Everyone is more fearful; security in the hospital wing is increased, preventing Harry and Ron from visiting Hermione. Draco Malfoy, however, is pleased. In Potions class he's bragging that his father got rid of Dumbledore. He hopes they'll get a new headmaster who won't want the Chamber of Secrets closed. As Snape sweeps about the classroom, Malfoy suggests--"Sir, why don't you apply for the headmaster's job?"
"Now, now, Malfoy," said Snape, though he couldn't suppress a thin-lipped smile. "Professor Dumbledore has only been suspended by the governors. I daresay he'll be back with us soon enough."
"Yeah, right," said Malfoy, smirking. "I expect you'd have Father's vote, sir, if you wanted to apply for the job--I'll tell Father you're the best teacher here, sir--"
Snape smirked as he swept off around the dungeon. . ." [COS-p. 267]
Until I was later convinced that Snape was on the good side and loyal to Dumbledore, I always read this as confirmation that Snape was pleased with Draco's idea. However, the smirking by Draco and Snape and Snape's pointedly tactful answer just seems to be shouting that we should look for an alternative meaning in Snape's words. His final smirk at Draco's suggestion that he apply for the job and that Draco will tell his father Snape is the best teacher, could be Snape's satisfaction that he has fooled Draco and that his loyalty to Voldemort is being confirmed to Lucius. Snape could very well be please to know that his spy status is still intact.
Herbology class is now a somber affair, with Justin and Hermione missing. Ernie, so critical of Harry before, has finally realized that the attacks couldn't have come from Harry and offers his apology, which is accepted by Harry, but not by Ron.
Harry then spots spiders heading towards the Forbidden Forest. (Note: the US book is different than the UK audio book here, which has less detailed explanations of what they see.) There is an apparent error in the UK audio also. "At the end of the lesson Professor Snape escorted the class to their Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson." [UK audio, Stephen Fry] The US book says "Sprout", which makes more sense.
Harry and Ron plan to use the invisibility cloak to go into the Forest, taking Fang along. Ron mentions that there are supposed to be werewolves in the Forest; Harry ignores that and says there are good things, like the centaurs (that's not what Umbridge would say of them) and unicorns.
Lockhart, unlike all the other teachers and students, is convinced there's no longer any danger, saying the Minsiter for Magic wouldn't have taken Hagrid without being convinced of his guilt. Ron scoffs, is admonished by Lockhart that he knows more than Ron. Harry reminds Ron they "weren't there, remember?" It's only Hermione's absence that seems to give Ron the strength to agree to a trip into the Forest that night.
As they wait for the common room to clear, Ginny sits watching Fred and George play Exploding Snap with Harry and Ron, looking subdued as she sits in Hermione's chair.
Harry and Ron get to Hagrid's hut, leave the cloak there and take Fang into the Forest after finding two spiders going in. They're surprised to find something big that appears with a blaze of light--it's the car, turned wild by its time in the Forest.
Here's another enchanted object that seems to be able to think for itself--some are evil, some are good, just as is true with wizards. As they discuss the car, they've unknowingly been found by something else in the Forest, far more sinister--the spiders. All three of them are captured and taken to Aragog, who is now very old and blind, the accromantula that Hagrid had raised when he was a student in his third year. Aragog only talks to them because Harry says they are friends of Hagrid, who he tells Aragog, is now in trouble because they think he's set a monster loose in the school.
"But that was years ago," said Aragog fretfully. "Years and years ago. I remember it well. that's why they made him leave the school. They believed i ws the monster that dwells in what they call the Chamber of Secrets. They thought that Hagrid had opened the Chamber and set me free."
". . . . I was not born in the castle. I come from a distant land. A traveler gave me to Hagrid when I was an egg. Hagrid was only a boy, but he cared for me, hidden in a cupboard in the castle, feeding me on scraps from the table. Hagrid is my good friend, and a good man. When I was discovered, and blamed for the death of a girl, he protected me." [COS-p. 277-8]
Hagrid still visits him, provided him with a wife, Mosag, and now they have a large family. Aragog, out of respect for Hagrid, never attacked anyone. he was only in the cupboard in the castle, while the girl's body was found in a bathroom. "Our kind like the dark and the quiet. . ."[COS-p. 278]
Hmmm, sounds like Snape, doesn't it--always closing the shutters, spending time in the dungeons.
