The Chamber of Secrets

chapter sixteen of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Ginny tries to tell Harry and Ron something, but is interrupted. The boys then visit Hermione and solve the mystery of the Chamber – but soon learn that Ginny has been taken by Slytherin’s heir. Harry and Ron find Lockhart to offer help, but when they discover him trying to flee, they force him to join them in the Chamber instead. Lockhart accidently traps himself and Ron, though, so Harry proceeds after the Basilisk on his own.
 

Book 2, Chapter 16 by Loleia

Ginny opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Harry leaned forward and spoke quietly, so that only Ginny and Ron could hear him. “Is it something about the Chamber of Secrets?”

(by Loleia)


 

In the staff room, by Marta T

“The Heir of Slytherin,” said Professor McGonagall, who was very white, “left another message. Right underneath the first one. Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever.”

(by Marta T)


 

The Chamber of Secrets, by Keith James

Except that the words weren’t what he heard; a strange hissing had escaped him, and at once the tap glowed with a brilliant white light and began to spin. Next second, the sink began to move….


 

about the chapter

 

Something You May Not Have Noticed

McGonagall always has such a stern presence in the classroom, but we get a brief glimpse here of how she runs the school, and interestingly, despite Dumbledore’s eccentricities and permissiveness, she actually seems to exert less control over the student body – instead of setting off firecrackers when trying to get students’ attention, she instead waits until “the hubbub had subsided.” On the other hand, it could just be her sentimental side, as she is announcing the first bit of good news the school has heard in quite some time.
 

The Power of Magic

There’s a fairly logical and obnoxious question that jumps from the pages of this chapter, which is that if Salazar Slytherin hid the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets one thousand years ago, how on earth did he manage to make it within a modern plumbing system?

There are really only two possibilities, unless wizards invented plumbing centuries before Muggles did (and why would they, when magic can accomplish the same thing just as well?). It’s been suggested many times that Slytherin cast spells so the Chamber would move its own entrance around as Hogwarts changed, which is certainly a possibility. But I think I prefer the idea that an heir of Slytherin at some point moved the Chamber’s entrance personally. If you think about it, it makes sense that sometime after the plumbing was installed, it would occur to an heir that the pipes would allow the Basilisk to move around undetected, thereby making it all the more dangerous.
 

Life at Hogwarts

We learn in other places that library books often have spells on them to prevent mistreatment, such as when Dumbledore accidentally doodled on a book and “found the book beating me fiercely about the head” (according to his foreward in Quidditch Through the Ages). So I wonder what kind of curse might have been placed on Hermione when she ripped out the page about the basilisk? Is it possible that her being cursed indirectly led to her being Petrified?

Incidentally, the text that she rips from the library book isn’t the same description that is written in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But Hermione has already read this book – it was on the first year book list, which she read in its entirety before school began. It makes sense that she might not have her copy of the book with her, as it may not be required for second-years and she’s already admitted to not being able to pack all her books thanks to the Lockhart collection. But still, with that knowledge in her brain, shouldn’t she have solved the mystery sooner?
 

The Boy Who Lived

It’s funny that for the first few years Harry’s at Hogwarts, we very rarely ever see him actually accomplish anything in class. Usually he’s much more like we see him here where he looks “down at the pair of white rabbits he was supposed to be turning into slippers,” and can’t “seem to think of anything that would be useful in an exam.” Obviously we’re not getting the whole picture, because he does get through his exams just fine. But it will be a couple more years before we really get a chance to see him excel at much of anything involving magic – other than Quidditch, of course.
 

Something to Remember

When Ginny nearly spills her secret to Harry and Ron, it seems like the fact that her mannerisms remind Harry of Dobby is little more than description – but it will prove to be much more than that. After all, why would little Ginny Weasley remind Harry specifically of someone who is enslaved and forbidden to reveal information?
 

The Final Word

(Question: “In the second book, Harry and Ron went to the girls’ toilet and met McGonagall. They told her that they were going to visit Hermione, and she started crying. Why?”
)
“She found it very touching that Harry and Ron were missing Hermione so badly (or so she thought). Under that gruff exterior, Professor McGonagall is a bit of an old softy, really. “–J.K. Rowling, October 2000
 

“I had to decide the glasses couldn’t protect you [from a basilisk]. I just had to, because obviously there would be quite a few people at Hogwarts who were wearing glasses and I thought that might cause me plot difficulties, so I decided that glasses alone wouldn’t protect you. But as you know, I had Justin protected by the camera lens, so I think I am open for criticism there, but the way I explained to myself he was looking through several lenses and wasn’t actually seeing the thing directly, it wasn’t through his eyeline, when you look through a camera you are looking through the lens, it is a little distorted. You can argue with me on that and I wouldn’t blame you but that is how I explained it to my self at the time. “–J.K. Rowling, July 2005
 


33 Responses to “The Chamber of Secrets”

  1. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was on the book list in their first year. So Hermione should know it by heart. Maybe she did and that helped her realize what the beast is.

