Ch. 13: The Very Secret Diary
Hermione remains in the hospital for several weeks. When the rest of the school returns from the Christmas holidays, everyone thinks that she has been attacked. Madame Pomfrey places curtains around Hermione’s bed to spare her the shame of being seen with a furry face. Harry and Ron visit her every evening, bringing her homework assignments. Her spirits improve when the hair leaves her face and her eyes return to brown. Ron is disgusted to find that Hermione sleeps with Gilderoy Lockhart’s get-well card under her pillow.
Harry and Ron overhear Filch shouting, and then discover why: The corridor in front of Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom is flooded. Myrtle is wailing even louder than usual because someone threw a book at her. When Harry goes to pick up the book, Ron stops him, warning that it could be dangerous, and relates his father’s stories of books that the Ministry of Magic has confiscated. Harry hesitates, and then ducks around Ron to pick it up. The book is a fifty-year-old diary with the name T.M. Riddle written inside. Ron recognizes the name as a student who got a special award for services to the school fifty years ago. Filch made Ron polish Riddle’s shield repeatedly in detention. Harry is disappointed to find that the diary is blank. He figures that the owner must have been Muggle-born when he notices that the book was purchased on Vauxhall Road in London. Ron wants to throw the book at Myrtle, but Harry pockets it.
Hermione leaves the hospital at the beginning of February. On her first evening back in Gryffindor tower, Harry shows her T.M. Riddle’s diary. She examines it excitedly, looking for hidden powers. Ron is skeptical, and thinks that Harry should chuck it. Harry and Hermione make the connection among several events that happened fifty years ago: the Chamber of Secrets was opened. T.M. Riddle won an award for special services to the school. And that’s when the diary is dated. Hermione speculates that Riddle won the award for catching the Heir of Slytherin. Then the diary could tell them everything they want to know about the Chamber. She tests it for invisible ink and tries out a revealer, but nothing happens. Ron thinks there’s nothing to find.
Harry doesn’t throw the diary away because he feels as though it were a story he wants to finish. The name T.M. Riddle means something to him, “almost as though Riddle was a friend he’d had when he was very small, and had half-forgotten.” He wants to learn more about Riddle, so along with his friends, he visits the trophy room and discovers that Riddle was a Head Boy who had won a medal for magical merit.
The sun begins to shine and the Hogwarts community becomes more hopeful as there have been no more attacks and the Mandrakes are maturing. Harry thinks that the Heir of Slytherin may have lost his or her nerve, and the monster will hibernate for another fifty years. Ernie is still convinced that Harry is the Heir. Peeves continues to taunt Harry about it. Gilderoy Lockhart thinks that he personally made the attacks stop, and that the school needs a morale booster to forget about the last term. On February 14th Harry discovers at breakfast that Lockhart’s idea of a morale-booster is to celebrate Valentine’s Day with pink decorations, heart-shaped confetti, and dwarfs dressed as cupids carrying valentine cards. Lockhart assumes that the other professors will want to enter into the spirit of the occasion. They remain stony-faced.
All day long the dwarfs barge into classrooms to deliver valentines. A dwarf catches up with Harry in between classes and tries to deliver a musical valentine. Harry attempts to escape, embarrassed at being given a valentine in front of a line of first-years, including Ginny Weasley. In the struggle Harry’s bag rips in two, spilling the contents on the floor. His ink bottle smashes, spilling ink over everything. This causes a holdup in the corridor. Draco and Percy appear in the commotion. When Harry tries to run, the dwarf knocks him over and sits on him before singing him his valentine. Percy tries to disperse the laughing crowd.
