Chapter 10: The Rogue Bludger
Since the disaster with the pixies, Professor Lockhart has not brought live creatures to his class. Instead, he reads passages from his books and reenacts dramatic moments. He usually chooses Harry to act in these reconstructions. In the next Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson, Harry pretends to be a werewolf to keep Lockhart happy. After class, Hermione approaches Lockhart nervously, with Harry and Ron right behind her. She asks him to sign a note to get a book out of the Restricted Section of the library for background reading, to help her understand his book Gadding with Ghouls. Flattered, Lockhart signs the note without looking at it, using an enormous peacock quill. He then talks to Harry about the first Quidditch match of the season the next day: Gryffindor vs. Slytherin. Lockhart claims that he was a Seeker like Harry, and offers to give him private training. On the way to the library, Ron and Hermione argue about whether Lockhart is or is not a “brainless git.”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to the library. Madam Pince, the librarian, is suspicious of the note, but ultimately gives them the book. Hermione doesn’t want to give up the note, but Ron wrenches it from her grasp, saying “We’ll get you another autograph. Lockhart’ll sign anything if it stands still long enough.” Then they barricade themselves in Moaning Myrtle’s out-of-order bathroom again. Hermione overrides Ron’s objections, pointing out they would be guaranteed privacy. They discover that the Polyjuice potion recipe is very complex. Ron is disgusted that it requires a bit of who they want to change into. Harry is worried about how much they will have to steal. Hermione becomes angry, saying “Well, if you two are going to chicken out, fine. I don’t want to break rules, you know. I think threatening Muggle-borns is far worse than brewing up a difficult potion. But if you don’t want to find out if it’s Malfoy, I’ll go straight to Madam Pince now and hand the book back in—” Ron and Harry agree to go through with the plan. The potion will be ready in about a month. Ron mutters to Harry that it will be a lot less hassle if he just knocks Malfoy off his broom during the Quidditch game the next day.
Harry wakes early, nervous about the Quidditch match against Slytherin with their super-fast broomsticks. He goes down to breakfast, where he finds the rest of the Gryffindor team as nervous as he is. The whole school goes to the Quidditch stadium. Ron and Hermione wish Harry good luck as he enters the locker room. Wood gives his pre-match pep-talk, saying that while Slytherin has better brooms, Gryffindor has better people on their brooms, who have trained harder, “and we’re going to make them rue the day they let that little bit of slime, Malfoy, buy his way onto their team.” Wood tells Harry to prove that a Seeker has to have something more than a rich father, and to “Get the Snitch before Malfoy or die trying.”
They walk out onto the pitch, greeted by the roar of the crowd. Madam Hooch, the Quidditch teacher, asks Wood and Flinch to shake hands, and then blows the whistle to begin the game. The fourteen players fly into the sky, with Harry highest, searching for the Snitch. Malfoy flies under Harry, taunting him. A Bludger narrowly misses hitting Harry. George hits the Bludger away, but it changes direction mid-air and heads towards Harry again. Harry drops quickly to avoid it. George hits it toward Malfoy, but the Bludger swerves once again towards Harry’s head. Harry zooms towards the other end of the pitch. The Bludger follows him. Harry wonders what’s going on. This is unusual behavior from a Bludger. It’s the Bludger’s job to unseat as many players as possible, not to concentrate on one player. When Fred wacks the Bludger, it temporarily flies off course, but then comes after Harry again, forcing him to fly at full speed.
Rain splatters Harry’s glasses. He’s unaware of what’s happening in the rest of the game until he hears the commentator Lee Jordon say that Slytherin leads sixty points to zero. The Slytherins’ superior brooms are doing their jobs, while the mad Bludger is trying to knock Harry out of the air. Fred and George fly so close to Harry that all he can see is them. He has no opportunity to look for the Snitch. Fred says that someone has tampered with the Bludger. George signals to Wood that they need a time out.
Madam Hooch blows her whistle. On the ground again, Fred, George, and Harry talk to Wood. He wants to know where Fred and George were when a Bludger stopped Angelina from scoring. George explains that they were above, stopping another Bludger from murdering Harry, and that someone must have fixed it. Wood says that the Bludger has been locked in Madam Hooch’s office since their last practice, and there was nothing wrong with it then. Harry says that he can’t catch the Snitch with Fred and George flying around him all the time, and proposes that they go back to the rest of the team, and let him deal with the rogue Bludger. “Don’t be thick,” said Fred. It’ll take your head off.” Alicia Spinnet tells Wood that he can’t let Harry deal with it on his own, that they should ask for an inquiry. Harry argues that if they stop now, they will have to forfeit the match, and that they shouldn’t lose to Slytherin just because of a crazy Bludger. He asks Oliver to tell them to leave him alone. George blames Wood for telling Harry to “Get the Snitch or die trying.” Madam Hooch asks them if they are ready to resume play. Wood looks at the determined expression on Harry’s face, and tells Fred and George to let him deal with the Bludger on his own.
