Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ch. 13-14: Won’t Someone Think of the Children (Seriously, no one here will)??

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This week, we discuss: Professor Creed’s ass; Wizarding World’s Most Beautiful People; Moaning Myrtle’s parents; the curse of a usual toilet; never trust a book; Ron Weasley is always right; invisible ink and powerful writing; Lockhart attempts cross-curricular instruction; what singing telegrams your Professors would choose for each other; demeaning roles for little people; classist pronunciation spelling; Harry and Ginny’s future anniversary rituals; Ginny wins the Worst First Year At Hogwarts trophy; all hail the masterful scene construction of JK Rowling; how to greet a talking book; Hogwarts conspiracy theories and insurance policies; goddammit sexy Voldemort; why the wizarding world fails at social safety nets; how we know Voldemort doesn’t give a damn about ideology; GIGANTIC FUCKING SPIDERS; scapegoats and the dangers of normalization; Hagrid and respect; why the best lies appeal to prejudice; Dumbledore TOTALLY knows about that pink umbrella; mansplaining college sophomore Percy Weasley; we need an Evil Neville Longbottom AU and we need it fucking NOW; seriously, does NO ONE write their parents?; can we all just accept that the South will not rise again?; OTTALINE GAMBOL IS INFINITE IN SCOPE AND EXISTENCE; and why this book has the pettiest — and therefore the best — plotline ever.

S: Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies! We are back with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which I am super excited about, because Chapter 13 is one of the best things about this book. And I realize that reflects badly on me as a person. But I’ve come to terms with it.

So – you ready?

C: My ass hurts.

S: I’m so sorry. You need to clarify why, though. Because leaving that hanging there, people are going to be like…um….

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C: Being the intrepid reporter that I am, I went and covered a double-header baseball game, and I sat on metal bleachers for five hours. And now my ass hurts. And we only won one of the two games.

S: I’m so sorry about your ass!

C: We won one game, and lost the second game, and it’s going to game three tomorrow. So we didn’t even get the stupid thing finished tonight. There’s one more game tomorrow.

S: Wow. Well, hopefully you’ll get to rest your ass a little before that happens.

C: That’s the plan.

S: Well, if you’re listening to this you may have heard that the Pottermore website has started an official Harry Potter book club, to which I have to say – that is awesome, and good for them. But I also have to add that I sincerely doubt that it will be as raunchy, irreverent, porny, or just altogether as bad as we are. So take that into consideration.

C: Nobody could be as porny as we are.

S: Except for porn.

C: Yeah, well.

S: Well, let’s get started!

Chapter 13: The Very Secret Diary

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“Seriously, KEEP OUT!! (This means you, Bellatrix!!!!)

S: Poor Hermione is still stuck in the hospital wing, half cat. For several weeks she has had to stay, and apparently it’s not common knowledge what happened and why she is there. As one of the few teachers with any kind of tact at this school, Madam Pomfrey has put curtains around her bed to keep her from becoming the stuff of gossip. Which – wow. There are adults here that do that?

C: It’s good of her.

S: Harry and Ron bring her the homework she keeps missing, which I’m sure she appreciates very much. Ron:

“If I had whiskers, I would not be working.”

That’s crazy talk. Hermione is always working, thank you very much.

And she’s in good spirits because she got a Get-Well card from a special someone. Although, it was nice of him to do this. Right? Again, we’re back to asking if Lockhart does things that are nice, or if they’re just in the service of his own ego. But, you know, it’s kind of nice for him to send Hermione a card wishing her a speedy recovery – even if ¾ of the card is him listing his “accomplishments.”

C: Five-time winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Beautiful Smile Award is the most impressive thing.

S: I’ll admit that. Is that kind of like People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Person?

C: Probably. Seems analogous.

S: When I was younger, I used to think the people in there were picked because there was actually some consideration about who was more beautiful. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized it was about who had a good publicist and who had a movie coming out soon.

C: Well, that is so cynical. How dare you.

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S: Well, yeah, I do that though. But Hermione isn’t cynical! She’s sleeping with her card under her pillow, because you know. She’s a fan. She’s saved by Madam Pomfrey kicking them out. Ron:

“Is Lockhart the smarmiest bloke you’ve ever met, or what?”

Ron, ten points to Gryffindor for correct use of the word ‘smarmy.’ I highly approve. Not of the smarminess, but the vocabulary.

C: He is smarmy.