Even though the other spiders are threateningly near, Harry, who was used to ordinary spiders from his years in the cupboard beneath the stairs at the Dursleys, asks who killed the girl.
"The thing that lives in the castle," said Aragog, "is an ancient creature we spiders fear above all others. Well do I remember how I pleaded with Hagrid to let me go, when I sensed the beast moving about the school."
When Harry asks what the monster is:
"We do not speak of it!" said Aragog fiercely, "We do not name it! I never even told Hagrid the name of that dread creature, though he asked me, many times." [COS-p. 278]
Harry, sensing he won't get more information from Aragog, says it's time for them to go. Aragog, however, is perfectly willing to let them be the next meal for his family--clearly, his loyalty is only to Hagrid.
They manage to escape with the help of the Ford Anglia. Ron, terrified by the encounter, can see that the venture into the Forest served any purpose. But Harry points out that they know now that Hagrid was innocent.
Harry finally puts the clues together after they return to their dormitory.
"Ron--that girl who died. Aragog said she was found in a bathroom," said Harry, ignoring Neville's snuffling snores from the corner. "What if she never left the bathroom? What if she's still there?" . . .
"You don't think--not Moaning Myrtle?" [COS-p. 282]
Once again, we see that Rowling has given us a character who seemed to be there just to add a bit of humor. Yet this particular character is now the key to helping them solve the current mystery--and she returns in other books as well.
It's no wonder we, as careful readers, have all learned to look at every detail so closely--that's where Rowling so cleverly hides her clues--right there in plain sight.
CHAPTER 16: The Chamber of Secrets
Just when Harry and Ron have a real clue to help them solve the monster mystery, they are jolted back to reality when McGonagall tells them their exams will begin in one week, on the first of June. Dumbledore’s instructions, she tells them, were to keep the school routine normal. Harry can’t think of anything useful he’s learned and Ron is dismayed to think he’ll have to use his broken wand, which at the moment is whistling.
Three days before the first exam (May 29?), McGonagall announces that the Mandrakes are ready which means the Petrified people can be revived that night. Harry and Ron are relieved to think it won’t matter that they hadn’t been able to talk to Myrtle
Ginny joined them, looking scared and rocking backwards and forwards, reminding Harry of Dobby when he was ready to reveal forbidden information. But just as she was ready to talk, Percy joined them, essentially telling Finny to leave, as he wants to take her place.
When Ron says she was about to tell them something important, Percy dismisses it and our attention is misdirected, as he implies with much embarrassment, that Ginny’s secret was something she saw him doing.
“I asked her not to mentions it to anybody. I must say, I did think she’d keep her word. It’s nothing, really, I’d just rather—“ [COS-p. 287]
Harry still wants to talk to Myrtle and their chance came when Lockhart, more convinced than ever that the danger is passed, was persuaded to let them got to their next class alone. Harry and Ron let the rest of the Gryffindors go ahead, but as they hurry towards Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, they’re stopped short by McGonagall. They stammer that they just wanted to go see Hermione.
“. . . Harry, amazed, saw a tear glistening in her beady eye. “Of course, I realize this has been hardest on the friends of those who have been. . . I quite understand. Yes, Potter, of course you may visit miss Granger. I will inform Professor Binns where you’ve gone. Tell Madam Pomfrey I have given my permission.” [COS-p.288-9]
There was nothing for it, then; they had to go to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey let them in but they realized she was right—there wasn’t much point in trying to talk to a petrified person.
They see a crumpled piece of paper in Hermione’s fist and carefully pull it out.
It was a page torn from a very old library book. . .
“Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land, there is none more curious or more deadly than the Basilisk, known also as the King of Serpents. This snake, which may reach gigantic size and live many hundreds of years, is born from a chicken’s egg, hatched beneath a toad. Its methods of killing are most wondrous, for aside from its deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous stare, and all who are fixed with the beam of its eye shall suffer instant death. Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is their mortal enemy, and the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it.” [COS-p. 290]
Beneath that, Hermione had written “Pipes”.It suddenly makes sense—it’s a giant serpent, using the plumbing, which is the reason Harry can hear and understand it, as he speaks Parseltongue. The entrance to the Chamber must be in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. In a rare moment, Harry and Ron decide they must tell McGonagall and head for the staff room.
