Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-18


Chapter 16: The Chamber of Secrets

Harry and Ron wonder how they can escape their teachers long enough to sneak into Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. In Transfiguration class, Professor McGonagall announces that their exams will start on the first of June, in one week. The students are shocked that there will be exams with the castle in this state of crisis. Harry wonders what he has learned so far this year.

Three days before their first exam, Professor McGonagall makes another announcement at breakfast: Professor Sprout informed her that the Mandrakes are ready for cutting. They will be able to revive the petrified students tonight. She hopes that they will be able to tell the school who or what attacked them, so the culprit may be caught. The students cheer. Draco doesn’t join in. Ron looks very happy. Harry remarks to Ron: it won’t matter that they never asked Myrtle. Hermione will have all the answers when she wakes up. But he thinks Hermione will go crazy when she finds they have exams in three days.

Ginny Weasley sits down next to Ron, twisting her hands nervously in her lap. She reminds Harry of how Dobby looks when he’s about to reveal forbidden information. Ginny mumbles “I’ve got to tell you something,” without looking at Harry. Harry asks her quietly if it’s something about the Chamber of Secrets. Before she can reply, Percy appears, tired from patrol duty, and asks for Ginny’s seat. She gives Percy a frightened look and runs away. Ron yells at Percy for interrupting them when Ginny was just about to say something important. Percy, looking very uncomfortable, says that it has nothing to do with the Chamber of Secrets. She walked in on Percy doing something, which he asked her not to tell anyone. Ron tries to get Percy to tell, but he changes the subject.

When, midmorning, Gilderoy Lockhart is leading the Gryffindors to their History of Magic class, Harry sees his chance to speak to Myrtle. Lockhart thinks that all of the security measures are unnecessary and is annoyed about having been on patrol all night. He assumes that, having arrested Hagrid, they already caught the culprit. When Harry agrees with him, Ron is surprised, then catches on, saying “Why don’t you leave us here, sir, we’ve only got one more corridor to go.” Lockhart agrees. Harry and Ron are heading towards Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom when they run into Professor McGonagall. She demands to know what they’re doing. Ron starts to stammer “we were going to go and see–” and Harry completes his sentence with “Hermione.” Harry makes up a story that they were going to sneak into the infirmary to tell Hermione that the Mandrakes are almost ready. He is amazed to see a tear glistening in Professor McGonagall’s eye. She says that she will inform Professor Binns where they have gone and to tell Madam Pomfrey that she has given her permission.

Harry and Ron have no choice but to go to the hospital. Madam Pomfrey lets them in reluctantly. Harry notices that Hermione is holding a piece of paper tightly in her fist. While Ron keeps watch, Harry manages to tug it out. It is a page torn from an old library book with a description of the Basilisk, King of Serpents. They learn that the snake, in addition to venomous fangs, has a murderous stare. Spiders flee before it. The crowing of the rooster is fatal to it. Underneath the passage, Hermione has scrawled the word "Pipes."

Harry realizes that this is the answer: the monster in the Chamber of Secrets is a basilisk. That’s why he has been hearing the voice, while others haven’t: He speaks Parseltongue. He looks around at the petrified students and figures out that each looked at the basilisk indirectly, and so avoided the creature’s direct death stare. Colin saw it through his camera; Justin through Nearly Headless Nick (Nick did see it directly, but couldn’t die again); Hermione and Penelope saw it through the mirror found laying next to them; and Mrs. Norris saw it as a reflection in the water on the floor. Harry guesses that the Heir of Slytherin killed Hagrid’s roosters to protect the basilisk. The fact that “spiders flee before it” fits with what Aragog told them. Ron wonders how the basilisk traveled around Hogwarts undetected. Harry points out the word Hermione wrote: Pipes, and explains that it has been using the plumbing. That’s why Harry has heard its voice in the walls. Ron and Harry figure out together that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets could be in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Harry also realizes that, like him, the Heir of Slytherin must be a Parselmouth, and that’s how he controls the basilisk.

Ron and Harry decide to go to the staff room to tell Professor McGonagall about their discovery when she is on break in ten minutes. They run to the deserted room and pace, excited about their news. The bell never rings. Instead, Professor McGonagall’s voice orders all students to return to their dormitories and teachers to the staff room immediately. Harry and Ron hide in a wardrobe to hear what’s going on. Professor McGonagall tells the staff that a student has been taken by the monster into the Chamber. The Heir of Slytherin has left another message under the first one that says: “Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever.” When Ron hears that his sister Ginny has taken by the monster he slides to the floor. McGonagall says they will have to send all of the students home tomorrow; this is the end of Hogwarts.

The staff room door bangs open and Lockhart appears, beaming, says he dozed off, and asks what he missed. The other teachers look at him with “something remarkably like hatred.” Snape steps forward, explains that a girl has been taken into the Chamber of Secrets by the monster, and “Your moment has come at last.” Lockhart blanches. Professor Sprout reminds Lockhart that he claimed to know the location of the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. Professor Flitwick adds that he said he knew what’s inside it. Flustered, Lockhart says he doesn’t recall. Snape remembers that Lockhart said he was sorry that he “hadn’t had a crack at the monster before Hagrid was arrested,” that “the whole affair had been bungled” and that he “should have been given free rein from the first.” Professor McGonagall concludes “We’ll leave it to you, then, Gilderoy. Tonight will be an excellent time to do it. We’ll make sure everyone’s out of your way. You’ll be able to tackle the monster all by yourself. A free rein at last.” Lockhart gazes desperately around him, but no one comes to his rescue. So he agrees, stammering, and says he will be in his office getting ready, and leaves the room. After Lockhart is gone, McGonagall says “that’s got him out from under our feet.” She instructs the Heads of Houses to inform their students of what happened and to tell them that the Hogwarts Express will take them home in the morning.

