The Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 8-9: Every time something good happens to me, you say it’s some kind of madness

Hey guys! I don’t have to introduce myself because we’ve already met. I get the honor of being the first repeat blogger because the algorithm in Ashley’s head hath deemed it so.

I have to say that this fabulous medicinal re-read, coupled with really hard classes I needed to escape from, has kicked off some sort of Harry Potter Madness for me (I believe that’s the technical term). I started reading and I’m now almost through Book 4, and that wasn’t enough to feed the madness, so I watched all the movies and even started making Harry Potter references in class. Good thing I go to school with a bunch of nerds. This week, my classmate told me she was walking through the basement of the school library in the middle of the night once and saw a bedroom. Later, she couldn’t find it again. I asked her if it only appeared to students who were particularly tired. Obviously, my school has a Room of Requirement, which is pretty bad ass.

Despite all the madness, my brain is making its way back to The Chamber of Secrets again. If I were an organized, forward-thinking person, I would have done each post as I went along, but then I wouldn’t be me. I’ve got my glass of wine and I’ve banished my cats from the room. Let’s do this thing.

CHAPTER 8: THE DEATHDAY PARTY

This chapter starts out with just a little tiny breadcrumb about what’s happening with Ginny and her pal, Tom Riddle. Apparently all my chapters start out with breadcrumbs. I’m just that awesome.

Ginny Weasley, who had been looking pale, was bullied into taking some [Pepperup Potion] by Percy. The steam pouring from under her vivid hair gave the impression that her whole head was on fire.

There have been a lot of hints along the way that something is UP with Ginny. The problem is that we don’t really know her yet. She is not yet the confident heartthrob who captures the hearts of all Gryffindor boys with her bat bogey hexes; she’s just Ron’s little sister. She never really says much and turns red and runs away whenever Harry is around. Since we see through Harry’s eyes, we can’t really tell that something’s up because he basically ignores her.

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Upon re-read, however, it seems so STINKING OBVIOUS that Ginny is the one opening the chamber, or at least that she is acting weird and her brothers are doing the thing that most people in the Potterverse do when someone tries to tell them something important; they are completely ignoring her and/or telling her she must be sick. These kids are always saving the world and stuff, but heaven forbid we actually listen to them when they speak.

Moving on, the rest of this chapter is spent with Harry getting in trouble with Filch and then going to the most depressing party ever. Harry tracks all kinds of mud in after Quidditch practice (Sigh, remember when Harry’s biggest day-to-day worries were winning at Quidditch and not losing too many points for Gryffindor in the battle for the House Cup?) and Filch is PISSED. All of this is a device so we can be introduced to the concept of Squibs, which I will cover in the next chapter. Harry discovers Filch’s Kwikspell course and Filch gets EVEN MORE PISSED. Peeves, however, breaks the vanishing cabinet (OMG, that will be SO IMPORTANT LATER) on Nearly Headless Nick’s suggestion and Harry gets away.

As a favor to Nick, whom he feels very sorry for given his rejection from the Headless Hunt, Harry agrees to go to his 500th deathday party. It becomes evident very quickly that ghosts throw the worst bashes ever complete with rotten food and stuck-up headless dudes. Harry has about this much fun:

giphy

It must be pretty bad to have to skip out on an awesome Halloween feast in an actual haunted castle to hang out with dismal ghosts and listen to their musical saws. This scene always amuses me because I picture Nick’s deathday party taking place in the part of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland where all the ghost holograms dance around. I was fascinated by that special effect when I was a kid. I thought it was real magic. Or real ghosts. I have always pictured it that way so I can’t shake the image, especially because they left it out of the movie.

Anyway, the headless hunt busts in and turns a boring, depressing party into an obnoxious one, and our heroes make their exit. Harry hears the terrible voice again talking about ripping, tearing, and killing people, which is extremely unpleasant, so of course he follows it. I’m pretty sure if I heard a voice saying it was going to do terrible things, I would be running in the opposite direction. He wouldn’t be Harry, however, if he wasn’t poking his nose where it didn’t belong! Also, these books wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

They find Mrs. Norris hanging there (so the Basilisk doesn’t actually rip, tear, or kill shit) with creepy words painted above her.

“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.

This is where I first realized that Draco wasn’t just some little boy who hated Harry and his friends and had appointed himself their bully and Enemy #1, but there was something seriously wrong with this kid. He was not being raised right, to put it mildly.

