The Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 1-2: Ickle Firsties No More

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out in the United States, I was 11 years old. I kid you not. I was an 11-year-old reading about this 11-year-old whose home life was way worse than mine, but whose school life was everything I wished my school life was like. I wanted nothing more than to trade in my Catholic school girl uniform for wizard robes. And while I never got my Hogwarts letter, living vicariously through Harry and his friends was a close second.

When Ashley told me about this idea for this project, I didn’t hesitate to jump on board. Surprisingly enough, this is only my third time reading this series, as much as I loved it and talked about it and referenced it. For a long time I was hesitant to re-read anything, because there are so many NEW books to read. Then I re-read Harry Potter a few years ago and my opinions on the matter have changed dramatically. And now to re-read it WITH people and write about it? Yes, please. I’ve loved reading the posts so far and re-living Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s first year at Hogwarts with everyone.

Now we get to go back to Hogwarts for a second year. That is, if we can survive another summer with the Dursleys.

CHAPTER ONE: THE WORST BIRTHDAY

When we first meet up with Harry again, it’s around the same time we joined him last summer. The weeks he’s spent with the Dursleys since returning from Hogwarts have been more or less the same as things had been before Hogwarts, except he’s still in the second bedroom and his school supplies are locked in the cupboard under the stairs instead of him. He also has the added leverage of being able to scare Dudley by pretending he is going to use magic on him, because these silly Muggles didn’t know he couldn’t use magic during the summer. It helped a little with his aunt and uncle, too, but only in that they ignored him entirely instead of bullying him.

Which is nice and all, but poor Harry is lonely. He went from being a respected Seeker, a Voldemort-stopper two times over, finally feeling like he earned the notoriety he already had, back to this dismal world where people treat him like he was worthless. He had made real friends for the first time ever, and finally had a home. Yet, he hasn’t heard from his friends all summer – not even Ron, who had promised to invite him over. He’s so devastated by this that he even lets Dudley get to him when he teases that he must not have any friends. Harry starts to think maybe he’s right.

When something seems too good to be true, it doesn’t take much for your faith in that thing to waver.

And especially at 12 years old, as Harry now is, because it is his birthday, despite no one mentioning it.

So when the Dursleys banish him to his room while the Dursleys have guests over, he doesn’t’ mind so much.

But when he gets to his room, there is someone waiting for him. A big-eared, big-eyed, pillowcase-clad someone.

That’s right, friends, Dobby the house-elf has arrived.

CHAPTER TWO: DOBBY’S WARNING

Let’s face it, little Dobby is a bit of a hot mess. Through no fault of his own, really. He was raised a house-elf. He was taught to be obedient. He was taught that he was nothing. And he was taught to beat himself up when he did something wrong – literally.

When he left his master’s house to visit Harry Potter, he was already going against his nature to be obedient. So when Harry asks him to sit down – mostly to calm him, mind you – Dobby loses his mind and starts weeping tears of joy.

Dobby has heard of your greatness, sir, but of your goodness, Dobby never knew.

It’s one of the main themes of the whole series, isn’t it? Greatness vs. goodness? Voldemort and Dumbledore are often spoken of as being on par as far as power goes. They are both great wizards. But Dumbledore has a goodness in him that Voldemort never possessed.

Harry, too, has that inherent goodness. And whether he inspired it in them or he surrounded himself with people who possessed such goodness (my guess, a little of both), his friends are good, too. Can you imagine if the Trio hadn’t found each other? If Harry had been weak and befriended Draco, the first fellow student he encountered? Or if Ron had started Hogwarts alone and gotten lost in his brothers’ shadows? Or Hermione had been forced to endure ridiculing with nothing but her books to comfort her? Any one of them could have snapped and gone to the Dark Side, just to stand out, to prove their greatness. Together, they’re finding ways to harness their greatness using their inherent tendencies toward goodness.

Now pardon me while I try to find Dark Hermione fanfic.

Anyway, Dobby also knows the distinction between greatness and goodness, and sees this goodness in Harry. I guess only Harry’s legends are chatted about at the house elf water cooler. (Because obviously they have secret nighttime meetings where they gossip about their masters to let off steam.)

Dobby then tries his darndest to convince Harry Potter not to go back to Hogwarts. In vain, obviously. After a summer with the Dursleys, Dobby could have said Voldemort was now headmaster and Snape taught all the classes and it wouldn’t have kept Harry away.

I remember when I first read this book, and Dobby admitted that he had been intercepting mail from Harry’s friends all summer, I was FURIOUS. In fact, since I was eleven, I was probably just as furious as Harry was. Friendship is something I valued (and still value) higher than anything short of family, so I considered this nearly unforgivable. I was, however, also overjoyed that his friends didn’t forget about him after all, and reading Harry realize this still warms my heart to this day.

Now, while all this is going on, a business dinner is going on downstairs, and Dobby is getting louder and louder as his desperation increases. When Harry still refuses to promise not to return to Hogwarts, Dobby’s last resort is to disrupt the dinner downstairs, with a little house elf magic.

