In Chapter 17, we finally see inside the Chamber of Secrets! Let’s go!
Oh, this place is so deliciously creepy! I love it! What makes it even better is the impending doom that lingers over every little bit of this setting. We know there is a monster, but we don’t see it! So good. Also, snakes everywhere. An odd decorating choice, but with a name like Slytherin, I guess it was meant to be.
Columns with serpents, a towering statue of Salazar himself, and at the base of the statue – Ginny. Who looks dead. Ugh, I was really scared for Ginny (and the rest of the Weasleys) when I read this the first time, but thankfully, Ginny is not dead yet. However, she won’t wake up. She’s also not alone.
A tall, black-haired boy was leaning against the nearest pillar, watching. He was strangely blurred around the edges, as though Harry were looking at him through a misted window. But there was no mistaking him –
“Tom – Tom Riddle?”
Show of hands, who thought that this was Voldemort on the first reveal? I sure didn’t! I thought he was a bit creepy in the beginning of this scene, but beforehand, I only felt sympathy for him. He was stuck in an orphanage. He tracked down the monster the first time around, or so we thought. Riddle explains that he isn’t a ghost – he is a memory that had been trapped inside the diary for fifty years. Sure enough, the diary is also there, laying on the ground. Harry doesn’t suspect Riddle yet, even though Riddle is super creepy, plus seems to know a bit about the basilisk – “It won’t come until it is called.” Creepy!
That’s my official word for this review, by the way. Creepy. It just fits.
Riddle gets Harry’s wand and starts explaining exactly what happened in traditional villain fashion. He got to know Ginny through the diary, as Ginny was the first one to have it. He made friends with her, and then slowly was able to possess her in a way. Ginny was the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets, killed the roosters, wrote the messages on the wall, and set the basilisk loose on the castle.
Show of hands, who suspected Ginny? Anyone? Yeah, I didn’t either.
Of course, it wasn’t Ginny’s fault. She didn’t know she was doing it, thought she was losing her mind because she had large spaces of time where she didn’t know where she was or what she was doing. Keep in mind, this is an eleven year old girl. This must have been terrifying!
Ginny also spent a lot of time writing to Riddle about Harry. Riddle wanted very much to meet Harry, but Harry doesn’t give him a chance to say much more. He is preoccupied with the fact that Riddle had framed Hagrid and got him kicked out of school. Who could have possibly thought Hagrid was the Heir of Slytherin anyway? Please! It was Riddle who found out about the Chamber and set about to follow in Slytherin’s footsteps and rid the school of “Mudbloods.”
But plans have changed. Now Riddle wants Harry. And why? BECAUSE HE’S VOLDEMORT!!! AHHHHH!!
He pulled Harry’s wand from his pocket and began to trace it through the air, writing three shimmering words:
TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE
Then he waved the wand once, and the letters of his name rearranged themselves:
I AM LORD VOLDEMORT
Convenient that his name just happened to spell that, isn’t it.
Riddle had taken on the name Voldemort so he wouldn’t have to use his Muggle father’s name. He is the Heir of Slytherin, through his mother. He wanted to become the greatest sorcerer in the world. But he isn’t, Harry tells him. That’s Dumbledore. Sorry! Dumbledore is amazing and Voldemort is currently a broken down wreck who can only live as a parasite through other people. Riddle doesn’t see it that way. He thinks he is more powerful because he was able to drive Dumbledore away. Harry knows though – Dumbledore told him, that night at Hagrid’s hut, that he would always be there for those who were loyal to him.
I have to admit, Dumbledore shows his appreciation for loyalty in strange ways. If I was going up against the memory of the most evil wizard ever, I would want something more than a bird and a hat, even if the bird was a phoenix and the hat was the Sorting Hat. At least the Sorting Hat brings Harry a sword. That is at least helpful, when Riddle decides it’s time for the basilisk to come out and play. The phoenix, Fawkes, is able to help in the fight, pecking out the basilisk’s eyes so that it can’t turn Harry to stone. Excellent play, that! Still, this is a gigantic snake that could probably swallow Harry in one bite, so it isn’t as though he’s safe.
Harry is able to stab the basilisk and kill it, but also ends up driving a fang into his arm in the process. Basilisk venom is highly poisonous, of course, but here comes Fawkes to the rescue again. Phoenix tears have healing powers, as Dumbledore said before. Harry is back in business, but there’s still Riddle to deal with. Harry does the only thing that he can think of – grabs a fang and stabs it through the diary. I would not have thought to do that, if I was in his position. That was pretty clever, and it makes sense. Riddle came from the diary. Destroy the diary, you destroy Riddle. Destroy Riddle, and you wake up Ginny. Poor, poor Ginny.
“Harry – oh, Harry – I tried to tell you at b-breakfast, but I c-couldn’t say it in front of Percy – it was me, Harry – but I – I s-swear I d-didn’t mean to – R-Riddle made me, he t-took me over – and – how did you kill that – that thing? W-where’s Riddle? The last thing I r-remember is him coming out of the diary -“
I would not be right after this. I don’t think I would ever recover. This is horrifying. Do they have psychologists in the wizarding world? This girl needs therapy, stat. Poor Ginny is terrified that she will be expelled and what her parents will think. Oh, honey. Can I hug a fictional character? I just want to hug her so bad!
They get back to Ron, who has cleared part of the rubble away so they can get through. Lockhart, on the other hand . . . he isn’t doing so good. That memory charm he tried to use with Ron’s broken wand? It kind of, sort of backfired.
“Hello,” he said. “Odd sort of place, this, isn’t it? Do you live here?”
Yeah. He has no idea who he is or what is happening? For someone who has used memory charms to take credit for the deeds of others, this is pretty sweet karma. With the help of Fawkes, they are able to fly back up the pipe into Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Which leads to what is, in my opinion, one of the best quotes in the book.
“Oh, well . . . I’d just been thinking . . . if you had died, you’d have been welcome to share my toilet,” said Myrtle, blushing silver.
Myrtle has a crush on Harry!!
See you next time for Chapter 18, the final chapter of the book!