CHAPTER 9: THE WRITING ON THE WALL

All the lemmings think Harry is Slytherin’s heir. I mean, he’s the obvious choice, being in Gryffindor, of a partially muggle bloodline, and the chosen one who vanquished the dark lord. It’s totally him. Who else would it be? No one except Harry and the gang thinks “Hey, Draco said some really creepy shit when Mrs. Norris got petrified. Maybe it’s him.” Of course not. Poor Harry, he’s always alternating between adoration and disgust from the student body as a whole. After all, “fame’s a fickle friend!”

Filch thinks (correctly) that he is being targeted because he’s a Squib. This is where things get interesting prejudice-wise. Ron gets so mad about Hermione being called a Mudblood that he’s barfing up slugs for hours, but he ‘sniggers’ at the thought of Filch being a Squib. I think it would be pretty darn awful to be a Squib. I regret that I’m a muggle all the time so I can’t imagine what it might be like to be raised in a wizard household and not have any powers. The wizarding world doesn’t seem to know what to do with Squibs, either. They seem to either be shunted out into the muggle world or work in menial jobs at wizard institutions.

Dumbledore pronounces Mrs. Norris petrified while Lockhart flits around being supremely unhelpful and obnoxious, and McGonagall does one of my favorite things and shows what a big Gryffindor Quidditch fan she is:

“I personally feel he should be taken off the Gryffindor Quidditch team until he is ready to be honest.”

“Really, Severus,” said Professor McGonagall sharply, “I see no reason to stop the boy playing Quidditch. This cat wasn’t hit over the head with a broomstick.”

Tee hee.

Rowling drops more crumbs in this chapter, discussing how Ginny seemed so disturbed about Mrs. Norris and that she has been upset and crying. Note how most of Ginny’s interactions are explained via tell rather than show, particularly through other characters assuming alternative explanations for her behavior. I think this is intentional, so that we are not tipped off completely that there is something going on with her. It makes her a sort of background character and thoroughly ignorable, one’s eyes basically sliding over those passages. Maybe Rowling really is a witch. It would explain a lot.

They all go to History of Magic and actually talk to Professor Binns for what seems like the first time ever, gauging by his reaction. He explains the chamber and how only Slytherin’s heir can open it and that no one really knows what’s in it. I’m always disappointed that History of Magic is so boring, but I think Rowling makes it that way so she doesn’t take up a ton of book space with fascinating yet irrelevant lecture materials. Snippets from the various classes are always more amusing than anything else. Even after seven books, we still don’t really know how to transfigure anything. I assume there are some sort of incantations?

In the end, they hang out in Myrtle’s toilet and hatch a plan to brew up some polyjuice potion to out Malfoy as Slytherin’s heir (because the invisibility cloak is broken or something???) and Percy gets mad that they are hanging out in the girl’s bathroom and takes five points from Gryffindor (whaaat? he can do that???).

And that’s, literally, all she wrote!

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71 thoughts on “The Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 8-9: Every time something good happens to me, you say it’s some kind of madness

  1. Kevin O'Shea says:

    You know, you’re absolutely right about how frustrating it is that we don’t know anything about Transfiguration except for the end result. We know that they copy down magical formulae from the blackboard, so there’s some theory work in there, but then they get told to actually do it and all we see is them succeeding or failing.

    • Jen says:

      I have lots of questions about transfiguration. First: how? Is it some sort of complicated wand movement? An incantation? What exactly are they calculating? How humane is it to turn objects into animals or vice versa? When they’re done, does McGonagall set things back to their original state? If you turn a rat into a teacup are you killing the rat? If you turn a teacup into a rat, are you creating new life?

      The great thing about the Potterverse is any conceivable question can be answered with “magic”. It’s ok to turn teapots into tortoises because… magic. How do they do it? Magic. The end. Plus, transfiguration can be used for all sorts of jokes about failed attempts or silly, partially transformed creatures like a teapot-tortoise that still breathes steam or has a willow pattern on its shell.

      • Jennie says:

        This is something I’ve never considered before and now it’s all I can think about.

      • Ashley says:

        I should have read the comments before I commented. Your questions are nearly the same as mine!

      • notthatmattsmith says:

        I’m wondering if the argument isn’t also the nature of magic. It has this ability to anthropomorphize objects in a way that it’s fairly disturbing. So it’s definitely a source of life. But it’s also a source of pain and suffering, what with the myriad of curses out there that are used for harming others or creating things that harm others.