Harry, Ron, Fred, and George sit together in the corner of the Gryffindor common room in silence. Percy had gone to send an owl to Mrs. and Mrs. Wesley and then shut himself up in his dorm. Gryffindor Tower, although crowded, is quiet all afternoon. Fred and George finally go up to bed near sunset. Ron finally speaks to Harry for the first time since they entered the wardrobe. He says that Ginny knew something about the Chamber of Secrets. That’s why she was taken. Ron asks Harry if he thinks there’s any chance that Ginny is still alive. Harry doesn’t know what to say. Ron thinks they should go and tell Lockhart to tell him what they know since he is going to try and get into the Chamber. They can tell him where they think it is, and that there’s a basilisk inside. Harry wants to do something, and can’t think of what else to do, so agrees. The Gryffindors, feeling miserable and sorry for the Weasleys, don’t try to stop them as they leave.

Ron and Harry go to Lockhart’s office. Harry tells Lockhart they have some information for him. When he lets them in, they discover that his office has been almost completely stripped. Harry asks him if he’s going somewhere. Lockhart replies yes, he’s had an urgent call that’s unavoidable. Ron asks, “What about my sister?” Lockhart avoids their eyes and continues to pack, saying that’s “most unfortunate” and “no one regrets that more than I.” Harry reminds him that he’s the Defense of Dark Arts teacher, and that he can’t go now, with all the dark stuff that’s happening. Lockhart says it wasn’t in the job description. Harry can’t believe that Lockhart is running away, after everything he claimed to do in his books. Lockhart says “Books can be misleading.” When Harry replies, “You wrote them!” he explains that his books wouldn’t have sold as well if people didn’t think he did those things. Those who really did them were ugly and unfashionable, and so uninteresting to the public. Harry is incredulous that he’s taking credit for what other people have done. Lockhart defends himself, saying it’s a lot of work to track people down, find out what they did, and put a memory charm on them so they forget it.

Lockhart tries to put a Memory Charm on Harry and Ron, but Harry reaches his wand first and disarms him. Lockhart is blasted backward, and falls over his trunk. His wand flies in the air; Ron catches it and throws it out the window. Furious, Harry forces Lockhart to his feet at wandpoint and marches him to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Harry is pleased to see that Lockhart is shaking.

Harry asks Myrtle how she died. Flattered and self-important, Myrtle relates that she died in that stall, where she had hidden because Olive Hornby teased her about her glasses. She heard a boy come in and say something in a different language. She unlocked the stall to tell him to use his own bathroom, and then she died. When Harry asks how, she has no idea. She remembers seeing a pair of big yellow eyes, then her body seized up, and she floated away. She returned determined to haunt Olive. When Harry asks her where she saw the eyes, Myrtle points towards the sink across from her. Harry finds an image of a tiny snake scratched on the side of a copper tap. Myrtle explains that tap has never worked, as Harry tries to turn it. Ron suggests that he say something in Parseltongue. Harry tries, but English comes out of his mouth first. Then he wills himself to believe that the snake is alive, and it works. With Harry’s hiss, the tap glows and spins. The sink sinks out of sight, exposing a large pipe.

Harry decides to go in, on the chance that Ginny might still be alive. Ron wants to go too. Lockhart tries to escape, but Harry and Ron point their wands at him and force him to go first. He protests, “Boys, what good will it do?” but they push him in. They rush down a long slide, deep below Hogwarts, then land in a dark stone tunnel. Harry lights his wand. They walk down the tunnel until they hear an unexpected crunch. Ron has stepped on a rat’s skull. They notice that the floor is littered with small animal bones.

Ron sees something ahead that’s huge and curved, lying across the tunnel. They discover a giant green snakeskin for a creature that must be at least twenty feet long. Lockhart falls to his knees. Ron points his wand at Lockhart, telling him sharply to get up. Lockhart gets to his feet, then dives at Ron knocking him to the ground and stealing his wand. Lockhart announces that he will take a bit of the skin back to the school, tell them he was too late to save the girl, and that Harry and Ron lost their minds at the sight of her mangled body. He tells them to say goodbye to their memories, raises his wand above his head, and yells “Obliviate!” The wand explodes, sending chunks of the ceiling to the floor. Harry covers his head and runs, finding himself a moment later staring up at a solid wall of broken rock. He shouts to see if Ron is ok. Ron replies that he’s ok, but Lockhart is not: he got blasted by the wand.

Ron asks what to do. They can’t get through; “it’ll take ages.” Harry has never tried to break apart rocks as large as these by magic. He worries that the whole tunnel could cave in if he tries now. He thinks of Ginny, who has been in the Chamber for hours. Harry tells Ron to wait with Lockhart while he goes on. Ron says he will try to shift some of the rock so they can get back through. Harry tells Ron “see you in a bit,” trying to sound confident. Harry sets off alone past the giant snakeskin. After several turns in the tunnel, Harry sees a solid wall on which two entwined serpents are carved, their eyes set with emeralds. He says “Open” in Parseltongue. The serpents part as the wall cracks open. Harry, shaking, walks inside.

Chapter 17: The Heir of Slytherin

Harry is standing at the end of a long, dimly lit chamber. He pulls out his wand and moves forward between the serpentine columns. He keeps his eyes narrowed, ready to shut them at any sign of movement. When he reaches the last pair of pillars he sees a tall statue of a wizard with a long beard. Between his gigantic feet lies a small, black-robed figure with flaming red hair: Ginny. Harry sprints to her and drops to his knees. He flings his wand aside and turns her over. Her face is white and cold. Her eyes are closed, so she isn’t petrified. He shakes her and says, “Ginny, please wake up.”

