The Worst Birthday & Dobby’s Warning

chapters one & two of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

After a dreary, lonely birthday, Harry retreats to his bedroom to find Dobby – and learns the house-elf is trying to prevent his return to Hogwarts. Harry refuses, so Dobby gets him in trouble and the Dursleys lock Harry in his room. When he wakes up a few nights later, though, Ron is outside his window.

Harry, by FrizzyHermione

Harry Potter wasn’t a normal boy. As a matter of fact, he was as not normal as it is possible to be.


Dursleys, by Edgar Torné

Harry looked nothing like the rest of the family.


The Worst Birthday, by Hannah-Dora

More than anything else at Hogwarts, more even than playing Quidditch, Harry missed his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They, however, didn’t seem to be missing him at all.


The Worst Birthday, by Hala Zabaneh

He sang under his breath: “Happy birthday to me… happy birthday to me…”


Worst Birthday Ever, by Sheena Kristen Sy

Harry suddenly sat bolt upright on the garden bench. He had been staring absent-mindedly into the hedge – and the hedge was staring back.


The Worst Birthday, by Keith James

“I know what day it is,” sang Dudley, waddling toward him.
The huge eyes blinked and vanished.
“What?” said Harry, not taking his eyes off the spot where they had been.


The Worst Birthday, by NicoPony

Harry… turned to collapse on his bed. The trouble was, there was already someone siting in it.


Dobby, by Laurence Peguy

Harry knew instantly that this was what had been watching him out of the garden hedge that morning.


Bad Dobby! by Mudblood428

A sudden silence fell downstairs. Two seconds later Harry, heart thudding madly, heard Uncle Vernon coming into the hall, calling, “Dudley must have left his television on again, the little tyke!”


Dobby's Warning, by NicoPony

“No,” croaked Harry. “Please… they’ll kill me….”


Car Rescue, by Jess Siswick

[Harry] opened his eyes. Moonlight was shining through the bars on the window. And someone was goggling through the bars at him.


about the chapters


Something You May Not Have Noticed

I think the most interesting thing about Dobby’s visit to Harry is that Dobby is able to visit Harry at all. After all, he seems to have an actual inability to betray his masters – he never actually does so, and every time he comes close he stops short and punishes himself for even getting that far. So then why is it that he can come to Privet Drive (often enough to be stopping Harry’s mail!) and only casually mention that he’ll have to punish himself when he returns home? Could he really spend that much time away from home without being ordered to do so? And if he was ordered to do so… well, then what the heck is up with that?

Life at Privet Drive

I can’t help but wonder what the Masons think of the Dursleys. Clearly they’re the type of people who are happy to come to a dinner party with Vernon to discuss a business deal; a little smarminess certainly isn’t going to put them off. But the Dursleys are so outlandishly over the top – I mean, Dudley’s going to tell Mr. Mason that he’s his hero? This is a prospective business partner of Vernon’s – can he have even met Dudley more than once or twice? Outrageous.

Something to Remember

It’s worth paying attention to what Dobby knows – or thinks he knows – about the “plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts.” As we learn more about Dobby and more about the plot, the fact that he knows what he does will become very interesting indeed.

The Final Word

“I feel sorry for Dudley. I might joke about him, but I feel truly sorry for him because I see him as just as abused as Harry. Though, in possibly a less obvious way. What they are doing to him is inept, really. I think children recognize that. Poor Dudley. He’s not being prepared for the world at all, in any reasonable or compassionate way, so I feel sorry for him.”–J.K. Rowling, November 2000

26 Responses to “The Worst Birthday & Dobby’s Warning”

  1. Extremely cool Harry by Hannah Dora.

    Also again very interesting thoughts in the Something You May Not Have Noticed section.

  2. In response to the Something You May Not Have Noticed section: I think it would be possible for Dobby to find a way to leave Malfoy Manor on his own. Afterall, Kreacher was able to use Sirius’s ordering him out of a room (“Get out!”) to leave the entire house and visit the Malfoys, so I don’t think it’s that difficult to imagine the Malfoy’s yelling at Dobby to leave a room or something, and him twisting that into a way for him to leave the house.

  3. “there are powers Dumbledore doesn’t… powers no decent wizard…” Does Dobby know about Horcruxes? Or is he “only” talking about the diary and the Chamber?