        Regardless, I agree that it is unsettling, and interesting too in that no one is having an argument about the nature of its effects.

  2. Gretchen Alice says:

    If you guys could go to ONE class at Hogwarts, which one would you pick?
    I would probably pick Charms. Or maybe potions. Wait, no, I’d have to go with Charms.

    • Dan says:

      I would be rubbish at Potions. I was never very good at chemistry. And Transfigurations looks too much like algebra. I’d have to go with Charms, too. And a small part of me would love to sit in on History of Magic.

    • Alyssa says:

      The science nerd in me says Astronomy, but since we can study Astronomy as Muggles (although, admittedly, not atop a castle tower), I’m going to go with Charms as well.

    • Jen says:

      Charms would be good and it seems incredibly useful. I would say Charms is probably the most common magic used by wizards in the real world. As you can see in my earlier comment, though, I’m kind of obsessed with Transfiguration. How is it done!? I would want to be an Animagus, and I assume you have to be damn good at Transfiguration for that.

      I also laughed when I first thought about this because Muggle Studies is the obvious choice for me. That’s kind of what I do in real life.

      • Gretchen Alice says:

        I wanna be an Animagus SO BAD, so I may need to change my answer to Transfiguration…

        • Jen says:

          What animal would you want to be? Wait, do we get to pick? It’s probably like patronuses right?

          • Dan says:

            It’s apparently determined by the wizard’s personality and character.

          • Jen says:

            It would be so embarrassing if you were an animagus slug or something.

          • Gretchen Alice says:

            I always had the impression that you don’t get to pick your patronus, but you do get to pick your animagus. My patronus would be a lioness, but I’d want my animagus to be a housecat. It’d be awesome AND practical. What about you?

          • Jen says:

            I’m a bit conflicted on this point. Wormtail was very ratlike and it seemed like James probably had a stag patronus and he was a stag animagus. I was wondering if they were both out of your control and based on your personality (or in the case of Snape, a life-long obsession).

            I was totally going to bring this up in my Book 3 post, so I’ve been thinking about it a bit. I think that, if I got to choose my animagus animal, I would choose something that could live in the ocean. Not that practical for everyday, but as a scuba diver, I think that would be amazing. I also feel very comfortable and peaceful in the water, so it might be my natural inclination as well.

            Speaking of which, when Krum partially transfigures himself into a shark in book 4, is that just advanced transfiguration? What’s the difference between the two (if he could have changed into a complete shark)? That a wand is needed? Time limit? So many questions again.

          • Dan says:

            Jen: From what I’ve read on the subject, the difference is wand use. Transfiguration requires a wand, an Animagus transforming does not.

            Also, your Patronus can change, as we’ve seen; I don’t think an Animagus can change what animal they turn into.

          • Jen says:

            Dan: good points – wand use was my thought as well. I’m also wondering if a self-transfiguration spell has a time limit given that it might be hard to utilize a wand if one has flippers or fins all of a sudden.

          • Kevin O'Shea says:

            Can I have a krogan patronus? It would headbutt the dementors and make them cry.

          • Jen says:

            It’s interesting that everyone has patronuses that are real animals. No one (that we know of) has a hippogriff or a dragon. A dragon patronus would be awesome.

          • Dan says:

            Dumbledore’s was a phoenix, wasn’t it?

          • Jen says:

            Aw damn, was it? And I thought I was being so observant.

          • Dan says:

            It’s heavily implied, if not stated outright, in Goblet of Fire.

            But, if it helps, I think he’s the only one with a fantastic beast as a Patronus.

          • Jen says:

            Well, it is Dumbledore. I can’t picture his patronus as something mundane. Oh, I’m the greatest wizard ever! My patronus is a squirrel!

          • Kevin O'Shea says:

            Hey, I’m a Marvel guy at heart. Squirrels are nothing to sneeze at.

          • Dan says:

            I was going to post an image of Squirrel Girl’s squirrels taking out Doom…but I was afraid it would have been too esoteric.

          • Kevin O'Shea says:

            NOTHING IS TOO ESOTERIC

          • Dan says:

            I want THAT on a t-shirt.

        • Jen says:

          My apologies to squirrels. Apparently they are secret badaases.

    • Kevin O'Shea says:

      Transfiguration, if only because of the epic throwdown in the Ministry in book 5. Dumbledore showed us all how badass Transfiguration can be.

