In Chapter 9, we find out Mrs. Norris’s fate, see rumors starting to spread about Harry, and find out exactly what this Chamber of Secrets business is. Let’s go!
Filch is such a horrible, miserable person, but you have to feel sorry for him in this chapter. He is absolutely devastated by what has happened to Mrs. Norris. It’s hard not to be. I love cats. My goal in life is to become a crazy cat lady. I have two cats so far and would have more if my husband didn’t object so strongly (he loves our two cats, or at least one of them, but has put his foot down to having more). Mrs. Norris is a mean cat, no question, but she didn’t deserve this. I would be crying my eyes out too, Filch.
But Mrs. Norris is not dead! She’s only been petrified, and the mandrakes we saw a few chapters back can help create a potion to cure her. Yay! Can we talk for a second here how obnoxious Lockhart is here as well. His excessive, know-it-all, seen-it-all attitude is in such poor taste. Just stop talking, Lockhart! Nobody cares!
Filch thinks that Harry was behind the attack because Harry had seen his Kwikspell course and knows that Filch is a squib. I like learning these layers of how the Wizarding World works, even if they are unpleasant. It gives the world depth. Not everything is a bed of roses. In this case, squibs are the opposite of Muggleborn wizards – they are from magical families, but have no magic of their own. Because of this, they are looked down upon the same way Muggleborns are, in many ways.
This incident also builds up more suspicion about Snape, which is always fun. Snape has a strange reaction to finding Mrs. Norris, looking “as though he was trying hard not to smile.” After they are (for now) exonerated, Harry wants to get to bed “before Snape comes along and tries to frame us for something else.” Harry is almost always suspicious of Snape, the same way Snape is always suspicious of Harry.
Later in the chapter, we finally find out what the Chamber of Secrets is during their History of Magic class. Professor Binns is their only teacher who is a ghost, who also has the distinction of being the most boring teacher at Hogwarts. I know purists complained, but I’m glad they cut him from the movies and gave this scene to McGonagall, mostly because more Maggie Smith is always a good thing. Binns tells them of a secret chamber created by Salazar Slytherin, one of the Hogwarts founders, that contained a creature that only Slytherin could control. Only Slytherin’s true heir would be able to find the chamber and take control of the monster. The school has been searched, many times, and no chamber has been found, which has led Binns (at least) to believe that it is just a myth.
More misdirection, which is so much fun! Students are acting strangely around Harry, avoiding him like the plague, and Harry remembers that the Sorting Hat had wanted originally to put him in Slytherin. This makes Harry start to wonder the same thing everyone else is: could Harry be the Heir of Slytherin? Of course, he isn’t, but the first time I read the book, I have to admit, I wondered if it might be true. He was having all these weird experiences and couldn’t figure out what was going on. He also knew nothing about his dad’s side of the family. So it was, in theory, possible.
The three kiddos decided to poke around for clues, which quite frankly is such a dumb idea. You were already suspects, and now you are hanging around the scene of the crime. Why? It does lead to us learning about Ron’s biggest fear: spiders.
“It’s not funny,” said Ron, fiercely. “If you must know, when I was three, Fred turned my – my teddy bear into a great big filthy spider because I broke his toy broomstick . . . You wouldn’t like them either if you’d been holding your bear and suddenly it had too many legs and . . .”
The spiders are behaving weird, marching in a line out the window. There is also water all over the floor, coming from Myrtle’s bathroom. Clues that don’t really lead to anything right now, but that become important later.
In the Common Room that night, they discuss who might be behind it. Of course, their suspect is Malfoy. And, let’s be honest, Malfoy seems like the type. He seemed really excited when Mrs. Norris was attacked. He hates Muggleborns, just like Slytherin was rumored to. His father seems evil enough to be involved. The first time through, I was ready to believe it was Malfoy, even if that did seem a bit obvious. He certainly had the motive.
So how do they go about finding out more information? With polyjuice potion, of course! Hermione has read about this potion, but knows the recipe would be in a book in the Restricted Section of the library. They would need to find a teacher, who wasn’t particularly bright, to sign off on a permission slip to let them get the book. Hmm. Wonder who they could ask?
Tune in next time for Chapter 10!