CHAPTER 17: The Heir of Slytherin
Harry once again faces Voldemort alone, or so he thinks when he finds himself in the Chamber of Secrets. Ron and Lockhart are left behind and Harry goes alone to try to find and rescue Ginny. The description in the beginning of the chapter is vivid, with a feeling of evil surrounding Harry. When he finally sees the statue of Slytherin, it is described as having a “monkey-like” (UK audio CD) face. (Later, in HBP, there is a similar description of Marvolo Gaunt, US version, p. 202):
“This man was shorter than the first, and oddly proportioned; his shoulders were very broad and his arms overlong, which, with his bright brown eyes, short scrubby hair, and wrinkled face, gave him the look of a powerful, aged monkey.”
Harry determines that Ginny has not been petrified because her eyes are closed, but she is “white as marble, and as cold”. (The next time we see white marble, it is Dumbledore's tomb.) Riddle is there, calm, blurred around the edges, but not a ghost, as Harry thinks he might be. It is in this chapter that we first see the result of a Horcrux and get a glimmer of how it functions, but because we don’t know what it is at this point, much of this chapter seemed confusing the first time I read it—and every time until Half-Blood Prince came out, actually.
What do we learn in this chapter?
--Riddle here is sixteen, not a ghost but not restored to himself yet. He does have enough of a body to pick up Harry’s wand, however.
--Riddle says that he is a memory, “preserved in a diary for fifty years.” [COS-p. 308]
--Riddle tells Harry that he won’t need his wand and that he, Riddle, has been waiting to meet Harry for a long time.
--Riddle explains how Ginny pouring her secrets into the diary was just what he needed. The more she bared her soul to the diary, the more strength Riddle gained from it.
The description of Riddle’s eyes as he looks at Harry is: “There was an almost hungry look in them.” [COS-p.309] This is similar to the look on Tom Riddle’s face when he visits Hepzibah Smith and she shows him Slytherin’s locket and Hufflepuff’s cup.
In Riddle’s description of Ginny writing in the diary, Riddle shows his lack of compassion in that he was bored with “the silly little troubles of an eleven-year-old girl”. She was honest and trusting, yet he was unmoved by any genuine emotions of another person.
“If I say it myself, Harry, I’ve always been able to charm the people I needed. So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted. . . I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her. . .” [COS-p.310]
Harry doesn’t understand, and neither do we at this point. But in this chapter we get the explanation of how the Horcrux works, I think. Riddle, we learn later, put a piece of his torn soul into the diary, which was a preservation of his sixteen year old self. But even those two things together—the memory of sixteen-year-old Tom and the Horcrux—were not enough to bring Riddle back to human form. Something else was needed; a body and a soul.
Ginny provides both. In putting some of her soul into the diary—into the memory Tom Riddle—Ginny allowed the partial incomplete Riddle access to her complete soul. But he instead put some of his soul back into her, including his memories of the Chamber of Secrets and apparently his ability to speak Parseltongue, though we don’t know whether she has retained that particular ability. Ginny’s innocence was taken from her when she was overtaken by the evil of Tom Riddle’s soul. Riddle was able to take her over because of the darkness of her own thoughts and fears. Evil feeds on the dark, not on the light. Had Ginny been content and happy, would Riddle have been able to use her in the same way? Very likely he would not, though he probably would have tried to put doubts and fear into her thoughts by his diary responses.
Ginny has periods of time where she doesn’t know what she was doing, but she sees evidence that leads her to understand that somehow she is the one causing the havoc at Hogwarts. And she ties it all to the diary and disposes of it. Had Harry listened to Ron, the diary would have lain on Myrtle’s bathroom floor for a long time. However, the monster was already loose, so the story couldn’t just end there.
Riddle tells Harry that he was delighted when it was Harry who picked up the diary and then figured out how to work it, because he (Riddle) had wanted to meet him. But why? Sixteen-year-old Riddle would not have known anything about Harry Potter. Did he actually have any knowledge of the present before Ginny began writing that the older Voldemort had vanished? Likely not, and we get that in this chapter as well.
