Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Chapter 13 (#PotterheadReadAlong19)

HPCS Banner

In Chapter 13, Moaning Myrtle has a temper tantrum, a mysterious diary is found, Hogwarts celebrates Valentine’s Day, and we learn about a former Hogwarts student: Tom Riddle. Let’s go!

Twists and turns and misdirection abound in this chapter! That’s what makes it so much fun!

Hermione spends a great deal of time in the hospital wing to recover from being half a cat which, with all the attacks happening, causes a bunch of rumors around the school. Luckily, Hermione hasn’t been attacked (yet), but doesn’t want everyone to stare at her furry face either.

The problem is, they don’t have any other leads in the mystery of the Chamber. They know it isn’t Malfoy, and know that Malfoy doesn’t even know who it is. Where do they go from here? To be honest, I probably would have given up at this point. I would have done what I could to avoid the monster and help my friends do the same, but really, where do you go from here?

You find another mystery to solve, of course! Harry and  Ron hear Filch going off about the cleaning he has to do and find that Moaning Myrtle has flooded her bathroom. Again. Water everywhere. They ask her what is wrong and she tells them that someone threw a book at her. Harry attempts to comfort her, I think, by saying that at least it couldn’t hurt her.

He had said the wrong thing. Myrtle puffed herself up and shrieked, “Let’s all throw books at Myrtle, because she can’t feel it! Ten points if you can get it through her stomach! Fifty points if it goes through her head! Well, ha, ha, ha! What a lovely game, I don’t think!”

Oh, Myrtle.

They find the book, which looks very unremarkable, but Ron cautions Harry anyway. Some magical books can be very dangerous. But this one doesn’t appear to be. It’s just a plain book, a diary, that had been bought at a Muggle bookshop. The only thing written in it is the name T. M. Riddle. Ron remembers that name because it was on a special services award down in the trophy room, where he had to help polish trophies for detention.

A quick warning for series spoilers (it’s been well over 10 years, but still).

THEY FOUND A FREAKING HORCRUX IN MOANING MYRTLE’S BATHROOM! A HORCRUX THAT GINNY HAD BEEN CARRYING AROUND THE ENTIRE YEAR! I’m sorry, this makes me feel less sympathetic to Ron walking out in Deathly Hallows because he couldn’t handle how the locket was making him feel. Ginny is only 11. She was able to fight off the effects and get rid of the horcrux. She’s a badass!

Ahem. Back to the story at hand.

Hermione, fresh out of the hospital wing, tries everything she knows of to see if there is a hidden message in the diary, but it just comes up blank. They know that T. M. Riddle was a student fifty years ago, which is around the same time the Chamber of Secrets had been opened before. T. M. Riddle probably knows something about it (and how!), but they can’t figure out what.

Let’s talk really quick about the funny part of this chapter: Lockhart’s plan to boost morale at Valentine’s Day. The Great Hall is covered in pink and confetti and Lockhart has arranged for dwarves dressed up as cupids to deliver singing valentines to students. Why wasn’t this included in the movies?? It would have been hilarious!!

Harry gets a valentine, although he tries to avoid it, but the dwarf tackles him and sings anyway.

His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,

His hair is as dark as a blackboard.

I wish he was mine, he’s really divine,

The hero who conquered the Dark Lord.

Aw, and it was Ginny who sent it to him, we find out as Malfoy tries to steal the diary. Poor Ginny. She is so fascinated with Harry and doesn’t know what to do about it. I would never have had the courage to try and send a valentine to the guy I had a crush on when I was her age. It didn’t go well, but still, at least she tried.

Let’s talk about the most important part of this chapter, and the one that leads to one of the biggest twists in the book. Harry figures out the diary’s secret: he writes in it and the diary writes back. The diary shows him Tom Riddle during his fifth year at Hogwarts. Tom is an orphan who doesn’t want to go back to the orphanage for the summer holidays, but who will not be able to stay at Hogwarts because of the attacks going on. We get to see the headmaster before Dumbledore, Professor Dippet, who isn’t unsympathetic to Tom’s plight, but is also facing the potential shutdown of the school if the attacks don’t stop.

Tom’s version of events: he confronts a rather large student who has some sort of monstrous pet. The large student, Rubeus, protests, saying that his pet didn’t do anything and didn’t hurt anyone. They argue and fight, and the pet presumably gets away.

Harry sat up. He was sweating and shaking.

“What’s up?” said Ron, looking at him with concern.

“It was Hagrid, Ron. Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago.”

And just like that, the story takes another sharp turn. It’s so brilliant! We knew Hagrid had gotten expelled – he said so in the first book. I had thought at the time that he was just a really bad student and not good at magic, although there are other students who aren’t good in class (like Neville, or sometimes Ron) and they aren’t kicked out. It makes sense that Hagrid would have to have done something awful to be expelled, but who would ever think that this gentle giant would ever hurt anyone? He wouldn’t, of course, but he also has a soft spot for creatures that he feels are misunderstood (like dragons, for example). It is entirely plausible that Hagrid would have heard about the Chamber, tried to make friends with the creature inside, and lost control of it. Completely and entirely plausible. This is the story that Tom gave to the other teachers and they believed it.

Just wow. The first time I read it, I totally believed this too. Well done, J. K. Seriously.

See you next time for Chapter 14!