Myrtle’s toilet floods, Harry finds Tom Riddle’s diary which he shows to a now fur-free Hermione, and they begin a search to discover who the owner was. Lockhart stages a Valentine’s party complete with dwarfs as cupids. That night Harry learns the secret of the diary, goes back in time, and discovers – or so he believes – that it was Hagrid who last opened the Chamber of Secrets.
Calendar and Dates
The action of this chapter begins just after Christmas, in the aftermath of the Polyjuice incident, and ends late on Valentine's Day.
Interesting facts and notes
Most of the events of this chapter take place on Valentine's Day (or on 13 June, 50 years ago, depending on one's point of view).
"Is Lockhart the smarmiest bloke you've ever met, or what?" Ron said to Harry as they left the dormitory and started up the stairs towards Gryffindor Tower.
We know that the entrance to Gryffindor Tower is on the seventh floor (what an American would call the eighth floor), so this tells us that the Hospital Wing's entrance is on a lower level than that of Gryffindor Tower. (This is a detail that CS/g got wrong; the game places Gryffindor Tower's entrance on the first floor above ground level - what an American would call the second floor - and the Hospital Wing's entrance several floors above that.)
Snape had given them so much homework, Harry thought he was likely to be in the sixth year before he finished it. Ron was just saying he wished he had asked Hermione how many rat tails you were supposed to add to a Hair-Raising Potion...
Consequently, we now know that making Hair-Raising Potions is on the second-year Potions curriculum, and that rat tails are one of the ingredients used in making the potion.
A small, thin book lay there. It had a shabby black cover and was as wet as everything else in the bathroom.
Tom Riddle's diary, in fact, is proof that one can't judge a book by its cover.
"Dangerous?" said Harry, laughing. "Come off it, how could it be dangerous?"
"You'd be surprised," said Ron, who was looking apprehensively at the book. "Some of the books the Ministry's confiscated - Dad's told me - there was one that burned your eyes out."
An enchanted book that looked like an ordinary book might very well fall under the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office's area of responsibility. A book that burns the reader's eyes out is a Dark Magic item no matter who it's intended for, of course, but consider the attitude of a wizarding person who would create such a thing - aimed not at any particular enemy, but just lying around waiting for a victim to pick it up.
"And everyone who read Sonnets of a Sorcerer spoke in limericks for the rest of their lives."
While sonnets and limericks are both types of poetry, they're rather different. A sonnet is a 14-line poem with a very specific rhyming structure, and often addresses a rather earnest topic: Shakespeare's love poems, for instance. A limerick, on the other hand, is a 5-line poem with its own specific rhyming structure (different from that of a sonnet), and is intended as a joke of sorts. An example might begin,
There once was a wizard named Harry
Whose childhood was not very merry
So someone reading the poetry book Sonnets of a Sorcerer ends up speaking in poetry forevermore, but not the same kind of poetry as that in which the book is written.
This is quite an interesting effect, upon consideration. How would something like that take effect? Would it start operating as soon as someone began reading the book, or would it take root only once the reader had absorbed enough of the book's written contents for the reader's mind to be affected?
"And some old witch in Bath had a book that you could never stop reading! You just had to wander around with your nose in it, trying to do everything one-handed."
This book, taken together with Sonnets of a Sorcerer, tell us that it is possible for spells to be bound into a book that will affect the reader's mind, creating compulsive behaviour.
I wonder if the Harry Potter novels have this spell on them? I can't seem to stop reading them ...
"Because Filch made me polish his shield about fifty times in detention," said Ron resentfully. "That was the one I burped slugs all over."
Ironic, that Filch compelled Ron to spend so much time burnishing an award to the person responsible for the later attack on Filch's own cat. If ever an award deserved to be covered in slugs and slime, it was that one.
"If you'd wiped slime off a name for an hour, you'd remember it, too."
Figuratively speaking, it would take rather more than an hour to cleanse the name of Tom Riddle from all the muck and slime it has accumulated over the years, of course.
"I wouldn't mind knowing how Riddle got an award for special services to Hogwarts, either."
"Could've been anything," said Ron. "Maybe he got thirty OWLs..."
Since twelve OWLs - the number that Percy got - was considered exceptionally good, it seems highly likely that Ron is exaggerating for comic effect here, and that it isn't possible to get as many as thirty.