Draco picks up Riddle’s diary, thinking it’s Harry’s own. Ginny stares from the diary to Harry, looking terrified. Percy demands that Draco hand it over, but Draco continues to taunt Harry with it. Harry pulls out his wand and shouts “Expelliarmus!” The diary shoots out of Draco hands and Ron catches it. Percy admonishes Harry for doing magic in the corridors, but Harry doesn’t care. Draco yells at Ginny “I don’t think that Potter liked your valentine much!” Ginny covers her face with her hands and runs into class. Ron takes out his wand, but Harry pulls him away. In his next class, Harry notices something odd about Riddle’s diary: unlike his other books, which were covered in ink, the diary is clean. He tries to point this out to Ron, but Ron is having trouble with his wand, and isn’t interested.
Harry goes to bed early that night, wanting to examine Riddle’s diary again. When he drops an inkblot onto the diary the ink shines brightly and then vanishes. He writes “My name is Harry Potter.” These words also shine and then disappear. Then in his own ink, the diary replies, “Hello, Harry Potter. My name is Tom Riddle. How did you come by my diary?” These words also fade away. Harry and Tom converse through the diary. Riddle reveals that in his fifth year as a Hogwarts student the Chamber of Secrets was opened and the monster attacked several students, killing one. He says that he caught the person who opened the Chamber, who was then expelled. The headmaster at the time, Professor Dippett, forbade him to tell the truth, and covered up the incident. But he knew it could happen again because the monster lived on, and the one who had the power to release it was not imprisoned. Harry tells Tom that it’s happening again now, and asks who opened the Chamber last time. Riddle offers to show him. Harry writes “OK.”
The pages of the diary blow and then stop halfway through the month of June. Harry sees that the square for June 13th turns into a tiny television screen or window, so he puts his eye up to it. He tilts forward; the window widens; he is pitched headfirst through the opening in the page. Harry finds himself in Dumbledore’s office. Another elderly wizard sits behind the desk. When Harry speaks to him he doesn’t answer. Harry realizes that this is Hogwarts fifty years ago, and that he is invisible to the headmaster.
A sixteen-year-old boy enters, wearing a prefect’s badge, and sits nervously. This is Tom Riddle. He has written a letter to Professor Dippett asking to stay at Hogwarts over the summer holidays rather than returning to a Muggle orphanage. Tom says that he is a half-blood, born to a Muggle father and a witch mother. His mother died just after he was born, living long enough to name him Tom after his father and Marvolo after his grandfather. Dippet replies that special arrangements might have been made for Tom, but because of the recent attacks, and death of the girl, he can’t allow him to stay at Hogwarts when the term ends. He says that the Ministry of Magic is talking about closing the school, and that they are no nearer to locating the source of the unpleasantness. Riddle starts to ask “Sir—if the person was caught—if it all stopped—” Dippett asks if Riddle knows anything about these attacks. Riddle replies no. Harry recognizes this as the same type of "no" that Harry had given Dumbledore.
When Tom leaves the room, Harry follows him. Riddle runs into fifty-year-younger Dumbledore, who tells him to hurry to bed. He continues on to the dungeons, and then stops in the dungeon where Harry has Potions class. He waits, leaving the door open only a crack, and watches the passway for about an hour. When someone creeps along the passage Tom and Harry follow until they hear a door creak open and someone whisper “C’mon... gotta get yeh outta here...C’mon now...in the box…” Harry thinks that there’s something familiar about the voice. Riddle jumps around the corner. Harry steps out and sees a huge boy crouching in front of an open door with a large box.
Tom addresses the boy as Rubeus and tells him that he will have to turn him in, that they’re talking about closing Hogwarts if the attacks don’t stop. He says that he doesn’t think that he meant to kill anyone, but that monsters don’t make good pets. Rubeus replies that it never killed anyone. Riddle argues that the least Hogwarts can do for the parents of the dead girl is to slaughter the thing that killed their daughter. Rubeus continues to defend the creature. Riddle draws out his wand and casts a spell that fills the corridor with light and forces the door open, throwing Rubeus against the wall. Out of the door comes something that makes Harry scream: it has a “vast, low-slung hairy body and a tangle of black legs; a gleam of many eyes and a pair of razor-sharp pincers.” Riddle raises his wand again, but the creature bowls him over and scuttles down the corridor. When Riddle tries again, Rubeus leaps on him, seizes his wand, and throws him back down, yelling “No!”
