The Deathday Party

chapter eight of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Nearly Headless Nick saves Harry from detention (though Harry sees a Kwikspell letter addresed to Filch), and Harry agrees to go to Nick’s Deathday party on Halloween. After the dreary occasion, however, Harry hears the voice again – and follows it upstairs to find Mrs. Norris hanging by her tail, a warning to “enemies of the heir” written behind her on the wall.
 

Side Effects of Pepperup Potion, by reallycorking

Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was kept busy by a sudden spate of colds among the staff and students. Her Pepperup Potion worked instantly, though it left the drinker smoking at the ears for several hours afterward.


 

by Laura Freeman

“Dung,” he muttered furiously, “great sizzling dragon bogies… frog brains… rat intestines… I’ve had enough of it… make an example….”


 

Kwikspell, by haystax45

Fascinated, Harry thumbed through the rest of the envelope’s contents. Why on earth did Filch want a Kwikspell course?


 

The Deathday Party, by Keith James

The dungeon was full of hundreds of pearly-white, translucent people….


 

by MartinTenbones

On the other side of the dungeon was a long table…. They approached it eagerly but next moment had stopped in their tracks, horrified.


 

Moaning Myrtle, by Laurence Peguy

“Don’t lie to me,” Myrtle gasped…. “D’you think I don’t know what people call me behind my back? Fat Myrtle! Ugly Myrtle! Miserable, moaning, moping Myrtle!”


 

The Deathday Party, by haystax45

“Welcome, Patrick,” said Nick stiffly.


 

Draco Sketch, by Maria Abagnale

“Enemies of the Heir, beware! You’ll be next, Mudbloods!” It was Draco Malfoy. He had pushed to the front of the crowd, his cold eyes alive, his usually bloodless face flushed, as he grinned at the sight of the hanging, immobile cat.


 

about the chapter

 

Something You May Not Have Noticed

This isn’t the only time we’ll see Gryffindor players returning from a Quidditch practice covered in mud, but I’ve always wondered – how do they get so muddy? Wet from rain I can understand, but wouldn’t they spend the entirety of practice in the air? And you’d think they would learn pretty quickly not to land in enormous puddles….
 

The Wizarding World

Nick’s deathday party is one of just a couple glimpses we’ll get into the world of ghosts in Britain, and it’s a strange one. For one thing, it seems that ghosts aren’t able to affect much in the physical world – so who provides their rotted food? And for another – where do they go when they’re not at these parties? There are “hundreds” at the party, and it’s a big deal that one came all the way from Kent, so there must be many more in southern Britain. And traveling can’t be easy, as they presumably have no choice but to slowly float their way across the countryside. This is one area where more backstory would be really fascinating.
 

The Boy Who Lived

I love how dense Harry can be sometimes. While reading Filch’s Kwikspell literature, he seems amazed at the prospect that Filch might not be “a proper wizard” – just two short pages after Filch told him that cleaning mud off the floor will take him a full hour. This is a task that any proper wizard (especially one whose job it is to clean the castle) could do in seconds, and in fact we’ll later see Madam Pomfrey do just that. Filch certainly seems to think his lack of magical skill is a secret, but it’s hard to imagine there aren’t a fair number of students who figured it out quite a long time ago.
 

Something to Remember

The vanishing cabinet that Peeves crashes over Filch’s office is described as “extremely valuable.” It’s not the first valuable cabinet we’ve seen in this book, and it won’t be the last time these mysterious magical devices come up, either.
 

The Final Word

“In the first draft of ‘Chamber of Secrets’, Nick sang a self-penned ballad explaining how his head had (nearly) come off. My editor was not very fond of the song and so I cut it. However, for those who are curious, here is the story of Nick’s decapitation in his own moving words:”–J.K. Rowling, jkrowling.com (you can read the full ballad on her website)
 


35 Responses to “The Deathday Party”

  1. Earlier on, I always figured the Weasley twins might have had something to do with all that mud. They could have created mud balls to throw around, rather than the Bludgers or, in protest of having to practice in such dreary conditions, started a mud fight. I don’t recall if practices after the fifth book have folks leaving in such icky conditions, so perhaps my theory is just wishful thinking. :)

  2. Nearly Headless Nick is celebrating his five hundredths deathday. In book 1 (chapter “The Sorting Hat”) he says, that he hasn’t eaten in nearly four hundred years. So has he maybe eaten the first one hundred years of his death out of habit and then quit? Since he’s talking about how the food looks tasteful I don’t think that’s it. A slip-up?