The rain is falling more heavily. On Madam Hooch’s whistle, Harry climbs high into the air, the Bludger right behind him. He finds that the Bludger is heavy and can’t change direction as quickly as he can, so he swoops around the stadium in spirals, zigzags, and rolls, hearing laughter below him, and aware that he must look silly. When he does a twirl in mid-air to narrowly avoid the Bludger, Malfoy taunts him, yelling, “training for the ballet, Potter?” As Harry glares back at Malfoy in hatred, he sees the Golden Snitch hovering inches above Malfoy’s ear. Malfoy hasn’t seen it. Harry hangs in the air for a moment, not daring to speed towards Malfoy, in case he looks up and sees the Snitch. Harry stays a second too long—the Bludger smashes into his elbow, and he feels his arm break. “Dimly, dazed by the searing pain in his arm, he slid sideways on his rain-drenched broom, one knee still crooked over it, his right arm dangling uselessly at his side–the Bludger came pelting back for a second attack, this time aiming at his face–Harry swerved out of the way, one idea lodged firmly in his numb brain: get to Malfoy.” Harry dives for Malfoy’s face and sees his eyes widen in fear when Malfoy thinks that Harry is attacking him. Harry takes his remaining hand off of the broom and makes a wild snatch. He catches the Snitch, gripping his broom only with his legs. There’s a yell from the crowd as he heads straight for the ground, trying not to pass out. Harry hits the mud and rolls off of his broom. His arm is hanging at a strange angle. His body is riddled with pain. He hears, as if from a distance, whistling and shouting. He focuses on the Snitch clutched in his good hand, says “We’ve Won” and faints.
Harry wakes up still lying on the field in the rain and recognizes Lockhart leaning over him. Lockhart tells the anxious crowd that Harry doesn’t know what he’s saying, and tells Harry not to worry, that he is about to fix his arm. Harry says “No!” He hears a familiar clicking noise nearby, and tells Colin that he doesn’t want a picture of this. Lockhart orders Harry to lie back to prepare for a simple charm he has used countless times. Harry wants to know why he can’t just go to the hospital wing. Wood agrees with Harry, as he congratulates him on a great capture. Harry spots Fred and George wrestling the Bludger back into the box. When Lockhart directs his wand at Harry’s arm, Harry feels as if his arm was being deflated. He hears the people above him gasp, and Colin click his camera. His arm doesn’t hurt anymore, but it also doesn’t feel like an arm. Lockhart asks Ron and Hermione to accompany Harry up to the hospital wing. Harry stands and realizes that instead of mending his arm bones, Lockhart has removed them.
Madam Pomfrey is not pleased. She says that she can mend bones in a second, but growing them back will be painful. Harry will have to stay the night. Hermione waits outside the curtain around Harry’s bed while Ron helps him into his pajamas. Ron asks Hermione how she can stick up for Lockhart now. She replies that anyone can make a mistake. Madam Pomfrey gives Harry Skele-Gro, which is nasty to drink. Ron complements Harry on his catch, grinning about the win, and the expression on Malfoy’s face. Hermione wants to know how Malfoy fixed the Bludger. Harry says they can add that to their questions for when they take the Polyjuice potion. The Gryffindor team visits Harry, bringing sweets. George says that he just saw Flint yelling at Malfoy about having a Snitch on top of his head and not noticing. The team is starting a party when Madam Pomfrey kicks them out, saying that Harry needs his rest: He has thirty-three bones to grow.
Hours later, Harry wakes in pain. He realizes that someone is sponging his forehead in the dark. It’s Dobby, a tear running down his nose. The house-elf, miserable, wants to know why Harry didn’t heed his warning, and why he didn’t go home when he missed his train. Harry asks how Dobby knows that he missed the train, and then suspects that Dobby stopped the barrier from letting them through at the station. Dobby admits this is true, relaying that he had to iron his hand afterward. He says that he didn’t care, because he thought that Harry was safe, and never dreamed that he would find another way to get to school. He was so shocked that he let his master’s dinner burn, and received a flogging.
Angry, Harry tells Dobby that he nearly got him and Ron expelled, and that he better get lost before his bones come back, or he will strangle him. Dobby says he is used to death threats. The house-elf blows his nose on the pillowcase he wears, and looks pathetic, causing Harry’s anger to dissipate. When Harry asks him why he wears it, Dobby explains that it’s a mark of his enslavement. Dobby can only be freed if his masters present him with clothes, so they are careful not to pass him even a sock. Dobby insists that Harry Potter must go home, and that he thought that his Bludger would be enough. Harry interrupts him, angry again, “Your Bludger? What do you mean your Bludger? You made that Bludger try and kill me?” Shocked, Dobby protests that he never wanted to kill Harry. He wants to save Harry’s life. He only wanted him hurt enough to be sent home. Harry then demands to know why Dobby wanted him sent home in pieces.
Dobby replies: "Ah, if Harry Potter only knew!...If he knew what he means to us, to the lowly, the enslaved, we dregs of the magical world! Dobby remembers how it was when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was at the height of his powers, sir! We house-elves were treated like vermin, sir! Of course, Dobby is still treated like that, sir," he admitted, drying his face on the pillowcase. "But mostly, sir, life has improved for my kind since you triumphed over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Harry Potter survived, and the Dark Lord's power was broken, and it was a new dawn, sir, and Harry Potter shone like a beacon of hope for those of us who thought the dark days would ever end, sir...And now, at Hogwarts, terrible things are to happen, are perhaps happening already, and Dobby cannot let Harry Potter stay here now that history is to repeat itself, now that the Chamber of Secrets is open once more—”
Dobby grabs a water jug from the bedside table and cracks it over his head, toppling out of sight, then crawls back onto the bed, muttering “Bad Dobby.” Catching hold of Dobby’s wrist, Harry tries to get Dobby to tell him more about the Chamber of Secrets, about who has opened it, and who opened it last time. Dobby says he can’t tell him, and Harry must go home. Harry insists that he’s not going anywhere, and tells Dobby that one of his best friends is Muggle-born, so will be in danger if the Chamber really has been opened. Dobby is impressed that Harry would risk his own life for his friends, but says he must save himself.