    Also: I can’t imagine her ripping a page out of a book.

  2. About the plumbing: the ancient Romans did use plumbing, not too much unlike out own, I believe. I don’t know that much about it, but it could have just been later modified to fit modern toilets or something.

  3. I agree with the other Kim: The idea that Hermione rips something out of a book surprises me.
    Also, in Medieval times, there was a kind of plumbing where the pipes would lead to the canal around the castle. Is it a coincidence that the pipes lead in this case to something under the lake? Maybe Slytherin had made the entrance amongst the other pipes (which would lead to the lake) and the entrance got modernized without people noticing it was an entrance.
    great to have an update, btw :D
    x-kim-x

  4. What I never did understand is: if the Basilisk moves around in the plumbing, how did it petrify Hermione in the library? And how does it get out of the plumbing and onto the floor to actually petrify someone?

  5. Maybe there is more than one entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. After all, the people who were Petrified were all found in different locations, and if the snake had to get from the bathroom to where the people were, then all the way back to the bathroom, you’d think someone would’ve seen it on the way.

  6. It only makes sense to me that the basilisk is able to change shape to accomodate the pipe it is traveling in. How on earth would a creature that size make it through such narrow pipes?

  7. Eliza and grrreg: It confuses me, too.

  8. I was in third grade when I read this book, and I remember I was scared to look into the sink for the next few months in fear that a pair of big, yellow eyes would Petrify me!

  9. JKR takes liberty with her writing to allow for her plot to unfold the way she wants. It isn’t always going to make sense. It’s literary license. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

  10. A point about the camera, many cameras nowadays, and certainly any camera that a Muggle-born in 1992 would have, have mirrors on the inside, sort of like those periscope toys you get as kids (and like real life periscopes).

  11. Yes, I always just found Hermione ripping a library book so unbelievable that I assumed she had magically copied it and Harry just assumed it was ripped. Another option, however, is that people are dying and like stealing to make the polyjuice potion, she felt in this case time was so important, she would repair it later. But then the spells protecting the books come in, so…

  12. Maybe Hermione had the book in her hand, and had her fingers around that page when she was petrifed. Then maybe the book fell, causing it to rip? That’s the only explaination (?) I can think of, because I just can’t see Hermione tearing a book. And also, I try to remember that when Harry and Ron decided how exactly she was petrified, it’s just what they think. They don’t necisarilly have the answer… like in book five when Harry believes he’s being Possesed by Voldemort, that’s not true but the reader believes what Harry believes at the time. OK, none of this makes sense. ignore me.

  13. I was just thinking about the flashback Harry witnesses when he is pulled into the diary. Riddle talks to Professor Dippet about “all these attacks,” but we know only one student died the last time the chamber was opened. So how many attacks were there 50 years ago… and were all the other victims petrified? It already seems like a long string of coincidences happens in the present so that none of the victims ever looks directly at the Basilisk, and are consequently only petrified. I wonder how the other victims in Riddle’s time managed to avoid the Basilisk’s deadly glare.

    Regarding the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets being connected to the plumbing system… I always thought this was a little ridiculous. And the entrance was in a girls’ bathroom no less. Is this what the great Salazar Slytherin really intended? No wonder it took Tom Riddle five years to discover how to get into the Chamber of Secrets when he was at Hogwarts. The girls’ bathroom is an awkward place… how did he ever think to look there?

  14. The way in which Hermione finding out about the Basilisk unfolds would suggest that a certain amount of fear fuelled how she acted, and as such, after quite some deliberation she probably decided tearing out the page was her only option. After all, she got Penelope to get out a mirror to look around corners – obviously she thought that she was a prime target and, in essence, she was sacrificing herself so that the information could get into the right hands.

  15. @Andrea good point about the “long string of coincidences…”

    Like Nancy said, literary license! I know some of these things JKR intended, but some of them HAVE to be just to propel the plot along. Either way, it’s all fantastic and I love thinking about it!

  16. The coincidence of most of the Basilisk’s victims being only petrified is the kind of coincidence that you find in most stories – people happening to be in the right place at the right time, or happening to have the right object on them.