S: Back to Gryffindor tower, they have so much homework. Ron said he wished he’d asked Hermione how many rat tails he had to add to a Hair-Raising potion. Well, I guess if you had to find something Hair-Raising, rat tails would be one of those things….

C: Ohhhhhhhh.

S: OH COME ON!

C: I don’t think that’s a pun, though!

S: It’s not, it’s a Slytherin sort of inline joke. It’s not a pun. FINE! I’ll find you a pun! You just wait! I don’t even know if there are any puns in this chapter!

There’s an outburst from the upstairs floor. Harry think’s it’s Filch  — who it is indeed, shouting about the final straw. In this case, the final straw is a flooded bathroom. This seems to be something Myrtle does periodically. Because – reasons? Sure.

C: Okay, I have a question. Say you’re Moaning Myrtle‘s parents. Your child has been murdered and is a ghost. What do you do? Do you go visit her? Is it too painful? Do you pretend she doesn’t exist? Does she go visit them? Why stay in the bathroom where she was murdered instead of going where her parents are?

S: That’s a good question. I know she wanted to come back and haunt Olive Hornsby for making fun of her glasses. But Olive Hornsby might be dead by now.

C: Moaning Myrtle hasn’t been a ghost that long.

S: Maybe Olive Hornsby is the Trolley Witch now. You never know.

C: Ottaline Gambol is my favorite character in this series.

S: It all goes back to Ottaline Gambol, and you will never know the truth.

C: Ottaline Gambol is the invisible hand that pulls all the strings.

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S: Amazing. That’s fantastic. Well, they go to see what’s up in the bathroom. They ignore the out of order sign. It seems Moaning Myrtle is having a meltdown. She’s crying about someone throwing things at her.

C: Think of how bad your life – or afterlife – is when you have a “usual toilet.”

S: Yeah. If that’s what you’ve got – “Oh, this is my usual toilet!” – I do feel the afterlife has not held up its end of the bargain.

Moaning Myrtle is very upset because she was hanging out in the U-bend when someone threw a book at her. Which, Harry being very literal, thinks, “Oh, well, it can’t hurt you, right? It’ll go right through you?” TOTALLY the wrong thing to say, Harry, because Moaning Myrtle is distraught, Harry, she is DISTRAUGHT. Do you not understand the gravity of this situation? She was thinking about death and it fell through the top of her head!

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They find the book, which was washed out when the toilet flooded. It’s a small, shabby book with a black cover, and it is as wet as everything else in the bathroom. And I would like to pause at this moment and say – can we all thank Ron for having the wherewithal to immediately think, “Maybe not a good idea to just go pick it up?”

C: Who would want to? It just came out of the toilet.

S: But no one uses those toilets. It’s just wet.

C: How thoroughly do you think those bowls have been scrubbed? How long since they were last scrubbed?

S: I don’t know… depends on which house-elf was assigned, I guess.

C: Mmm that’s true.

S: I feel like this is a sign of – first of all, it’s nice foreshadowing that Ron ‘s immediate reaction is, ‘Holy crap, this could be dangerous.’ And Harry immediately brushes that off. But Ron has grown up in the wizarding world, and he has also grown up with the Little Mermaid of the wizarding world, who constantly takes things and makes them do things they’re not supposed to, AND who works in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office. So Ron knows that sometimes this stuff is not safe. If someone threw a book away, it could just be a book – but of some of the books the Ministry has confiscated, his dad has told him, there was one that burned your eyes out –

“everyone who read Sonnets of a Sorcerer spoke in limericks for the rest of their lives” 

Honestly, I read that and stopped to ponder how that would be.

C: Think about if you were trying to seduce someone.

S: That wouldn’t go so well.

C: “There once was a girl from Nantucket…”

S: NO NO NO. Then there was a woman in Bath who had a book “you could never stop reading. You just had to wander around with your nose in it, trying to do everything one-handed.”

C: Again, imagine trying to seduce someone.

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Trust us, he will still find a way to try

S: That’s the worst. “Please, join me in my bedroom! I’ll be reading, but we’ll still have some fun.”

I don’t why I like this sentence:

“The little book lay on the floor, nondescript and soggy.”

Of course, Harry says, we won’t know unless we look. Which doesn’t negate Ron ‘s point AT ALL. “Oh, we won’t know if it burns our eyes out unless we pick it up and look!” All right, Harry Potter.

It’s a diary. A year on the cover shows that it is 50 years old, and inside the cover is a name: T.M. Riddle.