Dobby and Harry both hear footsteps coming towards them. With a loud crack, Dobby disappears. Dumbledore and Prof. McGonagall carry what looks like a statue into the dormitory and heave it onto a bed. When Madame Pomfrey arrives they explain that they found Colin Creevey on the stairs. There was a bunch of grapes next to him. They think he was trying to visit Harry. Colin is petrified, his eyes wide, with his hands stuck out in front of him, holding his camera. Dumbledore wrenches the camera away from Colin and opens it to see if he got a picture of his attacker, but the film has melted. Prof. McGonagall asks Dumbledore what this means, and he replies that it means that the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open again. She wonders “who?” And he answers “The question is not who. The question is how.”
Ch. 11: The Dueling Club
Harry wakes up Sunday morning with his arm re-boned but stiff. He looks over at Colin’s bed, but it’s blocked from view. Madam Pomfrey brings Harry a breakfast tray, bends and stretches his fingers, then releases him to leave. Harry hurries to Gryffindor tower to tell Ron and Hermione about Colin and Dobby, but they aren’t there. He goes to look for them, hurt that they aren’t interested in his recovery. Harry runs into Percy Weasley, who praises his flying in the Quidditch match, and says that he earned Gryffindor fifty points, and the lead for House Cup. Harry asks Percy if he’s seen Ron or Hermione, and he says no, but he hopes that Ron is not in another girls' toilet.
Harry finds Ron and Hermione in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. They are locked in a stall, where Hermione has conjured up a fire in a toilet and has placed a cauldron on top. Ron explains that they decided to get started on the Polyjuice potion. Harry starts to tell them about Colin, but Hermione interrupts, saying they already know, as they heard Prof. McGonagall tell another professor that morning. That’s why they started on the Polyjuice potion. Ron thinks that Malfoy was in such a foul mood after the Quidditch match, he took it out on Colin. Harry tells his friends about Dobby’s visit. When he hears that the Chamber of Secrets was opened before, Ron assumes that Lucius Malfoy opened it the first time. He wonders what kind of monster is inside the Chamber, and why no one has seen it around the school. Hermione suggests that maybe it can make itself invisible or camouflage itself.
By Monday morning the news that Colin was attacked has spread through the school, causing an atmosphere of rumor and suspicion. First-year students move around the castle in groups for protection. Ginny is distraught. Fred and George try to cheer her up by covering themselves in fur and boils and jumping out at her. Percy, enraged, stops them by threatening to write to their mother that Ginny is having nightmares. A fad for protective talismans sweeps the school. Neville Longbottom buys a bunch; he is afraid because “they went for Filch first, and everyone knows I’m almost a squib.”
In the second week of December Prof. McGonagall collects the names of students who will be staying at Hogwarts for Christmas. Harry, Ron, and Hermione sign up, as does Malfoy. The three friends think the holidays would be a perfect time to use the Polyjuice potion to get a confession out of Malfoy. The potion is only half finished. They need two ingredients that they can only get from Snape’s private stores. Hermione says that they need a diversion, so one of them can sneak into Snape’s office. She decides that she would be the best one to do the stealing, since she has a clean record.
During the next Potions class Harry lobs a firework into Goyle’s cauldron, causing the students to be showered with Swelling Solution. Malfoy’s nose swells like a balloon. Goyle’s eyes expand to the size of dinner plates. Snape tries to restore calm and find out what happened. During the confusion, Hermione slips into Snape’s office. As the students rush to Snape’s desk with various swollen body parts, looking for an antidote, Hermione slips back into the dungeon with her robes bulging. After order is restored, Snape discovers the remains of the firework inside Goyle’s cauldron, and says that if he ever finds out who threw it, he will make sure that person is expelled. Harry tries to look puzzled, but can tell that Snape knows it was him. After class, they hurry to Myrtle’s bathroom, where Hermione throws the new ingredients into the cauldron and stirs feverishly. The Polyjuice potion will be ready in two weeks.
A week later, Harry, Ron, and Hermione see a crowd gathered around the notice board in the Entrance Hall. When Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas beckon them over they learn that a new Dueling Club is being formed, with its first meeting that night. They agree that it could be useful, and decide to join. At eight o’clock, they wait excitedly along with most of the rest of the school in the Great Hall. The dining tables have been replaced by a golden stage. Gilderoy Lockhart walks out onto the stage, waves his arm for silence, and calls for everyone to gather around. He announces that Dumbledore has granted him permission to start this Dueling Club to train the students to defend themselves as he has done on countless occasions. Then he introduces his “assistant” Professor Snape. Ron whispers to Harry: “Wouldn’t it be good if they finished each other off?”
