismiss Filch's unfounded accusations. However, later in the series, Harry will again find himself implicated in various incidents based on faulty evidence, or accusations that he is an attention-seeking liar, by an indifferent and complacent Ministry of Magic. This injustice later extends to other characters, who, betrayed or manipulated, are disbelieved and/or punished for crimes they never committed. Harry continually finds himself confronting a legal system that seems bent on obtaining image-enhancing results rather than uncovering inconvenient truths. He will also learn that individuals who wield power and wealth are usually considered more credible than their everyday counterparts, often enabling them to influence events to their advantage. Readers can also see that merely making an accusation can often bias others into accepting it as fact, as when students almost immediately begin forming opinions regarding Harry as the Heir of Slytherin.
- In this chapter we learn of the existence of Polyjuice Potion. This potion will be used again, by Barty Crouch, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It will also be used repeatedly in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by members of the Order of the Phoenix, and by the Trio.
Chapter 10: The Rogue Bludger
Following the rather disastrous Pixies episode, Professor Lockhart now mostly re-enacts scenes from his books with Harry's unwilling assistance. Today Harry is being a Werewolf, and he plays along only to stay on Lockhart's good side. After class, Hermione asks Lockhart to sign a note for a library book to help her understand something in one of his works; he readily signs it, then offers to provide Harry advice on being a Quidditch Seeker. Madam Pince somewhat reluctantly accepts the note, and gives Moste Potente Potions to Hermione.
Shortly thereafter, Hermione, Harry, and Ron gather in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom where they are unlikely to be disturbed. Hermione reports that she needs Boomslang skin and Bicorn horn for the potion, ingredients unavailable in the student supplies cupboard. The potion will take about a month to brew, and Hermione, surprisingly, not only is willing to take some risks, but convinces Harry and Ron that they must also.
Just before the Quidditch match against Slytherin starts, Wood assures the team they can beat Slytherin, despite their faster brooms. He tells Harry to do whatever he can to catch the Snitch. As the match is underway, a rogue Bludger immediately targets Harry. Despite Fred and George's best efforts to block it, the Bludger seems determined to knock Harry off his broom; as the team is being slaughtered by the other Bludger and the Slytherin Beaters, Harry tells Fred and George to only concentrate on the game, he can handle the rogue. Malfoy, meanwhile, is so intent on sneering at Harry's frantic efforts to dodge the rogue Bludger, that he fails to notice the Snitch is right by his head. Harry spots it and takes off, but as reaches for the golden ball, the rogue Bludger smashes into his arm, breaking it. Harry catches the Snitch with the other hand, landing hard on the ground intact, then faints. He regains consciousness to see Lockhart standing over him. Lockhart promptly casts a "mending" spell to repair Harry's arm, but it instead removes all the bones.
In the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey is furious—she can easily fix broken bones, but regrowing them will be a painful, overnight job. The Gryffindor team arrives to celebrate the win over Slytherin but Madam Pomfrey promptly ejects them.
Later that night, Harry is awakened by Dobby sponging his forehead. Dobby admits that he closed the barrier at Kings Cross station to prevent Harry returning to the school, and also enchanted the Bludger, hoping Harry would be injured enough to be sent home. He explains that a House-elf can only be freed if his Master gives him clothing, which is why he wears a ragged pillowcase. He also mentions that the Chamber of Secrets was opened once before, though he punishes himself for having revealed something he ought not. Hearing a noise, he vanishes. Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall bring in a Petrified Colin Creevey. Colin's camera is completely melted inside; Dumbledore says this proves that the Chamber is open again, but the main question is not who, but how?
Lockhart's magical ineptness is becoming more apparent. Now, rather than teaching self-defence charms, Lockhart merely re-enacts scenes from his books, seemingly to avoid another Cornish Pixies-type incident. And, despite his claim he is adept in healing magic, his attempt to repair Harry's arm only results in a worse injury. One must wonder why Hermione, normally so logical, again rejects any suggestion that Lockhart is incompetent. It is perhaps telling that after Ron rhetorically asks aloud which teacher would be thick enough to grant a second-year student permission to check out a Restricted book, that Hermione chooses Lockhart to obtain just such a signature. Could she, despite her infatuation, perhaps now see that he is not quite as brilliant as he claims? Does she believe it is easier to hoodwink a new teacher rather than one who has been at Hogwarts much longer? Or is she simply becoming aware of his vanity, and chooses to play on that to get what she wants, while still retaining some belief in his competence?
The rogue Bludger initially seems to confirm Dobby's warning that Harry is in danger. Only after the game is it learned that it was Dobby who unleashed it, in an effort to convince Harry he should leave Hogwarts; Dobby knows the Chamber was opened relatively recently and that Harry's life is in peril. His misguided attempts to keep Harry away from Hogwarts have been laughable and child-like. Dobby first tried tricking Harry into believing his friends no longer cared about him by intercepting their letters. When that failed, he created havoc in the Dursley house, though he never predicted the fallout: the Ministry of Magic's owl and Uncle Vernon locking Harry in his room, resulting in Ron and the Twins coming to Harry's rescue. Dobby's blocking the barrier to the train station platform also failed when Harry and Ron instead took the Flying Car to Hogwarts, and now this latest attempt to injure Harry badly enough to send him home has similarly failed. All these acts seem poorly planned and executed. Does Dobby actually believe that Muggle medical care is better than what Hogwarts can offer? Or does he believe that Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia would allow magical healing in their house? Dobby seems oblivious that Harry's house is not his home, and that Hogwarts, no matter how dangerous it might be, is far more welcoming than Privet Drive.
The Quidditch match is revealing in other ways. Here Slytherin again shows their true nature. Whereas Gryffindor has trained long and hard to win by skill and fair play, Slytherin not only relies on the superior brooms Lucius Malfoy provided the team, but they also use the rogue Bludger to their advantage, easily racking up more points as Gryffindor's defences are divided by fending off both the Slytherin team and the menacing ball that is attacking Harry. Any other team would probably have halted the playing until the rogue was eliminated, then restarted the game, but Slytherin exploits any opportunity. Draco, meanwhile, rather than focusing on being a team member and helping Slytherin win, is instead so pre-occupied with himself and jeering at Harry as the rogue Bludger chases him, that he is oblivious to the Snitch hovering next to him. We suspect that the Slytherin team captain will have some rather harsh words for Draco following Harry's winning the match due to Draco's inattention.
Despite its being placed at the very end of the chapter, in a position of prominence, it is far too easy to overlook Dumbledore's statement that the operative question about the re-opening of the Chamber of Secrets is not who, but how. This should indicate, to the attentive reader, that Dumbledore knows the identity of the Heir and is only wondering how he managed to get the chamber re-opened.
- Why does Hermione select that particular bathroom to brew the Polyjuice potion in?
- Why did Lockhart choose Harry to participate in the class demonstration?
- Knowing what we do about Lockhart, why did he insist on "repairing" Harry's broken arm?
- Who charmed the Bludger to attack Harry, and why?
- Why did Hermione choose Professor Lockhart to sign a permission slip to check out a restricted book? Why does he sign it?
- Why does Dobby tell Harry that he has been trying to force him to leave Hogwarts? Why does he then punish himself for revealing this?
- What does Dumbledore mean when he says it not important to know "who" opened the Chamber of Secrets, but rather "how"?
- What does the Slytherin team's actions in the Quidditch match say about Slytherin House in general?
- What does Draco's performance as the Slytherin Seeker say about him?
After stating that the Chamber of Secrets has been reopened, Dumbledore comments that the question should not be who opened it, but how. This implies that Dumbledore rejects the commonly-held belief that it was Hagrid who opened it before, and that Tom Riddle caught him in the act and prevented it. If Dumbledore suspects Riddle opened the Chamber fifty years ago, and believes he has reopened it now, Dumbledore may have already formulated theories about Horcruxes. Until the Diary is revealed, any such theory would be tentative, though any suspicions will be further bolstered in the next chapter when it is revealed that Harry is a Parselmouth. This extremely rare ability to speak to snakes is shared by Voldemort's family, and Dumbledore will rightly surmise that Harry did not inherit this skill naturally. Dumbledore no doubt also remembers the previous year when Voldemort's shade was riding Professor Quirrell, and he may be wondering if the Dark Lord has found another mount, despite rumours placing him in Albania.
It seems Dobby understands the Diary's nature better than Lucius Malfoy, who sent it into the school as a weapon. We will learn that Hogwarts employs several hundred House-elves, and House-elf society likely communicates amongst themselves. It is possible that even if Dobby does not know what the Chamber of Secrets conceals, he is at least aware that Lucius has provided the means to reopen it, fifty years after its previous opening when a student died. It is almost certainly fear for Harry's life that causes Dobby to employ these feeble attempts to return Harry "home" to Privet Drive.
Having revealed that he tried to force Harry to leave Hogwarts, and having been fiercely rebuffed, Dobby will not make any further attempts. Dobby is likely aware that attempting to trick Harry again is useless, as he will immediately be suspected, rendering any action on Dobby's part ineffective.
- The potion Madam Pomfrey provides to re-grow the bones in Harry's arm, "Skele-grow", reappears in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where it is apparently used as part of Griphook's treatment.
Chapter 11: The Dueling Club
By morning, Harry's arm is healed, and he is discharged from the hospital wing. He finds Ron and Hermione in Moaning Myrtle's washroom, already brewing the Polyjuice Potion. Harry tells them about Dobby's visit; Ron observes that if Dobby continues to help Harry, Dobby will likely kill him.
News about Colin Creevey's Petrification has spread, and Ginny, who is in Colin's class, is distraught; also, there is a brisk business in Talismans and other supposedly magical protective objects. Neville, despite being a Pureblood, believing his weak magical ability makes him a target, buys many, claiming, "they went for Filch first."
Harry, Ron, and Hermione elect to stay at the school over Christmas after hearing that Malfoy is doing the same. But the Polyjuice potion is nowhere near ready, and they need to raid Professor Snape's private stores for ingredients. Surprisingly, Hermione volunteers to steal them if Harry or Ron can create a diversion. During the next Potions class, Harry tosses a firecracker into Goyle's Swelling Solution, splattering students. While Snape administers Deflating Draughts to everyone, Hermione sneaks into Snape's office and retrieves Boomslang skin and Bicorn horn. Hermione adds the new ingredients, saying the potion will be ready in a fortnight.