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Unless, of course, you’re the movie and you have no time for subtlety

Which Ron immediately recognizes, because he saw that name on an award for Special Services to the School from 50 years ago. And he remembers, because Filch made him polish it 50 times.

C: CONVENIENTLY.

S: But on the upside, he was burping slugs all over it. So give him that. But the book is blank. No writing on any pages. They can’t think why someone would flush it away.

There’s a ton of information in this little passage where they’re looking at the book. They see that it came from Vauxhall Road in London, so he must have been Muggle-born – he didn’t buy it in Diagon Alley. They pocket the book and move on.

Hermione is finally out of the hospital at the beginning of February. She comes back, and the first thing they do is show her the diary and tell how they found it. Hermione ‘s thought is that it might have hidden powers, but they haven’t found anything.

C: Ron’s line here is really funny.

“Could have been anything. Maybe he got thirty OWLs or saved a teacher from the giant squid. Maybe he murdered Myrtle! That would have done everyone a favor.”

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S: RIGHT? Again with this thing where the very first thing the person says is the truth, but you dismiss it immediately because it’s the first shot in the dark, outlandish, silly. Ron, immediately: “Maybe that’s dangerous.” Yeah, yeah, it is. Ron: “Maybe he killed Moaning Myrtle!” Yeah, yeah, he did. But let’s move on!

They’re trying to figure out why someone would throw it away, why the award would have been given, but Hermione clicks with the date. “We know that the last time the Chamber was opened was 50 years ago, we know he got an award 50 years ago, so what if this guy got his award for catching the Heir of Slytherin? Maybe this guy could tell us what we need to know about the CHAMBER OF SECRETS.” To which Ron is like, “That’s amazing! Except for the fact that there is nothing in this very blank book.”

Hermione: “NO! It could be invisible ink!” I flash back to me as a kid trying to write things in invisible ink with lemon juice and heat.

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C: Which never worked as well as they said it would.

S: It didn’t! All that happened was the edges of my paper would get burned in the oven. It was very depressing. Anyway, that doesn’t work. She has a Revealer, like a big eraser, but nope. Nothing there.

I still remember the first time I read this paragraph. This is, I guess, how you’re supposed to feel about it. This book is interesting, and I was interested in it – but then I got to this graph and I was fascinated. I was super drawn in, intrigued, hooked, because there’s just something about the way this nags at you – it’s so perfectly done.

Harry couldn’t explain, even to himself, why he didn’t just throw Riddle’s diary away. The fact was that, even though he knew the diary was blank, he kept absent-mindedly picking it up and turning the pages, as though it were a story he wanted to finish. And though Harry was sure he had never heard the name T.M. Riddle before, it still seemed to mean something to him. Almost as though Riddle was a friend he had had when he was very small and had half-forgotten. But this was absurd. He had never had friends before Hogwarts.

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It just tugs at him. Almost as if Riddle was a friend…. half-forgotten. It’s a thing of beauty.

C: Well, that’s almost true if you think of a friend as a mortal enemy.

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Which, of course, we do.

S: Very true. And it’s very clever of her to use the word “friend” there, to plant that suggestion now, so that as readers we go forward and we have that suggestion that Riddle could be a friend. It’s a positive feeling. So when we finally meet Riddle, we have that echo of “friend,” and we approach it more positively, with more trust.

Harry goes to check out the trophy, which is tucked away in a corner cabinet. I guess that’s something. We’ve talked before about the ethics of having this thing still around, if everyone knew who he was and what he’d done. So I guess the fact that it’s tucked away tells you no one really pays attention?

C: Or they don’t know that Tom Riddle is Voldemort.

S: Both, I guess.

C: At least until we get to Cursed Child, and then everybody knows everything.

S: Yes, because Harry wrote his tell-all book after he sat down with his best friend Rita Skeeter. They had a nice cozy chat, and we all buried our heads, cried, and waited for it to be over.

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But Tom Riddle seems like – he had an old Medal for Magical Merit, which is not a thing I knew we did. He was Head Boy.

Ron:

“Ugh, I bet he was like Percy.”

Hermione:

“You say that like it’s a bad thing!”

It’s getting a little sunnier. The attacks haven’t recurred since Justin, and the Mandrakes have become moody and secretive, signaling approaching adolescence. What secrets can Mandrakes have?

C: Whose pot they want to share?

S: I guess. Have they been getting into the gillyweed on the side? The moment their acne clears up they’ll be ready for repotting!

Everyone is calming for the most part, but Ernie Macmillan – ass – is still convinced it’s Harry and Peeves must just love Harry, because he seems to give Peeves more to do in 7 years than any other student. He’s making up song and dance routines about Harry and his guilt.