Snape and Lockhart turn to face each other and bow. Lockhart explains that on the count of three they will cast their first spells, not aiming to kill. On three, both swing their wands above their heads and point them at each other. Snape cries “Expelliaramus!” With a flash of scarlet light, Lockhart is blasted off his feet, flies backward off the stage, smashes into the wall, and slides to the floor. Malfoy and other Slytherins cheer. Hermione worries if Lockhart is all right. “Who cares?” Harry and Ron say together. Lockhart recovers, explains that his was a Disarming Charm, and pretends that he let Snape win for the sake of instruction. Lockhart and Snape place the students into pairs. Lockhart pairs Neville with Justin. Snape pairs Ron with Seamus, Harry with Draco, and Hermione with Milicent. Lockhart instructs the students to cast their charms only to disarm their opponents on the count of three. Malfoy starts early on “two” hitting Harry hard. In retaliation, Harry hits Malfoy with a Tickling Charm. Harry hangs back, feeling that it would be unsporting to bewitch Malfoy while he’s doubled over with laughter on the floor. Malfoy points his wand at Harry’s knees, enchanting his legs to dance uncontrollably. Lockhart shouts “I said disarm only” and “Stop! Stop!” to no effect. Snape takes charge, shouting “Finite Incantium!” which stops Malfoy from laughing and Harry from dancing.
The aftermath of the duels is generally disastrous. Lockhart decides that he had better teach them how to block unfriendly spells. Afraid of Snape, he recruits a volunteer pair of students to demonstrate, and nominates Longbottom and Finch-Fletchley. Snape interrupts, saying that “Longbottom causes devastation with the simplest spells,” embarrassing Neville. He suggests Malfoy and Potter instead. Lockhart agrees, gesturing for Harry and Draco to come to the middle of the hall. Lockhart demonstrates to Harry how to block Draco’s spells, raising his wand and attempting “a complicated sort of wiggling action,” then drops it. Snape smirks as Lockhart says “Whoops—my wand is a little over-excited—” Snape whispers something in Malfoy’s ear. Malfoy smirks too. Harry asks Lockhart to show him the blocking maneuver again, but the Professor tells him to just do what he did. Harry replies “What, drop my wand?”
Lockhart isn’t listening. He counts to three. Malfoy raises his wand and bellows “Serpensortia!” With an explosion, a long black snake shoots out of Malfoy’s wand, falls on the floor between them, and raises itself, ready to strike. The crowd screams and backs away. Snape, lazily, tells Harry not to move, that he will get rid of it. Lockhart interjects, “Allow me!” But when Lockhart casts his spell, the snake, instead of vanishing, flies ten feet into the air and falls to the floor with a loud smack. Engraged, it slithers straight to Justin Finch-Fletchley and raises itself, fangs exposed and ready to strike. Harry’s legs carry him forward as he shouts at the snake “Leave him alone!” The snake slumps to the floor docily, looking at Harry. Harry knows that the snake won’t attack anyone now. He looks at Justin, grinning, and is surprised to find Justin angry and scared. Justin shouts, “What do you think you’re playing at?” and storms out of the hall. Snape makes the snake vanish. He gives Harry a shrewd and calculating look that Harry doesn’t like. Then Harry hears an ominous muttering all around the walls.
Ron steers Harry out of the hall, Hermione hurrying beside them. People draw away from them, frightened. Harry is bewildered. Ron and Hermione explain nothing until they reach the empty Gryffindor common room. Ron says, “You’re a Parselmouth. Why didn’t you tell us?” Harry doesn’t know what a Parselmouth is, so Ron clarifies that it means he can talk to snakes. Harry says he knows, but it’s only the second time he has even done it. The first time was when he accidentally set a boa constrictor on his cousin Dudley at the zoo. Harry assumes that many people at Hogwarts can do it, but Ron says it’s an uncommon gift. Ron tells Harry this is bad. Harry gets angry, and doesn’t understand what’s wrong with everyone. Harry told the snake not to attack Justin. But they don’t know that, because he spoke in Parseltongue—snake language. Ron says: “You could have been saying anything—no wonder Justin panicked, you sounded like you were egging the snake on or something—it was creepy, you know—” Harry didn’t realize that he was speaking a different language. Harry still doesn’t understand why it matters how he stopped the snake from biting Justin, as long as he did it. Hermione explains that it matters because being able to talk to snakes was what Salazar Slytherin was famous for. That’s why the symbol of Slytherin House is a serpent. Ron adds that the whole school is going to think that Harry is related to Slytherin. When Harry protests “with a panic he can’t quite explain” that he is not related to Slytherin, Hermione replies that he will find that hard to prove since Slytherin lived a thousand years ago. “For all we know, you could be.”
Harry lies awake that night wondering if he could be a descendant of Salazar Slytherin. He doesn’t know anything about his father’s family. He tries to say something in Parseltongue, but the words don’t come. He has to be face-to-face with a snake to speak it. He reminds himself that he’s in Gryffindor, and the Sorting Hat wouldn’t have put him there if he had Slytherin blood. But then he remembers that the Sorting Hat wanted to put him in Slytherin. He decides to talk to Justin the next day in Herbology and explain that he was calling the snake off, not egging it on. He pummels his pillow angrily, feeling that “any fool should have realized” this.
But the next morning the last Herbology lesson of the term is canceled due to a blizzard. Professor Sprout wants to fit socks and scarves on the Madrakes. This is especially important because the Mandrakes must grow quickly to revive Colin and Mrs. Norris. While Ron and Hermione play wizard chess next to the fire in the common room Harry frets about Justin. Finally, Hermione tells Harry to go find Justin.
Harry goes to look in the library, where he overhears a group of Hufflepuffs talking. Ernie says that he told Justin to stay in their dorm. “Justin’s been waiting for something like this ever since he let slip to Potter that he was Muggle-born.” Ernie lays out the evidence that Harry is Slytherin’s heir: He speaks Parseltongue and “everyone knows that’s the mark of a Dark wizard.” He had a run-in with Filch right before Mrs. Norris was attacked. He was annoyed by Creevey taking pictures of him at the Quidditch match, then Creevy was attacked. Hannah is uncertain, saying that Harry has always been nice, and he made You-Know-Who disappear, so can’t be all bad. Ernie replies only a powerful wizard could survive a curse like that, and guesses that’s probably why Voldemort wanted to kill Harry in the first place: He didn’t want another Dark Lord competing with him.