A week later, a notice is posted about a Dueling Club. Reckoning it will be useful, all three troop to the Great Hall, only to find that Professor Lockhart is running it, assisted by Professor Snape. In the first demonstration, Professor Snape tosses Professor Lockhart across the room using the Expelliarmus jinx. Lockhart then breaks students into pairs; Harry is paired with Malfoy, Ron with Seamus, and Hermione with Millicent Bullstrode. Mayhem ensues: Malfoy jinxes Harry before the start signal, but Harry retaliates; Ron's wand misfires, doing something horrible to Seamus. Hermione and Millicent have dropped their wands and are wrestling—Harry frees Hermione from Millicent's headlock. Lockhart suggests just one pair on stage, and selects Neville and Justin Finch-Fletchley; Snape overrules him and suggests Malfoy and Harry. When Malfoy conjures a snake that slithers towards Harry, Lockhart's attempts to eliminate it fails. As it seems poised to attack Justin, Harry yells at it to leave Justin alone. Surprisingly the snake obeys. Justin escapes the Great Hall as Snape destroys the snake. Ron drags Harry out exclaiming, "I didn't know you were a Parselmouth!" A Parselmouth, Harry learns, possesses the rare ability to talk to snakes, and it is what Salazar Slytherin was famous for and why Slytherin House's symbol is a serpent. Now Harry wonders—could he be the Heir of Slytherin?
The next day, Harry wants to explain everything to Justin, but Justin, believing Harry is the Heir of Slytherin, has gone into hiding, fearing Harry would Petrify him for being Muggle-born. Ernie claims Harry was speaking Parseltongue and chasing the snake towards Justin. Furious, Harry stalks out, smacking into Hagrid, who is on his way to Dumbledore's office to report that something is killing his roosters. Leaving Hagrid, Harry trips over a Petrified Justin Finch-Fletchley and finds himself staring at a smoldering and apparently Petrified Nearly Headless Nick. Spiders are fleeing.
Discovering Harry, Peeves sounds the alarm. Professor McGonagall arrives, and assigns Ernie Macmillan to take Nick to the Hospital Wing while Professor Flitwick and Professor Sinistra take Justin. Professor McGonagall escorts Harry to Professor Dumbledore's office.
The dueling club shows Gilderoy Lockhart's continuing ineptness, as he is unable to block Snape's simple spell, control the student duels, or eliminate Draco's conjured snake. By now, we should be wondering whether Gilderoy is a wizard at all, or merely a very good self-promoter. It is curious that Hermione still seems infatuated with him. Snape sees through Lockhart, of course, and Harry observes that if Snape looked at him like he did Lockhart, he would run for cover.
During the dueling club, Harry's ability to talk to snakes is revealed to the school, though readers first saw this when Harry and the Dursleys visited the zoo in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. We learn here that it is an extremely rare ability, linked only to Salazar Slytherin and his descendants. Given that the school fears "the Heir of Slytherin's" ongoing depredations, this is a major concern, of course. Proof that there is a connection between Salazar Slytherin and Harry could not be any plainer, and Harry, who knows little about his ancestry, is unable to disprove, even to himself, that he could be the Heir. The only mitigating factor is that Harry was absent during the petrifications. Harry knows this, but is unable to prove it.
This whole episode throws Harry into confusion. The Sorting Hat had wanted to place him into Slytherin House; he plainly remembers that the only reason it did not was because he asked not to be. Obviously, the Hat detected the link to Slytherin that is now made manifest by Harry's Parseltongue ability. Though Harry loves Gryffindor, is he there under false pretenses? This uncertainty, to a greater or lesser extent, will likely prey on Harry at least until the book's end.
Hermione's ongoing unbending is also shown when she raids Snape's stores. Her willingness to break the rules is hardly surprising to readers, who have seen her gradually grow more pliable through this and the previous book; however, it is quite a shock to Ron, who clearly continues to believe that Hermione is entirely rule-bound, despite increasing evidence to the contrary.
Also, Neville's fearing that he may be targeted, even though he is a pure-blood, is probably justified. The series increasingly parallels real-life history, including totalitarian rulers, particularly Nazi Germany. Even within their own society, it was common practice to weed out those considered as "undesirables", including the aged, infirm, or anyone with physical or mental handicaps, leaving only the fittest and healthiest to pass on their "superior" genes to the next generation. If Voldemort should ever return to power, it seems likely that in addition to his strict "pure-blood" ethos, he would only recruit the strongest, brightest, and most magically proficient wizards for his new order. Neville, and other "unworthy" pure-bloods, could become victims under such a regime.
- Why does Hermione have Harry and Ron create a distraction in Snape's class? Was it successful?
- Why does Lockhart start a Dueling Club? What does his performance in it say about him?
- Why was Harry paired with Draco?
- Why was Ron allowed to duel with a known faulty wand?
- How could Harry be unaware he was speaking snake language?
- Is Neville right to be concerned that he might be Petrified, even though he is a pure-blood? Explain.
- Why would a ghost be Petrified?
- Why is Ginny so upset when Colin is Petrified?
- What might be killing Hagrid's roosters and why?
- What evidence is there for and against Harry being descended from Salazar Slytherin?
- Consider what we know at this point about Salazar Slytherin's beliefs, and Voldemort's. Is it possible that Voldemort could be an heir of Slytherin's?
Colin Creevey is the first student who is Petrified. His being Ginny's classmate is sufficient reason to cause her distress, but her concern is actually the slowly-dawning realization that she may be responsible, as she was unable to remember what she was doing when it happened, or on the earlier occasion when Mrs. Norris was attacked. We have no way of realizing this at this point; all we know is that Harry was not present at either earlier petrification, or at the double petrification that happens in this chapter. The final attack will largely prove his innocence; but that does not occur for several months yet.
Professor Snape disarms Professor Lockhart with the Expelliarmus jinx. We don't know if Harry has been taught this spell previously, but it is the first time we have seen it in the series; by his demonstration, Snape may have unknowingly exposed Harry to possibly the most important spell of his life. The Disarmament Jinx, to give it its other name, will allow Harry to defeat Voldemort twice: once at the cemetery in Little Hangleton, and again at the end of the final battle.
The wrestling match between Hermione and Millicent Bullstrode is useful to our plot, as it is here that Hermione collects a hair she will use in her Polyjuice Potion portion. This will turn into a disaster for Hermione, as the hair is not Millicent's.
Harry again observes spiders fleeing the scene of the latest activity by the monster in the Chamber. This will provide an important clue for Hermione, who will determine what the monster is, but will be struck down before she can pass that information to Harry and Ron. Hagrid's roosters being killed will also form part of that pattern.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it is learned that Harry's ability with Parseltongue is due to a link with Slytherin; it will be a sideways link, though, as it is related to Voldemort's soul shard that adhered to Harry and remains within him. Voldemort is, in fact, the last living heir of Slytherin, through his mother's father, Marvolo Gaunt. The author has confirmed in a later interview that Harry's parseltongue ability vanished when that soul shard was destroyed, and he has not missed it since.
Dumbledore later quiets Harry's doubts by showing him that the sword he retrieved from the Sorting Hat was Godric Gryffindor's. "Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the Hat, Harry." While Dumbledore likely already knows about Voldemort's soul shard within Harry, it is something he believes Harry is unprepared to hear about yet. It is only at the end of Harry's fifth year that Dumbledore finally reveals the prophecy to Harry, which states that either he or Voldemort must die. Dumbledore, however, understands that Harry will have to die in order to destroy the soul shard he carries; Dumbledore believes, probably correctly, that, at age twelve, Harry is too young to carry that destiny's weight. Dumbledore actually never reveals the soul shard's existence to Harry, instead passing that task to Snape before his death, and charging Snape to conceal its existence until Voldemort realizes his Horcruxes are being destroyed.
- In a later book, Snape notes that some quantity of Bicorn horn and Boomslang skin are missing from his private stores, and suggests that Harry might have stolen them. Harry cannot answer this charge, knowing that Hermione had stolen these ingredients from him two years earlier. We later learn that Barty Crouch, Jr. had been making Polyjuice Potion for his own disguise, and surmise that the theft Snape is talking about was, in fact, not Hermione's past activities but Crouch's more recent ones. It is our, and Harry's, knowledge of this earlier instance that prevents us wondering if these potion ingredients were actually stolen in the later instance by Crouch, who was, Harry believes, in Snape's office shortly before the accusation.
- Note Harry's confusion in this chapter; Harry tells the snake to leave Justin alone, and is confused by Justin's response. Harry is unable to perceive that he has spoken in anything except English, and so doesn't realize that Justin did not understand what he was saying to the snake. Harry's inability to tell the difference between English and Parseltongue is a key point in this book, as he perceives the Monster's voice at several points and does not recognize that the Monster is not speaking in English. Harry's ability to speak to snakes is first seen in the first book of the series, and no mention is made there of whether Harry perceives that the snake is not speaking English. This confusion will reappear later in this book, when Harry has a need to speak Parseltongue and finds it difficult to switch, and will be a minor plot point in the final book.
- The Expelliarmus spell is introduced to the readers, and possibly also to Harry, in this chapter. Harry will find this spell extremely useful, starting later in this book, first to disarm Malfoy and retrieve Riddle's diary, then later to disarm Lockhart during the book's ending chapters. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he, Ron and Hermione will together use it to disarm Snape. He will use the jinx on Voldemort in the cemetery duel in book 4, which will allow him to escape Voldemort unharmed; it will be the first spell taught to Dumbledore's Army in book 5; it will be noted at the beginning of book 7 that it has become something of a "signature spell" for Harry, and at the end of that book will be used again to disarm Voldemort.
Chapter 12: The Polyjuice Potion
After depositing Harry in the Headmaster's office, Professor McGonagall departs. Looking around, Harry sees small intricate mechanisms on the many tables, portraits of sleeping past Headmasters and Headmistresses on the walls, and the Sorting Hat on a shelf behind a desk. Harry puts on the Hat, asking it if it still believes he should be in Slytherin. The Hat responds that Harry would have been great there. Returning it to the shelf, Harry says it is wrong. Harry then notices an ill-looking bird on a perch. It suddenly bursts into flames, crumbling into ashes. Professor Dumbledore enters, and, unperturbed about the bird, explains, "Fawkes is a Phoenix, Harry. Phoenixes burst into flames when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes." Lifting a chick from the ashes, Dumbledore says Phoenixes are extremely beautiful, except on a burning day. Also, "they can carry extremely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and they make extremely faithful pets."
Hagrid suddenly bursts in, loudly proclaiming Harry's innocence. Dumbledore assures Hagrid that he does not suspect Harry of anything. Abashed, Hagrid leaves the office. Dumbledore then asks if Harry wants to tell him anything, but recalling Ron's words that hearing voices no one else can, even in the Wizarding world, is a bad thing, Harry says nothing about it. Dumbledore dismisses him, and he returns to his dormitory.
Nearly the entire school believes Harry is the Heir; Fred and George, however, joke about it, loudly proclaiming that a "seriously evil wizard" is approaching whenever Harry walks down the hall. While Harry appreciates their humorous gesture, Ginny seems distraught.