Meanwhile, of course, Lockhart thinks he’s responsible for having stopped the attacks, because of course he does. All he had to do was show up and smile, bat his sparkly eyes, and the monster knew what was good for it.

C: Of course it did.

S: Oh, god. He calls Professor McGonagall by her first name! You know that has to drive her crazy.

C: He totally has not earned being able to call her by her first name. Although to be fair, I’m sure neither did Draco Malfoy by Cursed Child, and that did not stop him.

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S: No. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Cursed Child is shit.

Well, he’s convinced it will all be okay.

“It was rather sensible of the monster to stop now before I came down hard on him. But you know what the school needs now is a morale booster!”

Okay. I hate to say this because it’s Lockhart. But I have to say, as annoying as Lockhart is – as annoying as it is that of course of all the holidays, he frickin loves Valentine’s Day – of course this is the one he goes mad over – this isn’t a terrible idea. He goes over the top, but it’s not a bad idea. They did stuff like this at our school.

C: That was embarrassing as well.

S: Yes, it was. Granted, there was no confetti falling from the ceiling. But kids really got into it! You remember all those singing telegrams, flower deliveries, candy grams, all that stuff?

C: I remember my deep secondhand embarrassment for people who got singing telegrams in class.

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To say nothing of the poor singing telegram singers…

S: I remember that too. But despite all that, people seemed to enjoy it. Or whatever. I guess. I don’t know.

C: What song would you send if you were sending me a singing telegram?

S: “Guys Do It All The Time” by Mindy Macready. Or “Love Shack.”

C: I would send you “Cry” by Faith Hill.

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Pretend that you’re feeling just a little more pain?

S: Augh! Of course you would. But no one could sing it as well as you do.

C: No, it’s true. I bring that special something to the performance.

S: Well, Lockhart‘s morale booster is a big Valentine’s Day thing. There’s heart-shaped confetti, he’s wearing pink robes to match the décor, McGonagall is twitching, Snape looks like he wants to kill someone. Forty-six people have sent Lockhart Valentine’s cards.

Hermione was ALL the forty-six. I think we can all agree on that?

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C: No, I think other girls have the hots for him too.

S: Maybe a couple of boys, you don’t know!

C: That as well!

S: It gets worse. He hired dwarfs to wear golden wings and carry harps to play Cupid – to roam around the school delivering Valentines.

C: He probably could have gotten house-elves to do it for free.

S: They probably would have been happier! And squeakier! But no. Grumpy, stubbly, need-to-shave dwarves that don’t want to do this. This honestly reminded me of being a nod to little people forced to play elves, silly characters, doing demeaning roles – do you know what I mean?

C: Yes, but I don’t think Ewoks count because they’re so adorable.

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Also, they are badass. I will fight whoever says different.

S: No, I don’t think Ewoks count. I’m thinking more the kind of stuff that Peter Dinklage has said that, after a certain point in his career, he was not going to do anymore – the kind of roles that are the only things little people are given. It made me think of that.

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Peter Dinklage does roles Peter Dinklage wants, motherfuckers

That aside – Lockhart is a complete douche. But he is encouraging cross-curricular instruction!

“Why not ask Professor Snape about love potions? Why not ask Professor Flitwick about Entrancing Enchantments?”

Granted, he’s being SO awful about it. He’s embarrassing everyone, putting them on the spot. He has no subtlety at all. But it’s not a bad idea – a day of thematic instruction. The teacher in me is trying to be fair, even though I know there’s no saving this because it’s Lockhart. I don’t know.

C: I want someone to send a singing telegram to Snape.

S: WHY DIDN’T THEY? Why didn’t Harry and Ron pitch in some money to send Snape a singing telegram from Peeves or Filch or something?? Would have been amazing. Snape, meanwhile, looks

“as though the first person to ask him about love potions would be force-fed poison.”

I would not put that past him.

Ron: “Please, Hermione, tell me you weren’t one of the forty-six.” Again Ron – Hermione was ALL the 46.

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The teachers are very annoyed and done with this. I thought of our conversation before when we talked about Hagrid having pronunciation spelling for his dialogue – we see it with the dwarfs here. “Oy! ‘Arry Potter!” This less-educated accent usage has a pattern.

C: Also the gnomes in the Weasley garden. “Gerroff me!”

S: Yeah, the gnomes. And the house-elves have non-standard English in sentence construction and grammar. Which again feels reflective of class structure – a servant who spoke well enough to not drop their haitches but didn’t have proper grammar education.

