Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Major Events/Chamber of Secrets

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Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event
Duel in the Chamber of Secrets
Location The Chamber of Secrets
Time Period Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, May
Important Characters Harry Potter, Tom Riddle, Ron Weasley, Gilderoy Lockhart

Overview[edit]

Beginner warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Having determined the means of entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, and guessed at the nature of the monster within, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, reluctantly accompanied by Professor Lockhart, enter the Chamber to rescue Ginny Weasley. There, separated from the others, Harry encounters one Tom Riddle, who is using Ginny's life force to return to life himself. Riddle summons the monster, a Basilisk. With the help of Fawkes, Harry defeats first the Basilisk, and then Tom, to save Ginny from death.

Event Details[edit]

After talking with Aragog, Harry guesses that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets could be in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. A page torn out of a library book that Harry finds clutched in Hermione's petrified fist, helps Harry determine that the monster which has been roaming the school and petrifying students is a Basilisk. Harry and Ron decide that they need to tell this to Professor McGonagall. While waiting for her in the Staff Room, they hear an announcement that all students are to return to their dormitories. The boys decide to hide in a wardrobe in the Staff Room. Listening through the door, they hear that Ginny has been captured and taken into the Chamber of Secrets, and they hear that Professor Lockhart has been assigned the task of hunting down the monster, as he has boasted that he knows where it is. He weakly goes off "to prepare".

Later, when Harry and Ron visit Professor Lockhart's office, they find him frantically packing up all his possessions. When they question him as to why he is packing, he explains that he had never actually done the difficult adventures he writes about completing in his books. He says "less photogenic" people had done them, and he had simply written about them. He isn't magically strong enough to do all the things in those books, but he excels in performing memory charms. He casts those on the people who had done the things he writes about, so that they wouldn't awkwardly and publicly recall having done what Lockhart claimed to do. This would expose him as a fake. He then turns on Harry and Ron with his wand raised, Harry disarms him, and Ron catches Lockhart's wand and throws it out the window. At both Harry and Ron's wand-point, Lockhart precedes the two students to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.

There, Myrtle confirms that she was the one who had died the last time the chamber was opened. She indicates a sink where she saw big yellow eyes, which is the last thing she remembers alive. Harry notices a small snake etched on the side of the faucet, and speaks to it in Parseltongue. The sink opens, revealing a deep shaft which Lockhart reluctantly enters followed by Ron and Harry.

At the bottom of the shaft, they find a chamber littered with small bones which leads to a large tunnel. Lockhart, Harry and Ron walk down the tunnel, deeper into the Chamber of Secrets. In the tunnel, they find the skin of a serpent which is twenty feet or more long. Lockhart pretends to faint in shock, then seizes Ron's wand from him unexpectedly. In an attempt to make Harry and Ron forget that he is a fake, and why they need to be in the Chamber of Secrets, Lockhart fires a memory charm at the boys. Ron's broken wand explodes and backfires, hitting Lockhart with the rebounding charm. A large piece of the ceiling falls in the explosion, separating Harry from Ron and Lockhart. Harry, on the side which leads further into the Chamber of Secrets, proceeds alone, leaving Ron to clear the fallen rocks as best he can. Harry goes through another door and into a chamber dominated by a giant statue, with Ginny lying unconscious at its feet. Letting go of his wand, Harry approaches her and kneels next to her, attempting to revive her.

A student walks out of the shadows, picks up Harry`s wand off the floor, and introduces himself as Tom Riddle. He says that he had really wanted to meet Harry, and that Ginny had been writing in his diary, telling him all about the wonderful Harry Potter. As Ginny had poured out her emotions to Tom, Tom had slowly put some of his soul into Ginny. He planned to use her life force to return. He wonders, though, how as an infant, Harry had managed to defeat Voldemort. Harry asks why Tom would care about Voldemort, Tom says that he is Lord Voldemort, existing as a memory through the ancient diary. The letters of his name, Tom Marvolo Riddle, can be re-arranged to spell "I am Lord Voldemort".