Angry, Harry steps from behind the bookshelf, to the horror of the Hufflepuffs, and says that he’s looking for Justin. Ernie asks what he wants with him in a quavering voice. Harry says he wants to explain what really happened with the snake at the Dueling Club. Ernie and Harry argue about what happened. Harry explains that after he spoke to the snake it backed off. Ernie maintains that Harry chased the snake towards Justin. Ernie also starts to tell Harry about his own wizard blood, but Harry says he doesn’t care. Harry demands to know why he would want to attack Muggle-borns. Ernie replies that he’s heard that Harry hates the Muggles he lives with. Harry says, “It’s not possible to live with the Dursleys and not hate them. I’d like to see you try it” and storms out of the library.
Harry is so furious that he barely notices where he’s going, so he walks directly into Hagrid, knocking himself down. Hagrid asks if he’s all alright, and why he isn’t in class. Harry explains that it’s been canceled. When Harry asks what he’s doing there he holds up a dead rooster and says it’s the second killed this term. Hagrid needs the Headmaster’s permission to put a charm on the hen coop. Hagrid asks again if Harry is alright. Harry can’t bring himself to repeat what the Hufflepuffs had been saying, so he says it’s nothing, and that he has to go pick up his books for Transfiguration.
Harry stamps up the stairs and turns down a dark corridor. Halfway down the passage he trips over something. He turns to discover that it’s Justin Finch-Fletchley lying on the floor, rigid and cold, with a shocked expression. Nearly Headless Nick floats six inches off the floor next to Justin. Nick is oddly black and smokey, as opposed to his usual white transparent appearance. His head is half off and he also has a look of shock on his face.
Harry sees a line of spiders scuttling away from the bodies. He considers running away, but feels he needs to get help for Justin and Nick. He wonders: Would anyone believe that he hadn’t had anything to do with this? As Harry stands there panicking, Peeves the Poltergeist discovers him, and starts screaming about the attack. All of the doors fly open along the corridor and people flood out. The scene is complete confusion until McGonagall arrives, sets off her wand with a loud bang, and orders everyone back into their classrooms.
Then Ernie the Hufflepuff arrives, points his finger dramatically at Harry, and yells “Caught in the act!” McGonagall says “That will do, Macmillan,” sharply. Peeves hovers overhead enjoying the chaos, and sings a song: “Oh Potter, you rotter, what have you done, You’re killing off students, you think it’s good fun–” McGonagall also shuts down Peeves. Professors Flitwick and Sinistra carry Justin to the hospital wing. Professor McGonagall conjures a fan, with which she instructs Ernie to waft Nick upstairs. McGonagall then says “This way, Potter.” He starts to swear that he didn’t have anything to do with this, but she cuts him off, saying that this is out of her hands. They march around a corner and then stop in front of a gargoyle. When McGonagall says the password, the gargoyle springs to life, and hops aside, revealing a spiral staircase moving smoothly upward. They step onto it and rise upward in circles until they reach an oak door with a knocker in the shape of a griffin. Harry realizes this must be where Dumbledore lives.
Chapter 12: The Polyjuice Potion
Professor McGonagall leaves Harry in Dumbledore’s office, telling him to wait. Harry discovers the Sorting Hat and puts it on his head. The Sorting Hat knows that Harry has been wondering if it placed him in the right house, and says “...you were particularly difficult to place. But I stand by what I said before, you would have done well in Slytherin–” Harry grabs the hat off of his head before it can finish, and says “You’re wrong.”
A strange gagging noise makes Harry turn around to find a decrepit-looking bird on a golden perch. The bird bursts into flames. Harry yells in shock, and looks around for water, but can’t find any. The bird gives a loud shriek, then becomes a smoking pile of ash on the floor. When Dumbledore enters, Harry desperately tries to explain what happened to the bird. Dumbledore smiles and explains that Fawkes is a phoenix. When it is time for him to die he bursts into flame and is then reborn from the ashes. Harry looks down to see a tiny newborn bird poke its head out of the ashes. Dumbledore says that it’s a shame Harry has to see him on Burning Day–Most of the time, he is handsome, with red and gold plumage. Dumbledore relates that phoenixes “can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and they make highly faithful pets.”
Hagrid bursts into the office, exclaiming that it wasn’t Harry, that he was talking to him seconds before the kid was found, that he wouldn’t have had time. Dumbledore tries to interrupt as Hagrid goes on defending Harry. Finally, Dumbledore says loudly that he does not think Harry attacked those people. Embarrassed, Hagrid goes to wait outside. Dumbledore then asks Harry if there’s anything at all he wants to tell him. Harry thinks of Malfoy shouting “You’ll be next Mudbloods!” and the Polyjuice potion. Then he thinks of the voice he has heard twice and Ron telling him that hearing voices isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world. And he thinks of what everyone is saying about him, and his dread that he’s connected with Salazar Slytherin. He tells Dumbledore no, there isn’t anything.