“She won’t wake.” says a soft voice behind him. Harry turns around to find a tall black-haired boy leaning against the nearest pillar, watching. He is blurred around the edges. Harry recognizes him as Tom Riddle. He says that Ginny is still alive, but only just barely. Harry asks Riddle if he is a ghost. He replies that he is a memory, preserved in a diary for fifty years. He points to his diary, lying on the floor near the statue’s toes. Harry wonders briefly how it got there.

Harry asks Tom Riddle for his help getting Ginny out of the Chamber. He explains that there’s a basilisk that could appear at any moment. Riddle doesn’t move. Harry, sweating, hoists Ginny half off the floor, and then bends down to pick up his wand. But it’s gone. Harry starts to ask Riddle if he has seen it, then notices that Riddle is twirling his wand between his fingers. He says thanks and stretches his hand out for it. Riddle smiles, still twirling the wand idly. Harry tries again urgently to get Riddle’s help with Ginny before the basilisk comes. Riddle assures him that it won’t come until it’s called. Unable to hold her weight any longer, Harry lowers Ginny to the floor, and asks again for his wand. Riddle says he won’t be needing it. Riddle tells Harry that he has waited a long time to see and speak to him. Harry loses his patience, saying that they’re in the Chamber of Secrets; they can talk later. Riddle replies that they’re going to talk now, and pockets his wand.

Harry realizes that there’s something funny going on, and asks slowly how Ginny got like this. Riddle answers, “I suppose the real reason Ginny Weasley is like this is because she opened her heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger.” He explains that Ginny has been writing in his diary for months, telling him all of her worries and woes, including how she didn’t think Harry Potter would ever like her. Riddle wrote back sympathetically. As Ginny poured her soul into him, he grew “stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets.” He grew “far more powerful than little miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her…”

Riddle reveals that Ginny Weasley opened the Chamber of Secrets. She strangled the roosters and wrote the messages on the walls. “She set the Serpent of Slytherin on the four Mudbloods, and the Squib’s cat.” Harry is horrified. Riddle goes on to say that Ginny didn’t know what she was doing at first. She wrote in his diary that she was losing her memory; that there are rooster feathers all over her robes and she doesn’t know how they got there; that she has paint all down her front; that Percy suspects her; that she thinks she’s going mad; and finally that she thinks she’s the one attacking everyone. Harry is furious. Riddle explains that it took a long time for Ginny to stop trusting her diary. After she tried to dispose of it Harry found it, to the delight of Riddle. Ginny told Riddle all about Harry’s history, so Riddle wanted to meet Harry. Riddle looks at Harry’s scar hungrily.

Riddle says that he decided to show Harry his “famous capture of that great oaf, Hagrid” to gain Harry’s trust. Harry replies that Hagrid is his friend, and accuses Riddle of framing him. Riddle laughs, and says it was his word against Hagrid’s. "Well, you can imagine how it looked to old Armando Dippet. On the one hand, Tom Riddle, poor but brilliant, parentless but so brave, school prefect, model student…on the other hand, big, blundering Hagrid, in trouble every other week, trying to raise werewolf cubs under his bed, sneaking off to the Forbidden Forest to wrestle trolls….” His plan worked; only Dumbledore, the Transfiguration teacher, thought that Hagrid was innocent. Dumbledore persuaded Dippet to train Hagrid as gamekeeper. And Dumbledore kept a close watch on Riddle, so he knew that it wasn’t safe to open that Chamber of Secrets again while he was still at Hogwarts. But Riddle wasn’t going to waste the five years he spent searching for the Chamber. So he left behind a diary, preserving his sixteen-year-old self in its pages, so that one day he would be able to lead another to “finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.”

Harry replies triumphantly that Riddle hasn’t finished Slytherin’s work—no one has died, and the Mandrake Draught will soon revive everyone who is petrified. Riddle says that killing Mudbloods doesn’t matter to him anymore. His new target is Harry. He was angry when Ginny opened his diary again. She had seen Harry with it and panicked that he might learn all of her secrets. So she stole it back. In order to lure Harry, Riddle made Ginny write her farewell on the wall and then come to the Chamber to wait. According to Riddle, Ginny struggled and cried “and became very boring.” There’s not much life left in her because she poured so much into the diary, enough for Riddle to leave its pages. He has been waiting for Harry to come, and has many questions for him.

Riddle wants to know how it is that Harry, “—a skinny boy with no extraordinary magical talent—managed to defeat the greatest wizard of all time? How did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort’s powers were destroyed?” Harry wants to know why Riddle cares how Harry escaped; Voldemort was after his time. “Voldemort is my past, present, and future, Harry Potter...” Riddle pulls out Harry’s wand from his pocket and traces it through the air, writing: TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE. Then he waves the wand, and the letters rearrange themselves to: I AM LORD VOLDEMORT. Riddle says he already started to use this name at Hogwarts, to his most intimate friends. “You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father’s name forever? I, in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother’s side? I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle, who abandoned me even before I was born, just because he found out his wife was a witch? No, Harry. I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!”

Harry forces himself to speak to Riddle, to tell him that he’s not the greatest wizard in the world—that’s Dumbledore. He points out that even when Riddle was strong, he didn’t try to take over Hogwarts. Dumbledore saw through Riddle at school and still frightens him now. Riddle replies that Dumbledore has been driven out of Hogwarts by the mere memory of him. Harry “speaking at random, wanting to scare Riddle, wishing rather than believing it to be true” retorts, “he’s not as gone as you might think!”