Harry is noticing that Tom's outline, which had initially been somewhat fuzzy, is becoming firmer as time goes by, and knows that if he doesn't act quickly, Tom will become fully real and Ginny will die. To Tom's statement that Voldemort is the greatest wizard who ever lived, Harry retorts that Dumbledore is greater. When Tom says that Dumbledore has been driven from the school by Tom's memory, Harry says Dumbledore is not as distant as Tom might think. A burst of beautiful music interrupts them, and Fawkes, Dumbledore's pet Phoenix, appears and drops the Sorting Hat at Harry's feet.

Tom now releases the Basilisk, which tries to attack Harry. Fawkes pecks out its eyes, blinding it and preventing it from using its stare to petrify or kill Harry. Tom coaches the Basilisk to attack Harry by smell. Harry puts on the Sorting Hat, asks for help, and something in the hat hits him in the head. Harry finds that it is a sword, and as the Basilisk strikes, Harry stabs upwards through the roof of its mouth and into its brain, killing it. However, Harry is, in turn, stabbed by one of the Basilisk's fangs, and can feel its venom working.

As the world begins to darken, Fawkes lands beside Harry and starts weeping. Though Tom jeers at him, Harry feels the effects of the venom receding, and recalls Dumbledore's words about phoenixes: "their tears have healing powers." As Tom realizes what is happening, he fires a quick curse at Fawkes with Harry's wand. Fawkes flies away, and as Tom is preparing a killing curse, Fawkes drops the diary that was lying next to Ginny at Harry's side.

Harry plunges the venomous, broken Basilisk fang into the diary. Instantly, with a thin scream, Tom vanishes, and the diary, with a hole burned through it, leaks a veritable ocean of ink. Ginny wakes up, and she and Harry make their way back to the tunnel with the fallen ceiling. Ron has forced a way through it, and carried by Fawkes, Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Lockhart fly up the shaft, and return to the bathroom. Fawkes leads them to Professor McGonagall's office, where Harry tells what has happened to a very relieved Professor McGonagall, Professor Dumbledore, Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Weasley.

Notable Consequences[edit]

Several of the consequences of this particular duel are not revealed until much later in the series, and so are covered in the Greater Picture area of this topic.

We learn that Lord Voldemort's name originally had been Tom Marvolo Riddle, and that Marvolo had been his grandfather's name. We will later learn that Voldemort had tried to conceal this name, to prevent discovery of the place where he had hidden an object of value, in his grandfather's house.

Ron's damaged wand, when it exploded, caused Lockhart's memory charm to revert upon himself, so Lockhart has lost almost all of his memory. It seems he cannot even reliably remember his own name. In some ways, this seems just retribution for his over-use of the memory charm and his claiming of other people's achievements.

By finding the Chamber and determining who had actually opened it, Harry allows Dumbledore to secure the release of Hagrid from Azkaban.

Harry mentions to Dumbledore that he is unsure if he is in the correct House. He says that the Sorting Hat had suggested that he would do well in Slytherin house, and Riddle had mentioned a number of curious similarities between them. Dumbledore asks Harry why the Sorting Hat had placed him in Gryffindor, and Harry glumly replies that it is only because he had asked it to. Dumbledore says that is exactly right, and goes on to say that "It is our choices, Harry, that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities." He then shows Harry the sword that the Sorting Hat had presented to him, and the name on it: Godric Gryffindor. "Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat, Harry."

It is in this same discussion that we first have it suggested to us that a part of Voldemort had ended up in Harry when Voldemort had tried to kill him and been killed himself. Dumbledore suggests that this is the source of Harry's ability in Parseltongue.

When Lucius Malfoy appears at the school to protest Dumbledore's reinstatement as Headmaster, Dobby comes with him. Dobby, seeing the diary, suggests through charade behind Lucius' back that Lucius had put the diary in with Ginny's textbooks. Harry mentions this, and Lucius demands that he prove it. Dumbledore says that with the diary destroyed, it can never now be proved, but if any other of Voldemort's personal possessions do turn up, surely Arthur Weasley will be interested in linking them back to Lucius.