The double attack on Justin and Nearly Headless Nick sends Hogwarts into a panic. People are especially worried about the fate of Nick: what power could harm someone who was already dead? Students rush to book their tickets on the Hogwarts Express to go home for Christmas. Crabe and Goyle sign up to stay at Hogwarts over the holidays with Malfoy. Harry is glad that most people are leaving as he’s “tired of people skirting around him in the corridors, as though he was about to sprout fangs or spit poison; tired of all the muttering, pointing, and hissing as he passed.” Fred and George make a joke of it, marching ahead of Harry, shouting “Make way for the Heir of Slytherin, seriously evil wizard coming through.” Percy disapproves of their behavior. It upsets Ginny too. Harry doesn’t mind. It makes him feel better that Fred and George think that his being Slytherin’s heir is ridiculous. Draco Malfoy looks increasingly sour. Ron and Harry assume this is because Harry is getting credit for his dirty work.
The term ends. Harry enjoys the peace and quiet and having the run of Gryffindor tower with his friends. Fred, George, Ginny, and Percy stay at Hogwarts too. On Christmas morning Hermione wakes up Harry and Ron early with presents and the news that the Polyjuice potion is ready. Hedwig flies in with a package for Harry from the Dursleys, which turns out to be a toothpick and a note asking if he can stay at Hogwarts for the summer vacation. Harry appreciates his other presents: a tin of treacle fudge from Hagrid, a book on his favorite Quidditch team from Ron, a luxury eagle-feather quill from Hermione, and a hand-knit sweater and a plum cake from Mrs. Weasley. Harry feels guilty about Mr. Wesley’s car and the rule-breaking he and Ron are planning next.
Everyone enjoys Christmas dinner at Hogwarts. The Great Hall looks magnificent. Dumbledore leads them in carols. Hermione ushers Harry and Ron out of the hall to finalize their plans for the Polyjuice potion that evening. They still need a bit of the people they want to change into. Hermione has a plan: She has filled two chocolate cakes with sleeping draught for Crabbe and Goyle to find and eat out of greed. She tells Ron and Harry to wait until they’re asleep, and then pull out a few of their hairs and hide the boys in the broom closet. Harry and Ron are incredulous, but agree to do it. Hermione already has a hair that Milicent Bulstrode left on her robe during their duel.
The first stage of the operation goes according to plan. Crabbe and Goyle eat the cake and pass out. Harry and Ron drag them to the closet, pull out their hair, steal their shoes, and then sprint up to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Hermione has the potion ready. She also sneaked large spare robes out of the laundry for Harry and Ron to wear when they transform into Crabbe and Goyle. She explains that once they drink the potion, they will have an hour until they change back into themselves. They separate the potion into three glasses and add the hairs. They each take separate stalls and drink the potion on the count of three. Harry transforms into Goyle and Ron into Crabbe. Hermione says from her stall that she’s not going to come with them after all. Bewildered, Harry asks Hermione if she’s ok. She says she’s fine, so they agree to meet back in the bathroom, and set off to find a Slytherin student to follow to the Slytherin common room.
They walk deep into the passages of the school for a quarter of an hour without finding a Slytherin. They run into Percy in an unexpected place. Then Malfoy strolls toward them, and says that he has something funny to show them, so they follow him. Malfoy says the new password to the Slytherin common room—”pure-blood”—and they enter. He tells them to wait by the fire and then retrieves a newspaper clipping his father sent him. The article, titled “Inquiry at the Ministry of Magic” says that Arthur Weasley, Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, was fined fifty galleons for bewitching a Muggle car. Lucius Malfoy, a governor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and wizardry, where the car crashed, is calling for his resignation. Lucius Malfoy is quoted as saying that Weasley is unfit to draw up their laws and the Muggle Protection Act should be scrapped immediately. Draco thinks the article is funny and makes disparaging remarks about Mr. Weasley. Ron is furious. Draco, thinking that he is Crabbe, asks what’s wrong with him, so Ron says he has a stomachache.
Draco tells Ron as Crabbe to go up to the hospital wing and give the Mudbloods a kick for him. He says he’s surprised that the newspaper hasn’t reported on the attacks at Hogwarts, and guesses that Dumbledore is trying to hush it up. Draco speculates that Dumbledore will be sacked if it doesn’t stop soon. His father always says that Dumbledore is the worst thing that has happened to Hogwarts because he loves Muggle-borns. “A decent headmaster would have never let slime like Creevy in.” Draco does a cruel impression of Colin Creevy taking pictures of Harry, who he calls “Saint Potter, the Mudblood’s friend.” Draco says that Harry also has “no proper wizard feeling, or he wouldn’t go around with that jumped up Granger Mudblood. And people think that he’s Slytherin's heir!”
Harry and Ron are shocked at Draco’s next pronouncement: “I wish I knew who it is. I could help them.” Harry-as-Goyle replies “You must have some idea of who’s behind it all.” Draco says he doesn't, and his father won’t tell him anything about the last time the Chamber was opened. It was fifty years ago, before Lucius Malfoy’s time. He knows about it, but it was kept quiet, so it will look suspicious if Draco knows. Draco does know that the last time it was opened a Mudblood died. “So I bet it’s a matter of time until one of them’s killed this time...I hope it’s Granger.” Ron clenches Crabbe’s gigantic fists. Harry, worried that Ron as Crabbe is about to punch Draco, shoots him a look and asks if the person who opened the Chamber last time was caught. Malfoy says yes, whoever it was was expelled, and is probably in Azkaban, the wizard prison. Draco also says that the Ministry of Magic raided their family manor last week, but didn’t find much. Then he reveals that his father has valuable Dark Arts stuff hidden under their drawing-room floor.