The term ends, and there are a few stayovers for Christmas, including Draco Malfoy, and his cronies Crabbe and Goyle. On Christmas morning, Hermione barges into the boys' dormitory, waking them up and letting them know the Polyjuice Potion is ready. Harry receives Christmas presents from the Weasleys, while the Dursleys have sent him a toothpick. After the magnificent Christmas feast, Hermione gives Harry and Ron two small cakes loaded with Sleeping Potion. They place them where Crabbe and Goyle will find them after leaving the Great Hall. Crabbe and Goyle promptly eat them; Ron and Harry drag the unconscious pair into a closet, gather a few hairs, and head for Moaning Myrtle's washroom where Hermione awaits with the potion.
Hermione has already plucked a hair from Millicent Bullstrode's robes. After adding the hairs and drinking the potion, Ron and Harry painfully transform into Crabbe and Goyle's likenesses. From a cubicle, Hermione tells Harry and Ron to go without her—something seems amiss, but she does not elaborate.
Ron and Harry have difficulty finding where the Slytherin common room is located. They even ask a Ravenclaw student for directions. Percy suddenly appears and threatens the two with detention for being out after hours. Draco intervenes just in time, and leads the impostors to the entrance to Slytherin's common room. He gives the password, "pure blood", and heads in. Ron, barely able to contain himself, becomes infuriated when Malfoy shows him an article in the Daily Prophet about Mr. Weasley being fined for having an enchanted Muggle car. Draco discusses the Chamber of Secrets, saying it was opened once before. A girl was killed by the Monster, and the person who released it is likely still in Azkaban. Draco also mentions that there is a secret chamber beneath Malfoy Manor's drawing room containing many Dark objects. Although he does not know who the Heir is, he wishes it was himself. His father has instructed him to stay uninvolved in the matter, however.
As the potion starts wearing off, Harry and Ron rush back to the washroom. Moaning Myrtle is laughing wildly at Hermione. Apparently, the hair Hermione used in her potion belonged to Millicent Bullstrode's cat. Hermione now has a furry face, pointed ears, and a bushy tail. As Polyjuice Potion is not intended for species transformations, it will not wear off on its own.
Much is learned in this chapter. Our introduction to Dumbledore's office here gives insight into the Headmaster's nature, and perhaps Headmasters in general. The Put-Outer, which we saw in book 1's first chapter, clearly belongs in Dumbledore's collection, being the same type of magical / mechanical hybrid as the devices which fill Dumbledore's office. It may be that Dumbledore actually invents these objects, rather than simply collecting them.
Once again, the Sorting Hat states that Harry would be great in Slytherin House. By now Harry has seen hints that a link exists between him and Slytherin, notably Harry's ability to speak Parseltongue. This has left him unsure whether or not he is the Heir of Slytherin, as he is unable to fully trace his ancestry, though no one in the Potter family, unlike Slytherin's heirs, was known for speaking Parseltongue. There must be some other explanation for Harry having this ability. Despite vehemently denying the Hat's belief, however, Harry, already troubled by this possibility, must be even more upset at the Sorting Hat's insistence on this link.
Harry's ability to speak Parseltongue not only sets him apart from everyone else, but it causes many students to suspect and fear him. Based on his comments after bringing the Petrified Colin Creevey, the reader should guess that Dumbledore does not believe Harry is the Heir, but he is hoping Harry can shed some light on recent events. Hogwarts is a place where being a wizard is considered "normal," and, for the first time, Harry is allowed to fit in with others like himself. Now he finds he is once again disdained and ostracized because he has an ability others lack. He does not tell Dumbledore about the voice because he fears that admitting to others that he hears voices others cannot will only further ostracize him.
Dumbledore's emphasis on the Phoenix's abilities also seems more telling than we would expect, and it is likely foreshadowing. These birds are extremely loyal, can lift heavy weights, and have healing tears; how could these abilities assist Harry?
Harry and Ron, meanwhile, were unable to find the answer they were seeking, but they have gained some valuable information from Draco, who is so self-absorbed he cannot even detect that "Crabbe" and "Goyle" are acting oddly, even for them. Now Harry and Ron know definitively that someone other than Draco is the Heir of Slytherin, though Draco wishes it was him, a stark contrast to Harry, who still fears that he is the Heir. Draco's behavior is telling, not only about himself, but also Slytherins in general who, known for embodying stealth, cleverness, determination, and ambition, will often take the shortest and easiest available path to reach what they want. Draco desires to be Slytherin's Heir not only because he believes it will bestow enormous prestige on him, but because he can obtain it merely through an "accident of birth", basking in the reflected glory, rather than anything he deliberately worked hard at to achieve on his own. This is the polar opposite to Harry, who did inherit his fame by fate rather than by his own design—a fame that dismays him, and that he feels is undeserved and propels him to prove himself in other ways. Meanwhile, Harry and Ron also learn that the Malfoy family is hoarding Dark objects at their mansion, information Ron will likely share with Mr. Weasley as soon as possible.
The information that Harry and Ron do learn is thanks to Hermione's efforts, though she, unfortunately, pays a price. Despite her clever planning and meticulous effort in brewing the Polyjuice Potion, her one tiny mistake (assuming the stray hair was Millicent's) has resulted in a huge furry problem, landing her in the Hospital Wing. It seems likely, knowing Hermione's nature, that she is probably more upset that she made an error, than what resulted from it. Regardless, her role here shows how vitally important she is becoming to "The Trio."
Also, Slytherin's password, "pure blood," is certainly revealing, and it could be considered as their creed. It clearly re-enforces Slytherin House's belief that they are separate (and superior) to the other Houses. This belief in pureblood superiority becomes even more extreme and wide-spread as the series progresses.
- Why does Harry feel the need to put the Sorting Hat on? What does it tell him and why does Harry disagree?
- Why did Draco's father order him to stay out of what is happening at Hogwarts? What does this indicate about Mr. Malfoy?
- Should Harry have told Dumbledore about hearing voices? What would Dumbledore have done?
- Who might the person be who is still in Azkaban Prison that Draco is referring to?
- Why would Dumbledore have a Phoenix as a pet, and is that what Fawkes actually is? If not, what exactly is he?
- What are Fawkes' unique qualities, and how could that be valuable to Dumbledore?
- Why would Draco wish that he was the Heir of Slytherin? What does this say about his character?
- Is the ability to speak Parseltongue sufficient proof that Harry is the Heir of Slytherin? Give evidence both for and against this argument.
Harry meets Fawkes, Professor Dumbledore's Phoenix familiar. Fawkes plays an important part later in the year, twice saving Harry's life (once by blinding the Basilisk, then using his tears to cure Harry of the Basilisk venom). Additionally, his other abilities are necessary, because it is his loyalty to Dumbledore that summons him to Harry's defence, and his ability to lift heavy weights returns Harry and his co-adventurers to the surface after the battle. Fawkes will prove helpful both to Harry and to Dumbledore throughout the series.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry learns that the Phoenix feather core of his holly wand, and of Voldemort's yew wand, both come from Fawkes. These are the only two tail feathers Fawkes has ever donated.
Draco's admission that he does not know who the Heir of Slytherin is, and that his father has told him nothing other than to stay uninvolved, is somewhat telling. Knowing what the Diary actually is, we can see that the Heir of Slytherin is, as Dumbledore has suggested, the same person as last time, Tom Riddle. However, that Lucius has given Draco no instructions, except to stay clear, again indicates that Lucius may lack a clear idea of what he has unleashed. If he does know more, Lucius may be withholding information from Draco because he believes Draco is still too young and irresponsible to be entrusted with Dark matters. Considering Draco has already blabbed what little he does know to the bogus Crabbe and Goyle, this is probably a correct assumption.
Having been to the Slytherin common room, Harry will be able to describe it accurately when claiming to be Vernon Dudley from Slytherin after the Snatchers catch him.
Ginny being distraught by the Twins' joking is worth mentioning. We believe Ginny has a crush on Harry, and presumably this alone would be enough to upset her; the Twins seem to be mocking Harry, and that may upset Ginny, despite Harry's appreciation that at least two people find any association between him and Slytherin laughable. Likely, though, Ginny's dismay is probably due to her dawning realization that she may acting as the Heir. Clearly she has begun to note that she is unable to remember anything during the intervals when the petrifications happened, and, as the Riddle Horcrux tells us later, Ginny fears she may be losing her mind. We should note that Ginny's attempt to discard the Diary will happen shortly before Hermione's release from the Hospital Wing in early February; this chapter of the story, encompassing the start of Christmas break, clearly is late December. As Ginny will attempt to flush the diary down Myrtle's lavatory in about a month, she must, in this chapter, already be very near the limit of stress she can take from the effects of the diary.
The sleeping headmasters' and headmistresses' portraits will play an active part starting from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The reader must be curious why these portraits seem so sleepy, when the portraits in the school proper are talkative and interact with students and faculty. Their apparent drowsiness is actually a means of concealment.
It will turn out that the Ravenclaw girl and Percy turning up in such proximity is not happenstance. We will learn later that she is Penelope Clearwater, a Prefect, and Percy's girlfriend. Penelope will be Petrified, and while we will see Percy's deep dismay at that occurrence, we will be carefully misled into believing that it is simply because Percy had previously believed Prefects to be invulnerable to attack.
- Fawkes, first actually seen here, is a minor character and not properly a connection. However, his characteristics are important and do form connections.
- It is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that Harry's wand and Voldemort's share a core, each containing one of only two tail feathers ever given by one phoenix. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we will learn that the phoenix in question is Fawkes. We do see Fawkes leaving feathers as markers of one sort or another in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but we must assume those are not tail feathers and so possibly not usable for making wands.
- "They can carry extremely heavy loads": Later in this book, Fawkes will carry Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Lockhart up from the Chamber of Secrets. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Fawkes will carry Dumbledore to safety.
- "Their tears have healing powers": Later in this book, Fawkes' tears will heal Harry's Basilisk-envenomed wound. After the battle in the cemetery , as Harry tells his story to Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Fawkes' tears will heal Harry's leg injury.
- "They make extremely faithful pets": Very nearly all of Fawkes' activities throughout the series are due to this loyalty. It is Harry's expression of loyalty to Dumbledore that summons Fawkes to his aid in the Chamber of Secrets later in this book.
- The calming effect of phoenix song is not mentioned here, but we see this effect in the Chamber of Secrets in this book, in Dumbledore's office in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and finally after Dumbledore's death in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
- The portraits of the sleeping headmasters will play parts in a number of subsequent books. We will first see them awake in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and we learn there that they can travel from those portraits to other portraits of themselves scattered around the world. The occupants of the portraits will thereafter generally play some part in any visit Harry makes to Dumbledore's office, and quite often to places where other portraits of headmasters are located. This will also prove a vital channel of communication for the Trio, as they will be carrying the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black, a past headmaster, with them through much of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- The small, intricate mechanisms on Dumbledore's tables will play a part in later books. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, one of them will be used to analyze the attack on Mr. Weasley. In that same book, the attempt to arrest Dumbledore will result in several of the mechanisms getting damaged. At the end of that book, Harry will be returned to Dumbledore's office, which he will find repaired; in his anger at Dumbledore he will destroy one of the tables and the mechanism on it. In this book, when the diary is sharing T. Riddle's memories, Harry recognizes that it is a memory in part because of the absence of mechanisms on tables in the Headmaster's office.