Harry and Riddle hear “eerie, spine-tingling, unearthly” music, growing louder. When it reaches such a pitch that Harry feels it vibrating in his ribs, flames erupt at the top of the nearest pillar. A bird appears, singing the weird music. The bird is crimson, the size of a swan, with a long golden tail, golden beak, and golden talons. It drops a bundle at Harry’s feet and lands on his shoulder. It stops singing and gazes at Riddle, who recognizes the bird as a phoenix. Harry breathes “Fawkes?” and feels the bird squeeze his shoulder gently. Riddle identifies the bundle as the Sorting Hat, and laughs hard, saying, “This is what Dumbledore sends as his defender! A songbird and an old hat! Do you feel brave, Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?” No longer alone, Harry feels his courage mounting.

Riddle points out that they have met twice, in Harry’s past and Riddle’s future, and both times Riddle has failed to kill him. Riddle wants to know how Harry has managed to survive their encounters. “The longer you talk, the longer you stay alive.” Harry weighs his chances, thinking that Fawkes and the Sorting Hat won’t be much good in a duel against Riddle without his wand. The longer he delays, the more life is dwindling out of Ginny. Harry notices that Riddle’s outline is becoming more solid. He decides that if there has to be a fight between him and Riddle, it had better be sooner rather than later.

Harry tells Riddle that no one knows why Riddle lost his powers when he attacked Harry. But Harry knows why he wasn’t able to kill him: Because Harry’s mother died to save him. “My common Muggle-born mother.” Harry adds that he saw the real Riddle last year: an ugly, foul, barely alive wreck in hiding, and that’s where all his power got him. Riddle replies: “So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that’s a powerful counter-charm. I can see now—there is nothing special about you, after all. I wondered, you see. Because there are strange likenesses between us, Harry Potter. Even you must have noticed. Both half-bloods, orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself. We even look something alike ... But after all, it was merely a lucky chance that saved you from me. That’s all I wanted to know.”

Riddle mocks Harry: “Let’s match the powers of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against famous Harry Potter, and the best weapons Dumbledore can give him…” Then Riddle speaks to the gigantic statue in Parseltongue. Its mouth opens, and something slithers up from its depths. Harry backs away, shutting his eyes tight, and feels Fawkes take flight. Harry feels something huge hit the stone floor and then hears Riddle hiss “Kill him.” Harry hears the basilisk slither towards him. He runs sideways blindly with his hands outstretched. He can hear Riddle laughing.

Harry trips, falls hard on the stone and tastes blood. He hears the serpent feet from him. Then there’s an explosive spitting sound above him. Something hits Harry so hard he is smashed into the wall. He hears more hissing and thrashing, and squints his eyes to see what’s happening. The enormous serpent is snapping at Fawkes, who is flying around his head. Fawkes dives. There’s a sudden shower of blood. Before Harry can shut his eyes the basilisk turns. Harry looks straight into its face and sees that both of its eyes have been punctured by the phoenix. Riddle screams at the snake to leave the bird and kill the boy, who is right behind him.

Harry asks someone, anyone, to help him. The basilisk swipes the Sorting Hat into Harry’s arms with its tail. Harry rams the hat onto his head and throws himself flat on the floor, as the serpent's tail swings over him. He thinks, please help me. The hat contracts. Something hard and heavy lands on Harry’s head, almost knocking him out: a silver sword with rubies on its handle. Riddle continues to shout at the serpent to smell the boy behind it and to kill him. Harry gets to his feet. The basilisk lunges at Harry blindly several times. Finally, Harry drives the sword into the serpent’s mouth to the hilt. Harry feels warm blood drenching his arms and searing pain above his elbow. A long poisonous fang sinks deep into his arm and then splinters as the basilisk falls to the floor. Harry slides down the wall. He wrenches the fang out of his arm, but knows it’s too late, as the pain spreads. He drops the fang and watches the blood soak his clothes as his vision grows foggy. He senses Fawkes beside him and tells him he was fantastic. He feels the phoenix lay his head on the spot where the serpent’s fang had pierced him.

Riddle tells Harry that he’s dead, and even Dumbledore’s bird knows it: he’s crying. Harry sees Fawkes' tears trickling down his feathers. Riddle says that he is going to sit there and watch Harry die. Harry feels drowsy and the world seemed to be spinning. Riddle narrates Harry’s death: “So ends the famous Harry Potter. Alone in the Chamber of Secrets, forsaken by his friends, defeated at last by the Dark Lord he so unwisely challenged. You’ll be back with your dear Mudblood mother soon, Harry ... She bought you twelve years of borrowed time ... but Lord Voldemort got you in the end, as you knew he must.”

Harry feels the pain leaving him and sees the Chamber coming back into focus. He looks at his arm and sees a pearly patch of Fawke’s tears where the wound used to be. Riddle tells the bird to get away. He points Harry’s wand at Fawkes. There’s a loud bang and the bird takes flight. Riddle remembers that phoenix tears have healing powers. He tells Harry that it makes no difference and he prefers it this way: just the two of them. As Riddle raises his wand, Fawkes drops Riddle’s diary into Harry’s lap. Without thinking, Harry seizes the basilisk fang and plunges it into the book. Ink spurts out torrentially. Riddle screams, writhes, and then disappears. Ink oozes from the diary. The basilisk venom had burned a hole through it.

Shaking, Harry pulls himself up and gathers his wand, the Sorting Hat, and the sword from the serpent’s mouth. He hears a moan from the end of the Chamber. As Harry hurries towards her, Ginny sits up and looks bemused at the dead basilisk, blood-soaked Harry, and then to the diary in his hand. She gasps, cries, and explains to Harry that she tried to tell him at breakfast, but couldn’t in front of Percy: It was her, but she didn’t mean to; Riddle took her over. She asks how he killed the basilisk and what happened to Riddle. Harry shows her the fang hole in the diary and assures her that Riddle and the basilisk are finished.

