The Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 16-17: Snakes be Slytherin
Charlene mentioned that Chamber of Secrets is everyone’s least favorite Harry Potter book, which I would have completely agreed with before this reread. Now I’m not so sure. Ask me again when we’re done with all of them. Maybe I’ll still agree WHO KNOWS. I don’t have a time turner (spoiler alert) so I can’t say. I’m not sure WHY this one is my least favorite. I guess it’s just because one of them has to be. Honestly, picking a least favorite Harry Potter is kind of like picking your least favorite kind of chocolate chip cookie. I mean, they’re all delicious, right?
Maybe I’m a bit more lenient this time because this whole reread experiment has been so much fun. Also, it didn’t hurt that I got some action-packed chapters. Seriously, a lot happens. Like:
So, as we learned from Mr. Ron Weasley’s diary in the last post, Ron and Harry have discovered that Moaning Myrtle was the student who was killed when the Chamber of Secrets was opened fifty years prior. They haven’t yet talked to her about it, because as we ALSO learned in the last post, it’s really hard to sneak around Hogwarts when you have professors watching your every move.
Luckily, the mandrakes are ready, so Professor Sprout will soon be making them into a cure for the Petrified students. Ron’s psyched because that means Hermione will be awake soon, and she can, like always, just solve all of their problems for them. I’m terrified because these mandrakes have just grown from wee baby-like creatures into mature adults and now Professor Sprout is going to straight up sacrifice them just so a few kids can wake up from their long winter’s naps. One of the kids is Hermione, though, so I’ll allow it. You know. The mandrake murder.
Meanwhile, Ginny is spending her time freaking the fuck out and trying to tell Harry and Ron something REALLY IMPORTANT, but stupid Percy shows up and scares her off. Percy’s embarrassed about something, but as it’s unrelated to the Chamber of Secrets, we don’t really care. Ginny probably just walked in on him playing with his wand.
Harry convinces Lockhart to let them walk to their next class alone (it was easy, as Lockhart is sure Hagrid was the culprit all along), so he and Ron sneak away to visit Myrtle. Unfortunately, they’re stopped by Professor McGonagall but they use guilt and lies to sweet talk her into letting them visit Hermione. It’s actually kind of adorable. While there, they notice that Hermione has, in her Petrified hand, a page that she tore out of a book.
(As if Hermione would RIP OUT a page from a book.)
This page is very helpful and defines Basilisk for us:
“Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land, there is none more curious or more deadly than the Basilisk, known also as the King of Serpents. This snake, which may reach gigantic size, and live many hundreds of years, is born from a chicken’s egg, hatched beneath a toad. Its methods of killing are most wondrous, for aside from its deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous stare, and all who are fixed with the beam of its eye shall suffer instant death. Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is their mortal enemy, and the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it.”
Hermione has written “pipes” next to the entry, effectively allowing Harry and Ron to figure out that the Basilisk has been traveling through the castle via the pipes, and the reasons it never actually killed any of the victims are as follows:
1. Mrs. Norris saw the basilisk’s reflection in a puddle of water.
2. Justin saw it through Nearly Headless Nick (and Nick is already dead so he wasn’t killed).
3. Colin saw it through his camera.
4. Hermione and Penelope Clearwater (whose name Hermione will later use in Deathly Hallows) used a mirror to peer around the corner because Hermione is a fucking genius and WE SHOULD ALL BOW DOWN TO HER.
Am I the only one who’s disappointed that these magical folks use pipes to carry their water and poopoos around? THEY CAN DO MAGIC I EXPECT BETTER.
Ron and Harry figure out that the entrance to the Chamber is in Myrtle’s bathroom, then overhear some of the teachers talking about a new victim…a student who has been taken into the Chamber itself. GUESS WHO. (Psst. It’s Ginny.)
They also found the words: “Her skeleton will lie in the chamber forever!” written on the wall. You guys, that is creepy as fuck.
Wait. Did Ginny have to paint that on the wall herself? And then take herself down into the Chamber and wait to die? Can we talk about how amazing it is that she didn’t end up at St. Mungo’s for, like, eternity?
Ron and Harry find Lockhart (who has been sent to investigate Ginny’s disappearance in order to get him out of the way) so they can tell him what they know, but they find that he’s packing his bags. He tells them that he hasn’t really done any of the things he wrote about in his books, but that he is gifted in memory spells, meaning he bamboozled those who actually did the brave deeds after he stole their heroic stories.
Lockhart, of course, tries to do the same to them but Harry Expelliarmuses him (spell comes in handy, doesn’t it?) before he could.
They take Lockhart to the bathroom (weird) and Harry opens the entrance to the Chamber with Parseltongue. They go in, Lockhart first, and, my god, why wouldn’t they go get a proper adult? I think I’ve invented a new step in our drinking game and that is drink every time you think something along the lines of, “HARRY GO TELL A GROWN UP.”