- Earlier in this book, Ron laments that Percy is not willing to allow the family to use his owl, Hermes, leaving the Weasley family dependent on the aging Errol for their communication. Ginny will later tell us that Hermes is carrying letters back and forth to Penelope Clearwater, Percy's girlfriend. We see Penelope in this chapter, though she is not identified. She will be petrified by the basilisk later in this book. Percy keeping Hermes exclusively to himself will be mentioned in a later book, so we can assume that he keeps this pattern going through the intervening two years.
- Harry's visit to the Slytherin common room in this chapter will aid him in the final book of the series. Captured, Harry will use this knowledge when claiming to be Vernon Dudley from Slytherin, and so will avoid immediate identification.
Chapter 13: The Very Secret Diary
Returning to Gryffindor tower after visiting Hermione in the Hospital Wing, Harry and Ron hear Filch yelling, and they cautiously investigate. Water from Moaning Myrtle's washroom has flooded the floor near Filch's usual post, the hallway where Mrs. Norris was petrified. Ron and Harry, entering the washroom, find Myrtle more distraught than usual. A book was thrown at her while she was in her favorite U-bend pipe. Her watery reaction washed the book, a Diary, onto the floor. It is dated fifty years previously, and belongs to one T. M. Riddle, but the pages are blank. Ron remembers during his detention seeing an award that was presented to T. M. Riddle for Special Services to the School fifty years ago.
In early February, Hermione, now fur-free and tailless, leaves the Hospital Wing. When Harry tells her about Riddle's Diary, she notices a correlation between its date and the Chamber being opened fifty years ago. Thinking the Diary may contain information about the Chamber, she attempts several revealing spells, but it remains stubbornly blank. Harry visits the Trophy Room for information about Riddle, but other than his award, and his name on the Head Boys list, there is none. Harry keeps the Diary, hoping to learn about Riddle.
The school's mood is lighter; the attacks have ceased and spring is approaching. The Mandrake plants are nearing maturity, and can soon be harvested to make a potion that will treat the Petrified victims. The only dark cloud is Professor Lockhart claiming credit for halting the attacks. Lockhart proposes a little "morale-booster:" having dwarves dressed as Cupids deliver live Valentines around the school on February 14. One corners Harry to deliver a Valentine (most likely from Ginny). In the resulting fracas, Harry's bag is ripped open, breaking his ink bottle and spilling ink on everything. Malfoy grabs the Diary, waving it around. Ginny seems terrified, and Harry reclaims it with a disarming jinx. Harry notices that there are no ink stains on the pages, though Ron, preoccupied with his recalcitrant wand, ignores Harry pointing this out.
That night, Harry discovers that when he writes in the Diary, it responds with Tom Riddle's written words. When Harry asks about the Chamber of Secrets, the Diary shows him the events of 13 June, fifty years back. Tom Riddle asks then-headmaster, Professor Dippet, if he can remain at Hogwarts for the summer, rather than return to his orphanage "home." Professor Dippet says because the Chamber of Secrets has been opened, that is impossible, and the school may close permanently. In a hallway, Harry sees a much younger and auburn-haired Professor Dumbledore telling Riddle to return to his dorm. Harry follows Riddle to the dungeons, where Riddle secretly watches another student sneak in to care for an unknown large creature. It is Hagrid, then a third-year student. Tom confronts Hagrid and accuses him of releasing the Monster from the Chamber. As the creature scuttles away, Harry is suddenly ejected from the memory. He tells Ron what he saw, and that Hagrid was expelled for opening the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago.
This chapter is significant in that it not only introduces us to Tom Riddle through his Diary, but re-confirms that the Chamber was opened fifty years before, and a girl died then. Hermione points out that Draco Malfoy had mentioned this earlier, though he is unaware who was responsible. Lucius Malfoy, Draco's father likely attended Hogwarts some twenty years before Harry, but that would be thirty years after the Chamber was previously opened, so he could not be the Heir who previously opened the Chamber. And while Lucius may not know who the Heir is, as he told Draco, he may have some suspicions.
Filch's new usual post, where Mrs. Norris and the bloody message were found, is close to Moaning Myrtle's washroom, the source of the water on the hallway. We have seen that Peeves' insults chased a distraught Myrtle back to her washroom; her turning on the water taps on that occasion, and the resulting flood, clearly are a fairly common occurrence.
While inside Riddle's memory, Harry sees the much younger Dumbledore, and though the present-day Headmaster is older and greyer, he is no less powerful. It is hinted that Dumbledore alone may have considered Tom Riddle's actions suspect, despite his later Award for Special Services to the School. It is unknown if Dumbledore shared his suspicions about Riddle with Dippet. Even if he did, Hagrid's fate remained the same.
Truth, and how it is perceived and or manipulated by others, is an ongoing theme throughout the series. Viewing other peoples' memories, either through a diary, or other magical means that will be seen in later books, can sometimes be misleading, especially when taken out-of-context. Riddle's memory clearly implicates Hagrid, but does it tell the whole story? Is it possible to alter or edit these stored memories? While that remains unanswered here, the memory Harry is watching ends extremely abruptly, leaving it open to interpretation, though it seems to be steering Harry, and us, to a specific conclusion. With Muggles, memories can be faulty, biased, and sometimes dead wrong. Can that be the case with preserved wizard memories? Whether it is or not, Harry will have to come to the realization that the truth cannot always be determined by one person's viewpoint alone.
Truth can also be contaminated by prejudice, another ongoing theme, and it seems that Tom Riddle is perceived by the school authorities as being more truthful solely because he is charming, handsome, and eloquent. He is also fully human, whereas the unsophisticated and less-articulate Hagrid is not; Hagrid is suspect because his character is believed to be tainted by his giant ancestry. Only Dumbledore seems able to look beyond Riddle's charismatic façade, suspecting a darker persona may lurk within.
Another recurring theme in the series is how people (living or dead) can still affect others through their past actions, even though they may no longer be physically present. The memories show us how previous generations have impacted Hogwarts, leaving faint footprints that through the years have been tread upon, again and again, but are never completely erased. Hogwarts is a legacy of the many students and teachers who have lived there, and who can continue to influence the school in some indirect but meaningful way. As the series progresses, this becomes particularly significant in regards to Harry. Not only is his character continually shaped by those currently surrounding him, but it is increasingly affected by his late parents, who have left their own legacy.
When the attacks stop, life at Hogwarts seems to return to normal. However, this is likely a false sense of security, an "eye of the storm," that foreshadows worse events soon to come. Meanwhile, Lockhart's "mood lightener" to mark the occasion shows how little he understands people, though it does indicate how other teachers regard him. While this is little surprise to the reader, and initially seems to do little for the story, we find that it is an essential plot element, as it causes Harry to wonder why the spilled ink did not stain the Diary's pages. It is because of his curiosity about the way ink behaves, and in part because of Ron's distraction with his wand, that Harry learns how to communicate with the entity in the diary.
This is the first, but probably not the last, experience Harry has inside other peoples' memories. Note that Harry is initially confused that Dippet fails to react to him, a key indicator he is within someone's memories, which are unchanging and can only be observed, not participated in. One possibly confusing issue is that if we are in Tom's memory, as stated, how can we see what Dippet is doing before Tom arrives? This is never completely explained. The author has said that when you are in someone else's memory, what you see is what actually happened, not what they perceived. It is possible that the charm has an effective range that retrieves the memory, such that anything happening within 30 feet (10M) or so of the memory's owner can also be retrieved.
The author also interjects a little humor by again focusing attention on the rather human-like Mandrake plants. Their life-cycle nearly parallels the Hogwarts students, starting from infancy and childhood, through a moody, secretive early adolescence, on into a rebellious and rather wild teenaged period (with some even suffering from acne), and finally, adulthood. In this case, however, the poor plants are to be chopped up for a potion after reaching maturity.
- Why is Moaning Myrtle so upset?
- How does Harry know he is in a memory?
- Why would a cat be Petrified?
- Why would someone throw a diary into the toilet? Who might this have been?
- Ginny apparently sent the Valentine to Harry. Is the confusion around its delivery sufficient to explain her apparent reaction or is something else responsible for her behavior? Explain.
- Why might Tom Riddle want to stay at Hogwarts for the summer?
- Who might the girl who was killed have been? Give evidence for your conclusion.
- Why have the attacks suddenly stopped? Could they start again? If so, why?
- Based on what is seen, was Hagrid responsible for releasing the monster in the Chamber of Secrets? Give reasons both for and against his being guilty.
- Are the memories that Harry sees truthful? Explain.
- What does the younger Dumbledore's interaction with Tom Riddle reveal?
This is a pivotal chapter in the book. As mentioned, Filch's usual post is a chair near Myrtle's bathroom, and under the writing on the wall where Mrs. Norris was found. While Harry and Ron never consciously make the connection between Mrs. Norris and the bathroom, it may help Harry solve the riddle to the Chamber's entrance later in the story.
An important plot point in the Harry Potter series is also shown here: this is Harry's first contact with Tom Riddle's Diary, which we learn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the first-found of six Horcruxes believed to be created by Voldemort (whose birth name is Tom Marvolo Riddle). Riddle's soul shard opens the Chamber by controlling Ginny. Because Ginny finally connects the Diary with the odd occurrences, she attempts to flush it down the toilet in Moaning Myrtle's washroom, thus arousing Myrtle's ire and attracting Harry and Ron's attention. The episode with Draco Malfoy waving the Diary particularly disturbs Ginny because she recognizes it as the one she had disposed of, and now is deathly afraid Harry might learn how to communicate with it, learning the secrets that she entrusted to it. We are led to believe, however, that she is actually mortified because she sent the Valentine greeting delivered to Harry.
It is because Ginny no longer has the Diary, and thus is no longer being controlled by it, that the attacks cease. Ginny will eventually retrieve the Diary from Harry's dorm, and the attacks will immediately start up again, though nobody makes the connection between the two events.
Though the memory was incomplete, Harry learns that Hagrid was involved in the Chamber of Secrets' opening fifty years ago. However, we will shortly learn that the pet Tom Riddle saw him with was an Acromantula, a large spider capable of speech. While Hagrid and the Acromantula will prove to be unconnected with the Chamber, this Acromantula, Aragog, gives Harry a vital clue to finding the Chamber of Secrets' entrance.