“Well, you see, Ginny told me all about you, Harry,” said Riddle. “Your whole fascinating history.” His eyes roved over the lightning scar on Harry’s forehead, and his expression grew hungrier. “I knew I must find out more about you, talk to you, meet you if I could. So I decided to show you my famous capture of that great oaf, Hagrid, to gain your trust—“ [COS-p. 311]
At this point Harry realizes that Riddle framed Hagrid, and that he was wrong to doubt Hagrid’s innocence. But rather than understand that Harry is loyal, Riddle completely misses it. He only laughs and is pleased that his ruse worked on Armando Dippet, because Hagrid was not a model student. We also get a glimmer of Riddle’s need for recognition. It is one of the things that has motivated him since childhood. He wanted to be different, to stand above the rest, to be recognized for his achievements.
“. . . even I was surprised how well the plan worked. I thought someone must realize that Hagrid couldn’t possibly be the Heir of Slytherin. It had taken me five whole years to find out everything I could about the Chamber of Secrets and discover the secret entrance. . . as though Hagrid had the brains, or the power!” [COS-p. 312]
Will Harry remember this attitude of the young Riddle when he next confronts Voldemort? Knowing what motivates a manipulative person very often gives us clues in how to respond to them.
Riddle, however, was smart enough to know that Dumbledore was watching him and that continuing with the Chamber of Secrets was too risky. At that point he preserved his sixteen-year-old self in a diary “so that one day, with luck, I would be able to lead another in my footsteps, and finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.” [COS-p. 312]
Now that he knows about Harry, Riddle’s focus has changed and Harry is his new target. He decided to use Ginny, who he saw as one of Harry’s best friends, to lure Harry to the Chamber of Secrets, knowing that Harry would try to rescue her. Ginny, at that point, fought against Riddle, which seems to say that even though he had obtained enough of her soul to allow him to act without her, she still had some strength to fight against the evil that was trying to consume her.
“But there isn’t much life left in her. . . She put too much into the diary, into me. Enough to let me leave its pages at last. . . I have been waiting for you to appear since we arrived here. I knew you’d come. I have many questions for you, Harry Potter.”
Riddle wants to know how baby Harry defeated the “greatest wizard of all time”. . . .“How did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort’s powers were destroyed?”
There was an odd red gleam in his hungry eyes now.
Harry wants to know why he cares, as
“Voldemort was after your time. . .”
“Voldemort,” said Riddle softly, “is my past, present, and future, Harry Potter. . .” [COS-p. 313]
So, we have diary Tom who has learned his own history as it is tied with Harry’s history, all through the writing of Ginny. That should tell us that the Horcrux that was encased in the diary is not sufficient for an existence on its own. Diary Tom—the memory—with the piece of Voldemort’s soul still had to have a more complete body and soul to return. Even though that piece of Voldemort’s soul seems safe it is too small to exist without the other pieces or without a whole soul.
Rowling draws some very interesting tangible images of what a soul is, and of what someone’s memory is. By writing in a diary or a journal, a person puts a bit of himself into the pages, to be preserved there. It is only when someone else reads it that the person “comes back to life”. When we read the writings of others, years after they are gone, their preserved memories can lead us to follow in their footsteps or to complete their work. This even goes back to the first book and Nicholas Flamel, who recorded his work on the search for the Philosopher’s Stone. We need to take care just what we do with a diary that we find, with someone else’s memories. We can learn from them, or we can be taken over by them, if we are not careful to protect our own unique self. And how safe is it to pour out your soul in a diary, if there is a risk that someone else can gain access to it? Too much information can be deadly to the writer of the diary if the diary falls into the hands of someone who will use the information against us, or it can be used for good, as in the case of Anne Frank's diary, that gave the world a glimpse of what it was like to live a hidden life to escape the Nazis in World War II.
The chapter leaves the diary discussion here and moves to Harry’s loyalty to Dumbledore. Riddle knows that Dumbledore is gone and takes credit for only his memory being required to banish Dumbledore. Harry, grasping for anything, echoes what Dumbledore said—that he isn’t really gone as long as there are those who are loyal to him. We hear the same thing from Harry at the end of HBP when Harry is talking to Scrimgeour.