But Harry has a Valentine, and it’s come to hunt him down.

“I’ve got a musical message to deliver to ‘Arry Potter in person,’ he said, twanging his harp in a threatening sort of way.”

When you’re 12, a dwarf with a Valentine is a true threat to your life.

Harry can’t get away, though he tries. The writer in me has to effuse over how great the scene construction is in this scene. First of all, it’s fucking hilarious to picture a dwarf that has pinned Harry down by the ankles. Meanwhile Harry ‘s bag rips as he tries to get away, his stuff is all over the floor, smashing an ink bottle over everything, and Malfoy is here, and Percy is here, and everyone is standing around, and the dwarf says, “Nope!” Tackles Harry around the ankles, sits on him, because he is going to get his Valentine, dammit!

Do we think Ginny wrote the little song herself?

C: I would hope that she would be better at poetry than this, but I don’t think the dwarf wrote it.

S: She’s only 11.

C: What really is more attractive than someone with eyes as green as a fresh pickled toad?

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S: I can’t think of anything. Oh, Ginny. It’s cute and it’s embarrassing and poor Harry is like, dear God, get me out of here. People are literally crying laughing over this.

C: I feel like in the future, Harry and Ginny exchange cards with horrible homemade poetry on them every now and then.

S: Maybe so. I’d like to think they prank each other every so often in retaliation for things. I have friends who are married and every year on their anniversary they get each other a gift but then hide it and try to outsmart and trick the other person.

C: Put it in mini-storage!

S: That’s a possibility. So Percy is trying to usher everyone along, but Malfoy sees the diary, which has fallen out of the bag. Malfoy obviously does not know what this is. He thinks it’s Harry ‘s diary. Harry finally loses his temper, Expelliarmus’es the diary. Screw you, Malfoy. And Malfoy takes his irritation out on Ginny, yelling,

“I don’t think Potter liked your Valentine much!”

C: Poor Ginny! She’s having the worst first year at Hogwarts ever.

S: She really is. If anything would turn you off being at Hogwarts – this is so much worse.

C: EVEN WORSE THAN HER DICK OF A SON. And she learns to come back and love it, but nooo, not Albus. Loving something would be too good for Albus.

S: Did anyone stop to ask Ginny about having a terrible first year? “Mom, what was it like when in your first year you got possessed by the most evil wizard ever, were losing your mind, and everyone was making fun of you? What was that like? Because I’m having a tough time making friends!”

C: But she doesn’t count because Ginny is a Gryffindor and Albus is a Slytherin, so she doesn’t get it.

S: Also, Ginny is a girl and we don’t care about her opinions. She’s not sexy like the male characters.

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But I have to REALLY throw some love to this amazing scene construction.

You have comic relief in this scene: the hilarious image of the dwarf tackling Harry, pinning him down, and singing him a terrible Valentine’s song in front of everyone. It’s also a really good excuse to humiliate Ginny and use that to further explain her behavior. Harry not liking the Valentine and Malfoy making fun of her, she covers her face and runs, and later she will continue to act oddly. But by putting these little things in she’s already setting up lots of explanation for that.

But none of that is the real point of this scene. Even Malfoy seeing the diary doesn’t matter. There are two points to this scene.

1): So that Ginny will see that Harry has the diary when his bag tears. And Rowling handles that in ONE LINE buried in the confrontation between Harry and Malfoy. It says:

A hush fell over the onlookers. Ginny was staring from the diary to Harry, looking terrified.

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The face I always picture here

That’s point one.

2): The diary gets soaked in ink. It’s a throwaway line way at the beginning of the scene when his bag rips –

“His books, wand, parchment, and quill spilled onto the floor.”

His ink bottle smashes all over everything.

Those are the two things that have to happen in this scene for this to move forward. The rest is humor, characterization, scene dressing and distraction so that you won’t really pay attention to the two things that just happened until she wants you to.

That is a HELL OF A SCENE. She accomplishes so much. How? How do you do that much for your story and not even draw attention to the fact that you’re doing it?

C: Well, you have to be smooth.

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S: That is beautiful. The little things that happen in that scene are the point of the scene, so you bury them and have all this attention-grabbing stuff happening around it – but you know as the author that the whole reason that scene exists is because you need those two very small things to happen so the next thing will happen.

Also, I love that Harry Expelliarmused the diary, since that’s his signature move against all things Voldemort. So why not?