      • Jen says:

        So true! That was some amazing transfiguration. If I wasn’t already sold on it, that might have sold me.

        • Kevin O'Shea says:

          There are so many ways to weaponize even the most basic abilities that only get touched upon in the books, and then Dumbledore goes and blows them all away with that scene.

          It’s one of the scenes that I really think they did justice in the movies, even though it was completely different. They got the spirit of two powerhouses counteracting each other. And while the final three movies got the spirit of a magical brawl and shoot-out absolutely wonderfully – because nobody’s going to stop and -duel- in the middle of a war – it really was this scene that blew me away visually as much as it did in the book.

    • Jennie says:

      Transfiguration! Or Charms. Maybe Potions? Any of them? Hee.

    • Ashley says:

      Ugh, why are you making me pick!? Charms probably. I would be hopeless at potions.

    • Prite says:

      To be perfectly honest, I think attending some Muggle Studies classes would be the absolute best thing in the world. I want to see the structure of the class, I want to know the curriculum. I desperately want to sit in on that and see us from a wizard perspective! And I kinda wanna know why it’s so woefully bad, apparently, what with all these Hogwarts grads who don’t know stuff. I can forgive them on the technology front – that all developed so quickly it was almost ~*~magical~*~ – but gosh, their social things are all crazy too, in spite of how their entire society’s continued status quo existence depends on their blending in.

      Okay, so, I want to sit in on a few grade levels of the Muggle Studies class, and then I want to teach it. That is my deepest desire. We can have dress-up/skit days (for learning social stuff) and jury rig some method of watching movies (for culture) and study art and literature and, and, oh my gosh! There are so many options! ❤

      • Jen says:

        I believe we were addressing some of those ideas about awareness of Muggle concerns in Kevin’s post, but my primary thought is that science applies to wizards too, even if they can work around it a bit with magic. Math too. It would probably be good to have a basic understanding.
        The same with Muggle laws and customs. Anytime they are out in the Muggle realm, they would be subject to them.

        • Jen says:

          In the comments section to that post, I mean. Can’t edit my comment on my phone!

        • Prite says:

          I suspect that you are right! It’s likely that math and science DO come up in their curriculum in some manner, but since we see it from an outside perspective through the lens of “what does Harry think is noteworthy enough to focus on?” or “what’s the most fantastical thing going on in this classroom scene?” we’d never know.

          I’d been reading a fanfiction called “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” because the thought of a main character trying to apply reason and logic (and science and math) to a world which doesn’t on the surface seem to care about operating on such principals was p. hilarious-sounding but also really conceptually interesting, but it’s certainly a beast quite removed from these original stories, as fanfiction is wont to be. I don’t really know that it dives too much into the social aspects of the wizarding world, but the fanfiction DOES (now and again) address something I’d been thinking about, which is why aren’t there any mentions of pop culture from like the muggleborn students who lived in the muggle world all that time? They don’t mention music or TV shows or literature… but then, they’re not the main characters or really close to those who are, so we wouldn’t know. And also I guess it’s not at all important to the telling of the story so there’s that too. I’ll bet a lot of muggleborns group together and bond over their mutual love of muggle stuff and have their own inside jokes about the wizarding world and are, in general, big cuties.

          I, um, meandered a lot there, and I’m sorry. It all made sense at the time I was typing, just… not so much now. But in conclusion it’s the social thing and the juxtaposition of muggle and wizarding world that I’m really really interested in, so lemme just say here that my point is “I want to be at Hogwarts so I can see/hear/know of all students and their homework too, and most of all I want to be in a Muggle Studies class.”

          • Jen says:

            Good comment! Sorry it took me ages to respond. What you are saying makes total sense. I think that maybe Rowling was trying to create this whole world out of time, and therefore references to time period specific popular culture may have ruined the illusion. Plus, I think she just wanted to create a world that was completely hers. As rational as we want to be about what that world might look like if it actually existed, she is saying ‘screw you guys! I want to do it my way!’ I love it and am frustrated by it simultaneously.