The music that they both hear has an opposite effect on them. It is
“eerie, spine-tingling, unearthly; it lifted the hair on Harry’s scalp and make his heart feel as though it was swelling to twice its normal size.” Riddle has frozen. [COS-p.315]
In "Looking for God in Harry Potter", John Granger points out that the phoenix song is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, with the phoenix being a symbol of Christ. From "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", we learn that the “phoenix is a gentle creature that has never been known to kill and only eats herbs.” We also see that “phoenix song is magical; it is reputed to increase the courage of the pure of heart and to strike fear into the hearts of the impure. Phoenix tears have powerful healing properties.” [FB-p. 3]) It should not surprise us that Harry finds reassurance in hearing phoenix song and in seeing Fawkes, nor that Riddle does not. Riddle sees no use at all in the phoenix and the Sorting Hat, ignoring them, while moving on to the question he wants answered—how Harry survived the killing curse.
Harry tells him the truth, that he doesn’t know why Riddle didn’t survive, or why he, Harry, did. He only knows that his mother died to save him. He also tells Riddle what has become of him:
—“And I’ve seen the real you, I saw you last year. You’re a wreck. You’re barely alive. That’s where all your power got you. You’re in hiding. You’re ugly, you’re foul—“ [COS-p.316]
What a good description of what happens to those who only seek power at the expense of their soul. They may be powerful for a while, but in the end, their power leaves them in a state of existence that separates them from the rest of humanity, and imperils their immortality.
Riddle looks for commonalities between himself and Harry, still trying to understand how someone ordinary could defeat someone so extraordinary. He acknowledges that sacrificial death is a powerful countercurse, but says that after all, there is nothing special about Harry, in his way of thinking.
The battle ensues, with Riddle calling upon Slytherin’s monster—the serpent symbolizing evil. Harry has only the weapons given him by Dumbledore, which Riddle dismisses.
Harry sees the serpent and sees Fawkes attacking it. It’s a clear visual image of good fighting evil, of Christ fighting against Satan. Riddle keeps trying to get the basilisk to go after Harry rather than the bird, but blinded, the basilisk is confused, though still deadly.
Harry asks for help two different times—“someone—anyone” and later he thinks, while hiding under the Sorting Hat—“Help me—help me. . .Please help me—“ [COS-p. 319] No voice answered him, instead help came in a physical form. The Sorting Hat tightened and something hard dropped on his head—a sword. We learn later it is the silver, ruby encrusted sword which belonged to Godric Gryffindor. How appropriate that in this good versus evil battle between Riddle and Harry, we have each one using the weapon that belonged to two of the founders, Slytherin and Gryffindor.
Even though Harry killed the basilisk with the sword, he was wounded when the basilisk’s fang sank into his arm. Fawkes is beside him, and Harry believes he is dying. Riddle confirms it when he says, “You’re dead, Harry Potter. . . Dead. Even Dumbledore’s bird knows it. Do you see what he is doing, Potter? He’s crying.”
Riddle is content to watch Harry die, another indication of his lack of remorse or of any connection to other people—they exist only for his benefit and convenience.
“So ends the famous Harry Potter,” said Riddle’s distant voice. “Alone in the Chamber of Secrets, forsaken by his friends, defeated at last by the Dark Lord he so unwisely challenged. You’ll be back with your dear Mudblood mother soon, Harry. . . She bought you twelve years of borrowed time. . . but Lord Voldemort got you in the end, as you knew he must. . .” [COS-p. 321]
As Harry thinks that dying isn’t so bad, and finally sees that the mortal wound has healed, Riddle suddenly realizes what is happening and tries to scare off the phoenix. It’s typical of Riddle that, once again he has forgotten the healing power of phoenix tears. Still holding Harry’s wand, Riddle intends to use it to kill Harry. But Harry has the basilisk fang and plunges it into the diary, destroying the memory (and the Horcrux, we find out later) of the young Tom Riddle.
CHAPTER 18: Dobby's Reward
I’ve always thought it a shame that of all the scenes left out of the movies that it was particularly sad that this one was so abbreviated. In the movie we only see Ron and Harry return with Ginny to Dumbledore’s office (and a memory-less Lockhart). But, of course, Mr. And Mrs. Weasley, informed of their daughter’s abduction by the monster, would be at the school—something left out of the movie. They, as any parent would be, are thrilled beyond belief that she’s alive. And rather than Dumbledore’s office, Fawkes has led them to McGonagall’s office.
Including the Weasley parents in the scene allows for Rowling to include the reminder about things that are dangerous objects, as well as getting the full story of what happened. McGonagall is calming herself while Professor Dumbledore beams, as he often does when Harry comes through some harrowing experience. Fawkes settles himself on Dumbledore’s shoulder as Harry and Ron are hugged by Mrs. Weasley. They all want to know how the boys saved Ginny.