  3. Natalia, I love this idea – not only that the twins would have all the mud-fights, but that they would be so accepted by the rest of the team that they’re just considered another dreary part of Quidditch practice. On the other hand, another memorable muddy practice takes place after the twins were banned from the team (when Ginny and Ron come in covered in mud in OP26, as Harry and Hermione talk about Harry’s fiasco of a date with Cho), so I don’t know if it works as the only explanation….

    Kim – it was a mistake. This line in PS was revised for later editions, and if you pick one up in a bookstore now, Nick will say he hasn’t eaten in nearly *five* hundred years. :)

  4. Might Sir Delaney-Podmore, the leader of the Headless Hunt, be an ancestor or Sturgis Podmore (whom we don’t meet until later, sorry)?

  5. I would say it’s likely the Podmores are related. Rowling throws in a lot of names like this that reappear over the generations, and her names are so unique that I doubt it’s coincidence one would come up twice. Though to be fair, we also saw the name ‘Evans’ come up twice and it’s not as though she’d forgotten about it being Lily’s last name, so anything is possible.

  6. Harry wouldn’t recognize the thing Filch said, ’cause he’s still to much muggle. And Filch is stupid enough to say such a thing when he’s very angry. He anyway tends to exaggerate

  7. I like the idea of Fred and George enchanting mud pies to fly after their team mates, but they are travelling pretty quickly around the pitch, is it possible that on a low pass, they could stir up a puddle and get splashed that way?

  8. This chapter always makes me feel sorry for Filch. On the one hand, I’m sure he’s happy (as far as Filch can be) to retain a link to the wizarding world. But it seems so pointless to employ a squib to be the caretaker – as you say, he has to spend an hour cleaning the floor when he knows full well that any witch or wizard could do it in seconds. Not only is he worthless (because anyone can do his job, and much quicker than him) but no-one lifts their wand to help him, despite the fact they’re able to – not even the teachers. It’s like Fred and George refusing to help Harry and Ron peel the sprouts in HBP, except for Filch it’s everyone, all the time. I imagine anyone would feel resentful in that situation.

  9. Josie, “Evans” is an extremely common surname in Britain, and the two Evans families are both (predominantly) Muggle. We shouldn’t read anything into the repetition of this name.

    However, “Podmore” is an unusual name and the wizarding community is small. Just how many surnames could be shared by 10,000 people, half of whom are quite closely related? I think Sturgis probably is descended from Sir Delaney-Podmore. In this case, the repetition of the name indicates the close blood-ties in the wizarding world.

    The pure-blood supremacists are very much defending THEIR OWN FAMILY because they truly are all one family. Their moral error lies in their assumption that “family first” means “people outside the family don’t matter at all”.

  10. Minor Spoiler
    Could the fact that Peeves drops the vanishing cabinet be the reason its broken in the sixth book?

  11. Great site, Josie! I am re-reading the books for the ?th time and the companion is helping me look into the series more deeply this time through. I am up to this chapter now and I noticed that Nick died on October 31, just like James and Lily. If Harry hadn’t have been so preoccupied with Quidditch, dodging Lockhart and Colin, an empty stomach from skipping the feast, the later incident with Mrs. Norris and all this heir business, he might have made the connection that this was the day his parents died 11 years earlier. He and Nick might have had the conversation regarding Sirius (OP 38) at this time.

  12. I love how Rowling casually slips in that Ginny was looking “peaky” at the start of this chapter, prompting Percy to bully her into taking the Pepperup Potion. It doesn’t sound like Ginny had a cold particularly, but perhaps her palour is a first hint that something is not right with her.