While the memory Tom Riddle shows Harry is accurate, it is incomplete and slanted to imply Tom's innocence and reinforce Hagrid's guilt in opening the Chamber. Harry, like the school in Tom's day, is taken in by this. It was Hagrid's exposure, and the Monster never being released after Hagrid's expulsion, that led Headmaster Dippet and the school to believe that Tom correctly identified the culprit who opened the Chamber. For this, Tom received the Special Services award. It is likely that the only school member not sharing this belief is Professor Dumbledore).
Of course, Tom is Slytherin's heir; we will discover in the sixth book that Tom's mother, Merope Gaunt, claimed and could prove descent from Salazar Slytherin. Tom explored the castle extensively and found and opened the Chamber, controlling the Monster within. It is unclear how he was able to find it when many others, including Ghosts who can pass through solid barriers, were unable to. One possibility is that the Chamber is charmed to be invisible to all but Slytherin's descendants; however, this is unlikely, as Ron and Lockhart are quite able to see it once it is opened. Another possibility is that it is simply charmed to be unmappable. We never see any ghosts in the Room of Requirement, which is apparently also unmappable; perhaps the charm also prevents ghosts from entering.
It should be noted that memories can be edited; we will see an instance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where Professor Slughorn had edited his memory before giving it to Professor Dumbledore. Though Slughorn's editing was clumsily done, we are led to believe that Tom Riddle was more adept at magic involving memories. Unlike Slughorn, Riddle does not try to replace memory segments he wants to remain hidden; instead he simply leaps over them.
It should also be noted that while memories can be altered, as in Slughorn's case, their accuracy in general might be questioned by readers. Are the strands that a volunteer surrenders an exact recording of what was actually seen, or are they as tainted by the individual's imperfect recollections as our own memories are? The author has stated in an interview, perhaps in response to this possible discrepancy, that memories retrieved in this manner are the actual events that occurred at the time; however, if they can be edited consciously, we have to assume that they may also be edited unconsciously. It should also be considered that Riddle may have had much more leeway to manipulate his memories by recording them in an enchanted diary, rather than them being directly taken from his mind and deposited into a Pensieve, which is how Harry will view other peoples' recollections later in the series.
It is in this book, looking back from the series end, that we first see Dumbledore's habit of holding his cards close to his vest. From early on, Dumbledore had suspicions about Riddle, suspicions that either were allayed by Riddle's behaviour, or simply did not occur to others who were blinded by his glamour. Dumbledore likely suspected Riddle was being evasive when he exposed Hagrid as the one who opened the Chamber, and clearly retained this suspicion through the intervening fifty years. Dumbledore now believes Riddle is again opening the Chamber, and as seen in an earlier chapter, only wonders how he is doing it.
As a point of irony, one might note a statement Ron makes in this chapter. While the Trio wonder why Tom Riddle received his award, Ron jokingly suggests that Riddle received it because maybe he is the person that killed Myrtle. The irony here is that Riddle did, in fact, kill Myrtle, and then received the award for stopping killing people. However, we will not come to this realization until the book's final chapters.
- Aragog, who we see later in this book, will be mentioned again in the sixth book, where he passes away. Aragog's offspring will have a small role in the final book, also.
Chapter 14: Cornelius Fudge
Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss this revelation endlessly—none want to believe that Hagrid would have anything to do with a monster. And yet, he was expelled from Hogwarts, and he has an affection for large, terrifying creatures, like Norbert the Dragon, and "Fluffy," the giant three-headed dog that guarded the Philosopher's Stone the previous year. The attacks must have stopped after Tom Riddle turned in Hagrid. Otherwise, Tom would not have received the Special Services award. They decide to do nothing unless there are more attacks. The school seems to be returning to normal, and the Mandrake plants are maturing and nearly ready for treating the Petrified victims.
Starting in their third year, Hogwarts students can attend elective courses, so over Easter Break, the second-years are to select their third-year classes. Hermione eventually decides she wants to take everything. Harry seeks advice from Percy, who pompously tells him to stay with his strengths. Feeling his only strength is Quidditch, Harry decides to take the same courses as Ron so they can work together.
Returning from Quidditch practice, Harry discovers his dorm has been ransacked and Riddle's Diary is gone. Harry surmises that a Gryffindor must have taken it; nobody else knows the password to the tower.
While heading to the Quidditch pitch for the match against Hufflepuff, Harry hears the voice again. Ron and Hermione hear nothing, but something suddenly occurs to Hermione and she runs to the library, while Ron and Harry head to the Pitch. Just before the game starts, Professor McGonagall announces it has been canceled and orders everyone to their House Common room. She singles out Harry and Ron to follow her to the infirmary. There has been a double attack: Penelope Clearwater, a Ravenclaw Prefect, and Hermione have been Petrified. Both were found near the library, Hermione clutching a small mirror. Percy is in shock that Penelope was attacked, apparently believing Prefects were immune.
In an attempt to protect the students from the monster, several restrictions are announced. Among them are a 6:00 PM curfew, which has the additional result of banning all evening activities outside the House dormitories. Further, students are to be escorted from class to class by teachers. If the monster is not found and dealt with, the school may have to be closed permanently.
Hidden under the Invisibility Cloak, Harry and Ron sneak out to Hagrid's hut to ask him about the Chamber of Secrets. Before he can reveal anything, a knock on the door sends Harry and Ron diving back under the Cloak; Professor Dumbledore and Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge enter. Fudge, apparently believing Hagrid had previously opened the Chamber, and ignoring Dumbledore's protests, is sending Hagrid to Azkaban, the wizard prison, as a precaution. Lucius Malfoy suddenly arrives with an Order signed by the Governors of Hogwarts calling for Dumbledore's removal as Headmaster. Fudge objects to Dumbledore's removal, as does Hagrid, but Malfoy insists that it is an internal affair and no concern of the Ministry. As he is leaving, Dumbledore, staring directly at where Harry and Ron are huddled under the Cloak, says, "I will only truly have left the school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it." As Hagrid is led away by Fudge, he calls out that if anyone wants to find answers, they should just follow the spiders, and to also feed Fang.
That Hagrid may be involved with the Chamber's opening is clearly a hard revelation for Harry. But the proof seems incontrovertible, and in the memory Harry actually saw Hagrid being discovered. Harry's trust in Hagrid has been shaken, but not fatally; it is only after the attacks start again that Harry felt he must approach Hagrid about the events resulting in his expulsion.
Meanwhile, the Diary has been stolen; Harry believes it was a targeted theft, as nothing else was taken. Harry and Ron also conclude it was a Gryffindor who stole it, as someone would need to know the password to get into the dormitory. Both facts may be significant. One thing is certain: Harry can no longer use it to learn more about Hagrid's expulsion from Hogwarts.
If Harry had braced Hagrid about those events, almost certainly Harry would also have had to explain how he had seen them, and the author revealing the Diary's role early on would have significantly weakened the plot. Thus, Hagrid's arrest, or some means, stronger than the easily-breached curfew, that renders Hagrid unavailable, is necessary to the story line. Hagrid's arrest also introduces us to Azkaban Prison, and how much wizards fear it. From the next book's title, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we can assume Azkaban will figure largely in it; and as it has been at least mentioned now in both this and the previous book, Azkaban will likely reappear in future books as well.
Lucius Malfoy is seldom, if ever, straightforward in his motives. In this case, he claims the Board of Hogwarts is suspending Dumbledore for failing to prevent the student attacks. We are aware that Malfoy's motives are usually something other than what they appear, and his machinations are extensive. It is a safe assumption that he has coerced the board into suspending Dumbledore; his smug satisfaction when delivering the document speaks to that. However, we are left wondering exactly what he hopes to gain by this action. Is hatred of Dumbledore sufficient reason for this level of action against him? Or is there something more to discover?
Hagrid is careful to tell Harry and Ron about the spiders, though we have no idea yet as to why. The spiders near Moaning Myrtle's bathroom were acting odd, however.
Readers should take note that when Hermione ambitiously states she wants to take every class in Year 3, this may foreshadow future events, as well as being an example of be careful what you wish for.
- Before he leaves, Dumbledore seems to look directly at Harry and Ron, though they are under the Invisibility Cloak. Can Dumbledore actually see them? If so, how?
- Why does Hermione suddenly go to the library?
- Is Hagrid's being sent to Azkaban justified?
- Who might have taken the Diary? How did they know about it, and why was it taken?
- What evidence is there that Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets? Is it believable or merely circumstantial? Explain.
- Can Harry trust what he sees in the Diary? Explain why or why not.
- When Harry and Ron go to Hagrid for an explanation about the Chamber of Secrets, can they trust what he will tell them? Explain.
- Why would Hagrid tell Harry to follow the spiders? Where might they lead?
- Why was Hermione holding a small mirror when she was petrified?
- Is Dumbledore's removal as headmaster justified or is there another reason behind it? Explain.
- As he is leaving Hagrid's hut, what might Dumbledore's words to Harry mean?
It should be noted that a new attack occurs immediately after the diary is stolen. It is certain that the diary had been deliberately disposed of; carrying something into a disused bathroom and flushing it down the toilet is hardly accidental. It is likely that the diary, in the hands of its original owner, was somehow connected to the attacks, and the recurrence of the attacks so shortly following the theft of the diary would imply that the original owner has reclaimed it. Harry, while not understanding why the diary has been stolen, suspects the thief is a Gryffindor student. This would probably also lead Harry to speculate, probably surprisingly, that a Gryffindor, rather than someone connected to Slytherin House, could be the Heir. We will discover in the final chapters that the Diary is directly associated with the attacks and that a Gryffindor student is involved, though that person is not the Heir of Slytherin.
The Twins' comments lead us to surmise that Percy is distressed only because a prefect has been attacked. Percy quite plainly believed that prefects were invulnerable. Even so, his reaction appears extreme, until we learn at the end of this book that Ginny had caught him kissing Penelope Clearwater. This romantic entanglement's revelation makes Percy's shock understandable at last.
Hermione's running to the library after Harry hears "the voice" again is perhaps what most helps Harry to once again save the day: connecting Harry to being the only person who can hear the voice inside the walls, Hermione correctly concludes that the monster is a Basilisk. Harry can hear it because he is a Parselmouth, possessing the rare ability to speak to snakes. A Basilisk's gaze is lethal to anyone looking directly into its eyes. However, no one has died because each saw the monster indirectly: Mrs. Norris saw it reflected in the water outside Myrtle's bathroom, Colin through his camera, Justin through Nearly-Headless Nick (who sees it directly, but since he is already dead, cannot be killed again), and Hermione and Penelope reflected in a mirror Hermione was carrying. Hermione also correctly guesses that the Basilisk uses the plumbing to move through the school's walls unmolested.