"or saved a teacher from the giant squid."
Since the giant squid that lives in the lake comes up to be tickled and fed toast by the students on occasion, and has even been known to rescue students who have fallen into the lake, Ron is obviously joking in implying that anyone would ever need to be rescued from it.
"Maybe he murdered Myrtle, that would've done everyone a favour..."
And that, of course, was precisely what Riddle did, although he was given the award for supposedly catching the person responsible for the death.
"It might be invisible ink!" she whispered.
She tapped the diary three times and said, "Aparecium!"
Tapping the target three times with one's wand is also part of the spell that opens the secret passage through the statue of the hump-backed witch.
Undaunted, Hermione shoved her hand back into her bag and pulled out what appeared to be a bright red eraser.
"It's a Revealer, I got it in Diagon Alley," she said.
Something that looks like an eraser, but it makes invisible writing visible rather than wiping away writing that's already visible.
However, they did find Riddle's name on an old Medal for Magical Merit, and on a list of old Head Boys.
Since lists of Head Boys are kept in the trophy room (and, presumably, lists of Head Girls), Harry's parents should both be mentioned somewhere in there.
"He sounds like Percy," said Ron, wrinkling his nose in disgust.
Red herring, anyone?
"Prefect, Head Boy - probably top of every class."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," said Hermione, in a slightly hurt voice.
Here's a little food for thought. Think how dangerous Hermione might have become if she'd never made friends with Ron and Harry, but instead had spent her first five years at school the same way she spent the first eight weeks: burying herself in the study of magic, but without any emotional ties to anyone around her.
...Madam Pomfrey was pleased to report that the mandrakes were becoming moody and secretive, meaning that they were fast leaving childhood.
"The moment their acne clears up, they'll be ready for repotting again," Harry heard her telling Filch kindly one afternoon.
From this and from other remarks (CS14), it appears that the lifecycle of a mandrake resembles a speeded-up human lifecycle, complete with puberty. It's very jarring to imagine these human-like entities being chopped up.
Worse still, heart-shaped confetti was falling from the pale blue ceiling.
The ceiling's colour reflects the colour of the morning sky, of course, so that part isn't Lockhart's doing. The confetti spell sounds similar to the spells sometimes used at Christmastime to make warm, dry "snow" fall from the Great Hall ceiling.
Lockhart clapped his hands and through the doors to the Entrance Hall marched a dozen surly-looking dwarfs.
We know nothing else about dwarfs in the Harry Potter universe, apart from what we observe in this chapter. This doesn't seem to refer to human little people but to another humanoid race.
"They will be roving around the school today delivering your Valentines!"
If Lockhart had any consideration for how his actions affect other people, he would have arranged for the dwarfs to deliver their Valentines only at set breaks between classes, such as at mealtimes.
"Why not ask Professor Snape to show you how to whip up a Love Potion!"
Because it's against school rules (GF27), you twit (apart from the fact that even asking the question of Snape would be hazardous to one's health).
"And while you're at it, Professor Flitwick knows more about Entrancing Enchantments than any wizard I've ever met, the sly old dog!"
Lockhart has finally managed to offend all four Heads of House at this point, by embarrassing Flitwick in public.
Hot all over at the thought of being given a Valentine in front of a queue of first-years, which happened to include Ginny Weasley, Harry tried to escape.
Notice that all the suspects for the attacks turn up in this scene: Ginny, Draco Malfoy, and Percy.
"I've got a musical message to deliver to Harry Potter in person," he said, twanging his harp in a threatening sort of way.
Did the anonymous sender specify the time of delivery? If so, he or she could be reasonably sure that Ginny Weasley would be present. When these notes were originally written, we didn't know who actually sent the Valentine. Since then, Rowling has specifically stated that it was Ginny (TLC).
With a loud, ripping noise, his bag split in two. His books, wand, parchment and quill spilled onto the floor and his ink bottle smashed over the lot.
It's worth noting that the only other time we've seen something like this happen to a student in the corridors was when Harry cast a Diffindo spell on Cedric Diggory's bookbag to deliberately delay him on the way to Flitwick's class (GF20), which is where Harry is headed now, coincidentally.
"What's going on here?" came the cold, drawling voice of Draco Malfoy.
