The Very Secret Diary
Chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: 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.
- We will see Tom Riddle's orphanage in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Professor Dumbledore will take Harry to view a memory in Dumbledore's Pensieve to illuminate Riddle's early influences.