Ron and Harry start to turn back into themselves, and so Ron grunts “Medicine for my stomach” as they sprint out of the Slytherin common room. As they race through the entrance hall they hear Crabbe and Goyle pounding in the closet. Leaving their shoes outside of the closet door, they run upstairs to Myrtle’s bathroom. Ron says that it wasn’t a complete waste of time–He’s going to write to his father to tell him to check under the Malfoys’ drawing-room floor. Ron knocks on Hermione’s stall, but she tells him to go away. Moaning Myrtle glides through the stall door, looking happy, saying it’s awful. Hermione opens the door sobbing with her robes pulled over her head. When Hermione let her robes fall it’s revealed that her face is covered in black fur, her eyes have turned yellow, and there are long pointed ears poking through her hair. Hermione howls that it was cat hair, and that the potion isn’t supposed to be used for animal transformations. Myrtle says happily that she will be teased something awful. Harry reassures her that it’s okay, they will take her to the hospital, and Madam Pomfrey never asks too many questions. It takes a long time to persuade Hermione to leave the bathroom. Myrtle continues to taunt her.
Ron holds prejudice against Malfoy because of his pure-blood ideology and family. In this book, Ron is more of a foil for Draco than Harry, except in Quidditch. Hermione wants to investigate and prove if Draco is the heir of Slytherin one way or the other. Notably, she is willing to break school rules to figure out who wants to frighten Squibs and Muggle-borns out of Hogwarts. Her social position as a Muggle-born gives her a sense of justice outside of the norm. She grows beyond her normal personality as a rule-follower to risk finding out the truth. And she is impatient with Ron’s anxieties. The three friends decide to act on their suspicion to find out the truth.
Lockhart is the first adult whose weakness the three friends take advantage of to break the rules. If he were competent, they would be unable to pursue their plans. But if he were competent, they also wouldn’t need to do this work for him. The adults let the children down and are unable to protect them, so they must protect themselves. Lockhart seems unable to separate his own fiction from fact, as he offers repeatedly to do things he is incapable of doing.
Ron and Hermione have sometimes opposing natures. She has concocted a complicated magical scheme, whereas he thinks Harry should knock Draco off his broom in Quidditch. She wants to know the truth, while he wants to retaliate immediately. Hermione continues to be impressed with Lockhart, despite his obvious falseness. Because Ron is not a reader, he isn’t fooled by Lockhart’s books. His irritation at Hermione’s crush on Lockhart foreshadows their romantic relationship later in the Harry Potter series.
Wood’s speech sets up the dramatic conflict represented by the Quidditch match. The Slytherin team holds an advantage that wealth can buy, in this case, better brooms. But Woods says that the Gryffindors have “better people on their brooms.” This is an essentialist phrase, supported by calling Malfoy “slime,” and softened by claiming that they have trained harder. Then, in a moment of foreshadowing, Wood tells Harry to get the Snitch or die trying.
The rules of the game are altered by the rogue Bludger, disrupting a predictable win or loss. Dobby again acts as a trickster, making something behave outside of the norm. When Harry is hit unexpectedly by the Bludger, the passage is written with kinesthetic imagery to bring the reader inside of his moment-by-moment experience of being hit, feeling his arm break, hanging onto the broom in the rain, grabbing the Snitch, and heading for the ground. When Lockhart removes Harry’s bones it continues his role as comic relief, delivering a combination of situational and dramatic irony with his incompetence. Madame Pomfrey is his opposite, and one of the few competent adults, along with Sprout, in the story.
In more foreshadowing, Dobby tells Harry that his pillowcase outfit is a mark of his enslavement, that his masters are careful not to pass him even a sock. Harry also learns that the Chamber of Secrets was open before. Dobby’s speech about what Harry Potter means to the “Lowly, the enslaved, the dregs of the magical world” has been interpreted as Christian allegory, with Harry as Christ. Dobby is at once a pathetic, a comic, and a heroic figure, devoted to Harry’s salvation even as he disrupts his life and injures him. He receives redemption and freedom from slavery in the end through his service.
When Dumbledore says “The question is not who. The question is how,” it means that he knows that Voldemort is behind the terror in the school and the petrification of students. But he doesn’t know about the diary, so he doesn’t know how Voldemort was able to return, or how this return was abetted by Lucius Malfoy by enchanting Ginny Weasley.
While Ginny continues to be distraught in the background, Fred and George Weasley provide comic relief by exaggerating the students’ fears. The girls' bathroom serves as a place for Hermione to create Polyjuice potion, returning witchcraft to its feminine origins. At this moment, Hermione and Ginny are in conflict.
Harry Potter bravely causes the diversion in Snape’s class, so that Hermione may steal the ingredients she needs for the Polyjuice potion. In this, Harry continues his role as a rule-breaker and Snape’s adversary.
During the dueling competition, Professor Lockhart finally directly reveals his genuine ineffectualness as he is blasted off his feet by Snape. Lockhart makes a bad situation worse with misplaced confidence in himself.