    It’s funny that (considering he’s a ghost) Nearly Headless Nick is described as taking “several deep breaths” to calm down after telling Harry about his rejection letter for the Headless Hunt.

    It’s also interesting considering Filch’s lack of magical ability that he does seem to have a supernatural connection with his cat Mrs. Norris. When Filch catches Harry dripping mud on the floor in this chapter, it says that Filch was “Drawn to the spot by the mysterious power that seemed to connect him with his foul cat.” If he can’t do any magic, how does Filch know when Mrs. Norris has found a student who’s causing trouble?

  13. Filch lacks magical powers all right, but even in the Muggle world cats can do very mysterious and unpredictable things. I’m inclined to think that Mrs Norris is at least part Kneazle and that Filch is more her pet than she is his. Not that he would think of it quite like that!

  14. I always saw the mud as a result of some training done on the ground. To me Wood seems like the kind of person to make his team run laps or do pressups just to get them generally fitter. If you think about it a match could last for hours depending on the skill of the seekers, so stamina is pretty vital, especially since they wouldn’t have substitutes like a proffesional team would to call on.

  15. I too feel sorry for Filch in this chapter, even though he is a bit disturbing with his love of cruel punishments. I like to think Dumbledore sees something in him though, and possibly took him in, much like how he took in Hagrid.

  16. Maybe Harry got splashed on his way back up the school after practice, walking across the grassy grounds. He’s described as being splattered with mud but not necessarily all over.

  17. Isn’t the mud most likely from physical training? Magic doesn’t give them physical strength/fitness… to pull off all those stunts on the broomstick such as pulling themselves back on when hanging on it requires considerable arm strength, especially for the older kids who are bigger/heavier. For beaters I assume they also need to be strong to whack bludgers travelling with such huge force.

  18. I think Filch is probably lucky to be employed at all. Being a Squib, I bet he’d be hard pressed to find a job anywhere else in the wizarding world. Typically, Dumbledore took him in – just like he did with Sybill Trelawney, for instance.

  19. I know I’m very late to the discussion, but:

    re. mud/Quidditch: I always figured it was partly due to walking back from practice (like elizabethauthor said), and maybe partly thanks to the Bludgers – maybe it’s part of their enchantments, when the weather is particularly nasty, to fly to the ground and back so as to splatter mud all over the players and make their lives even harder.

    re. Harry not realizing Filch was a Squib: apart from the fact that he’s still ‘too much Muggle’ here, he’s only 12. I read CoS for the first time when I was just a little younger than Harry, and this revelation (and others as well) came as a complete shock to me! :)

  20. Harry could have made his life at Hogwarts a lot easier at this time if, when he saw the ad for the Quikspell Course” he would have offered to help Filch learn a few rudimentary spells “like cleaning muddy floors, for instance” then Filch would have liked him and not always been out to get him

  21. I disagree, Paul. If Harry had said this, Filch probably would have been incredibly humiliated. To most wizards, being a squib is worse than being a muggle born. To have a 12 year old offer to teach him, however well-intentioned, would have been like a slap to the face.

    Regarding the mud splattered robes after quidditch practice, I always thought that it was from occasionally falling off the broomstick or making a hard landing.

  22. I sorta figured the quaffle is affected by gravity more or less normally, unlike the bludgers or snitch. Maybe it can fly a bit? But anyway, if it is affected normally, then surely it would get dropped during practice and get muddy from the ground, then throwing it to each other gets everyone muddy.

  23. I agree with hphphp. I played soccer for years, and even if you weren’t running around on the muddy ground, just grabbing a muddy ball with your hands can get you pretty dang muddy. I also like the idea that it could be from drills. I can definitely see some physical training being required in Quidditch practice, even if they don’t necessarily show it in the books. Hard landings and falling off is also plausible, though I can’t see them falling off too often, unless they were really really tired toward the end.