Harry falls out of the scene and back onto his bed with a crash. The dormitory door opens and Ron enters. Ron looks at Harry, who is sweating and shaking, with concern, and asks what’s up. Harry tells him that Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago.
Chapter 14: Cornelius Fudge
Harry knows that Hagrid has “an unfortunate liking for large and monstrous creatures.” It is easy for him to imagine Hagrid caring for the monster in the Chamber of Secrets as a boy. But Harry is also certain that Hagrid would never have meant to kill anyone. Harry tires of recounting what he saw in Riddle’s diary to his friends, and the circular conversation that follows. Hermione points out that Riddle might have had the wrong person, and some other monster could have been attacking people. Ron is skeptical. Harry remembers that they knew that Hagrid had been expelled, and assumes that the attacks must have stopped afterward in order for Riddle to get his reward. Ron thinks that Riddle sounds like Percy, a squealer. Hermione reminds Ron that the monster killed someone. Harry sympathizes with Riddle’s desire to keep Hogwarts open so he wouldn't have to return to the Muggle orphanage. They wonder if they should go ask Hagrid about it all, but decide not to, unless there’s another attack. It has been four months since the last one, and the school has relaxed. The Mandrakes are nearly mature, at which point Professor Sprout will be able to revive the victims.
During the Easter holidays, the second-year students choose their subjects for the third year. Harry wants to give up Potions and Ron wants to give up Defense Against the Dark Arts, to escape Snape and Lockhart, but they can’t. Neville Longbottom is overwhelmed by the possibilities. Hermione signs up for everything without asking anyone. Percy tries to give Harry career advice. Harry feels that the only thing he’s really good at is Quidditch, and ends up signing up for the same new subjects as Ron for friendly support.
On a Friday evening before a Saturday Quidditch match, Harry goes up to his dorm after practice to drop off his broom. He runs into Neville Longbottom, looking frantic. Neville has discovered that someone ransacked Harry’s things. Harry finds that the contents of his trunk have been thrown everywhere. The blankets have been pulled off his bed, his drawer emptied, and its contents strewn over the mattress. His cloak is ripped and the pockets of his robe turned out. Ron asks if there’s anything missing. Harry realizes that Riddle’s diary is gone. Harry and Ron hurry to the Gryffindor common room to join Hermione. She is aghast at the news, especially since only a Gryffindor student could have done it. No one else knows their password.
The next morning offers perfect conditions for Quidditch: sunny with a breeze. An enthusiastic Wood tries to get Harry to eat his breakfast. Harry is worried about what to do. Hermione is urging him to report the robbery, but he doesn’t want to tell a teacher about the diary and get Hagrid in trouble. As he leaves the Great Hall with Ron and Hermione, Harry hears the voice again: “Kill this time...let me rip...tear…” Harry shouts, and asks his friends if they heard the voice too, but they didn’t. Hermione exclaims: “Harry—I think I’ve just understood something! I’ve got to go to the library!” and sprints away.
Harry collects his broom from Gryffindor Tower and joins the crowd heading to the Quidditch field, distracted by thoughts of the voice. The teams walk onto the field. Wood warms up. Madam Hooch releases the balls. The Hufflepuffs huddle up. Harry is just mounting his broom when Prof. McGonagall marches onto the field and announces through a megaphone that the match has been canceled. A devastated Wood protests. McGonagall ignores him, instructing the students to return to their house common rooms quickly for further information. McGonagall leads Harry and Ron to the infirmary, explaining gently that there has been another double attack. Madam Pomfrey is attending to Penelope, a girl from Ravenclaw house. When he sees the second victim, Ron groans: It’s Hermione, petrified with open eyes. McGonagall explains that they were found near the library. She asks if Harry or Ron can explain the small circular mirror on the floor next to the victims. They shake their heads.