So we find out immediately after this scene that Harry is in Flitwick’s class when he discovers something odd about the diary – all his other books are drenched in ink, but the diary is not. It’s clean.

Harry tries to point this out to Ron, but somehow Ron made large purple bubbles blossom out of his wand so I’d be distracted too.

C: Yet another not great day for Ron Weasley.

S: His life really doesn’t get much better until he gets a new wand. So Harry goes to bed early, partly because Fred and George have been singing refrains of “His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,” because of course they have. Fred and George are simultaneously the best and worst siblings you could ever have.

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C: Okay, I have another question.

S: Ask.

C: Aren’t toads normally brown?

S: Yes, but this is a pickled toad. I don’t know, I’m making shit up.

C: It’s as good a reason as any.

S: The distraction is great.

C: I want a pickle. One of those gigantic dill pickles that everyone would get at the football games.

S: Yeah, that everyone would buy. Well, Harry is sitting on his bed, he takes the diary and flicks through the pages. He dips his quill in ink and drops a blot of ink on the first page of the diary just to see what happened.

The ink shone brightly on the paper for a second, and then, as though it was being sucked into the page, vanished.

C: I would be so pissed if this happened to me.

S: My ink! What a waste!

C: Exactly! I paid good money for that ink, and you’re just sucking it up and I can’t even write with it? Screw you, diary.

S: So Harry loads up his quill and writes, “My name is Harry Potter.”

C: I have another thing.

S: Okay, do it.

C: If you discovered a diary that sucked up your ink and talked back to you, what would be the first thing you would write to it?

S: “Not to offend you, book, but why the fuck are you talking to me?” I don’t know, what would you write?

C: Something to the effect of “Sup bitches? Give me back my ink before I jump into this diary and bust a cap up yo ass.”

S: “Rip out a page or two, see how you like that!”

C: “I’ve got a lighter over here and I’m dying to use it. Don’t push me.”

S: You just took it to a whole other level. Difference between Gryffindor and Ravenclaws, I guess? But no. In a response that literally gives me chills every time I read it, the book answers.

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Hello, Harry Potter. My name is Tom Riddle. How did you come by my diary?

For me, this is where the story really starts. It has a magnetic pull. Something about this – you realize you’re coming to a point in the story that is really important. Other stuff that has happened seemed important, but this is really important. At the time I wasn’t even sure why. I just remember thinking this matters, pay attention.

Harry explains to the book that he found it because someone tried to flush it down a toilet. Surprisingly, Tom Riddle doesn’t have any questions about that. “A toilet? Really?” Nothing.

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C: I would want to pursue that.

S: But no. Instead he uses this – already, he’s such an accomplished manipulator –

I always knew there were those who would not want this diary read. This diary holds memories of terrible things. Things that were covered up.

It’s a conspiracy!

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C: Well, that sounded super creepy.

S: Did it? I didn’t mean to!

C: Super creepy! Stop! That’s the worst!

S: I was just hissing at you! Maybe it was my Parseltongue coming out. Harry says: okay, I’m at Hogwarts. Do you know anything about the Chamber of Secrets?

Of course he does! He’s got a whole column to write about it. We find out that at the time Tom Riddle was at school, the Chamber of Secrets was opened in his 5th year and the monster attacked several students, finally killing one. He caught the person who had opened the chamber and that person was expelled, but the headmaster shushed the whole thing up and told Tom he couldn’t tell the truth. They said the girl died in a freak accident.

C: That’s actually kind of fair.

S: I really do think that’s fair. How can you account for something like that?

C: You can’t.

S: Does Hogwarts have insurance? If so, how do you go about writing a policy for that school?

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We are Wizards! Bum ba da dum bum bum bum bum!

C: I do have more questions about things but I won’t bring it up until we get to that point in the chapter.

S: Okay.

C: It has to do with…stuff.

S: Okay, well…Harry asks Tom who was behind it last time, because it’s happening again. Riddle:

You don’t have to take my word for it. I can show you if you like.

He takes Harry inside the diary.

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C: So how does this even work?

S: To me, it’s like a Pensieve but in a book. It seems to work the same way. It opens to the date, Harry goes to look closely at it, and before he knows what’s happened he tilts forward and falls into the book. Which is pretty much what happens with the Pensieve. At least, that’s what it seems like to me. It seems to work pretty much the same way.

Inside the book, he arrives at Dumbledore’s office where there is a wizard Harry has never seen before. Harry realizes – he starts to try talking – but he sees they can’t hear him. It’s like watching a recording, but they don’t see or hear him or interact with him at all.