    As for Filch, when I read this around the age of ten, I was very surprised Harry hadn’t figured it out that he couldn’t do magic myself. I distinctly remembered being like, “really, Harry? You just figured that out?” He just doesn’t seem magical at all, except for his connection to Mrs. Norris. I always assumed his hatred for the students was because he couldn’t do magic himself, and was forced to watch them grow up and become wizards, even before that was revealed to us. And I assume Dumbledore kept him on, both out of pity, and because of his openness to all people, magical or not. I believe he admired any man who was willing to put himself through taking care of a huge castle like Hogwarts without using any magic. Dumbledore’s the type of person to admire elbow-grease over a magical cleaning, saying something like it made it seem cleaner to him. Not to mention he knew Filch cared so much about the school, he could never put a man through being fired after putting so much of himself into his job.

  24. So many questions on the Hogwarts ghosts, an ghost in general:

    Firstly when did the Hogwarts ghosts get “appointed” as we know each dies at different time? The Grey Lady and the Baron died only a few years after Hogwarts was founded, but Nick is killed in 1492. Was there a different ghost of Gryffindor Tower up until then, or were the introduction of House ghosts a more recent addition to Hogwarts.

    Secondly, where do the other ghosts of Hogwarts come from, and what is their purpose? While we are only ever introduced to the four House ghosts and Peeves, when Harry enters the castle for the first time, before the sorting, “dozens” of ghosts burst through a wall. Are these others ghost permanent residences of Hogwarts, or do they only come for special occasions, like the start of term feast.

    Next is a question on how the hell Nick ever became the ghost of Gryffindor, or even a Gryffindor in the first place. A Gryffindor is meant to brave, but he says in his hypothetical ballad that he turned into a “gibbering wreck”. Also in the battle of Hogwarts, when Harry asks him who the Ravenclaw ghost is, Nick appears to be fleeing the castle, while half of his house wanted to stay and fight. Real brave Nicholas, real brave!.

    Finally, what is the actual process of becoming a ghost? I never understood whether you had a choice when you die, like Harry did (sort of), or whether there is magic that must be done to ensure your survival?

    Any help will be appreciated!

    On a side note, I love how everyone assumes the Baron is evil even because he is the Slytherin ghost. I know he does kill Helena Ravenclaw, but he does feel very remorseful, and punishes himself for eternity. He draws up comparisons of Snape in my mind, who bad qualities were also drawn out of jealous love.

  25. Lewis, I assume all of those ghosts in the first book stay at the castle. In HBP, Harry sees the group of ghosts at Dumbledore’s funeral joined together, shimmering and nearly invisible in the light of the sun. I’m not sure they have much of a purpose. They just walk where they’ve imprinted their souls, though in CoS we see that they can move across the country (possibly the world) if they want to. I think Moaning Myrtle is confined to the castle because of her restraining order.

    As for Nick being in Gryffindor, we’ve seen some other pretty cowardly characters in Gryffinor (Pettigrew). Lupin is kind of cowardly in his own way, as well, and Ron can be, too. As we know, the Sorting Hat takes choices into account. It’s possible that Nick, as some other Gryffindors, subconsciously wanted to be brave, or it saw that quality in them under the surface.

    I believe the process is much like Harry’s. Jo (I think in an interview) said that while Harry sees King’s Cross, other wizards would see other places in their “transition period” which alludes to the fact that other wizards go through the process. However, instead of getting Harry’s choice to go back as flesh and blood, they get the choice to go back and be a ghost, or move on to the next adventure. Though, I am slightly confused as to whether they merely choose to leave an imprint of themselves behind, and still get to move on, leaving that imprint in a sad state, or if their entire consciousness stays behind. Am I making sense?

  26. Ok, good point on the Nick in Gryffindor bit. One point still brings me doubt however.

    Harry got the choice to come back as flesh and bone, sure. If wizards get a choice when they die, then why aren’t there more wizards coming back from the dead? And for that matter why aren’t there muggle ghosts? I would expect that all people go to this transistion phase. No, I now believe that there is magic to be done to become a ghost.