McGonagall escorts them back to Gryffindor Tower. She addresses the students, reading new restrictions from a rolled parchment: All students must return to their house common rooms by six PM, and cannot leave their dorms after that. Teachers will escort students to classes and the bathroom. Quidditch training and matches are postponed. All evening activities are canceled. She adds that it is likely that Hogwarts will be closed unless the culprit behind the attacks is caught and urges anyone who thinks they might know anything to come forward.
The Gryffindors begin talking immediately. Lee Jordan points out that of the victims, two were from Gryffindor, one from Ravenclaw, and one from Hufflepuff, and none from Slytherin. He argues that the teachers should chuck out all of the Slytherins, as the obvious source of the attacks. Percy looks pale and stunned. George tells Harry that Percy is in shock because the Ravenclaw girl who was attacked, Penelope Clearwater, is a prefect; George thinks Percy didn’t think the monster would attack a prefect. Harry thinks of Hermione. And he is afraid that if the culprit isn’t caught soon, he faces a lifetime of living with the Dursleys. He feels like Tom Riddle, when he decided to turn in Hagrid in order to keep Hogwarts open and so avoid the prospect of a Muggle orphanage. Ron asks Harry what they should do. Harry decides that they should visit Hagrid. “I can’t believe it’s him this time, but if he set the monster loose last time he’ll know how to get inside the Chamber of Secrets, and that’s a start.”
Ron and Harry go to bed at the usual time that night, wait until their dormmates are asleep, and then dress again and throw the Invisibility Cloak that Harry inherited from his father over themselves. They make their way through the corridors, trying to avoid making a sound that might attract the attention of the teachers, prefects, and ghosts monitoring for unusual activity. They pull off the cloak when they reach Hagrid’s front door. Hagrid flings open the door, aiming a crossbow at Harry and Ron. Surprised to see them, he lowers the crossbow, and starts to make tea, clearly flustered. Harry asks Hagrid if he’s ok, and if he has heard about Hermione. Hagrid replies that he has, looking upset. He keeps glancing at the windows. He serves them hot water, forgetting the tea bags. He begins to put a slab of fruitcake on a plate when there’s a loud knock at the door. He drops the cake. Harry and Ron throw the invisibility cloak over themselves and retreat into a corner. Hagrid checks to see that they are hidden, then seizes his crossbow and flings open the door again.
Dumbledore enters, looking serious, followed by another man who Ron recognizes as Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic. Fudge says that with four attacks on Muggle-borns, the Ministry has got to act. Hagrid protests. Dumbledore tells Fudge that Hagrid has his full confidence. Looking uncomfortable, Fudge replies that Hagrid’s record is against him. The school governors have been in touch. Dumbledore argues that taking Hagrid away won’t help in the slightest. Fudge, fidgeting, says that he’s under a lot of pressure and has to be seen doing something. He promises that if it’s not Hagrid, he will be back and no more will be said. But he has to take him, for a short stretch, not as a punishment, but as a precaution. If someone else is caught, Hagrid will be let out with a full apology.
Hagrid croaks “Not Azkaban?” Before Fudge can answer, there’s another rap on the door. Dumbledore answers it. Lucius Malfoy enters and is pleased to see Fudge already there. Hagrid demands to know what Malfoy is doing there and tells him to get out of his house. Malfoy insults Hagrid’s house and says he’s there to see Dumbledore. He takes out an Order of Suspension and tells Dumbledore that all twelve governors have signed it. Fudge looks alarmed and says suspending Dumbledore is the last thing they want right now. Malfoy replies that the appointment and suspension of the headmaster is a matter for the governors, and that Dumbledore has failed to stop the attacks. Fudge argues with Malfoy: “if Dumbledore can’t stop them...who can?” With a nasty smile, Malfoy replies “That remains to be seen.” Hagrid accuses Malfoy of threatening and blackmailing the other governors for their votes. Malfoy advises Hagrid to watch his temper around Azkaban guards. Hagrid yells that if they take Dumbledore, the Muggle-borns won’t stand a chance, and that there will be killings soon.