Ginny weeps as Harry helps her up and urges her forward, out of the chamber. She frets about being expelled and what her parents will say. Fawkes joins them at the Chamber entrance. They step over the basilisk and back into the tunnel, hearing the stone doors close behind them. When Harry hears the sound of shifting rock he calls to Ron that Ginny is okay. Ron gives a cheer. They find him staring eagerly through the gap he has managed to make in the rock pile. Ron pulls Ginny through, excited that she is alive. He is surprised to see Fawkes and the sword. Harry, not wanting to upset Ginny further, tells Ron that he will explain when they get out of there.

Lockhart is sitting at the mouth of the pipe, humming to himself. Ron says that Lockhart’s Memory Charm backfired and hit himself, so his memory is gone. He has no idea who he is, who they are, or where they are. They look up at the pipe and wonder how to get back up. Fawkes flutters in front of Harry and waves his long gold tail feathers. Ron, perplexed, says that the bird looks like he wants Harry to grab a hold. Harry explains that Fawkes isn’t an ordinary bird, and tells everyone to hold onto each other. Ginny holds onto Ron and Lockhart’s hands. Harry tucks the sword and Sorting Hat into his belt. Ron takes ahold of Harry’s robes. Harry takes hold of Fawke’s hot tail feathers. A lightness spreads through Harry’s body, then they fly upward through the pipe, finally hitting the wet floor of Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.

The sink slides back into place. Myrtle is disappointed that Harry is still alive. She had been hoping that had died and would want to share her toilet. Ron teases Harry that Myrtle has grown fond of him, and teases Ginny that she has competition. Ginny is still crying silently. Hawkes leads them to Professor McGonagall’s office where Harry knocks and pushes the door open.

Chapter 18: Dobby’s Reward

Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Lockhart are greeted by a moment of silence. Then Mrs. Weasley screams her daughter’s name. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley fling themselves on Ginny. Harry sees Dumbledore, beaming, standing next to Professor McGonagall, hyperventilating, by the fireplace. Fawkes flies past Harry to land on Dumbledore’s shoulder. Mrs. Weasley embraces Harry and Ron, excited that they saved Ginny, and wanting to know how they did it. McGonagall adds that they would all like to know that.

Harry lays the Sorting Hat, the sword, and Riddle’s diary on the desk. Then he relates the story of how they figured out that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is in Myrtle’s bathroom. McGonagall points out that they broke a hundred school rules along the way, and then demands to know how they got out of the Chamber alive. Harry then tells them about Fawkes' timely arrival and the Sorting Hat giving him the sword. Then Harry hesitates, worried that if he tells them about Riddle’s diary, Ginny will be expelled. She is still crying, standing next to her mother. He wonders how, without a working diary, he could prove that Riddle had been responsible, not Ginny. Harry looks at Dumbledore, who understands, and says what interests him most is how Voldemort managed to enchant Ginny. Harry is deeply relieved. Mr. Weasley is stunned that his daughter was enchanted by “you-know-who.” Harry explains that it was the diary, picking it up from the desk to show Dumbledore.

Dumbledore takes the diary and examines it, declaring it brilliant. He then explains to the Weasleys that Voldemort was once called Tom Riddle. Fifty years ago, Riddle was “probably the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen.” He disappeared after leaving the school and sank so deeply into the Dark Arts that when he emerged as Lord Voldemort he was barely recognizable. Mrs. Wesley wonders what Ginny has to do with him. Ginny explains, sobbing, that she has been writing in his diary and he has been writing back all year. Mr. Weasley, flabbergasted, asks Ginny why she didn’t show the diary to him or her mother. He says that a suspicious object like that was clearly full of Dark Magic. “Haven’t I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain?” Ginny replies sobbing that she found it inside one of the books her mom got her.

Dumbledore interrupts that Ginny should go to the hospital wing right away. He kindly sympathizes with the ordeal that she has been through. He declares that there will be no punishment and suggests hot chocolate to cheer her up. Dumbledore says that she will find Madam Pomfrey is still awake. She is giving out the Mandrake juice to the petrified patients, who should wake up at any minute. Ron is happy that Hermione is ok. Dumbledore assures Ginny that there has been no lasting harm done. Mrs. Weasley leads Ginny out, followed by a shaken Mr. Weasley. Dumbledore asks McGonagall to alert the kitchens to prepare a feast. She replies “I’ll leave you to deal with Potter and Weasley, shall I?” making Harry and Ron wonder if they are about to be punished. Dumbledore reminds Ron and Harry that he warned them he would have to expel them if they broke any more school rules. Then he adds “which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words” and grants them Special Awards for Services to the School and two hundred points apiece for Gryffindor. Dumbledore inquires about Lockhart, who has been standing in the corner quietly: “Why so modest Gilderoy?” Lockhart looks over his shoulder to see who he’s talking to. Ron hastens to explain that there was an accident in the Chamber of Secrets, where Lockhart tried to do a Memory Charm and the wand backfired. Dumbledore replies, “Impaled upon your own sword Gilderoy!” and asks Ron to take him to the infirmary.

Once they are alone, Dumbledore invites Harry to sit with him by the fire. He thanks Harry for his loyalty, while stroking Fawkes, who has landed on Dumbledore’s knee. Then they discuss Tom Riddle. Harry relates that Riddle said he and Potter have a strange likeness. He starts to say that they’re nothing alike, and then confesses his doubts: The Sorting Hat told him he’d have done well in Slytherin. And everyone thought he was Slytherin’s Heir for a while because he can speak Parseltongue. Dumbledore explains that Harry can speak Parseltongue because Voldemort can speak Parseltongue. Voldemort transferred some of his powers to Harry unintentionally the night he gave Harry the scar.