Lucius' motives in getting Dumbledore suspended are never entirely explained, but some understanding may come from knowing that Lucius engineered the attacks, even though he apparently remains uncertain what mechanism is involved. Knowing that Lucius provided the weapon, we can see that his orchestrating Dumbledore's suspension is a means to give that weapon free rein. Only three teachers at Hogwarts seem to believe that there might be a Chamber of Secrets containing a monster: Dumbledore, who was at Hogwarts at the time it was last opened; McGonagall, who accepts Dumbledore's word; and Lockhart, who is utterly ineffectual. By removing Dumbledore, Lucius is effectively halving the forces countering the monster.
Hagrid's final words as he is being taken away indicate strongly that Hagrid is more aware than we had thought of what is going on. What we will find out is that the spiders, in fear of the Monster, are heading for safe territory, the Forbidden Forest home of Aragog and the Acromantulae. Hagrid's suggestion that Harry and Ron should do likewise would argue that Hagrid has spoken with Aragog about the Monster, and that Hagrid believes Aragog can shed some light on current events. In retrospect, this is not too surprising; the Monster was last active at Hogwarts when Hagrid was caring for the then-juvenile Aragog, and it is to be expected that Hagrid would discuss the events at the school with Aragog. As Aragog is unable to name the Monster for Harry and Ron, we can assume that he is unable to name it for Hagrid either, and so Hagrid may not know exactly what the Monster is, but he does know that Aragog knows about it, and apparently believes that Aragog will be able to help Harry identify it.
Also, while Hermione's claim that she wants to take "every" third-year class seems like childish hyperbole, she is actually quite serious. She will arrange with McGonagall to do just that, and how she is able to accomplish this feat will play a major role in the next book. As a result, Hermione will painfully learn that sacrifices must be made to obtain so much knowledge and that there are limitations as to just how much one person can learn. She will, however, turn her misstep into an advantage.
- Though Harry and Ron have previously noted spiders acting oddly in this book, this is the first concrete mention that their actions are related to the Monster. The spiders, of course, will lead us to Aragog shortly. Aragog will not be seen again until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, at his funeral. However, his descendants will appear in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- Hermione's signing up for every possible third year course will result in her being issued a Time-turner, which she carries for the duration of the next book. This device would prove so useful in the final battle that it must be destroyed before the end of the series. That destruction happens in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but we don't learn about its import until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
- In particular, Hermione's selection of Ancient Runes is connected to key plot point in the final book. Dumbledore will bequeath a book to Hermione, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which will be written in ancient Runic. It will be Hermione's puzzling over the runes, and particularly over one particular symbol that she doesn't recognize, that will lead Harry to gradually understand the import of the Deathly Hallows. The symbol that Hermione can't understand is not a rune at all, but the sigil of the Hallows, and it will be to decipher the meaning of this sigil that the Trio will visit Xeno Lovegood. Xeno will explain the Tale of the Three Brothers and how it relates to the Hallows. The book's being in runes, and Hermione's high marks in that course through the years, likely caused Dumbledore to leave the book to Hermione; and her lengthy efforts to decipher the runes are essential to the timing of the visit to Xeno Lovegood.
- Dumbledore's statement that he "will only truly have left Hogwarts when none here are loyal to me" will be echoed later in this book, and in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. A variant of this, where Harry agrees that he is "Dumbledore's man through and through", appears in that same book twice, at Christmas and after Dumbledore's funeral.
- We will mention here that Cornelius Fudge's character is consistent throughout. In this instance, we can see that he is taking action to prevent a perceived threat; the action, we believe, is wrong, but Fudge feels he must do something to alleviate the worries of his constituents. We will see his political nature again almost every time we see him, next in July in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, then in December in that same book, and again in June of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Looking back at Fudge's actions from the end of the series, we can see that he is ever the consummate politician, acting always to attempt to retain power, doing what looks good rather than determining what would be best done.
Chapter 15: Aragog
Security is tighter than ever. Harry and Ron are unable to visit Hermione in the infirmary. Teachers shepherd students around in little groups. Most students are upset and frightened, though Draco is seemingly pleased over his father's having played some role in Dumbledore's removal.
About a fortnight later in Herbology, Ernie Macmillan, the Hufflepuff who had earlier accused Harry of being the Heir of Slytherin, apologizes and asks Harry if he believes Malfoy could be the Heir. Harry points out some spiders to Ron, the first they have seen since Hagrid's arrest. They appear to be headed for the Forbidden Forest. Ron is hardly cheered over this news. As they are escorted to their next class, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Harry says that in order to follow the spiders, they will need his Invisibility Cloak, and they should take Fang. Professor Lockhart bounds into the classroom, gaily announcing that with Hagrid arrested, the danger has passed. Ron wants to dispute that, but Harry reminds him that they were not actually there. Harry decides they should follow the spiders that night.
Waiting until past midnight for the Common room to clear, Harry and Ron make their way through the halls, avoiding teachers and Ghosts searching for the Monster. They collect Fang from Hagrid's hut and, making their way into the Forest, follow the spiders by wand light. Hearing something large moving, they investigate. It is the Ford Anglia, Mr. Weasley's flying car, roaming the Forest. As they check on it, giant spiders catch and drag them to a hollow among the trees. There they meet Aragog, the patriarch of a huge colony of giant spiders. Aragog, cranky at having his sleep disturbed, tells his children to kill Harry and Ron. Harry forestalls this by saying they are Hagrid's friends, and he is in trouble, arrested again for apparently opening the Chamber. Aragog admits he was mistakenly believed to be the Monster. The Monster is another creature, an enemy to spiders, and such that he cannot even name it. Aragog was blamed for killing a girl, but the girl died in a bathroom, a part of the Castle he was never in. Hagrid kept him in a cupboard in the dungeon. As Aragog is unable to help them further, Harry says they will just go. Aragog says no, his children will not harm Hagrid on his command, but he has too little control over them to protect Hagrid's friends. As the spiders start their attack, the Ford Anglia screeches into the hollow. Harry and Ron bundle themselves and Fang into it, and it carries them back to Hagrid's hut, deposits them there, and returns to the Forest.
Back in the Gryffindor dorm, Harry has a sudden thought: was the girl killed in the bathroom Moaning Myrtle?
Hermione's Petrification, as alarming as it is, does provide some benefits. Until now, it was suspected that Harry was the Heir of Slytherin, based partly on his arriving first on the scene at other previous incidents, partly on his uncertain parentage and apparent power, but largely on his ability to talk to snakes. Now, though, even Harry's most suspicious classmates agree that Harry could not have instigated the attacks, as he would never injure Hermione. Ernie, in particular, announces he believes Malfoy, not Harry, is the Heir; Ron's evident amusement over this claim is probably due to Harry and Ron having had the same suspicion several months previously.
The truth to Hagrid's utterance that "if people wanted to learn some stuff, they should follow the spiders," is shown here. Whenever we have seen the spiders, Harry noted that they appeared to be running away from something. Now they seem headed towards something—the Forbidden Forest, perhaps feeling the Acromantula colony will afford some protection.
In fact, Harry does learn "some stuff" by following the spiders to Aragog and his children, though it seems Hagrid seriously misjudged the extreme danger he was sending Harry and Ron into. It is from Aragog that Harry and Ron gather at least some truth about Hagrid's expulsion from Hogwarts. And Aragog also provides Harry a clue to where the Chamber's entrance is located.
It had seemed uncertain whether Harry would be able to use this knowledge, being surrounded by masses of inimical and hungry spiders. The flying car's timely arrival is not only fortuitous, but illustrates the author's deftness at preparing situations to pay off in future chapters (and future books). We were led to believe that, having delivered Harry and Ron to Hogwarts before driving off to roam the Forest, the flying car's role was done; we are pleased that the aging and ailing car can still do something important for Harry. While it certainly seems odd to assign a personality to a machine, the car shows just that, and that personality is consistent from its arrival at Hogwarts through to this chapter. Mr. Weasley's charm on it must have had a much greater effect on it than he had ever intended.
- The monster has Petrified Mrs. Norris, Colin Creevey, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Nearly Headless Nick, Hermione, and Penelope Clearwater. Are these random targets or do the victims share a connection?
- Who does Harry believe the Monster killed fifty years ago? What brings him to this conclusion?
- What "stuff" does Harry learn from Aragog? How will this help him?
- Why does the flying car come to Harry and Ron's rescue?
- Why would spiders be heading into the Forbidden Forest?
- Why would Aragog allow his children to kill Harry and Ron, who he knows are Hagrid's friends? How would Hagrid have reacted if that had happened?
- Why does the flying car always retreat back to the forbidden forest ?
Very little in this chapter carries forward to later books. Harry's guess that the girl who died is Moaning Myrtle is correct, and we learn later how she died. Lockhart's character is further illuminated, while Aragog's existence is also revealed. However, rather than laying groundwork for future books, this chapter is almost entirely devoted to moving this book's story forward to its conclusion.
Aragog's fate is revisited in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when he dies from old age and brings Hagrid, Professor Slughorn, and Harry together to mourn him. Hagrid will be surprised that Aragog's offspring no longer grant him free passage, but actually try to attack him. Given their experiences in this chapter, neither Harry nor Ron is at all surprised by their behaviour.
Aragog's children will appear again in the closing chapters of the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Hagrid will once again assume that they are less dangerous than they are.
The flying car is never seen again, and while Moaning Myrtle appears throughout the series, the circumstances surrounding her death are unimportant after this book.
- Aragog will be seen again in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, at his funeral. His descendants will be mentioned then, and will appear in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Chapter 16: The Chamber of Secrets
Professor McGonagall reminds students that exams are starting next week, which apparently catches everyone by surprise. Considering the serious situation, it seemed unlikely that exams would be held. Three days later, it is announced that the Mandrakes are ready to be harvested, and the Petrified victims will be revived that night. Ginny, who appears somewhat upset, apparently has something important to tell Harry and Ron, but Percy arrives after a night's patrolling, and interrupts, causing her to run off. Ron is angry, believing Ginny may have wanted to tell them something about the Chamber of Secrets, but Percy claims it had nothing to do with the Chamber, and deflects further questions.
While the mystery may possibly be solved with Hermione's revival, Harry still wants to see Moaning Myrtle. An opportunity arises that morning: as Professor Lockhart escorts students to History of Magic class, Harry and Ron suggest there is no need to guard them any longer as Hagrid has been arrested. Lockhart agrees and goes off to take a nap. Harry and Ron head for Myrtle's bathroom, but Professor McGonagall intercepts them. Harry lies smoothly, saying they had intended to visit Hermione in the hospital wing. Touched by their apparent concern, McGonagall grants permission, which forces them to actually go to the infirmary. While there, they find a torn-out book page clutched in Hermione's petrified hand describing Basilisks. A Basilisk kills with its gaze, but no one had died because they weren't looking directly at it. Mrs. Norris saw a reflection in the water on the floor. Colin Creevey was looking through his camera lens. Justin saw it through Nearly Headless Nick, and, of course, Hermione had her mirror. This explains both the fleeing spiders and the killed roosters — spiders fear the basilisk, and a rooster's crow is fatal to it, so presumably whoever has been controlling it has also been killing the roosters. Harry hears the voice because he is a Parselmouth— the Basilisk is a snake. Hermione had guessed that it has been traveling through the walls and ceilings using the plumbing; the page in her hand has "Pipes" written in the margin. It occurs to Ron that, if Myrtle was the Basilisk's victim fifty years ago, the Chamber's entrance may be in her washroom.