Dumbledore tells Hagrid to calm himself. Addressing Malfoy, Dumbledore agrees to step aside. “However,” said Dumbledore, speaking very slowly and clearly so that none of them could miss a word, “you will find that I will only have truly left this school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” Harry senses that Dumbledore can see them hiding in the corner. Malfoy opens the door for Dumbledore. Fudge waits for Hagrid to go ahead of him, and is astonished when Hagrid stands his ground to say carefully: “If anyone wanted to find out some stuff, all they’d have ter do would be ter follow the spiders.” He tells Fudge that he’s coming and then adds loudly that someone will have to feed Fang while he’s away. After the door bangs shut, Ron pulls off the invisibility cloak and declares that they are in trouble: “No Dumbledore. They might as well close the school tonight. There’ll be an attack a day with him gone.”
Chapter 15: Aragog
Summer arrives at Hogwarts but, without Hagrid striding around, the blooming grounds don’t look right to Harry. Inside the castle things are also horribly wrong. Harry and Ron try to visit Hermione, but visitors are now barred from the hospital wing. Madame Pomfrey is worried that the attacker might return to finish her patients off. With Dumbledore gone, fear has spread as never before. Harry remembers Dumbledore’s words, but is confused about who to ask for help. Hagrid’s hint is easier to understand, but Harry and Ron can’t find any spiders in the castle left to follow. Their search is hampered by the fact that they have to walk around the castle in a pack with other Gryffindors.
Draco Malfoy is enjoying the atmosphere of terror and suspicion. Harry hears Draco gloat to Crabbe and Goyle about his father getting rid of Dumbledore. Draco hopes that they get a headmaster who won’t want the Chamber of Secrets to be closed. During Potions class Draco asks Snape why he doesn’t apply for the headmaster job. Snape smiles and says that Dumbledore has only been suspended by the governors, and will likely be back soon. Draco offers to tell his father that Snape is the best teacher at Hogwarts. He continues that he is surprised that all of the Mudbloods haven’t left. He bets the next one dies. “Pity it wasn’t Granger.” Harry and Dean have to hold back Ron from fighting Malfoy.
During Herbology class in the greenhouses, Ernie formally apologies to Harry for suspecting him. He says he knows the Harry would never attack Hermione, and shakes his hand. When Ernie speculates that Draco Malfoy might by Slytherin’s Heir, Harry replies with a firm no. Harry spots several large spiders scuttling over the ground in an unusually straight line, heading towards the Forbidden Forest. After class Harry and Ron lag behind to discuss their plans. Harry proposes that they visit the Forbidden Forest wearing the Invisibility Cloak and accompanied by Fang. Ron, who has never been in the forest before, is nervous about werewolves. Harry assures him that there are good things in the forest too, like centaurs and unicorns.
Professor Lockhart is inappropriately buoyant in his class. He is sure that the danger has passed, as the culprit has been taken away. He states confidently that the Minister of Magic wouldn’t have taken Hagrid if he wasn’t one hundred percent sure that he was guilty. Both Dean and Ron challenge him loudly. Lockhart hints that he is responsible for Hagrid’s arrest. Harry is so irritated with Lockhart that he scrawls a note to Ron: Let’s do it tonight. Ron, frightened, looks at Hermione’s desk, and then nods.
Harry spends the evening sitting on his Invisibility Cloak, waiting for the Gryffindor common room to clear. Fred and George challenge Harry and Ron to games of Exploding Snap, which the latter pair keep trying to lose on purpose to finish quickly. Ginny sits watching them in Hermione’s usual chair. It’s past midnight when Fred, George, and Ginny finally go to bed. Harry and Ron throw on the Invisibility Cloak and head to Hagrid’s cottage. Fang barks with joy to see them, so they feed him treacle fudge to glue his teeth together. Harry leaves the Invisibility Cloak on Hagrid’s table.