Harry is thunderstruck at the idea that Voldemort put some of himself into him, and takes that as confirmation that he should be in Slytherin house. Dumbledore replies that Harry has many of the qualities that Salazar Slytherin prized in his hand-picked students: resourcefulness, determination, and a “certain disregard for rules.” Yet the Sorting Hat placed Harry in Gryffindor. Dumbledore says that Harry knows why, if he thinks about it. Harry answers that the Sorting Hat placed him in Gryffindor because he asked not to go into Slytherin. Dumbledore adds: “Exactly. Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Then he offers proof that Harry belongs in Gryffindor: He picks up the sword and hands it to Harry, who turns it over to see the engraved name Godric Gryffindor. Dumbledore reassures him that only a true Gryffindor would have pulled that out of the hat.

Dumbledore pulls a bottle of ink and a quill out of McGonagall’s desk. He suggests that Harry enjoy the feast and get some sleep while he writes to Azkaban and drafts an advertisement for a new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher. Harry is just reaching for the handle when the door bursts open violently revealing a furious Lucius Malfoy with Dobby cowering behind him. Apparently Malfoy left the house in a great hurry, because he looks uncharacteristically disheveled. Dobby is attempting to finish polishing his shoes. Malfoy is angry because Dumbledore has returned to Hogwarts even though the governors had suspended him. Dumbledore explains that the other eleven governors contacted him when they heard that Arthur Weasley’s daughter had been killed, saying they wanted him back at Hogwarts at once. Several governors told him that Malfoy had threatened to curse their families if they didn’t agree to suspend Dumbledore.

Malfoy demands to know if he has stopped the attacks yet. When he learns that the culprit has been caught, he wants to know who it is. Dumbledore says it’s the same as last time: Voldemort, but this time acting through someone else by means of his diary. When Dumbledore holds up the diary he watches Malfoy closely, while Harry watches Dobby. The elf stares at Harry meaningfully, points to the diary, to Malfoy, and then hits himself on the head. Dumbledore stares Malfoy in the eye while he relates the “clever plan”: if Harry and Ron hadn’t discovered the diary, then Ginny Weasley would have been blamed for the attacks. “The Weasleys are one of our most prominent pure-blood families. Imagine the effect on Arthur Weasley and his Muggle Protection Act, if his own daughter was discovered attacking Muggle-borns.”

Harry suddenly understands Dobby. He nods at the elf, who backs into a corner and twists his ears in punishment. Harry accuses Malfoy of slipping Riddle’s diary into Ginny’s Transfiguration textbook at Flourish and Blotts. Malfoy demands that he prove it. Dumbledore says that no one will be able to do that. But he advises Malfoy not to give out any more of Voldemort's old school things, or Arthur Weasley will trace them back to him.

Malfoy wrenches open the door and kicks Dobby through it. Harry hears Dobby squealing with pain. Harry asks Dumbledore if he can give the diary back to Malfoy. When Dumbledore hands it to him he rushes out of the office. Harry takes off one of his shoes, and then his filthy sock, and stuffs the diary into it. He runs down the corridor and catches up with Malfoy and Dobby at the top of the stairs. He tells Malfoy he has something for him, and forces the sock and diary into his hand. Malfoy rips the sock off the diary and casts it aside. He glares at Harry furiously and insults his parents.

When Malfoy turns to go and orders Dobby to come, Dobby doesn’t move. He holds up Harry’s slimy sock and looks at it as though it were a priceless treasure. Dobby says “Master has given a sock...Master gave it to Dobby...Got a sock...Master threw it, and Dobby caught it, and Dobby—Dobby is free.” Lucius Malfoy lunges at Harry, shouting that he has lost him his servant. Dobby shouts that he shall not harm Harry Potter. Malfoy is thrown backward down the stairs with a loud bang. Malfoy stands up and pulls out his wand, but Dobby raises a threatening finger and tells him that he shall not touch Harry Potter, that he shall go now. Malfoy hurries away.

Dobby gazes at Harry and says “Harry Potter freed Dobby!” Harry tells him it was the least he could do, but makes him promise never to try to save his life again. Dobby pulls on Harry’s sock. Harry asks Dobby why he told him that all this had nothing to do with “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” Dobby replies that it was a clue: the Dark Lord, before he changed his name, could be freely named. Dobby hugs Harry, praises him, wishes him farewell, and disappears with a loud crack.

The feast lasts all night. Hermione runs towards Harry screaming that he solved the mystery. Justin apologizes effusively for suspecting him. Hagrid turns up and cuffs Ron and Harry so hard on the shoulders they are “knocked into their plates of trifle.” Harry and Ron secure the House Cup for Gryffindor with their four hundred points. Professor McGonagall tells the students that exams have been canceled as a school treat. Dumbledore announces that Professor Lockhart will be unable to return next year. Everyone cheers.

For the rest of the term, Hogwarts is back to normal, with a few differences: Defense of the Dark Arts classes are canceled. Lucius Malfoy loses his position as governor. Draco Malfoy is back to being resentful and sulky. Ginny Weasley is happy again.

Harry, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny travel in a compartment together on the Hogwarts Express. They make the most of the last few hours in which they’re allowed to do magic before the holidays. Right before they reach Kings Cross station Harry remembers to ask Ginny what she saw Percy doing that he didn’t want her to tell anyone. She giggles and says that Percy has a girlfriend: Penelope Clearwater, the Ravenclaw Prefect. Ginny walked in on them kissing in an empty classroom. She explains that Percy was very upset when Penelope was attacked. Fred and George are delighted with the tease-worthy information. Harry writes his telephone number on parchment for Ron and Hermione, and asks them to call him at the Durselys’. He tells Ron that he has explained to his father how telephones work. Hermione assumes that Harry’s aunt and uncle will be proud when they hear what he did this year. Harry replies that they will be furious that he could have died and didn’t manage it. They walk together back through the gateway to the Muggle world.