Harry experiences a crisis of identity which turns into a social crisis. Because he has a rare skill, speaking Parseltongue, he is a Parselmouth. Ron acts again as an interpreter of common consensus that this is bad. Ron also calls it creepy, suggesting that Harry was egging on the snake. Ron related to Justin’s panic. Hermione knows the facts: that Salazar Slytherin is known for being a Parseltongue and that he lived a thousand years ago. She refutes Harry’s protest by saying it would be hard to prove. Harry is worried that because he is a Parselmouth he is Slytherin’s heir, and so inevitably a pure-blood supremacist sadist. This plays into one of his main insecurities: being an orphan, without knowledge about his father’s family. Harry is truly angry for the first time in the book. He is experiencing the same social exclusion he felt at the Dursleys, also as a result of prejudice against his abilities.
The growth of the Mandrakes acts as one timeline in the book. Professor Sprout keeps them warm so they grow quickly to revive Colin and Mrs. Norris. Their maturity coincides with the end of the term, and with the solving of the mystery. Ernie’s case against Harry uses the mystery around how he survived Voldemort’s curse against him, and why Voldemort wanted to kill him in the first place. The plot has left Harry vulnerable. The same thing that made him a hero and savior is now making people afraid of him. Lockhart was right, in a way, about the dangers of early fame.
Harry’s hatred of the Durselys also becomes an issue, as it is used to call him a Muggle-hater. At this point, Harry rebels against the authorial voice, saying “It’s not possible to live with the Durselys and not hate them.” It’s true: the character has been trapped in a cliche at the Dursleys. They are such broad characters that Muggles are at first portrayed as the opposite of wizards; the Muggle world and the wizarding world seem a dichotomy of awful and wonderful. Because Harry has experienced awful Muggles, he could decide that all Muggles are awful. But he doesn’t, as evidenced by his friendship with Hermione. When Harry trips over Justin it feels as though the fates, even the plot itself, is against him. Justin is the person who was most afraid of Harry, and the one he was accused of targeting. Harry thinks of moving away, but his impulse to help keeps him on the spot again.
The magic of the Sorting Hat is ambiguous. It is unclear if it sorts of people based upon reading their true natures. If so, is nature is determined by blood? Harry’s anxiety about the Sorting Hat’s decision represents his anxiety about his place in the world, whether it is determined by fate or his own free will.
Dumbledore’s description of Fawkes foreshadows the powers that allow the bird to save Harry in the end: strength, mercy, faith, and loyalty. Why doesn’t Harry tell Dumbledore what is on his mind? Malfoy’s threat represents a problem built into the structure of the school and the wizarding world: there is an inherent pureblood ideology built into the place. What is Dumbledore going to do about it? The Malfoys have power. Making the Polyjuice potion is Hermione’s response, as a “Mudblood”—she is using her powers, education, and skills to fight the threat that Malfoy represents. Harry supports that. If he were to tell Dumbledore, they could all be expelled. While kind, Dumbledore's position in authority makes him unable to condone something that needs to be done.
Harry also has self-doubts about his own identity, which is exacerbated by hearing voices that no one else can hear. This unique ability isolates him socially, and his self-doubt gives him a secret he feels he can’t share. Ron has reinforced the norm by telling him that hearing voices is not a good sign, even in the wizarding world. He can’t share his dread that he could be Slytherin’s heir because if he is, he would lose his place at Hogwarts. The atmosphere of fear and suspicion has been internalized, and the structure of Hogwarts is not such that he feels he can ask Dumbledore for help. The adult world has betrayed the children by failing to keep them safe. They are forced to face evil alone. This represents a dramatic irony, as the reader expects Harry to confide in Dumbledore. It would be the appropriate thing to do, and comes as a relief when he finally does so in the end. Harry’s hesitancy matches Riddle’s, and emanates from their powerlessness in the Muggle world, to their shame and desire to stay at Hogwarts, despite the toxic moment.
Harry stays over the Christmas holiday, exhausted from being socially ostracized. The episode of the Polyjuice potion represents transformation through imagination. Its literary antecedent is Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a novella by Robert Louis Stevenson in which a normally-benevolent doctor is transformed into a different man by taking a potion. The characters of Crabbe and Goyle imply that biology is destiny: they are both large, and so “goons” for Draco Malfoy. But there is also an implicit argument in Ron and Harry’s experience of becoming Crabbe and Goyle that how you’re perceived determines how you are treated. Harry and Ron’s transformation shows the possibilities of the medium of fiction, as they are allowed to navigate forbidden spaces and learn information that changes the plot.
The scene further develops the underlying political tension driving the plot: Lucius Malfoy is calling for Arthur Weasley's resignation, claiming that Weasley is unfit to draw up wizard laws. He wants to scrap the Muggle Protection Act. Harry and Ron’s use of the car had serious consequences. This displays their adolescent position, unaware of the political world they inhabit. Arthur Weasley, as a wizard who appreciates Muggles, exists at an intersection and has an internal tension, represented by his car. His vulnerability is trying to have a bit of creative magical freedom, while working in an inflexible fearful bureaucracy that also offers important protections. He is trying to work both within the system and outside of it.
Draco’s comments also foreshadow Dumbledore’s firing. He continues to display a sadistic temperament, as he wants to kick Mudbloods and hopes that Hermione dies. His fantasies amount to ethnic cleansing. Draco reveals a Malfoy family secret: where the Dark Arts objects are hidden in their manor. Their transformed identities give Harry and Ron access to this secret knowledge. Hermione’s transformation represents the physical transformation of puberty: she gains male secondary characteristics, growing hair on her face, which shocks Ron in particular. Myrtle’s delighted taunts also represent the social trauma of adolescence. Hermione has experienced a consequence of risking new magic on her own without adult supervision. One theme of the book is identity: how it determines social position and thus power, confidence, and access to information.