    Perhaps the pipe that leads to the Chamber is medieval plumbing that managed to avoid the modernisation of the rest of the castle. When the entrance to the Chamber is opened I expect both the sink and the wall move. If you removed the sink by any other means the wall would still be there, which might allow for putting the new plumbing in perhaps. The other possibility is that there are spells that prevent the entrance from being found by anything other than Parseltongue. I shouldn’t think the sink that’s currently would have been there in Slytherin’s day though, so there’s the question of where the snake on the side of the tap came from. I noted this time round that it’s only scratched on, not engraved like in the movie. It may have been Tom Riddle who put it there to mark the spot for any of his own heirs.

    Regarding how the Basilisk attacks people away from the bathroom, all the attacks happened when there was no one else around so the snake probably came right out of the bathroom into the corridors. I think Riddle got information from Ginny on when the place was going to be quiet. Perhaps he also had her lure students she knows are Muggle born out into the open when no one else is around (except for Mrs Norris who just happened to come upon them while Ginny was writing the message). She probably knew Colin was Muggle born because he was in her class and could have persuaded him to visit Harry. And Justin may have told any number of people he was down for Eton. And Ginny saw Percy kissing Penelope, so she certainly knew who Penelope was and may have asked Percy more about her. In which case Penelope was probably the intended target of that attack and Hermione was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  17. I thought it made perfect sense that the entrance to the chamber was in an odd place—Slytherin would have wanted to prevent anyone but his heir from finding it. It wasn’t like a muggleborn-killing monster was something the other founders or almost anyone after them would have wanted in the school; someone would have tried to find it to close it up.

  18. I don’t know if this is just a theory, but I’ve heard somewhere a guess that the basilisk can smell Muggle-borns.
    Also, I always assumed that the main/most direct entrance to the Chamber was in Myrtle’s bathroom, but doesn’t Harry mention passing other pipes on his way down? So maybe the basilisk could have gotten out of other bathrooms/pipes. And yes, the school was pretty much empty during the attacks.

  19. I just noticed something about Jo’s quote at the end. She’s referring to Justin with the camera lens when in reality it was Colin Creevy who was petrified via his camera lens. Justin was petrified through Nearly Headless Nick. Am I missing something here?

  20. SueDeNym, I hadn’t caught that before, but you’re right – it’s a mistake. I wouldn’t read too much into it, I’m sure she just misspoke. :)

  21. if the camera had been an SLR then Colin would have seen the snake through mirrors but the camera in the movie didn’t look like an SLR at all

  22. Hi.. I also just found your website recently and have been reading it obsessively since.. its wonderful!

    I just wanted to comment on the “something you may not have noticed”.. Professor McGonagall is a stern, serious teacher. Although she does have her softer moments and clearly isn’t mean, but strict. I see her waiting for the hubbub to die down as completely in her style of teaching. I can’t find my copy of book 2, but I picture her glaring at everyone until they realize she is ready to talk and stops having their own conversations. Many teachers do this as a way of not having to “yell” over everyone who is talking. Usually students will quiet down when they see that others are quieting down because she’s waiting for them. Dumbledore, on the other hand, is more eccentric and open, he chooses to get their attention by shooting fireworks or something fun to get them to notice he’s up there. Her way is usually seen as exerting more control because you’re not adding to the chaos and also students tend to feel like they’re interrupting the teacher even though she hasn’t said anything yet. just my two cents!

  23. I don’t know if we should consider any details in the movies as solid evidence for any theories because they tend take liberties on many things.

    I always did wonder why Riddle was able to discover the entrance considering it was in the Girl’s bathroom and though nobody uses it now, in his time there was no Myrtle there to ward of the plethora of girls who must have used it. He must have been desperate when he had searched every other place!

  24. Has anyone noticed the sexual undertones of the imagery in The Chamber of Secrets? Yes, these are children’s books, but Harry and company are on the brink of puberty, when sexual awareness would start to blossom.

    I noticed this the second time I saw the movie. It struck me that, in the film, the entrance to the Chamber is circular, and it’s in the girl’s bathroom. A second circular entrance leads further into the chamber. A snake is slithering through the chamber’s walls, and the heads of quite a few snakes decorate the walls. The Chamber itself could be considered womblike. I won’t give a blow-by-blow account of all the symbolism, but you can find at least one such account online.

    As I think more about it, I see that Tom Riddle and Ginny Weasley’s relationship resembles a child molester and his victim. I’m not saying that Tom does anything sexual with Ginny, but look at his methods: he’s a charmer and a seducer. He gets Ginny to trust him by sympathizing with her, and he gets her to confide her secrets and dreams to him. Later, having gained her intimate trust, he guides her into wrongdoing and into resulting shame, and later still he brings her to the point of utter powerlessness and vulnerability, where he’s ready to use her, seize her, possess her, and feed upon her.