    OH NO!!! I forgot about Myrtle, she was only a schoolgirl and wouldn’t have known about the magic required. Damn just blown my whole theory to shreds. :P

    But still, Harry was an exceptional case. Voldemorts blood was his blood, Lily’s protection and all. And I think while Harry was a Horcrux he couldn’t be killed by the Horcrux’s owner.

    But alas, thinking about King’s Cross at all drives me mental.

  27. Nick gets a letter from Sir what’shisface. I was wondering how he managed to send the letter. Ghosts don’t seem to be able to interact with anything other than their clothes so where did the parchment, quill and ink come from? Also Nick wears the ruff to keep his head on. Where did that come from? I assumed the clothes ghosts wear are the ones they died in but if the ruff is specifically to keep his head on then where did it come from?

  28. Amy, I’d like to think ghosts can swap clothes with other ghosts, so to speak. I know it’s an absurd theory, but perhaps another ghost saw Nick’s suffering with his wobbly head and decided to lend him his ghostly ruff.
    As for all the questions about choosing to become a ghost, I think those people that REALIZED they were dead and transitioning into the afterlife, or whatever, they fought the process and left a part of themselves behind. Those that were “ready to go on” just kind of went with the transition process and didn’t have a second thought about leaving their life behind.
    And who says there aren’t Muggle ghosts? We just see the wizard ghosts because the wizard ghosts haunt wizard locations.

  29. One thought on Nearly Headless Nick. He’s described as wearing a ruff and tights, which suggests an Elizabethan courtier. But we learn in this chapter that he was executed in 1492, a hundred years before the Elizabethan Age. Back then, the clothing styles would have been more late medieval (to put it into context, 1492 – alongside being the date of Columbus’ first voyage – was seven years after Richard III’s defeat at Bosworth; Nicholas survived the end of the Wars of the Roses by just a few years). Most likely this is another of Rowling’s slip-ups.

  30. The Headless Hunt rode ghost horses?! How the hell does a horse become a ghost?

    Thumbs up to Andrea for pointing out more cleverly-hidden hints and facts. Great detective work! :)

    Laurence Peguy’s artwork of Myrtle is so devastatingly accurate. I looked at it for more than a minute. :)

  31. I always wondered about Filches connection to Mrs Norris as is mentioned above. I wondered if squibs had certain connections to cats, purely because the only other squib that we meet in the books, Mrs Figg, also has a brilliant relationship with cats, to the point that she can send one out as a look out for Harry’s safety (she mentions stationing one under a car at the start of the 5th book, i think) which then reports back to her when Mundungus disapparates leading her to tale Harry and find him in the Alley with Dudley following the dementor attack. I dunno but it just always made me think.

  32. I always wondered about ghosts interacting with their environments, too. In addition to all the points made above, there’s the big question that no one seemed to bring up: How does Myrtle flood the bathrooms? I mean, how does she create water, if she’s essentially just a shadow?

  33. Let my preface this comment by saying that I am in no way a Quidditch officianado!
    In Something You May Not Have Noticed you commented on the players being muddy after practice. Well, I read that the quaffle is enchanted so that it falls slowly, but I’m thinking that it still falls, occasionally. If the quaffle falls the chasers have to land and they might have to scrabble in the mud after the quaffle, especially if they are trying to get to it first. I also read that bludgers “retain inertia, which make them unable to change speed or direction swiftly”. Durring practice there would only be two beaters, and it’s possible that if one of the bludgers is hit towards the ground and wasn’t stopped by the only other beater it would hit the ground causing the beater to go after it. I know that my theory may be far fetched and it does not explain why the keeper or seeker would be muddy, so maybe it has nothing to do with the balls, but a long standing tradition of quidditch players rolling in the mud after a good practice!

  34. In Book 3, James Potter and Sirius Black were described as frontrunners for the Weasly twins. Since Harry notices that Fred and George have a drawer to themselves, I wonder what his thoughts would be if he found his father’s name on a drawer in Filch’s office.

  35. I think that there will probably br more backstory on ghosts when the deathday chapter comes out on pottermore

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