They walk to the edge of the forest, where Harry illuminates the tip of his wand. Harry spots two spiders hurrying away from the wand light. They follow the spiders along the path for twenty minutes. Then when the trees grow so thick they could no longer see the stars, they see the spiders leave the path. Harry remembers Hagrid telling him not to leave the path the last time they were in the forest. But Hagrid also told him to follow the spiders. Ron and Harry decide to continue on. They move slowly in the near blackness. After walking for about a half an hour, they notice the ground sloping downwards. Fang barks loudly. Harry hears something big moving in the forest. Ron starts to panic. Harry tells him to shut up, that it will hear him. They stand, terrified, waiting. To their right comes a sudden blaze of light. They fling up their hands to shade their eyes. Then Ron realizes that it’s his father’s car. Ron and the car move towards each other in the clearing. Harry squints in the headlights for more spiders, but they have all scuttled away.
Ron, speechless and immobile, stares at a point ten feet above the forest floor, his face livid with terror. Before Harry can turn around, something long and hairy seizes him around the middle and lifts him off the ground, so he’s hanging face down. He sees Ron’s feet leave the ground too. There are loud clicking noises, and the sound of Fang whimpering and howling. Harry sees that the monster carrying him has six immense hairy legs and pincers. Two other monsters carry Ron and Fang. After a time they reach a ridge of a vast hollow that has been cleared of trees. It is filled with gigantic hairy black spiders. The spider carrying Harry traverses the steep slope before releasing him in front of a misty, domed web in the center of the hollow. Harry, Ron, and Fang fall on all fours, terrified. The other spiders surround them, clicking their pincers excitedly.
The spider who dropped Harry calls out “Aragog!” From the middle of the web a spider the size of an elephant emerges slowly. He is blind. The spider who had caught Harry explains that they are men. Aragog asks if it’s Hagrid. The spider who had brought Ron responds with “Strangers.” Aragog orders the spiders to kill them. Harry shouts that they are friends of Hagrid’s. Argagog pauses, and says that Hagrid has never sent men into their hollow before. Harry explains that Hagrid is in trouble and has been sent to Azkaban because they think at the school that Hagrid has been setting something on students. Aragog clicks his pincers, as do the other spiders in the hollow.
Aragog remembers that years ago people at the school believed that he was the monster in the Chamber of Secrets. They thought that Hagrid had opened the Chamber and set him free, and so they made Hagrid leave the school. Harry asks Aragog if he came from the Chamber. Aragog replies angrily that he did not come from the castle. He came from a distant land. A traveler gave him to Hagrid when he was an egg. As a boy, Hagrid cared for him, hiding him in a cupboard in the castle. When Aragog was discovered and blamed for the death of the girl, Hagrid protected him. He has lived in the forest ever since. Hagrid still visits him. Hagrid found Aragog a wife, and their family has grown.
Harry confirms that Aragog never attacked anyone. Aragog says that he never harmed a human, out of respect for Hagrid. The girl who was killed was discovered in a bathroom. Aragog only knew his dark quiet cupboard. Harry asks if Aragog knows who did kill the girl. The spiders click and rustle around them. He replies that the creature who lives in the castle is an ancient one that spiders fear above all others. When Harry asks “What is it?” urgently, Aragog says fiercely “We do not speak of it!! We do not name it! I never told Hagrid the name of that dread creature, though he asked me, many times.”
As Aragog backs slowly into his web, the other spiders inch closer to Harry and Ron. When Harry calls out that they will go, Aragog replies “I think not...My sons and daughters do not harm Hagrid, on my command. But I cannot deny them fresh meat, when it wanders so willingly into our midst. Good-bye friend of Hagrid.” Harry spins around to discover a solid wall of spiders towering above him just feet away. As he reaches for his wand, ready to die fighting, he hears a long note and sees a blaze of light.