    I don’t know if JKR has any such experiences in her past, but I feel positive that, perhaps even subconsciously, concerns over sexuality and the misuse/abuse of sexuality are driving the imagery of these chapters.

    If you think these comments are inappropriate for this forum, feel free to delete them.

  25. On the plumbing in Hogwarts being anachronistic…

    Hogwarts itself (in the form that it takes in the books) would be anachronistic whenever it was founded (at least by the late tenth century, but Professor Binns says it’s *over* a thousand years old, so it could be older than that – particularly in light of a recent revelation by Rowling that Merlin – traditionally dated to the fifth century – studied at Hogwarts). Back in the tenth century and before, castles were made out of wood rather than stone; stone castles don’t seem to have shown up in Britain until after the Norman Conquest.

    Of course, wizards need not have followed Muggle architecture, and also, if Merlin (in his familiar legendary form) was real in Harry Potter’s world, then presumably the Arthurian legend was real in that world as well, with its attendant anachronisms of stone castles, knights in armor, and jousting in the fifth and sixth centuries. (Or it might be the same kind of slip-up as having the late 15th century Nearly Headless Nick dressed like an Elizabethan gentleman.)

  26. To Melanie Lee:

    I saw a similar comment on Ginny and Tom Riddle elsewhere on the Internet (the “TV Tropes” page on Harry Potter), with an additional note that you didn’t mention: Ginny and Tom Riddle communicate by written words rather than face-to-face, suggesting correspondence by the Internet, which many predators use. (It added that Rowling hadn’t had the parallel in mind at the time, but commented when someone mentioned it to her that it was a good warning.)

  27. “But still, with that knowledge in her brain, shouldn’t she have solved the mystery sooner?” If you reread the chapter where Hermione solves the mystery, you’ll see that it’s Harry hearing the voice and them not that makes her understand it. She has to go to the library to double check (I think she must have left her copy of Fantastic Beasts at home) but she has already figured it out before going. It was way back at Halloween when Hermione was last with Harry when he heard the voice. That was before anyone had been petrified, before the roosters were killed and before they noticed the spiders running away. It’s only when Harry hears the voice again that all that clicks in her head and she solves it.

  28. Todd: I saw. Thanks!

  29. Re: Life at Hogwarts. No, I do not suppose Hermione did tear a page from a book. The page itself must have already been torn. Or true, she might have used magic to produce a copy of the page. Kind of makes me long for magic just to avoid long lines when photocopying papers. :)

    Re: The Boy Who Lived. Harry’s extraordinary DADA skills are already showing in this chapter. He is alert on his feet and uses Expelliarmus to stop Lockhart from erasing their memories. And you have only to see that at this point, Lockhart was already drawing out his wand to cast a Memory Charm on the boys. The Expelliarmus knocked Lockhart over though (I don’t think the spell was supposed to do that), proving that Harry’s skills still need polishing.

    Something to Remember: Expelliarmus will not only prove to be quite useful during this epic moment with Lockhart, but will also save Harry’s life countless times in the future.

    Another Something to Remember: The wardrobe full of the teachers’ cloaks Harry and Ron were hiding in during the teachers’ conference tickled the back of my mind. Wasn’t it the wardrobe Lupin used to teach the third years about boggarts in PoA?

    Snape grips the back of a chair tightly when McGonagall mentioned a student has been taken into the chamber. This tugged at my heartstrings. Was this purely concern for Harry or concern for the whole student body in general? :)

  30. I think this is the only time that Harry refers to Snape as Prefessor Snape when talking to an adult.

  31. Did JKR mean Colin Creevey instead of Justin in the 2nd quote?

  32. I believe Hogwarts already had some kind of plumbing system and was just magically updated.

    I also wondered why Tom Riddle would be looking for the entrance in the girls bathroom. But I figured that once Riddle found out that the monster inside would be a basilisk (what else could it have been?) that he would also discover that the best way for the basilisk to move around the castle would be the plumbing system, leading him to all bathrooms in Hogwarts, including those of the girls.

    I can’t find any reason on how the basilisk could leave the plumbing system to petrify students without been seen or heard. Maybe a spell was cast upon the beast, making it able to shrink itself? And doesn’t Moaning Myrtle spend time in the narrow plumbing pipes as a ghost? Maybe ghosts can shrink themselves too then?

    There are some questions that hope will be answered one day… maybe Pottermore will give us the answers?

  33. We get a glimpse of Snape’s character here too: he grips the back of a chair and asks, “Who is it? Which student?” when McG tells the staff about Ginny.

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