Harry wonders what he has learned so far this year. Harry, Ron, and Hermione apply their learning on Potions and Transfiguration to the Polyjuice potion, on history to the Chamber of Secrets, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts to Riddle’s Diary. The attempts to protect them as children prevent them from doing the work they have to do. The Mandrakes are ready for cutting: They symbolize maturity. Harry and Ron are hoping to be off the hook and that Hermione will have all of the answers for them. They swing back and forth between bravery and a desire for things to be taken care of. Percy’s authority frightens Ginny away from telling Ron and Harry the truth. Percy dismisses what Ginny was about to say, thinking it was about when she walked in on he and Penelope kissing. Puberty is a secret, but it’s the wrong kind. Percy’s romance is a red herring producing odd behavior that is irrelevant to the mystery. J.K. Rowling has discussed that she got the idea of a romantic subplot as a red herring from the mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers.

Harry lies to Professor McGonagall. She should be a respected authority figure they could confide in. Why isn’t she? Harry and Ron seek the truth from Myrtle, an original source. The school is putting its faith in the Mandrakes to revive the students. Ginny wants to tell the truth to be free from Riddle. These developments are at cross purposes. Harry and Ron use their friendship with Hermione as an excuse, but then it ends up being key to solving the mystery. Harry also manipulates Lockhart by agreeing that the security measures are unnecessary. This is a moment where they are allies in their desire to circumvent authority. Hermione was able to figure out the identity of the monster through inductive reasoning, and then found a description of it in the library with a name: basilisk. Harry figures out how it was that the students didn't die: They were petrified by looking at the snake indirectly. At this point, Harry and Ron feel they have concrete evidence to share with McGonagall. They didn’t feel comfortable going to her when they were just investigating.

Lockhart has changed from being comic relief to being simply inappropriate to being an active antagonist. The other teachers discredit him as a group, showing him to be a fraud and a blowhard. They call his many bluffs. The tone of the story has changed with the possible death of Ginny. Lockhart pretending to be able to battle the Dark Arts won’t stand.

Harry and Ron miss what is happening in the dynamics among the teachers. They take the conversation literally, believing that Lockhart intends to search for Ginny. That is why they go to him with information. The teachers had no confidence that he could actually do anything, and were just trying to get rid of him. They would no doubt be unsurprised that he is running away. Harry is shocked and incredulous when he learns that Lockhart only pretended to write his books. There is some inconsistency in Harry and Ron’s decision to go to Lockhart for help, as they have been making fun of him, and disbelieving him throughout the book. It also feels odd that Harry would force Lockhart to join them in going into the Chamber, adding an awkward burden to the quest.

Harry and Ron’s anger and vindictiveness towards Lockhart seems out of character. If Ron was really worried about his sister, why waste time forcing Lockhart to go to the Chamber? They could be using him as a human shield, or it could be that they distrust leaving him alone. He tries to pull a memory charm on them once, and then tries again in the Chamber, causing the ceiling to fall accidentally. His presence seems helpful mainly for advancing the plot and adding dramatic tension, which makes it feel a bit contrived. Lockhart is thoroughly demystified as a fraud, disempowered by the boys, and then receives his just desserts when his own memory charm backfires and erases his memory. The book might be cruelest to this character.

The snakeskin foreshadows the enormity of the basilisk and the danger that Harry faces. The wall falling repeats a structure from the first book, when Ron can only go so far and no further. Harry, as the hero, must face Voldemort alone again. The setting of the Chamber has an Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc vibe, with giant pillars and snakes, and a lone white man walking into an exotic environment. Harry is presented as an anti-hero everyman: skinny, with no special talents. It could be that they are both referring to Egyptian mythology. Psychoanalytic critics have written about the phallic and yonic imagery of the snake in the cave, and the phallic symbol of the wand. This fits into a monomyth pattern as described by Joseph Campbell, with a male rescuing a female. Ginny will go on to be Harry’s love interest in the series.

Tom Riddle’s name represents his character: He is a Riddle for Harry to solve. This evokes the mystery genre. Harry trusts Riddle at first, and asks for his help. There is a lot of exposition in this chapter. The main reveal is that Lord Voldemort, the villain in the first Harry Potter book, was a student at Hogwarts named Tom Movolo Riddle. Harry is speaking to Riddle’s teenage self, who has been preserved as a memory in his diary. Because Ginny has told Tom that Harry goes on to defeat him in Tom’s future (and Harry’s past) Riddle wants to know how he did it. There is a bit of a paradox to this, because if the young Riddle learns the source of Harry’s power, why would the older Riddle try to destroy him? One possibility is that when Harry kills Riddle’s diary at the end, he erases all knowledge that the teenage Riddle learns in this encounter with Harry. Riddle’s diary has been compared to online manipulation. It also represents the power and risks of reading. Ginny’s experience is similar to the Catholic idea of being possessed by the devil. She is easily manipulated in her adolescent insecurity.

Riddle’s hatred of Muggles has an origin story, which is personal: His father, a Muggle, abandoned his mother when he found out that she was a witch. Riddle played on Dippit's prejudice against Hagrid, and used the pathos of his own story to manipulate him. This fits with the theme of prejudice. He assumed a new name with his new identity. He chose to recreate himself.