If a Diffindo spell was cast on Harry's bag to prevent him from escaping from the dwarf, Malfoy is a likely suspect.
"What's all this commotion?" said another familiar voice, as Percy Weasley arrived.
Not surprising that Harry tried to bolt at this point.
His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,
His hair is as dark as a blackboard.
I wish he was mine, he's really divine,
The hero who conquered the Dark Lord.
The only people in the books who ordinarily refer to Voldemort as "the Dark Lord" are Death Eaters, ex-Death Eaters, their close associates (such as Barty Crouch, senior, when he was out of his head), and Seers.
This was partly because he didn't think he could stand Fred and George singing, "His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad", one more time...
Hmm. The twins aren't mentioned as witnesses to the original incident, but they know all the words to the song by heart? Interesting... (Note: we're still trying to figure out who sent the Valentine at this point in fandom history! --SVA)
The pages of the diary began to blow as though caught in a high wind, stopping halfway through the month of June. Mouth hanging open, Harry saw that the little square for June the thirteenth seemed to have turned into a miniscule television screen.
So the confrontation between Riddle and Hagrid took place on 13 June, fifty years prior to the events of Chamber of Secrets.
This circular room with the sleeping portraits was Dumbledore's office - but it wasn't Dumbledore who was sitting behind the desk. A wizened, frail-looking wizard, bald except for a few wisps of white hair, was reading a letter by candlelight.
The portraits of past Headmasters and Headmistresses go with the office, and serve as advisors to the current head of the school. During Harry's fifth year, we will meet a portrait of Armando Dippet hanging in this same room.
Harry looked around the office. No Fawkes the phoenix; no whirring silver contraptions.
So Fawkes doesn't go with the Headmaster's job, and neither do all those mysterious gadgets the present-day Dumbledore keeps in his office.
"You are Muggle-born?"
"Half-blood, sir," said Riddle. "Muggle father, witch mother."
We will find out more about Riddle's father during Harry's next conversation with Riddle (CS17), and still more in (GF1) and (HBP10).
"My mother died just after I was born, sir. They told me at the orphanage she lived just long enough to name me: Tom after my father, Marvolo after my grandfather."
Unfortunately, we are not being told which of Riddle's grandfathers was named "Marvolo" at this point. We will only learn that information in (HBP10), about four years from now.
...a tall wizard with long, sweeping auburn hair and beard called to Riddle from the marble staircase.
That is, Dumbledore was a redhead as a young man.
His spell lit the corridor with a sudden flaming light. The door behind the large boy flew open with such force it knocked him into the wall opposite.
We're being shown that Riddle has rather strong magical ability.
When we've seen door opening spells cast by other characters, such as Harry on Privet Drive, about five months from now (PA2), the force with which the doors open seems to correlate with the force of the caster's emotions.
Incidentally, the effects of this spell don't normally include a flash of light.
Riddle raised his hand again, but he was too late.
Think about the circumstances that led to Hagrid's expulsion. Since Aragog got away, Riddle's entire case depended on his word against Hagrid's, but Hagrid got expelled on the strength of it. It basically boiled down to Riddle's reputation against Hagrid's. The wizarding world seems fraught with injustice. We see similar life-destroying penalties imposed on innocent people in the case of Sirius Black (and almost Harry Potter).
Exceptional character moments
Filch and Pomfrey, as Pomfrey reassures him that the mandrakes are coming along nicely and that he'll have Mrs. Norris back in no time.
Harry and Dudley, summarized in Harry's observation that Dudley saw to it that Harry never had friends before his admission to Hogwarts.
Harry, trying to laugh at the singing Valentine even though he's just been embarrassed in public.
Hagrid, who believed in Aragog's innocence and acted to protect him, despite the cost to himself.
Lockhart, who demonstrates his lack of consideration for his colleagues by encouraging the students to pester them with silly requests, while arranging for the dwarfs to interrupt their classes with Valentine deliveries all day long.
Riddle, framing Hagrid for what he himself had done.
"If I'd sprouted whiskers, I'd take a break from work," said Ron, tipping a stack of books onto Hermione's bedside table one evening.
Snape looked as though someone had just fed him a large beaker of Skele-Gro.
Snape was looking as though the first person to ask him for a Love Potion would be force-fed poison.