How are we all? I hope we continue to be safe and well. The weather here has taken a bit of a turn so I thought I would use the time to review the second book in the Harry Potter series: The Chamber of Secrets. Considering I am a huge Potter fan, you’ll probably be surprised to know that I’ve only ever read the books once – the year they were released. I was very much part of the Potter generation – the ones who queued up to buy the latest book and read it through the night so when you got to school the next day no one could spoil it for you. I decided I wanted to re-read them. At times of great change, I find it is always lovely to look back on some classic reads and relive them. So here goes!
What’s it all about?
The book opens on Harry’s twelfth birthday where the Dursley family are hosting a dinner party for a potential client of Vernon’s drill manufacturing company. Naturally, Harry isn’t invited but he is happy to spend the evening in his bedroom. His thoughts drift to his friends, Ron and Hermione and why they haven’t been in touch with him. It is during his thinking that Dobby, a house elf, turns up in his bedroom. This is far from ordinary and Harry has a problem on his hands.
Dobby reveals that he has been intercepting Harry’s post from his friends and warns him not to return to Hogwarts because it is unsafe for him. Harry refuses to budge. After all, he loves Hogwarts and hates being at Privet Drive – there really is no chance that he would stay there. So Dobby continues to take matters into his own hands. He attempts to get Harry expelled for using magic by framing him smashing Aunt Petunia’s dessert to the floor. As a result, Uncle Vernon’s business deal collapses but Harry is given a second chance. The Ministry of Magic allows Harry to return to Hogwarts for the start of the school year.
“Beds empty! No note! Car gone — could have crashed — out of my mind with worry — did you care? — never, as long as I’ve lived — you wait until your father gets home, we never had trouble like this from Bill or Charlie or Percy —”
But the start of the school year wasn’t for some time. Uncle Vernon punishes Harry, fitting locks to his bedroom door and bars to the windows. One evening, Ron arrives with his brothers, Fred and George in their father’s enchanted Ford Anglia. They rescue Harry who then stays at the Weasley home, The Burrow. The Weasley’s and Harry travel to Diagon Alley where they are reunited with Hermione, introduced to Lucius Malfoy and Gilderoy Lockhart. Lockhart is a conceited autobiographer and the newly appointed Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, following the death of Professor Quirrell. When Harry and Ron approach Platform 9¾, it refuses to let them pass, resulting in them missing the train. They decide to fly the enchanted car to Hogwarts but crash into the Whomping Willow on the grounds. The year is not starting off smoothly for Harry at all.
Harry and Ron end up in trouble. As punishment, Ron has to clean the school trophies and Harry has to help Professor Lockhart with addressing his fan mail. Whilst he is doing this, he learns about the wizards’ prejudice about blood status – pure blood (only wizarding heritage) and Muggle (non magical) parentage. More alarmingly, Harry can hear an unnerving voice, seemingly coming from the walls of the castle. Things get stranger still. Following a deathday party for Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor House ghost Harry, Ron and Hermione run into Filch and his cat, Mrs Norris, who has been petrified. A warning was scrawled on the wall.
“The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.”
Because Harry was there when Mrs Norris was discovered, rumours quickly fly around the school regarding the Chamber of Secrets’ history. The rumour seems to be that Harry is the next heir. After some investigating Harry, Ron and Hermione discover from Cuthbert Binns, the ghostly professor of the History of Magic, that there was a terrible monster created by Salazar Slytherin after a disagreement with the other founders – Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw. Slytherin believed that students of non magic parentage should be refused entry to Hogwarts and only the pureblood be educated. He built a chamber to finish the mission. Only the heir could open it and control the monster inside.
Later, during a seasonal game of Quidditch, a Bludger ends up chasing after Harry. It appears to be rogue, zigzagging around any player it can hit. Unfortunately, it ends up breaking Harry’s arm. To make matters worse, when trying to repair the bones, Lockhart ends up removing all of them instead. Whilst in the hospital wing, Dobby visits Harry in the dead of night, revealing that it was he who charmed the Bludger and sealed the gateway to the train. He also tells Harry that the Chamber of Secrets was opened before.
Another attack happens, this time on a first year Gryffindor student. Colin Creevey, a huge fan of Harry’s is the victim. The school takes on a sense of panic. In response to this, a duelling class is set up for the students, led by Lockhart and Snape, in order to prepare them. It is during this that Harry learns he is a Parselmouth, meaning he can speak to snakes and understand them. This is incredibly rare and again adds to the rumours flying around school that Harry is the heir. Salazar Slytherin was also a Parselmouth.
“Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world.”
A third attack happened, this time on a second year Hufflepuff, Justin Finch-Fletchley. Hermione, Ron and Harry began to suspect Draco Malfoy. His family history firmly rooted within Slytherin. They were also openly hostile towards Muggle born students. The three decide to use Hermione’s talents to create Polyjuice Potion. This will enable them to turn into Malfoy’s friends, Crabb and Goyle, and hope that Malfoy says something incriminating. Sadly, they learn nothing.
Moaning Myrtle, a very miserable and whiny ghost that haunts the girls’ bathroom, unwittingly provides the trio with a new clue: a diary which had been deposited in her stall. The trio discover the diary belonged to Tom Riddle, a student who knows all too well about the Chamber, having been witness to a fellow student’s death while the Chamber was opened fifty years ago. Riddle reveals the culprit to Harry, Rubeus Hagrid. Another attack takes place, this time Hermione and a Ravenclaw prefect, the school is put on lockdown. Dumbledore and Hagrid are forced to leave.
What Hagrid did do was leave a set of instructions for them: follow the spiders that are currently fleeing into the Forbidden Forest. Here they meet Aragog, who tells them that the real monster is one that the spiders fear above all others. When Ron and Harry try to leave, Aragog says they can’t because his sons and daughters haven’t eaten for a long time and they’re hungry. At this point, the enchanted Ford Anglia arrives to rescue them. Hermione then solves the mystery of what the monster is: a basilisk. This explains why Harry can understand it. It kills by a stare. The current victims haven’t seen it’s stare – it’s by a reflection which is why they are only petrified. It isn’t long until they realise that the student that was previously killed was Myrtle. When Ginny, Ron’s youngster sister, was taken by the monster into the Chamber, Harry and Ron discover that the entrance to the Chamber is through the girls’ bathroom. The boys, with Lockhart, enter the Chamber.
It is whilst they are in the Chamber that they realise Lockhart is a fraud. A rockfall happens whilst Lockhart tries to erase the memories of the boys, something he’s done previously for his books. This time, he manages to erase his own memory. Harry becomes separated from Ron and enters the Chamber of Secrets to find an unconscious and barely alive Ginny. Tom Riddle is also in attendance and reveals that his memory has been preserved in his diary. The diary that both Harry and Ginny have been using. Riddle shows Harry his full name: Tom Marvolo Riddle. This is an anagram for He Who Shall Not Be Named. It was he who opened the Chamber fifty years ago and framed Hagrid.
“I am Lord Voldemort.”
Riddle is the true Heir of Slytherin. By possessing Ginny through his diary, Riddle has been continuing his work he started fifty years before. This time was different: Harry. Throughout the battle, Harry remains loyal to Dumbledore. This results in Fawkes, his phoenix, arriving in the Chamber with the Sorting Hat. Fawkes blinds the basilisk, allowing Harry to remove the Sword of Godric Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat. Harry slays the creature and uses a fang, poisoned by the basilisk, to stab the middle of the diary. Riddle and his diary are destroyed and Ginny survives.
Harry, Ron, Ginny and Lockhart return to the main castle and reunite with Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore and Mr and Mrs Weasley. Ginny is given a reprieve by Dumbledore. After all, many a wizard had been persuaded and duped by Voldemort. Lucius Malfoy stormed into the meeting demanding to know why Dumbledore is back. He is accompanied by Dobby, revealing that Dobby is enslaved to the Malfoy family. How did the diary come into Ginny’s hand? Lucius Malfoy had slipped it into her books whilst in Diagon Alley, enabling the Chamber to be opened again.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Harry decides to return the diary. However this time, it includes a sock which frees Dobby from the Malfoy’s employment. This results in an attack on Harry but Dobby jumps to save him. The petrified students are cured, Gryffindor wins the house cup again by earning 400 more points, Harry and Ron both receive the Special Services to School award and the end of year exams are cancelled. Hagrid returns during the final feast. Lockhart, now openly useless is dismissed from his teaching post. Like the novel opens, Harry returns to Privet Drive for another summer with the Dursleys.
I love The Chamber of Secrets because we are introduced to a range of new characters. My favourite is Dobby. I immediately felt great sympathy when I learnt he was the house elf for the Malfoys. Whilst on the surface, he comes across to Harry and the reader as a great menace, he only ever wanted to protect Harry. The second book in the series was just as good as the first and just as good this second time of reading. I genuinely love it. Having a little magic in our lives is really important and I’m so thrilled to be reading these again. Onto MY favourite book next: The Prisoner of Askaban.
Big love all! xx