Placing the Sorting Hat, the ruby-encrusted sword, and the remains of Riddle’s diary on the desk, Harry recounts their journey in finding and rescuing Ginny. He tells:
-of hearing the disembodied voice
-of Hermione realizing it was a basilisk in the pipes
-how he an d Ron followed the spiders into the Forest where Aragog told them where the last victim died
-how they guessed it was Myrtle, and
-that the Chamber of Secrets entrance was in Myrtle’s bathroom
McGonagall acknowledges that they figured it out, “breaking a hundred school rules into pieces along the way, I might add—but how on earth did you get out of there alive, Potter?” [COS-p. 328]
Harry tells them of Fawkes’s timely arrival, bringing him the Sorting Hat with the sword, all the while avoiding the mention of the diary and Ginny. The diary has been destroyed, so how can they prove that Riddle was the one controlling Ginny?
As always, Dumbledore leads Harry into that part of the story. “What interests me most,” said Dumbledore gently, “is how Lord Voldemort managed to enchant Ginny, when my sources tell me he is currently in hiding in the forests of Albania.” [COS-p. 328]
At this point we should have asked what sources Dumbledore has who know what’s happening so far away, and more importantly, if this means Voldemort can exist in more than one place and one form at the same time. If sixteen year old Riddle was getting strength by robbing Ginny of hers, was the vapor version of Voldemort also gaining strength; are the soul fragments connected in any way, or only when Voldemort tries to put them back together?
But as it’s only the second book, we aren’t yet aware of how important small details are; we, like Harry, are more worried about what will happen to Ginny now and whether she, Harry, and Ron are about to be expelled for all their recent spate of rule-breaking.
After Harry explains that Riddle wrote in the diary when he was sixteen, Dumbledore looks at its soggy burnt pages—
“Brilliant,” he said softly. “Of course, he was probably the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen. . . Very few people know that Lord Voldemort was once called Tom Riddle. I taught him myself, fifty years ago at Hogwarts. He disappeared after leaving school. . . traveled far and wide. . . sank so deeply into the Dark Arts, consorted with the very worst of our kind, underwent so many dangerous, magical transformations, that when he resurfaced as Lord Voldemort, he was barely recognizable. Hardly anyone connected Lord Voldemort with the clever, handsome boy who was once Head Boy here.” [COS-p.329]
That Dumbledore is aware of Lord Voldemort’s transformations indicates that he had been investigating Riddle for some time, though we don’t know how long or with whom he shared the information he had learned—with McGonagall? Snape? the old Order members? or no one? After Voldemort’s defeat when he tried to kill infant Harry, did the Order continue to meet for a while, or did they disband? They don’t seem to be meeting now—in fact they seem to be somewhat scattered, but how long did it take before that happened?
We also don’t know when Slughorn became aware of the connection between his favored student and the evil wizard he became. Perhaps Slughorn is one who, like Dumbledore, followed Voldemort’s downward spiral into evil and the Dark Arts.
Another wizard who might have followed Tom Riddle’s transformation to Lord Voldemort might have been Ollivander. Perhaps that explains the eerie comment that he made to Harry about the connection between Voldemort’s and Harry’s wands, and later, Ollivander’s disappearance. If Tom Riddle bought his wand as a young boy, then Ollivander would have to know what became of Tom—or it means that Lord Voldemort bought his wand after his transformation. That doesn’t seem likely, however, that he would be able to wander into Diagon Alley on a wand buying trip. Either way, he seems to know too much about Voldemort for his own safety.
Harry, Ron and Ginny are admonished by Mr. Weasley, who had previously warned them “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain. . . A suspicious object like that, it was clearly full of Dark Magic—“ [COS-p. 329]
Ron had pretty much told Harry the same thing when they first found the diary. Ron can sometimes be rather rash, so it’s good to know that he actually has heard his father’s warnings.