Mr. Weasley’s car thunders down the slope, knocking aside spiders, to halt in front of Harry and Ron. The doors fly open and they jump in, Ron throwing Fang into the backseat. The car accelerates on its own and speeds them out of the hollow into the forest. Harry asks Ron if he is okay. Ron is unable to speak. The car stops suddenly at the edge of the forest. Fang throws himself out of the window and runs for Hagrid’s cottage. Harry gets out too, and after he regains feeling in his limbs, Ron follows. Harry pats the car gratefully before it reverses into the forest and disappears.
Harry goes to retrieve the Invisibility Cloak from Hagrid’s home. When he comes out he finds Ron being sick in the pumpkin patch. Ron says that he will never forgive Hagrid; they’re lucky to be alive. Harry guesses that Hagrid thought the spiders would never harm friends of his. Ron is shivering uncontrollably and wants to know why Hagrid sent them there. Harry explains they learned that Hagrid never opened the Chamber of Secrets.
When they return to Gryffindor Tower, Ron falls onto his bed without bothering to get undressed. Harry isn’t sleepy. He thinks about what Aragog said. The creature in the castle sounds like a monster Voldemort: Other monsters don’t want to say its name. Harry can’t see what else they can do to figure out what the monster is. As he grows drowsy, he suddenly sits upright. He wakes Ron up to share his thought: Aragog said that the girl who died was found in the bathroom. “What if she never left the bathroom? What if she’s still there?” Ron understands that Harry is talking about Moaning Myrtle.
In being suspicious of Riddle’s diary, Ron acts as his father taught him to. This is the caution that Ginny has somehow not absorbed. Harry, raised at the Dursleys, doesn’t have the same parental protection, and so reaches for the diary. Hermione has the impulses of a scientist examining the diary for empirical information. Ron is more suspicious and prejudiced. Hermione and Harry make the intellectual connection between plot points. Harry has a more intuitive relationship with Riddle’s diary. It’s possible that magic is working on him before he writes in it. Harry discovers latter that Riddle put some of himself into Harry during their attack when he was a baby. So part of him is Riddle and recognizes a connection.
Lockhart’s Valentine’s Day party is an aesthetic affront to the Gothic atmosphere of Hogwarts. The pink decorations and celebration of love make most people uncomfortable, including the professors. It also fits into the theme of impending adolescence. The girls are ahead of the boys developmentally. Ginny sends Harry a valentine. Her desire disrupts the plot, as she both writes in her diary about her crush on Harry, and her singing telegram produces the chaos that reveals the trick of the diary to Harry. Ginny’s emotions in the background provide keys to the mystery to the observant reader, as when she is terrified to see that Harry has Riddle’s diary.
Riddle’s diary works like social media, which is remarkable, since the Chamber of Secrets was written in 1999. Riddle is another unreliable narrator in the story, telling Harry only part of the truth in order to frame Hagrid. Appearances and assumptions create prejudice. Harry is inclined to believe Riddle because they share experiences in common: both are orphans abandoned in the Muggle world. Harry is also inclined to believe that Hagrid took care of the monster because of Hagrid’s sympathy for large animals. The diary also creates visual imagery that persuades Harry to believe that he is having an experience himself, when in fact what he experiences is mediated by Riddle. Harry interprets what he sees in explaining to Ron that Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago. His interpretation is wrong.
Harry makes assumptions based upon partial information: Hagrid’s love for large creatures and his history of having been expelled from Hogwarts. Hermione is better at suspending judgment. She is ultimately right that another monster is attacking people. But she is wrong that Riddle had the wrong person. He is trying to frame Hagrid. So her presumption of innocence leads to her being right. Ron is suspicious of Riddle’s intentions and alliance with the authorities. He judges him correctly to be manipulating the headmaster for his own gain, but he is more than a “squealer”—he is a liar. Harry identifies with Riddle because they are both orphans who have found refuge in Hogwarts. The three friends make a mistake in waiting to talk to Hagrid, which is also convenient to the plot. They decide to let the hope of the Mandrake cure allow them to avoid a tough conversation with their friend. This chapter offers a substantial clue to the mystery: only a Gryffindor student could have stolen Harry’s diary. What would happen if Harry reported the robbery and told what he had seen about Hagrid? His friend would get into trouble. One of Harry’s prime values is loyalty to his friends.