Harry and Ron sprint to the staff room to report their findings to Professor McGonagall but find it empty. An announcement rings out ordering all students to their Houses and summoning the faculty to meet in the staff room. Harry and Ron hide so they can overhear what has happened. The staff arrive, and McGonagall reports that Ginny Weasley was taken into the Chamber. Lockhart arrives belatedly, and, after he is briefed, the other teachers challenge him to back his boasts by opening the Chamber and defeating the Monster. He excuses himself to go to his office and "prepare". Having gotten rid of him, the remaining instructors plan how to inform the students and discuss the school's future.
Harry and Ron rush to Lockhart's office to share what they know, but find him hastily packing. He confesses that he never actually performed the feats in his books. Rather, he took credit for other witches' and wizards' accomplishments, and erased their memories with a charm. He threatens Harry and Ron with a memory charm, but Harry disarms him, and Ron tosses his wand out the window. They force Lockhart to Moaning Myrtle's lavatory.
Myrtle reveals that when she was a student, she went into the washroom to have a bit of a cry. Hearing a boy's voice, she looked outside the cubicle and saw big yellow eyes—then she died. She points to one particular basin. Harry addresses it in Parseltongue, and it opens to reveal a vertical shaft. Ron and Harry push Lockhart down it first, then follow.
At the bottom of the shaft, they discover a giant snake skin on the ground. Lockhart pretends to faint, and as Ron approaches, he grabs Ron's wand. Lockhart says he will tell everyone that he defeated the monster, using the snake's skin as proof, and that Harry and Ron were tragically rendered insane upon seeing Ginny's dead body. He casts a memory charm, but Ron's broken wand backfires and explodes, erasing Lockhart's memory and causing the ceiling to collapse. Harry and Ron are unhurt, but the fallen rubble separates them. Harry leaves Ron to clear the rock fall while he explores the tunnel further ahead. Finding a door engraved with shimmering serpents, he opens it by speaking Parseltongue.
Throughout the series, Harry constantly succeeds because he is aided by friends and allies: he is the sum of many parts. With his friends' help, the mystery is nearly solved as the puzzle pieces fall into place. Hermione, through her usual diligent research, gathering information, and patiently working to understand what it all means, has discovered what the monster is and how it navigates throughout the school. It is by sheer luck that she was still clutching the torn-out book page when she was petrified, allowing Ron and Harry to find it. Ron's steadfast loyalty and Wizarding knowledge have aided Harry throughout. Hagrid also provided an important clue (through Aragog), while Moaning Myrtle gave valuable information when Ron and Harry's hunch that she was the victim who died 50 years ago proves correct. It is still unknown who the Heir of Slytherin is, though the tunnel Harry is about to enter will likely lead him to the answer.
Harry's ability to dissemble, possibly part of the reason the Sorting Hat wanted to place him in Slytherin, shows through in this chapter when he deceives Professor McGonagall in order to keep their plans secret. However, he does not frequently exploit this skill, instead, he uses it on impulse or when he deems it necessary.
Also, as one mystery is nearly solved another arises: Ginny. Unlike the apparent Muggle-borns that were targeted, she is a pure-blood. Why then was she taken into the Chamber? Is Neville correct that certain pure-bloods are being targeted? Rather than becoming another petrified victim, however, she likely plays some other integral part in this evil plot, judging by her recent odd behavior and her earlier urgent attempt to reveal something important to Harry and Ron. Just what her role is also remains unknown, but it should be assumed that she is someone's innocent pawn. It may be that this person would only use a pure-blood to execute his plan, though Ginny may be considered "disposable" once she is no longer useful. We should note that Percy's behavior may have seemed suspicious when he prevented Ginny from speaking to Harry and Ron, but from his comments afterwards we can guess it was probably unrelated to the monster or the Chamber of Secrets.
Lockhart is finally unmasked as the fraud we have always believed him to be, and the bogus claims in his books are now confirmed to be other wizards' accomplishments. After stealing their stories, he claims to have altered their memories. Magically he seems quite weak, except for Memory charms, and Harry easily disarms him, as Professor Snape had in the Dueling Club. Lockhart is likely somewhat transparent to other wizards; he is certainly not held in particular esteem by any Hogwarts instructor, so it is entirely possible that those whose stories he stole may have deliberately given him misinformation. This could explain his confidence in the ineffectual Pixie-banishing charm he used in the first Defence Against the Dark Arts class. Of course, he likely never attempted it before, merely borrowing it from a more accomplished wizard.
With this revelation, it is worthwhile re-examining the technique the Weasley children used for de-gnoming the garden earlier. While we are never explicitly told that this technique came from Lockhart's book, the reference to Gilderoy Lockhart's Guide to Household Pests hints at that being the source. That the technique is, ultimately, ineffectual, is the same pattern that we have seen in Lockhart's activities to date, and so would suggest Lockhart was the originator. It is unlikely that Lockhart would have been able to publish a book on household pests under his own name unless he was already famous for his writings, so we can safely assume that several of his earlier works were already doing well in the magical bookstores. More competent magicians would have realized by that time, from reading his books, that his stories were questionable, and so when Lockhart, doing his "research", consulted a trained pest-removal wizard for information on removal of household pests, likely he would have been deliberately given misinformation. It is perhaps a shame that the wizards who provided the information would then have their memory modified, as it would prevent them from properly appreciating the joke they had played on Lockhart.
This is a particularly telling comment about celebrity's nature and those seeking fame. Lockhart, who the author has stated was modeled on a real person, is clearly willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to keep his own star bright. Harry, who Hagrid had earlier said is more famous than Lockhart would ever be, clearly is uninterested in the fame he has fallen into; throughout this book he tries, often futilely, to shun the limelight. In contrast to Harry, who remains a solid, sympathetic character despite his renown, Lockhart has fashioned himself into a glossy, empty shell, and the reader cannot help but be pleased to see him hoist by his own petard.
As they approach the Chamber, Ron's broken wand finally does something well: when Lockhart grabs it and, unconcerned whether Ginny may still be alive, attempts to erase Harry and Ron's memories, it backfires and Obliviates him, as well as causing a small explosion. We have seen this particular misbehaviour before, when Ron tried to jinx Draco and ended up jinxing himself. This backfire ends Lockhart's plan to claim he found the Chamber and destroyed the monster, at the cost of Ginny's life and Ron and Harry's sanity. With his memory erased, he has received the same as what he inflicted on other wizards—a fitting punishment. However, the explosion has separated Harry from Ron. Now, Harry must search for Ginny alone, without his friend's help.
- Why do Harry and Ron want to talk to Moaning Myrtle?
- Why are the roosters being killed? Do we know who or what is doing it?
- Why are the spiders fleeing the castle?
- What does Lockhart do when the Hogwarts teachers call on him to save Ginny? What explains his actions?
- What might Ginny have wanted to tell Harry and Ron? Why does she seem so upset?
- Why does Percy prevent Ginny from speaking to Harry and Ron?
- Why was Ginny, a "pure-blood", abducted when most of the other victims were Muggle-born?
- Why do the teachers really challenge Lockhart to open the Chamber of Secrets and fight the monster?
- How did Hermione deduce that the monster is actually a Basilisk? Trace her steps in figuring this out and state the facts she found.
- Why did Lockhart use Ron's wand, knowing it was damaged?
- Professor McGonagall says the Petrified victims will be cured later that evening. Why are Harry and Ron unable to wait until then to talk to Hermione? What do they do instead, and would it have been better if they had waited?
- How was Lockhart able to maintain his charade for so long?
The backfired memory charm's effects on Lockhart will be long-term, and Lockhart has yet to recover when we meet him again, some three years later. This is to be expected, in a way; Lockhart intended for the charm he cast at Ron to be everlasting, so when it backfired, it is to be expected that it would permanently affect him.
Even this early, the main characters' future romantic entanglements are seen. Ginny, having something important she needs to tell someone, approaches Harry first, rather than her brothers. Of course, earlier in the book, Ginny showed the classic schoolgirl crush on Harry. A person is often too shy or awed by the one she has a crush on to ever approach him. That Ginny can now go to Harry may indicate that her feelings have matured and deepened, possibly beyond the crush level. Despite several side roads on both Harry's and Ginny's part, this relationship will persist, off and on, throughout the entire series.
We also see the first of several progressively-larger hints the author drops about a budding relationship between Ron and Hermione. While Ron is upset over the Monster's depredations, he is far more affected by Hermione being petrified than anyone else, excepting his sister, Ginny. True to his character, though, Ron will be unable to recognize the basis of his concern for several years yet.
It is mentioned that Harry has to speak to the basin twice to get it to open; the first time, Ron tells him that he was speaking English. That Harry is unable to tell whether he is speaking English or Parseltongue should hardly be surprising, as he is unable to differentiate between the two languages when hearing them; no one else can understand the Basilisk, because to them its speech is a low, indistinguishable hissing, while to Harry it sounds like plain speech. This will be a plot point in the series' final book.
As a sidenote, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry again enters an unknown tunnel (to the Shrieking Shack), following a friend (Ron) who has been taken against his will, that seemingly leads him to disaster, but results in another mystery being solved.
- Harry's ability to speak to snakes is first seen in the first book of the series, and no mention is made there of whether Harry perceives that the snake is not speaking English. We noted Harry's inability to tell the difference between English and Parseltongue in an earlier chapter. This is a key point in this book, as he perceives the Monster's voice at several points and does not recognize that the Monster is not speaking in English. We see this confusion again in this chapter, when Harry has a need to speak Parseltongue and finds it difficult to switch, and it will be a minor plot point in the final book.
- Basilisk venom, and basilisk fangs, will be found to be of use in completing Harry's series-long mission. Having learned of the existence of the Chamber in this book, and hearing the relatively simple Parseltongue password, Ron will later open the Chamber himself in order to retrieve some basilisk fangs.