In the guise of giving the diary back to Lucius, Harry manages to get Lucius to accidentally throw a sock at Dobby. Having been given clothes, Dobby is now free, and no longer need take orders from the Malfoys. Dobby immediately protects Harry from Lucius' curse. Dobby may protect Harry again, now that he is a free elf and can choose what orders to follow.

Analysis[edit]

While the main theme of the series is the fight against prejudice, the action of the series revolves around Voldemort, his history, and the battle between him and the "right-thinking" Wizarding world as personified by Harry and Dumbledore. It is in the Chamber of Secrets that we first meet Voldemort as an actual person, in this case as a boy of perhaps fifteen or sixteen years old, and learn something about how his mind works. In his disregard for Ginny and Harry, his dismissal of the school's teachers from fifty years before, and his arrogance, we can see that he seems significantly lacking in human feelings. His sole drive is power; he seems to care nothing for people as individuals, rather seeing them only as tools for his own advancement. This exposure to Voldemort greatly assists our understanding of the enemy Harry is facing, and we can assume it will assist Harry's understanding of Voldemort later in the series.

It remains a mystery why Harry and Ron take Lockhart along with them for the attempt to defeat the Basilisk. Harry and Ron have heard him state that he is a fraud, and Ron has thrown his wand out the window of his office, which arguably is another bad decision given the state of Ron's own wand. Without his wand, Lockhart would be even less use than he has already turned out to be. Perhaps they still harbor some belief in his abilities, as mentioned in his many supposed autobiographical books, or perhaps they simply feel the need of an older and more experienced wizard. One could argue, however, that the best course for Harry and Ron would have been to Stun Lockhart, to keep him from interfering, and then proceed on their own. This might have proven fatal for Ron, however; as he was caught by the falling ceiling, there was only Harry for the Basilisk to focus on. It is likely, given his performance in the earlier stages of this book, that Ron would have frozen and been unable to use any defensive magic, and quite likely would have been killed instantly when the Basilisk appeared.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

We will find out later that the diary was actually a Horcrux, likely the second one that Tom Riddle had made. Professor Dumbledore, of course, recognizes it immediately by its effects on Ginny, and we learn later that this disturbs him. This Horcrux was designed to be found, and was placed in the school as a weapon; this is not the sort of thing you do with something that represents a person's immortality. This led Dumbledore to the conclusion that Riddle had created at least one other Horcrux, but until quite late in the sixth book, he had no idea how many there might be, though he had suspicions of what at least two of them were.

We will also find out that Harry had, by pure blind luck, happened upon one of an extremely few ways of destroying a Horcrux: Basilisk venom. Horcruxes, being embodied bits of soul, are virtually indestructible, and no ordinary magic can harm them, just as no ordinary physical or magical assault can harm the soul in a living person. Basilisk venom is extraordinary magic, and there are no known cures for it apart from Phoenix tears, which are hardly ordinary magic, given the scarcity of phoenixes. In the course of the seven books, six Horcruxes will be destroyed; five of them will be destroyed either directly or indirectly by Basilisk venom, and one by Fiendfyre. A seventh soul fragment, having some of the effects of a Horcrux but not actually having been locked to an artifact by the appropriate charm, will be destroyed by means of the killing curse.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione will, in the final book of the series, accept the mission of finding and destroying the remaining Horcruxes. Late in that book, Ron, aware that there is a deceased Basilisk in the Chamber, will re-open the Chamber by mimicking Harry's use of Parseltongue. He and Hermione will destroy one of the Horcruxes there, and Ron will bring Basilisk fangs back when he returns, to assist with the destruction of any other Horcruxes that they find.

The thing of value that Tom had hidden in his grandfather's house was, of course, a Horcrux. Once Marvolo Gaunt and his son Morfin were safely out of the way, Tom had hidden the first Horcrux he made in the remains of their house. Dumbledore later found it there and destroyed it. It is when Voldemort is thinking of the places that his Horcruxes were concealed that we learn that he had been trying to conceal the name of his Wizard ancestor, in order to keep that hiding place secure.