This is Hogwarts 50 years ago, and the first thing we see of Tom Riddle – summoned by the headmaster about a letter he wrote asking if he can stay at Hogwarts over the summer, because he doesn’t want to go back to the orphanage.

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Also: Tom Riddle is smokin hot. How did we get through an entire episode and NOT bring this up?

We learn that he’s Half-Blood, he has a Muggle for a father, and a witch mother. Which tells us right there about the time frame of this. He’s 15. At this point he already knows the truth about his mother and father. Before, when he was younger, he thought it was the other way around – that his mother had to be the Muggle because if she was magic, she wouldn’t have died. So at this point he’s already found out the truth of that.

C: Here is the question I have: are there not any type of orphanages or anything in the wizarding world? Is there a reason where he has to go back to the Muggle world? It’s not like Harry’s situation, where Dumbledore sends him back because of something-something-blood-protection. It’s an orphanage, it’s not like he has anyone. And also, what the hell does the orphanage think? Do they think he goes and gets adopted for 10 months and then he gets returned for 2 months?

S: I don’t know. There really does seem to be no reason why he has to keep going back to the orphanage.

C: I get why he couldn’t necessarily stay at Hogwarts, but to think that there’s not some kind of social service or something in the wizarding world that could help him out is odd.

S: I know what you mean. Which raises more questions about the wizarding world’s essentially aristocratic nature. They don’t seem to have much of a social program structure – if you don’t have a family you’re SOL.

C: Well, too, not long before the time of Voldemort you have Grindelwald who presumably killed a whole hell of a lot of people and left broken families, or no families.

S: So then why is there not more of a structure for this kind of thing?

I feel like you’ve illustrated another thing that’s a big gaping hole in the world. If you don’t already have a family, support, money, a social situation, well, then, good luck to you, because there’s not much there to help you.

C: Sounds so much like modern-day America!

S: It’s your fault that you were born and made bad choices so that you ended up with no parents, a pre-existing condition, and no money. If you hadn’t made those bad decisions in utero this wouldn’t have happened, but you have to be responsible now.

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Tom Marvolo Riddle. We find out his full name. Headmaster Dippet: “We might have been able to make special arrangements, but given the circumstances, all these attacks, I couldn’t let you stay, particularly in light of the recent tragedy.” At this point then Moaning Myrtle has already died.

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Dippet: “You’ll be safer at the orphanage. In fact, the Ministry is talking about closing the school, and we don’t know what’s causing this.”

I feel like this moment is so key to who Voldemort actually is. His immediate response is: “If it all stopped –“ Dippet: “Do you know something?” Tom: “No, no, of course, I don’t know anything, I was totally asking theoretically.”

So Tom Riddle doesn’t stop attacking people because he’s close to getting caught, or because he changes his mind, or because there’s danger. He stops using the Chamber of Secrets and the basilisk for a purely selfish reason – he does not want to go back to the orphanage. He does not want Hogwarts to be closed.

I feel like this really shows you how committed he is to his ideology – he’s not.

This is a really early example of how quickly he will drop his ideology if it means he personally loses something. He’s on the verge of destroying Hogwarts, really, by his actions. But the idea that the school might close, or that he might have to leave? He’s willing to give up immediately to keep that from happening.

It’s so selfish, and it shows you that Tom Riddle was only ever interested in what he wanted. Yeah, he got into the pureblood ideology and let’s kill Muggle-borns, but did he ever truly care about it? Not as much as he cared about his own desires and preferences.

C: You know, like all good – gosh, what do we even call them – cult leaders? Leaders of the free world?

S: They go hand in hand sometimes. You’re right – the ideology is a tool, but it doesn’t really mean anything to them.

C: Totalitarian regimes, that’s what I was thinking of.

S: Yeah, or the free world. NATO is obsolete – but not anymore because I changed my mind. It’s useful because it helps you control other people, and it makes you seem to believe in something, and lets you be better than others, but the moment it inconveniences you, eh, fuck it.

This has got to mean a lot to Tom Riddle. The fact that the diary becomes his first Horcrux shows you that. It must feel like his birthright – he’s the only one to open the Chamber of Secrets, he is the heir of Salazar Slytherin, he is doing what Slytherin wanted to do. That’s got to feel incredibly validating and empowering for him. It feeds into his ego. And the fact that he’s willing to stop all of that because he doesn’t want Hogwarts to close, and he doesn’t want to go to the orphanage –

C: He has more Dark Magic to learn! He’s got to get Moste Potente Potions and some other good books.