Ginny is sent off to the hospital win, with no punishment. “Older and wiser wizards than she have been hoodwinked by Lord Voldemort,” according to Dumbledore, who also recommends bed rest and a “steaming mug of hot chocolate.” [COS-p.330]
Dumbledore sends Minerva off to arrange a good feast, leaving Ron and Harry awaiting certain punishment. Rather than the promised expulsion for further rule breaking, Dumbledore says they will receive Special Awards for Service to the School, plus two hundred points apiece for Gryffindor. Interesting that they receive the same Award that Tom Riddle was given fifty years before, and that both have to do with catching the monster in the Chamber of Secrets.
Lockhart has been silent throughout the return, his memory lost: “Impaled upon your own sword, Gilderoy!” [COS-p.331] Ron then takes Lockhart off to the hospital wing.
Dumbledore starts by thanking Harry—and we’ll see references to this in later books. “You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that would have called Fawkes to you.” [COS-p. 332]
Harry finally voices his concerns about himself and Tom Riddle’s similarities. All the doubts he has had from the Sorting his first year finally surface.
“You can speak Parseltongue, Harry,” said Dumbledore calmly, “because Lord Voldemort who is the last remaining descendant* of Salazar Slytherin—can speak Parseltongue. Unless I’m much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I’m sure. . .”
“Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?” Harry said, thunderstruck.
“It certainly seems so.” [COS-p. 333]
That is the passage that many people refer to for the Harry-is-a-Horcrux, or his scar is, argument. I still don’t think that’s the case, but I admit that I may be very wrong about that. I don’t think that one’s talents/abilities are the same as one’s soul, and for Harry or the scar to be a Horcrux, it must be part of Voldemort’s soul that was transferred. The means for that to happen take some very elaborate circumstances, and explanations, and I don’t think Rowling would get that complicated.
So, why, when the Sorting Hat clearly said Harry would have done well in Slytherin, isn’t Harry just like Riddle? And why is his Gryffindor placement correct? Only because Harry, who had heard bad things about Slytherin from Ron and Hagrid, asked not to be put there.
“Exactly,” said Dumbledore, beaming once more. “Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” [COS-p. 333]
*Note: I have the hard back US version of Chamber of Secrets, the audio book read by Stephen Fry and the US paperback that was published a year later. In the hard back version and on the audio book, the word is “descendant”, but in the paperback version, it says “ancestor”. When asked about the discrepancy, Rowling said something about it being a deliberate mistake, and in later printings, I think it was changed back to descendant. The two words refer to relatives of a person, but they are very different.
According to Webster’s Dictionary:
Descendant: a person who is an offspring, however remote, of a certain ancestor, family, group, etc.
Ancestor: 1. any person from whom one is descended; forebear. 2. an early type of animal from which later kinds have evolved. 3. in law, the person from whom an estate has been inherited.
Those are not interchangeable terms—it doesn’t make sense that Tom Riddle can be both the last descendant and the last ancestor of Salazar Slytherin, who lived one thousand years before the present day story. I’ve never been able to make sense of this, but maybe we will get an answer with the seventh book—or maybe not.
As proof that Harry’s placement was correct, Dumbledore points Harry to the silver sword, ruby-encrusted, with the engraved name: Godric Gryffindor.
“Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat, Harry,” said Dumbledore simply. [COS-p. 334]
Gryffindor House reference, or heir of Gryffindor? We still don’t know. Dumbledore does make a side comment about needing a new DADA teacher—“Dear me, we do seem to run through the, don’t we?” [COS-p. 334], when he says he will have to draft an advertisement for the Daily Prophet, as he’s sending Harry off for food and rest.
However, Harry’s exit is postponed by the arrival of Lucius Malfoy, obviously furious, and followed by a cowering Dobby. Lucius is irate when he learns Dumbledore has returned. Once the other eleven governors heard that Arthur Weasley’s daughter had been killed, they sent owls telling Dumbledore they wanted him back at Hogwarts. They also let him know that Malfoy had threatened to curse their families if they hadn’t gone along with Dumbledore’s removal. It seems that there are limits to Lucius’s ability to intimidate and control others, after all.
When Lucius asks if the attacks have been stopped, Dumbledore tells him they have been and that it was the same person responsible as the last time. Showing Malfoy the diary, our attention, and Harry’s, turns to Dobby, who is trying to tell Harry something—surprisingly he’s still with the Malfoys; for all the times he’s had to punish himself, they are much more reluctant to rid themselves of an unsatisfactory house elf than we see later with the immediate dismissal of Winky by Barty Crouch, Sr.