Hermione realizes that the monster is likely a snake, since Harry speaks Parseltongue. She seeks confirmation for her hypothesis in the library. The fear and attacks lead to restrictions on the students. Riddle’s work can be read as a terrorist attack, and the aftermath as a loss of civil liberties. Gryffindor students want to expel Slytherin students. In the end, we learn that none of them are responsible for the attacks. This is an allegory for political terror.
Harry weighs whether to turn in Hagrid to keep the school open as Riddle did. He has the same desires, but makes a different choice to ask Hagrid how to get inside the Chamber of Secrets. Harry is willing to break the rules to keep Hogwarts open and safe.
Fudge acts under pressure from the governors to be seen doing something. Hagrid is arrested as a scapegoat, over Dumbledore’s protests. Fudge claims that he’s taking Hagrid not as a punishment, but as a precaution. Fudge chooses to jail Hagrid because people are afraid, and want an easy answer. Fear accelerates the school towards fascism. Azkaban is the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. Fudge doesn’t want Dumbledore suspended. He sees that that leaves the Hogwarts students open to attack. Malfoy is willing to sacrifice Muggle children to gain control of the school.
Malfoy has successfully orchestrated a coup of Hogwarts. Does Hogwarts need Dumbledore? He represents goodness, benevolence, serenity, composure. Is he protecting the school magically? Who is now in charge? No-one: does that mean it's anarchy? Lucius Malfoy, because he controls the governors? or is it Riddle? Dumbledore and Hagrid both leave clues for Harry and Ron, foreshadowing the last third of the book. Dumbledore and Hagrid are foils for each other emotionally. Ron and Harry will act as Dumbledore and Hagrid’s proxies. They must defend the school, solve the mystery, and protect their fellow students from attack. Notably, two female characters are absent: Hermione and Professor McGonagall. In the coming-of-age narrative, this is the moment of loss of parental protectors. They become responsible for more than they should. They can’t turn to Riddle for help, because his diary is gone. And they can’t turn to Dumbledore.
The season and the atmosphere of Hogwarts are out of step with each other. The implication is that there is something natural in the normal order of Hogwarts. In the absence of Dumbledore, Draco becomes openly sadistic. Snape is not a main character in this book. But Draco’s comments raise suspicion about where his loyalties lie. Does he want to be Headmaster of Hogwarts? Ernie apologizes to Harry for suspecting him but then simply switches his suspicion to Draco. Ernie represents popular opinion, which turns out to be prejudiced and wrong. Lockhart is out of step with the community, and emotionally unaware. He is the ideal audience for Fudge’s unjust arrest of Hagrid: obsessed with appearances. The book shows that the justice system can be incompetent and corrupt.
Ron must overcome his greatest fear, spiders, in order to revive Hermione. The genre of this chapter is horror, like a 1950’s monster movie, mixed with fairy tales of the enchanted forest. Harry must make the decision between staying on the path and following the spiders. He chooses to move beyond safety. Hagrid told him to stay on the path the year before. This year he told him to follow the spiders. He has been entrusted with more responsibility, and also put at more risk. Harry and Ron face death to find out the truth. Harry has the ability to speak. Ron is a loyal companion. The monster, which we will later find out is the basilisk, is the equivalent of Voldemort to the spiders—something too terrible to name. This is the first time the two are connected. In caring for Aragog, Hagrid is protecting an outsider. Aragog is a source of information, and a friend of a friend, but is also a predator. He is personified, but not anthropomorphized. This is true of the car too, which makes them ideal antagonists. The car was enchanted by Mr. Weasley, so there is some protective parent magic in it. Aragog and Hagrid were viewed with prejudice, and falsely accused. Aragog didn’t attack the girl.