Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

By: John Ankerberg; ©1999
Poor Harry. He’s back home at the Dursleys for the school holiday. The Dursleys don’t like Hedwig, Harry’s owl; the Dursleys don’t like magic—even the word; the Dursleys don’t like Harry’s school things—his wand, robes, cauldron, books, broomstick, have all been locked in the closet under the stairs for the summer; the Dursleys don’t like Harry.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

At least Harry does have a bedroom now, although Dudley is not happy at having to give up his extra room. But when company comes (on Harry’s birthday, no less) Harry is expected to “be in my room, making no noise and pretending I’m not there.” (p. 6)

The only problem is that when Harry goes to his room, it’s already occupied by a house-elf named Dobby. Dobby warns Harry that he must not go back to school, because if he does “he will be in mortal danger…. There is a plot… to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year.” (p. 16)

In the process of issuing the warning Dobby makes so much noise that he gets Harry in even more trouble. But, not to worry. His friend Ron comes to the rescue in a flying car!

Well, of course, Harry goes back to school. After all, the alternative—staying at the Dursleys—is far less appealing than being in mortal danger!

In the process he:

  • encounters a talking mirror “Tuck your shirt in, scruffy!” (p. 42)
  • travels by way of “floo powder”: “He took a pinch of glittering powder out of the flowerpot, stepped up to the fire, and threw the powder into the flames. With a roar, the fire turned emerald green and rose higher than Fred, who stepped right into it, shouted, ‘Diagon Alley’ and vanished.” (p. 47)
  • misses the Hogwarts Express, arrives by flying car, right into the branches of the Whomping Willow—a tree that hits back—and loses the car (pp. 74-76)
  • gets in trouble for breaking rules—but, instead of being expelled, “Professor McGonagall raised her wand again and pointed it at Snape’s desk. A large plate of sandwiches, two silver goblets, and a jug of iced pumpkin juice appeared with a pop.” (p. 83)

In Herbology class Harry learns about mandrakes.

“Mandrake…is a powerful restorative,” said Hermione,… “It is used to return people who have been transfigured or cursed to their original state.”…
Professor Sprout…grasped one of the tufty plants firmly, and pulled hard.
Harry let out a gasp of surprise that no one could hear.
Instead of roots, a small, muddy, and extremely ugly baby popped out of the earth. The leaves were growing right out of his head. He had pale green, mottled skin, and was clearly bawling at the top of his lungs. (pp. 92-93)

We learn later in the book that these babies, once they’ve grown up, are cut up and stewed to make the potion. (p. 234) And lest you think that mandrakes should not be too closely associated with humans, consider these quotes:

Madam Pomfrey was pleased to report that the Mandrakes were becoming moody and secretive, meaning that they were fast leaving childhood. “The moment their acne clears up, they’ll be ready for repotting again,…after that, it won’t be long until we’re cutting them up and stewing them.” (p. 234)
…in March several of the Mandrakes threw a loud and raucous party in greenhouse three…. “The moment they start trying to move into each other’s pots, we’ll know they’re fully mature….” (p. 251)

Can you think of a good reason children would not see these as humans who are being cut up and stewed?

We learn that some wizards (obviously the Slytherins, who practice dark magick) feel very strongly that only “pure-blood” wizards should be allowed to learn and practice witchcraft. Hermione, whose parent’s are Muggles (non-magical), is called a “Mudblood” by one of the students: “It’s a disgusting thing to call someone,” said Ron, “…Dirty blood, see. Common blood. It’s ridiculous. Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway.” (p. 116)

Harry starts hearing voices no one else can hear: “Come…come to me…. Let me rip you…. Let me tear you…. Let me kill you….” (p. 120)

Then on Halloween, strange things start happening at the school. Harry hears the voice again:“…rip…tear…kill….soo hungry…for so long… kill…time to kill…”(p. 137), and finds a message written on the wall: THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE. (p. 138) The caretaker’s cat, Mrs. Norris, is found dead nearby. Hagrid’s roosters start disappearing or showing up dead, and several students are found petrified—alive but “stiff and frozen.”

Professor Binns, the dead History of Magic teacher, explains the legend of the Chamber of Secrets:

The story goes that Slytherin had built a hidden chamber in the castle, of which the other founders knew nothing.
Slytherin, according to the legend, sealed the chamber of Secrets so that none would be able to open it until his own true heir arrived at the school. The heir alone would be able to unseal the Chamber of Secrets, unleash the horror within, and use it to purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic.” (p. 150-151)

It seems that the Chamber has been opened, but who is the heir? Harry thinks it must be Draco Malfoy, a fellow student, and he, Ron and Hermione decide to investigate. Hermione tells them about a potion that will allow them to turn into someone else—the Polyjuice Potion.