This not only results in an enraged Dursley family, but also in the arrival of a letter reminding Harry not to use magic off school grounds. This immediately revokes the little leverage he had over them, and he is immediately locked away in his room.

And I don’t mean the way I was sent to my room for a few hours after “being flip” to my mother. I’m talking legitimate prisoner status. Actual child abuse. It seems to positively delight Uncle Vernon, and gives Harry a rare non-Voldy nightmare.

Fortunately, Harry doesn’t have to live like this very long. He is awoken from his nightmare – literally and figuratively – by a familiar face outside his second-story bedroom window – Ron Weasley is here to save the day.

I was looking for a gif of Ron outside the window and I found this and I COULDN’T NOT.

(Don’t get too excited that my post this time around is relatively short. Most of the first chapter was summarizing the first book – which, as Jennie mentioned in her post used to drive me CRAZY about the Babysitters Club books; don’t punish me for being a loyal reader! – but when I get to a more action-packed chapter, you better believe I’ll be towing the line of the word limit.)

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27 thoughts on “The Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 1-2: Ickle Firsties No More

  1. Kevin O'Shea says:

    When I first read Chamber of Secrets, I was fascinated by Dobby. I wanted to know all about house-elves and other sentient magical beings and how they interacted with wizarding society.

    There’s a little Hermione in all of us, I suppose.

  2. Dan says:

    John Rogers–co-creator of Leverage, a.k.a. The Greatest Show Ever Made–once said that the hardest part about writing the first episode of each season was finding a way to introduce the concepts and characters to new viewers without pissing off the existing ones.

    When I first read Chamber of Secrets, I didn’t care for Dobby. He was the Orko. The Snarf. The (shudder) Jar Jar. It really wasn’t until we met Kreacher, that I started to warm up to house-elves.

  3. Jennie says:

    OMG Hermione is Willow HOW HAVE I NEVER MADE THAT CONNECTION. I suppose that would make Harry Buffy and Ron Xander. I approve.

    Anyway! I, too, was fascinated by Dobby when I first read this, but I do remember getting just SO frustrated with all of his attempts to help. Which, I suppose, was the point.

    • Valerie Anne says:

      Two of my all-time favorite witches definitely have a lot in common.

      It was definitely a combination of WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS and I guess you’re trying to help but STILL. Plus I felt bad he was hurting himself. But I was still VERY unhappy at his actions. But you’re right, that’s exactly what Jo intended us to feel, it seems.

    • Ashley says:

      Let’s get real here. Dobby just isn’t very smart. There. I said it.

      (His heart’s in the right place, though.)

  4. kerrinify says:

    I remember that, when I first read Chamber of Secrets, I would get SO FRUSTRATED all the time because there was so much going wrong for them ALL THE DAMN TIME. Dobby and the letters and the pudding were just the beginning of this mess. I guess my peace-loving young self just couldn’t handle it, because when I re-read it, I loved it. CoS is considerably darker than the first book, and the way it still keeps the message of friendship and goodness is just so brilliant.

    • Ashley says:

      Yeah, the Chamber of Secrets itself seems pretty tame compared to stuff that happens in later books (which is a feat in itself, as that damn Basilisk is pretty terrifying). But I remember thinking the kid-equivalent of SHIT JUST GOT REAL when I read this book for the first time.

  5. kerrinify says:

    And I hope the walls around the house elf water cooler are padded…there must be a fair amount of head banging with the gossiping.

  6. Jen says:

    My problem is always that I empathize with Harry SO STRONGLY. I always have. In book five, for example, when many readers complained about Harry’s teenageriness, I was sitting there going OMIGOD! I AM SO MAD AT RON AND HERMIONE! Therefore, when Dobby first came on the scene and hid his mail and framed him for the levitation charm, I was really annoyed by him. How dare he try to keep Harry from going to Hogwarts! Doesn’t he know that if Harry doesn’t go, I don’t get to go? I definitely grew to like him over time, however, when he is more helpful and less stumblingly manipulative.

  7. Gretchen Alice says:

    That “snatchin’ yo nephew up” pic was priceless. I’m so glad you found that.

  8. Alyssa says:

    I also remember being really upset yet relieved when it was revealed that Dobby was the reason Harry hadn’t gotten any letters. Upset because how could Dobby do that?! But relieved because it meant his friends hadn’t forgotten him after all. And then he’s rescued by the Weasleys and gets to go to the Burrow and everything suddenly becomes more than okay!

  9. […] The Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 1-2: Ickle Firsties No More (nevillesremembrall.wordpress.com) […]

  10. Ashley M says:

    I really love Dobby, but I can’t help be mad at him in this chapter. He gets harry locked in his room, as it says above, prisoner status, and doesn’t stick around to offer support or anything.
    Another thing that bothers me in this chapter is when the Weasleys are trying to get harry out, Vernon tries so hard to keep him from going. I mean, you’d think he’d be happy to have him out of the house, but no, he’s deliberately trying to keep harry miserable by locking him up, not letting have his stuff, and starving him. It’s like on Harry’s birthdays in the earlier books, they don’t ignore it. They use it as a chance to make him miserable by giving him bad gifts. It makes me hate them so much!

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