  4. The fact that Dobby accompanies Lucius to Hogwarts at the end of the book suggests that the Malfoys take him with them sometimes, probably to carry stuff and run errands (maybe Lucius was heading to Hogsmeade after Hogwarts?), so perhaps they send him out on his own sometimes, hence he’s allowed to leave Malfoy Manor because no-one’s ordered him to stay there? They wouldn’t give him a second thought unless they wanted him to do something for them.

  5. Chloe – this is definitely a possibility. I think the biggest question in my mind is how omnipresent Dobby had to be at Privet Drive to be successful at intercepting Harry’s mail. If all he had to do was cast an elf-spell, then you’re probably right. If he had to wait around and intercept each owl individually, though, then I can’t really see him pulling it off.

    Kim – Dumbledore says in book 6 that Lucius didn’t know the diary was a Horcrux, so I can’t imagine how Dobby would find out. I assume he just overheard that the plan involved the Chamber of Secrets.

    palantiriel – Remind me to get back to this when I post that chapter, if I don’t remember to write it in myself. It’s a really interesting point.

    Thanks everyone!

  6. NicoPony’s fantastic image of Harry trying to catch the hovering pudding reinforced for me what a horrible birthday Harry was having. I never really thought about how Aunt Petunia went to the trouble to create a “masterpiece” pudding for business guests, but the birthday boy was never going to have any.

  7. About the letter that Harry received from the Ministry: it may have been a surprise to uncle Vernon that Harry was’nt allowed to use magic outside of Hogwarts, but surely aunt Petunia should remember that, after all her sister was in the same situation when she was young (spoiler: if aunt Petunia remebers something like Azkaban prison, more easily should remember that Lily also was’nt allowed to perform magic outside of school).

  8. With regard to Dobby, I think it was midly addressed in book five. I got the feeling from what was said that elves can disobey or betray their masters if they really want to, but they will have to punish themselves afterwards.

    I think when Dobby said, “There are powers Dumbledore doesn’t… powers no decent wizard…” he was referring to parseltongue.

  9. Petunia might have unrealistic memories about that. A famous inconsistency in book 1 is that when Petunia freaks out with Hagrid for wanting Harry to go to Hogwarts she yells that Lily would come home every summer “turning teacups into rats” and the like…
    Either underage wizards in the 70s didn’t have the Trace/the Ministry didn’t care or Lily was a master rulebraker. Another option would be that with Eileen Prince leaving so close by, Lily’s and Snape’s magic didn’t send Ministry buzzers flying.
    In any case, Petunia might not have had a clear perspective on the no-magic rule. Or she might not trust Wizarding rules to be consistent through time.

  10. Sorry about that…

    Eileen would have been LIVING, not LEAVING close by… =p

  11. (Spoiler!) It is hard to say if Lily told Petunia about the no magic outside of school rule or not. I think Petunia remembers information about Azkaban because of Snape being present. She is spying on them at the time and is obviously jealous of her sister’s new interests. When Lily comes home on breaks she may or may not practice magic, but we do know that by this point Petunia is already calling Lily a “freak” and they may not be talking to each other very much at all.

  12. I believe that Dobby could visit Harry simply because his Masters had never ordered him NOT to. From what we’ve seen, House-Elves have to obey a direct order, but they can do things of their own choosing, as long as an outstanding order doesn’t forbid it.

  13. Just discovered this site and I have to say I love everything about it. Sorry for jumping into the discussion so late, but I really feel like following up on the point that Reanne makes.

    I agree that House-Elves must absolutely obey a direct order no matter how much they might not want to (Kreacher in the cave is an excellent example) and if any of the Malfoys had thought to say “Dobby, you are forbidden to go to Harry Potter and tell him of the plot against him this year” then Dobby would have never been able to visit Harry.

    Luckily for Harry, the Malfoys’ lack of regard for House-Elves as anything other than existing to serve them allows Dobby to exercise whatever free will has been left to him. Funny that such negligence actually ends up doing Dobby good in the long run.
    Just like his master, Lucius overlooks “lesser beings” to his detriment.

  14. I had this thought one day. Petunia had Lily as a sister. She must have known she wasn’t allowed to do magic. She also heard from Snape the same thing.
    I wonder, did she forget that detail? Or did she not say anything knowing her husband’s reaction?

  15. there are two things that got me thinking.
    first harry is really an exceptional human being. for being treated so badly for the first 10 years of his life, he has the decency to ask a creature he had never seen before ‘who are you?’ not ‘what are you?’ simply because he thought it too rude.
    the other thing is if the ministiry of magic was so intent on keeping magic a secret from muggles, i would think they would wait to deliver their owls with the ministry’s warnings until no muggles are present? the masons left right before harry opened the letter but the idea of having owls swooping in is very unusual to muggles. the dursleys are probably an exception because they know about the wizarding world.