Anyway. Once inside, Lockhart steals Ron’s wand and tries to Obliviate them but the spell backfires on him. Ron stays behind to take care of him, while Harry forges on to find Ginny. At first, I was kind of like, why wouldn’t Ron go? It’s his sister who’s in grave danger. But Harry is the one with the wand and the ability to speak Parseltongue, so I guess it makes sense. Also the books are about Harry, blah blah blah, but I think Ashley proved the other day that they’d be plenty interesting from Ron’s point of view. .
CHAPTER 17: THE HEIR OF SLYTHERIN
Hokay, so. Harry has traveled deep, deep down into the heart of the Chamber of Secrets itself, and is greeted by Ginny’s nearly-dead body and a young Tom Riddle. Harry implores Tom to help him, but Riddle scoffs! Why should he help the famous Harry Potter when it is he who is LORD VOLDEMORT HIMSELF!
I mean sort of. He’s Voldemort before Voldemort was Voldemort. (Tom Marvolo Riddle is an anagram of I Am Lord Voldemort. Also, MARVOLO?) (My question is, since Tom Marvolo Riddle is an anagram of I Am Lord Voldemort, which name did Rowling come up with first? Riddle or Voldemort? TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES.)
You see, it turns out Ginny was the one opening the Chamber. She became BFFs with Riddle’s diary and he fed her instructions to do his bidding. AAAAND it turns out he was also the one who got Hagrid booted from Hogwarts all those years ago. What a Malfoy.
Riddle decides it would be super funsies to watch the Basilisk (who I have named Basil) kill Harry, so his future self can reap the benefits of a Potter-less world. Basil comes out and is a giant fucking snake with sharp, pointy fangs that are dripping poison, so points to Hermione’s book for being SPOT THE FUCK ON. Oh and also, remember, if Basil takes one look at Harry, Harry dies. There are just so many different ways Harry can die in this scenario.
But don’t worry. I can tell you’re worrying but just don’t, OK? Because Harry remembers what Dumbledore told him about asking for help, so he does, and Fawkes flies to the rescue, carrying the Sorting Hat. Fawkes pokes Basil’s eyes out, which still freaks me out because eyes = gooey = EEK. I still have nightmares about the time we had to dissect a sheep’s eye in high school. (STILL NOT AS CREEPY AS CHOPPING UP MANDRAKES.)
Harry puts on the Sorting Hat and is bonked in the head by a great and powerful sword, which he then uses to kill Basil by jamming it through his mouth and into his skull. JESUS YOU GUYS THIS IS A BOOK FOR CHILDREN. But whatever, who are we, the Child Police?
In the process of stabbing a living creature in the brain, Harry is poked by one of Basil’s fangs. He sits on the floor and yanks out the fang as he and Riddle both wait to for him to die. But wait! Fawkes to the rescue AGAIN. He cries on Harry’s wound which doesn’t sound sanitary but it’s OK because Phoenix tears = medicine. All healed, Harry then stabs the diary with Basil’s fang, thus destroying one of Voldemort’s horcruxes. Except we don’t know what a horcrux is yet so forget I said anything.
Ginny wakes up and confesses to everything, and is very worried that everyone is going to hate her since she almost killed several people. (Been there, right?) Harry does not have time to listen to her problems (sign of future marriage issues?) and is all, “dude, I just battled a giant snake and almost died, can we get going please?” And so they go. Because Ginny is everyone’s bitch in this book.
SIDEBAR: I keep forgetting how, just, passive Ginny is in the beginning. I love what Rowling does with her later, turning her from blushing wallflower into badass firecracker. She starts out as this teensy girl with a schoolgirl crush yet soon takes ownership of herself and her sexuality, making out with all sorts of manfriends before finally inviting Harry into her own Chamber of Secrets (I’m assuming that students at Hogwarts were sexing each other all over the place, since it’s technically high school and all.)
Harry and Ginny eventually meet up with Lockhart and Ron. Lockhart has gone nutso bananas because of the backfired Obliviate spell, and now has no idea who he is or what he’s doing in what amounts to a giant cavern with several children. Ron, however, just wants to know why Harry has a sword, reminding me again that, no matter how many monsters they hunt and kill, these are still just 12-year-old boys.
Fawkes (once more, with feeling) saves the day again, carrying them all out of the Chamber, back to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, Lockhart shouting, “amazing, amazing, this is just like magic!” and making me fall a little bit in love with him.
Myrtle is disappointed to see them alive, having been hoping for a new stallmate, but alive they are. And so the unlikely group heads off to see Professor McGonagall and FACE THE MUSIC.