Harry challenges Riddle’s claim to be the greatest sorcerer in the world, invoking the good and powerful Dumbledore. Harry brings Fawkes by “wishing rather than believing.”The arrival of Fawkes is a multi-sensory experience that Harry hears, feels, sees. Riddle points out the dramatic and situational irony of the situation. Neither Harry nor the reader expected this, and it seems inadequate to the task at hand. Ginny’s fragility adds time pressure to the scene, leading to a more rapid climax. Harry has the reverse biography of Riddle: His Muggle-born parent died to save him. The difference is love. Riddle misinterprets love as luck.

Auditory imagery and lack of sight are used to invoke terror, as in the scene with Aragog and the other spiders. Fawkes' poking out the eyes of the snake echoes the method Odysseus used to escape the cave of Polyphemus the Cyclops in the Odyssey. Harry prays, asking for help from someone, anyone. The spirit of Gryffindor responds with the sword, through the Sorting Hat. His loyalty to Gryffindor helps him; his tribe helps him. Gryffindor’s sword is an allusion to the legend of Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur which must be drawn from a stone by the rightful king. He must be fit to carry the sword. It’s a symbol of bravery.

Harry’s friendships with Fawkes, whom he praises, and with Dumbledore creates an emotional bond that causes the bird to weep at Harry’s death. Fawkes' tears provide the grace that saves Harry. In contrast, Riddle dies from being stabbed by the fang of the basilisk, a creature that should have been his ally.

The battle solidifies Harry’s identity, as he is assisted by his friends Hermione and Ron and his mentor Dumbledore in his quest to save Ginny, who will be his love. He must defeat Riddle, and Slytherin, who he feared was part of him or resembled him. A Christian reading would be that he defeated the evil within himself by showing love, loyalty, and trust. The moment when Harry comes back to life is a type of resurrection. The phoenix is a symbol of rebirth. He has also been interpreted as the Holy Spirit. Fawkes has also been interpreted as a deus ex machina, an unlikely occurrence in the plot that resolves all problems, in the story. When Harry stabs the diary the ink is a metaphor for blood. Riddle’s life was preserved in the ink of the diary. This is a meta-moment, as Harry Potter himself is a character in a written story.

Ginny sees Harry at his most heroic and is “bemused.” Harry and Riddle are rivals for the possession of Ginny. Riddle wants to manipulate her for his own gain, while Harry wants to save and reassure her. He is attached to the Weasleys as a surrogate family. And Ron is his best friend, so Ginny is an extension of him. At this point, he treats her more like a sister than a future wife.

Harry has returned with wisdom, and emerged with treasure: the Sorting Hat, the sword, and Riddle’s diary. In Joseph Campbell’s interpretation of the monomyth, this is called the "return." In this denouement, the plot wraps up tidily, as the Mandrake draught is administered to return the petrified students to life at the same moment.

Mr. Weasley blames Ginny for trusting the diary. She is an adolescent with new secrets, which need an outlet. Dumbledore is kind and interrupts this victim-blaming of Ginny. The tension of possible expulsion from Hogwarts is relieved for Ginny, but it’s transferred to Harry and Ron. This shows their renewed status as children and so their vulnerability and powerlessness.

When Dumbledore says that Lockhart was impaled on his own sword, this is a reference to Shakespeare’s line “hoisted on your own petard.” Dumbledore knows something that Harry does not: Voldemort transferred a part of himself into Harry as a baby. Dumbledore implies that some Slytherin qualities are positive: resourcefulness, determination, and a disregard for rules. These are the virtues of the rebel. Harry shares these abilities.

When Malfoy arrives, we learn the political context for the plot: Lucius has planted the diary on Ginny to try to destroy the reputation of the Weasley family and so gain control of Hogwarts, and the government. The children were used as pawns and proxies. It’s amazing to believe that Harry has the energy to tell the story and then rescue Dobby after nearly dying in the Chamber. The book describes his internal world very little. Why is he not exhausted?

How did Dobby know that Voldemort as Riddle would put Harry’s life in danger? It seems like Lucius Malfoy was targeting Ginny Weasley more than Harry Potter. Riddle says that he learned about Harry Potter from Ginny. There is a missing element in the plot—what exactly did Dobby see or overhear? When Dobby communicates to Harry that Malfoy was responsible for planting the diary on Ginny, he betrays his master, which he is enchanted not to do, and must suffer for. He sacrifices his comfort to help Harry understand the truth.

Harry’s sock sets Dobby free. It is a reward and a symbol of Dobby’s service to Harry. The humble object is slimy from Harry’s ordeal. It’s of little value to Harry and disgusting to Lucius Malfoy, but for Dobby the sock is priceless. There is a wonderful silliness in this reversal of value. And it shows that Harry’s goodness is as important as his greatness. Harry tricks Malfoy: He frees Dobby by following the rules, technically, but showing no respect for the spirit of the law, judging it to be cruel. One of Harry’s gifts is to see justice apart from the rules of social convention. He has no problem disregarding authority when authority is wrong. Dobby is unable to free himself but he is able to protect Harry. So he has a magic of his own, which is unleashed fully when he becomes a free elf. Harry frees Dobby even though the elf has been an inconvenience to him, because he empathizes with him. And he sees that Dobby risked everything to try to save Harry from Malfoy’s plot.

The structure of the book fits into the school year. The story ends on an ironic note with a reminder that Harry, despite his heroism at Hogwarts, is not a hero in his family. It’s surprising that the adults at Hogwarts permit him to return to a home where he was locked up and starved. It’s a reverse fairy tale, inconsistent with the crisis in chapter two. At least Harry will be able to talk on the phone with his friends, so he has progressed a bit from his complete isolation in the beginning. This return to “normal” sets up the next book to begin again at the Dursleys', and so to repeat the structure. This may be written for children in unhappy situations, offering the hope of a magical escape through imagination—if only a temporary one.