Dumbledore makes it clear to Lucius that he knows the diary was the cause of Ginny’s actions, which was a clever plan to discredit Arthur Weasley and his Muggle Protection Act.
Harry, finally figuring out Dobby’s clues, asks Malfoy if he doesn’t want to know how Ginny got hold of the diary.
“How should I know how the stupid little girl got hold of it?” he said.
“Because you gave it to her,” said Harry. “In Flourish and Blotts. You picked up her old Transfiguration book and slipped the diary inside it, didn’t you?”
He saw Malfoy’s white hands clench and unclench.
“Prove it,” he hissed.
“Oh, no one will be able to do that,” said Dumbledore, smiling at Harry. “Not now Riddle has vanished from the book. On the other hand, I would advise you, Lucius, not to go giving out any more of Lord Voldemort’s old school things. If any more of them find their way into innocent hands, I think Arthur Weasley, for one, will make sure they are traced back to you. . .” [COS-p.336-7]
Lucius, kicking Dobby along, leaves. It is then that Harry sees a way to help Dobby; by putting the ruined diary in his own sock, he gives it to Malfoy out in the corridor. Malfoy throws it at Dobby, which of course, means that he has given Dobby clothes—an insignificant sock was enough to free him—something that Lucius realizes too late.
He lunges at Harry and is stopped by Dobby’s wandless powerful elf-magic, which sends Malfoy hurrying off after he crashes down the stairs. This is a definite commentary of what happens to the oppressed when they are freed from bondage—any previous loyalty to Dobby’s master is put aside as he shows his gratitude for being freed. Dobby disappears with a crack—disapparation inside Hogwarts. Clearly, many of the rules of what can and can’t be done do not apply to house elves.
(In the movie, the difference is that Lucius draws his wand on Harry as he lunges towards him, and begins to utter something that we recognize from the later books as the Avada Kedavra curse. I’m not sure why this was included in the movie, but it seems to be one of those changes that was approved by Rowling.)
The book ends with everything being put right—Hagrid comes back from Azkaban, the petrified people are restored, Gryffindor wins the House Cup (due to the four hundred points from Harry and Ron). Exams are cancelled—disappointing only Hermione. Dumbledore announces that Lockhart had to go away to get his memory back, disappointing no one.
Lucius Malfoy was sacked as a governor, though we later learn that he still has control and influence in the Ministry of Magic.
Ginny seems to have fully recovered. On the train ride back, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and the twins spend their time together, with Harry returning once more to the Dursleys. His attitude was much different than it was at the beginning of the book—a contrast we see in each book, as Harry grows a little each year.
Some final thoughts on Chamber of Secrets as it relates to the rest of the series (through book 6):
When Dumbledore warned Lucius about Voldemort’s old school things, it made me wonder just what else he might have had and whether it is possible that he had already sold some other of Voldemort’s things to Borgin and Burkes.
But then I wondered again about the origin of the Prince’s Potions book. Is it possible that the book and the nick name didn’t come from Severus’s friends or mother but rather directly from Voldemort? What better way to recruit a student who is interested in and knowledgeable about the Dark Arts than to pass along one of his old text books? The writing and the notes in the Potions book seem to be from Snape, not from Voldemort, or from Snape’s mother—he does claim that the spells written in the book were his own inventions.
However, Half-blood Prince has always seemed like an odd name for Snape to give himself, or even for his mother to give him; it is possible that the nick-name came from someone else.
If Eileen Prince was at school with Tom Riddle, he might have known her and found her useful—another instance of his charming people when he needed to do so. It is also possible that he might have looked her up or run into her later. If he learned that she had a son—who was promising, but a half-blood like himself—Voldemort might have thought his attention and flattery would win him an early follower.
My thought here is that, in Chamber of Secrets, we see that Tom Riddle was able to appear friendly and charming, as he did to both Ginny and Harry through the diary, because he wanted to use them. Voldemort later tells Harry that he was always able to charm those he needed. If he met a young Severus Snape, fascinated by the Dark Arts even before he went to Hogwarts, he might have thought that nurturing his trust at an early age would be advantageous later—what better way than the friendly personal gesture of passing along his old Potions book to this Hogwarts student, who from all indications was a loner. It would be much easier for Voldemort to control a student who is not popular, not constantly surrounded by many friends—all he had to do was make Severus Snape feel important and special.