It transforms you into somebody else. Think about it! We could change into three of the Slytherins. No one would know it was us. Malfoy would probably tell us anything. He’s probably boasting about it in the Slytherin common room right now, if only we could hear him. (p. 159)

The three collect (steal) the ingredients for the potion, brew it up, and in a scene reminiscent of demonic possession, they drink it:

Immediately, his insides started writhing as though he’d just swallowed live snakes—doubled up, he wondered whether he was going to be sick—then a burning sensation spread rapidly from his stomach to the very ends of his fingers and toes—next, bring him gasping to all fours, came a horrible melting feeling, as the skin all over his body bubbled like hot wax—(p. 216)

Remember, all this is happening to a twelve-year-old boy!

Unfortunately for Hermione, the potion she drank contained a cat hair, and she turns into a cat-person! But, not to worry, Madam Pomfrey will fix her with a potion! Oh, and did we mention that Harry at one point loses all the bones in his arm when a teacher’s charm goes wrong? But Madam Pomfrey just gives him some Skele-Gro potion, and all 33 bones grew back overnight. Aren’t potions great?

Harry also discovers another skill—one that is usually only practiced by dark wizards. He can talk to snakes. (pp. 194-195) This convinces some of the students that he is the heir of Slytherin:

“Hannah,” said the stout boy solemnly, “he’s a parselmouth. Everyone knows that’s the mark of a Dark wizard. Have you ever heard of a decent one who could talk to snakes? They called Slytherin himself Serpent-tongue.” (p. 199)

Then Harry discovers a diary. Only it has nothing written in it. Ron tries to warn him that it might be dangerous (p. 230), but he can’t leave it alone. Then one day he spills some ink on it by accident. The ink disappears, and its secret is revealed. When Harry drops ink onto a page on purpose, the ink soaks into the paper, then reappears as words from the owner of the diary!

He discovers that the diary belonged to a 16-year-old boy named Tom Riddle who had attended Hogwarts 50 years before. The diary acts as a divination tool through which Tom feeds Harry his version of events that took place when Tom was at school. We learn later that some of the information is false, and some has been slanted to give a false impression—a not uncommon result for those who dabble in divination!

Well, Harry finally learns that the horrid creature in the secret chamber is a Basilisk, a mythological snake that grows to gigantic size and kills its victims by meeting their gaze. He realizes that the voice he has been hearing is the Basilisk’s voice. He has heard it when others didn’t because he can speak snake language—Parseltongue.

Then Ron’s sister, Ginny, who has been acting oddly, suddenly disappears and a new message is written on the wall: “Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever.” Ginny has been taken into the Chamber of Secrets. It’s up to Harry and Ron to try to rescue her.

Harry discovers the door to the Chamber of Secrets—in a girl’s bathroom. He opens it by speaking Parseltongue, and enters the Chamber. There he finds Ginny, unconscious, but alive, and he also finds Tom Riddle—the owner of the diary.

It turns out that Tom Riddle is the evil Lord Voldemort! He has possessed Ginny through the diary—which was slipped into one of her books at the beginning of the year—and has been using her to do his dirty work:

I think I’m losing my memory. There are rooster feathers all over my robes and I don’t know how they got there. Dear Tom, I can’t remember what I did on the night of Halloween, but a cat was attacked and I’ve got paint all down my front. … I think I’m going mad…. I think I’m the one attacking everyone, Tom! (pp. 310-311)

We learn that Voldemort has been feeding and gaining strength on a diet of Ginny’s emotions:

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.” (p. 310) But there isn’t much life left in her…. She put too much into the diary, into me. (p. 313)

Now Voldemort plans to call up the Basilisk and get rid of Harry.

But wait! Here comes the cavalry: a phoenix and a Sorting Hat! How are those going to help? And don’t forget Harry’s most powerful weapon: his mother’s sacrificial death: “So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that’s a powerful counter-charm. I can see it now….” (p. 317)

Well, of course we know that Harry prevails with the help of his charmed companions. The phoenix pecks out the Basilisk’s eyes so it can’t look at Harry, the Sorting Hat magically produces a sword that Harry uses to kill the Basilisk—but there’s still Voldemort to deal with:

Then, without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do that all along, Harry seized the basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it straight into the heart of the book [the diary].
There was a long, dreadful, piercing scream. Ink spurted out of the diary in torrents, streaming over Harry’s hands, flooding the floor. Riddle was writhing and twisting, screaming and flailing and then—
He had gone. (p. 322)

Oh, don’t worry. He’s not gone for good—after all, there are still five more books in the series! But for now, Ginny is un-possessed, Hagrid is cleared of suspicion, Dobby (the house-elf) is free of his harsh master, the mandrakes have been cut up and stewed so the petrified students can come back to normal, Harry’s a hero, and we find out that “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (p. 333)

Isn’t the magickal world so much better and more fun than the real world?

In this book Harry practices divination/sorcery (p. 240-41); engages in witchcraft (p. 186); casts spells, (p. 192); acts as a medium (p. 240) and consults the dead (p. 123). Each of these is a practice God has condemned. See the companion articleGod’s Warning About Witchcraft: Definition of Terms from Deuteronomy 18.

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