          • Prite says:

            It’s no problem, hahaha! And I have to admit – on the matter of being simultaneously frustrated by and totally in love with the material presented to us as readers, I mean – I agree completely. In fact, I’d wager that the gaps in the narrative are part of what make the world of Harry Potter such an engrossing one. They give us room to speculate. We fill them in with what makes sense to us given what we already know, and even if the details don’t match from person to person, on an individual level the process brings us so much closer to the very world we’re speculating about. Whether this was intentional or purely coincidental, it sure as sugar worked out for most of the parties involved, huh? 😀

  3. Dan says:

    As a general rule, I refrain from “Oh! I can’t believe they didn’t put ____ in the movie!” behavior. But, during this reread I did have a very honest moment of “Man, I can’t believe they never put Peeves in the movies.”

    “In the end, they hang out in Myrtle’s toilet..” is either an extremely odd phrase or one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Maybe both.

    • Jen says:

      I try to be that kind of person, but I sort of fail. I love books too much and I am always looking for the ways a movie messes things up. I think my husband should turn me into a drinking game when we are watching True Blood. Drink every time I say “in the books, they ___________”.

      The problem with changing a few things, eliminating those characters or subplots that might be considered unimportant at the time, is that you never know what Rowling is going to do. You could get to a later book/movie and really wish that you had included all that stuff about S.P.E.W. or Winky the house elf. I was always disappointed at the lack of Peeves. Writing around him seems a bit tricky at times.

      Regarding Myrtle’s toilet – it’s one of those phrases that sounds kind of wrong when an American says it so it’s way funnier than intended.

  4. kerrinify says:

    The goddamn Vanishing Cabinet, I never realised. Just give me a moment.

  5. Ashley says:

    1. The algorithm in my head wasn’t really an algorithm, per se, more like . . . yeah this looks good here. And here! And over there! Plus it’s not a strict order because people requested so many different moments and I wanted to oblige them.

    2. You wrote this post with wine? I’m so doing that with mine this weekend.

    3. Just think about it: if Harry had never tracked all that mud into the castle and Nick hadn’t taken it upon himself to help him out, Malfoy would never have found a way to get the Death Eaters into Hogwarts in book six. Mind boggling.

    4. This bit made me die: “All the lemmings think Harry is Slytherin’s heir. I mean, he’s the obvious choice, being in Gryffindor, of a partially muggle bloodline, and the chosen one who vanquished the dark lord. It’s totally him. Who else would it be?”

    5. I’ve always been upset about History of Magic, too! Like, that would be the most interesting class ever, especially for a Muggle. But I guess history’s only as interesting as the person who teaches it to you . . .

    6. Since you brought up transfiguration, I just want to take a moment to say how much it has always bothered me that wizards and witches turn tiny animals and bugs into cups and pincushions and such. Does that mean they’re killing them? Or is it still alive and aware and just immobile? Does McGonagall turn them back after lessons are over? And what are the implications for doing the opposite . . . can you turn a teacup into a mouse? Can magic create life? I MUST KNOW MORE.

    • Jen says:

      1. Shut up, I’m making you sound like the type of person who has algorithms in their head. Those people are badasses

      2. Wine made it so much easier, especially because I had been writing for school all day. It was one of those things where I was thinking “hey, I have to write more but at least this is really fun and I get to drink wine at the same time!” Plus, this group of bloggers is so awesome that sometimes it’s intimidating to write these posts. Drinking helps.

      3. Whoa. (read in Keanu’s voice)

      4. See #2. That’s the wine talking 🙂

      5. I love history. If Rowling were to put out some college level magical theory and history textbooks, I would definitely be all over those. Sounds like heaven.

      6. Excellent thoughts 😉 Great minds and all that…

    • Kevin O'Shea says:

      I disagree on point 3, actually. I’m trying to keep a relative pace with this project in my own personal re-read, but I don’t think Malfoy found out about the cabinet until the Weasley twins shoved Marcus Flint inside it, and I’m pretty sure they of all people already knew about it.

      I could be wrong, though.

      • Jen says:

        I’m wondering if that incident would have drawn so much attention if the cabinet hadn’t been broken, trapping him in an infinite loop of vanishing and reappearing. Before, would a person have just vanished and reappeared at Borgin and Burke’s? That’s seems like a bad thing to have lying around Hogwarts.

        • Kevin O'Shea says:

          I need to do some in-depth comparing, then. Which means more reading Harry Potter HOW WILL I DEAL WITH SUCH A THING oh wait

  6. […] in, that I absolutely loved the amount of discussion that was generated in the comments section of my last post. It outstripped the post itself by a long shot. You guys are FREAKING AMAZING. I’m still […]

  7. […] THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, CHAPTERS 8-9: Every time something good happens to me, you say it’s so… […]

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