Chapter 17: The Heir of Slytherin
Harry enters a long chamber; at the opposite end is a giant wizard statue, with an ancient, monkey-like face, a long thin beard, and wearing sweeping robes. Ginny is lying on the floor. As Harry tries to revive her, a tall, black-haired boy identifying himself as Tom Riddle approaches. Riddle, carrying Harry's dropped wand, explains he is a memory, preserved in his Diary for fifty years. He opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago, intending to purge Muggle-borns and Half-bloods from the school. However, when the attacks were about to close the school and because Dumbledore (then the Transfiguration teacher) kept such a close watch on him, he halted the attacks and framed Hagrid. He left behind a Diary containing his sixteen-year-old self's memory in hopes it would, one day, fall into an unsuspecting victim's hands to help finish his work.
Ginny had been writing in the Diary all year. Riddle answered sympathetically, and Ginny confessed her fears, hopes, and feelings to him, partially pouring her soul into him during the process, which was exactly what he wanted. Gradually growing more powerful, he eventually poured a portion of his own soul back into her, possessing her and using her body to strangle the school roosters, write on the walls, and open the Chamber of Secrets. He tells Harry how Ginny related Harry's entire history and how happy he was when Harry found the Diary after Ginny, becoming fearful, threw it away. He was disappointed when Ginny reclaimed it. Seeing Harry with the Diary on Valentine's day, she feared it would reveal her secrets, and so she ransacked Harry's room to retrieve it. Tom forced Ginny into the Chamber for two purposes: first, to sap her remaining life force and fully return to life; and second, to lure Harry Potter there so he could meet him directly.
Tom wants to know how Harry, an ordinary baby wizard, could have defeated Lord Voldemort, the most powerful wizard of the age. Harry wonders why Tom cares. Riddle reveals he is a Half-blood. His mother named him Tom after his Muggle father and Marvolo after his wizard grandfather, a descendant of Salazar Slytherin. He scrambled his name to create a new one—Lord Voldemort, a name he knew people would fear when he became the most powerful Wizard in the world. It was also a way to eliminate his Muggle father's name. Harry states Voldemort was not the most powerful wizard, Albus Dumbledore is. He says Dumbledore probably saw right through Tom when he was at school and is still stronger than Voldemort. When Tom says Dumbledore was driven from the school by Tom's memory, Harry retorts that Dumbledore may be closer than Tom realizes.
Fawkes, Dumbledore's Phoenix, suddenly appears in a burst of fire and drops the Sorting Hat at Harry's feet, then perches on his shoulder. Tom is openly contemptuous: a songbird and an old hat. This is what Dumbledore sends to his allies? Tom again demands to know how Harry defeated Voldemort. Riddle's form is becoming more solid as Ginny's life force ebbs. Harry must act quickly if he is to defeat him and save Ginny. Harry tells Riddle that by sacrificing her life for her son, his mother saved him from Voldemort and reduced him to an ineffectual remnant.
Containing his rage, Tom agrees that that indeed would be a powerful protection. He then summons the monster—a Basilisk. Harry avoids its deadly gaze, as Fawkes takes flight. Harry is smashed against the wall by the snake's coil but is not bitten. Fawkes blinds the Basilisk, and Tom again orders the serpent to kill Harry, telling it to smell him. The thrashing snake has swept the Sorting Hat into Harry's arms. He puts it on, thinking, "Help me!" The Hat constricts sharply and something bumps his head. Removing it, Harry finds a sword inside. As the Basilisk strikes, Harry impales it through the roof of its mouth and into its brain, killing it. But a single venomous fang pierces his arm.
Harry removes the fang, but it is too late. As the venom spreads, Harry dimly sees Fawkes land beside him. Riddle says Harry will soon be dead, even Dumbledore's weeping bird knows it. But suddenly remembering that Phoenix tears heal wounds, Riddle attempts a Killing Curse. Before he can strike, Fawkes drops the Diary into Harry's lap, and Harry stabs it with the fang, destroying Tom Riddle.
As Riddle vanishes, Ginny, gasping, awakens. Now sobbing, she had wanted to tell Harry that the Diary was controlling her, but Percy prevented her. Harry leads her from the Chamber to where Ron is clearing away rocks. Ron explains that Lockhart has forgotten everything, even his own name.
Remembering that Phoenixes can lift amazingly heavy loads, Harry has everyone join hands with him while he grasps Fawkes' tailfeathers. Fawkes lifts them from the Chamber to Moaning Myrtle's washroom. Myrtle seems mildly disappointed that Harry has survived, saying she'd be willing to share her toilet with him if he died. Fawkes then leads everyone to Professor McGonagall's office.
In Harry Potter and the The Philosopher's Stone, Harry, attempting to find and protect the Stone, was aided by his friends until they reached a certain point, then Harry was forced to confront Voldemort alone. Once again, Harry must follow a dangerous, unknown path by himself that he hopes leads to a solution: saving Ginny. As before, his friends' assistance brought him only so far, then circumstances forced him to continue on alone. This time, Harry also placed his faith into what he believed was an ally, that being Tom Riddle's memory, only to be betrayed when Riddle reveals himself as Lord Voldemort's younger self who lured Harry into a trap. Harry, still young and innocent, will likely never again be as trusting.
Riddle reveals the hidden back story to the recent events only because he arrogantly assumes Harry is about to die and no longer poses a threat. For Harry, obtaining this knowledge nearly cost him his life, and it is only Harry's loyalty to Dumbledore that saves him and Ginny. It is the expression of that loyalty which summons Dumbledore's Phoenix, Fawkes, who brings the Sorting Hat. In what becomes a common trait, Voldemort reacts with supreme overconfidence in himself, derisively dismissing the Hat's importance, considering it a harmless artifact rather than an instrument that delivers Dumbledore's potent power – power that is extended to Harry through the Sword of Gryffindor. The Sword becomes a recurring symbol throughout the series, representing justice, courage, and strength when wielded by a heroic figure, in this case, Harry. Voldemort, of course, vastly underestimated Harry's abilities. Though Riddle depended on Harry's cleverness to lead him into the Chamber, he never considered him capable enough to slay the Basilisk or the Diary. But even as Voldemort is apparently gaining strength, so Harry grows stronger and cleverer each time he confronts and thwarts the Dark Lord. And though Tom Riddle's Diary has been destroyed, Harry does not assume this is the last time he will encounter Lord Voldemort.
It should be noted that Tom Riddle's memory acted independently, taking over another person's life force (Ginny) to reanimate itself and manipulating events inside the school from the Chamber. This proves an unusual enough characteristic to warrant special attention. It certainly indicates that Voldemort, who still lacks a human body, can manifest himself in different forms, each apparently equally powerful.
- How is Harry able to look at the Basilisk without it killing him?
- Why was Ginny taken into the Chamber?
- How and why does the Sword of Gryffindor suddenly appear in the Sorting Hat? Where did it come from?
- How was the Diary able to deceive Ginny?
- Why did Ginny begin to fear the Diary, prompting her to throw it away?
- How does Harry know to stab the Diary?
- What caused Fawkes to suddenly appear in the Chamber bearing the Sorting Hat?
- How is Fawkes able to blind the Basilisk without being killed?
- How can Tom Riddle look into the Basilisk eyes without being affected?
- Why does Riddle ridicule Fawkes and the Sorting Hat?
Riddle repeatedly says the Diary contains Tom's memory, which is what Harry sees and talks to. However, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Professor Dumbledore points out that Riddle's Diary does far more than a memory should be able to - it can independently think and respond, possess a person to do its bidding, and it can sap a person's life force to create a body for itself. This strongly indicates that the Diary actually is a Horcrux, a soul shard that renders a person immortal as long as the Horcrux remains intact. Or rather, this was a Horcrux until Harry destroyed it. At the time, Dumbledore expresses concern that the way the Horcrux was treated, as a weapon, is not how one would expect someone's sole chance at immortality to be handled; one would expect that an object containing a Horcrux would be hidden away safely. This one's apparent design argues that Voldemort has several Horcruxes... but how many?
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it is revealed that Harry has lucked into one of the few methods to destroy a Horcrux: Basilisk venom. It is learned that a Horcrux will act to protect itself; to destroy one, its physical container must be irrevocably damaged beyond ordinary magic's ability to repair. Also in that chapter, it will be revealed that the only known cure for Basilisk venom is Phoenix tears. Phoenixes are extremely rare creatures, so their tears are certainly outside the realm of ordinary magic.
This creates an apparent problem: a Phoenix is in close proximity shortly before Harry stabs the Diary. Could not the Diary, using ordinary magic such as the Accio charm, summon Fawkes' tears? Possibly, but the author has stated in an interview given after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published, that she carefully distanced the Phoenix before the death blow. And looking at the sequence of events, we see that Riddle attempted to Curse Fawkes, driving him away, before Harry stabbed the Diary.
Readers should also pay attention to the Sorting Hat delivering Gryffindor's Sword to Harry. During the final battle at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, another worthy Gryffindor, Neville Longbottom, also extracts the Sword from the Hat, using it to destroy a Horcrux. This time, however, it is Voldemort himself who summons the Hat from the Headmaster's office, using it as a means to torture Neville, and apparently unaware that it can produce the weapon.
Ron will also wield the Sword when, after heroically saving Harry and recovering the Sword from a frozen pond where it was hidden, he destroys a Horcrux with it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It will be learned that Dumbledore also uses the blade to destroy a Horcrux.
There are several other useful items mentioned. Thinking Harry will shortly be dead, Riddle reveals his grandfather's name, Marvolo, something Voldemort had taken pains to conceal. While this is not particularly useful information to Harry, Dumbledore, who also knows it, uses it to unearth another Horcrux: given the approximate age, and Marvolo being an uncommon name in the Wizarding world, plus the name Riddle associated with a wizard-caused death in Tom's youth, Dumbledore is able to locate and retrieve a Horcrux hidden where Tom's mother had lived. Tom also mentions what is likely his greatest shame: that despite being Slytherin's last heir, he is descended from a Muggle, one of the very half-bloods he so despises. Harry is able to cause some dissension among the Death Eater ranks he faces in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, just before the Battle in the Ministry when he reveals that fact.
- We will meet Marvolo, Tom's paternal grandfather, in a later book. Interestingly, perhaps, despite Tom's never knowing his grandfather or mother, he seems to very closely mirror the "pureblood" beliefs that grandfather espoused. At the same time, we will meet Tom's mother, and be very briefly exposed to his father.
- The Chamber of Secrets, and the remains of the Basilisk, will reappear in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Ron and Hermione retrieve Basilisk fangs to destroy a Horcrux.
- We will learn that the Sword of Gryffindor is a Goblin-forged blade, charmed to accept any foreign material that will strengthen it, and reject anything that does not. Harry's using this Sword to kill the Basilisk will result in the Sword absorbing Basilisk venom, thus empowering it to destroy Horcruxes. We will learn then that Dumbledore had used it to destroy a Horcrux; Ron will also destroy a Horcrux with it, and so will Neville. The Sword will be come something of a disputed item, with the Goblins claiming ownership; but the Sorting Hat will ultimately deliver it to Neville when he is in need.
Chapter 18: 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.