At the beginning of Chapter 12 of Chamber of Secrets, entitled “The Polyjuice Potion,” Harry is taken to Dumbledore’s office. While he is waiting for the headmaster he has interactions with the Sorting Hat and Fawkes the Phoenix. I’d like to talk about how these interactions foreshadow the events that take place later in the book, down in the Chamber of Secrets.
When Harry spotted the Sorting Hat he couldn’t help but try it on again to make sure that he was put in the correct house. The conversation didn’t go quite how Harry would have liked it, he pulls that hat off feeling worse about his doubts of being sorted into Gryffindor. But, later in the Chamber of Secrets the Sorting Hat delivers the Sword of Gryffindor to Harry. ‘Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat, Harry,’ said Dumbledore simply (CS18). In the end, the Sorting Hat did give Harry proof that being sorted into Gryffindor was not a mistake.
Next, Harry spots Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet phoenix. It happens to be his burning day, and Harry witnesses Fawkes bursting into flames, then being reborn from the ashes. Dumbledore enters at this point and calms Harry’s fears giving Harry and us a little more information about phoenixes.
‘He’s really very handsome most of the time, wonderful red and gold plumage. Fascinating creature, phoenixes. They can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and they make highly faithful pets.’ (CS12).
All of this information will come into play down in the Chamber of Secrets. Harry showed immense loyalty and faith in Dumbledore, which is was what called Fawkes to his aide. Without Fawkes’ healing tears, Harry would have died down in the Chamber. And lastly, I’m sure Harry, Ron, Lockhart and Ginny would have eventually found a way back up to the school, but Fawkes’ being able to carry all four of these humans was much easier and quicker. (Side note: Fawkes’ plumage happens to be the colors of Gryffindor House. Another nod to Harry’s correct sorting, perhaps).
Each of these encounters have a lasting effect on Harry. Harry learns about his insecurities in this chapter of Chamber of Secrets. He let the fact that the Sorting Hat could see into his mind mean that the Sorting Hat could also know what kind of person he is. Harry now knows that it’s his own choices that make him the person he wants to be, no matter what someone else may see in him. He realizes that when the Sorting Hat couldn’t choose between Slytherin and Gryffindor, it was Harry’s choice, ‘not Slytherin’, that made the Hat’s decision. Years later, he would give this advice to Albus Severus, who on his way to his first term at Hogwarts had the same insecurities that his own father did at that age.
Then, Fawkes transformation is something Harry finds out he will have to mimic, metaphorically, in order to become what it takes to defeat Voldemort. Harry first meets Fawkes when he’s looking old and weak. Fawkes bursts into flame to become new, and then grows into a powerfully magical creature. All throughout Order of the Phoenix, Harry is an emotional, irrational teenager (to be fair, weren’t we all?). He has to go through the metaphorical fire of being called a liar, the death of his godfather, and finding out he has been kept in the dark about the prophecy regarding Voldemort and himself. This book is a turning point in Harry’s journey and he comes out of the fire of book 5 to start his growth over the next two books to become the hero that he needs to be.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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