  16. JKR does answer the question about Lily doing magic in the school holidays. Basically, it was not allowed, but Lily did receive the occasional warning letter for breaking the rules.

    However, Petunia’s “always” is clearly a jealous exaggeration. She’s probably talking about something that only happened, maybe, twice.

  17. Grace has Victory – Do you remember where JKR states this? I was just curious.

  18. I can easily imagine that if Lily did magic at home two or three times, Petunia would magnify that in her mind. And if Lily brought home things she had transfigured at Hogwarts and showed them to Petunia, Petunia would remember that as Lily “turning teacups into rats.”

    Petunia and Lily’s parents were very supportive of Lily and proud of her abilities, and I’m sure they were very much aware of Petunia’s resentment and hostility. They wouldn’t let Petunia know about the warning letters if they could help it. It’s really possible that Petunia never knew Lily had received warnings from the ministry.

  19. Regarding Dobby disobeying….Its pointed out later that house elves CAN disobey they just choose not too. Out of fear (In Dobbys case) or Loyalty (in winkies case) but also just out thinking that its their duty and that they want to do obey.

  20. Char-lez – I don’t remember ever seeing anything which said house elves can disobey a direct order. They have to punish themselves if they speak ill of their family or if they do something they know their master (mistress) would disapprove of; but a direct order is different and must be followed, as it is a house-elf’s highest law.

  21. I know this is strange posting this here, but I just thought of it. I’ve wondered why the Dursleys were Harry’s closest relations when his parents died. From what I can gather from the time frame of the series, Lily and James could not have been much older than mid-20s when they died, and it seems quite unlikely that all 4 of Harry’s middle aged grandparents died in the few short years between Lily and James leaving school (they were all alive then) and the time when Voldemort attacked them. Does Rowling ever explain how this scenario came to be???

  22. Lewis, thanks for posting! I posted this response once before but it was on a very random page so I’ll re-post here:

    There’s a great quote from Rowling that gets at your question, when she was asked specifically about Harry’s grandparents:

    “As a writer, it was more interesting, plot-wise, if Harry was completely alone. So I rather ruthlessly disposed of his entire family apart from Aunt Petunia. I mean, James and Lily are massively important to the plot, of course, but the grandparents? No. And, because I do like my backstory: Petunia and Lily’s parents, normal Muggle death. James’s parents were elderly, were getting on a little when he was born, which explains the only child, very pampered, had-him-late-in-life-so-he’s-an-extra-treasure, as often happens, I think. They were old in wizarding terms, and they died. They succumbed to a wizarding illness. That’s as far as it goes. There’s nothing serious or sinister about those deaths. I just needed them out of the way so I killed them.”

    So none were killed off by Voldemort, they just all happened to be gone. I think it’s likely the death certificates list “literary necessity” as the cause. ;)

  23. Ok thanks, It does make sense that Rowling killed his Grandparents off for necessity. It is a much more interesting back story if he is raised by the only people who wouldn’t want him to fulfil his destiny, and also probably contributes to what type of person Harry turned out to be.

  24. I know Harry was mistreated by the Dursleys but I still can’t believe Petunia in chapter 1. She “knew he hadn’t really done magic, but he still had to duck as she aimed a heavy blow at his head with the soapy frying pan”. It makes me wonder what the full story is with his childhood.

  25. In chapter one, it says “Countless times, Harry had been on the point of unlocking Hedwig’s cage by magic…” How could he even think of unlocking the cage via magic if his wand is locked up inside the cupboard under the stairs? “Alohomora” certainly requires the use of a wand.

    I agree with both Reanne and SueDeNym. It is truly very much like the Malfoys to look down upon house-elves and underestimate their capabilities. I bet Lucius would never even have thought about the possibility of Dobby having a direct connection with the boy his master wants to kill.

    NicoPony’s artwork left me dumbfounded! :)

  26. @Amy I often wondered this about petunia as well. What if he hadn’t ducked would her dislike really have gone as far as actual physical abuse, this passage leads us to believe it would have. And being hit in the head with a frying pan sould have landed him in the hospital. These books often made me wonder about the “English” culture and their stance on and tollerace of child abuse.
    I get the whole “his childhood built character and made him the man he would become to defeat the dark lord”, but his treatment at the hand of the Dursley’s crossed the line from neglect/ apathy/ dislike, to child abuse.

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