S: It’s fascinating. So he leaves Dippet’s study. Harry follows Tom Riddle, who appears to be doing serious thinking.

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They go out into the entrance hall, where there is a tall wizard with sweeping auburn hair and a beard. Jude Law better be a redhead! If we don’t get the auburn hair and beard I shall be very disappointed.

It’s 50-years-ago Dumbledore, who is giving Tom Riddle a look.

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COME ON WOULDN’T YOU?

Dumbledore is very down, and it seems like all of this is weighing heavily on him and the school. Tom Riddle waits until he’s gone, and then goes down to the Potions dungeon, where they wait, half hidden, watching the passage.

And then they hear someone in the passage. Riddle follow him. And it’s someone with incredibly familiar pronunciation spelling!

It’s Hagrid. Who is crouching in front of a very large box. Anyone else find it interesting that he doesn’t call him Hagrid – he calls him Rubeus, and Hagrid calls him Tom?

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C: I had never thought about that, but yeah, it’s interesting.

S: It struck me as odd this time. Don’t really know that it means anything, but. Tom Riddle: “I have to do this. Monsters don’t make good pets. I don’t think you meant it to kill anyone.” Hagrid: “It didn’t kill anyone!” Tom Riddle: “Sorry, stand aside.”

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He aims a spell at the large box behind him, out of which comes the most horrible thing:

A vast, low-slung, hairy body, a tangle of black legs, a gleam of many eyes, and sharp pincers.

A GIGANTIC FUCKING SPIDER IN OTHER WORDS.

C: HARD pass.

S: Thank you, but no. I will move on. So they’re chasing the Gigantic Fucking Spider, Hagrid goes after it but Riddle jumps on him, takes his wand, throws him down, and then Harry crashes back into his dorm.

C: Don’t you wish Hagrid had accidentally suffocated Tom Riddle to death?

S: Yeah. Although he never would have gotten out of Azkaban then.

C: True. However, one life for many. We could sacrifice Hagrid.

S: Yeah. So this memory. I think we’re meant to understand that this did happen, although at a certain point you have to wonder if this is what happened or if it’s merely a version of what happened. Let’s assume it’s exactly what happened. It still works out perfectly fine without revealing that Tom had a useful bit of information that he used to set someone else up to take the fall, and it worked out perfectly because Hagrid happens to have a penchant for GIGANTIC FUCKING SPIDERS.

But Harry doesn’t know any of that. So he sits up, sweating and shaking, and in comes Ron. Harry:

“It was Hagrid, Ron. Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago.”

Chapter 14: Cornelius Fudge

C: This is where things really start getting interesting to me in terms of the politics of the wizarding world, and how things play out in later books.

S: Agreed. This is where things start to get complicated and you realize, not only is there a whole other story, but there’s more adult involvement. There’s this whole backstory. This chapter really starts to signal that – there’s this whole history you know nothing about.

It makes a real difference. Harry is struggling with what Tom Riddle showed him. He’s not having a problem believing that Hagrid kept a Gigantic Fucking Spider.

C: Gee, I wonder why.

S: Does ANYONE have a problem with that? But he does have a problem thinking that Hagrid could be responsible for killing someone.

“He half wished he hadn’t found out how to work Riddle’s diary,”

partly because Ron and Hermione keep making him tell it over and over again.

Hermione is trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, that Riddle might have got the wrong person and maybe it was some other monster that was attacking everyone. Leading to one of my favorite Ron lines:

How many monsters do you think this place can hold?

C: That’s very Jane Bennet of Hermione.

S: “Maybe it’s all been a dreadful mistake!” Well, sort of yes, sort of no. This is a very Wickham move on Riddle’s part, though. I’m the nice guy who is just an upstanding citizen, while this guy over here is terrible, poor me, I didn’t want to do something about it but I had to, and I’m going to rely on your inherent prejudices to make you totally buy it.

C: I wonder if anyone asked him, “How did you find this out, Tom? Did you know about this for a while and not say anything?”

S: Yeah, I’m wondering if it was one of those things where it was, “Well, he came forward and told us what he knew, no questions asked, we’re just glad it’s over.”

C: What I want to know is – obviously, we know Dumbledore never thought for a second that it was Hagrid, and he was suspicious of Tom Riddle going back longer. But Professor Dippet: was he suspicious? Or just relieved to have a scapegoat?

S: It’s hard to know. We don’t’ have much information about it. I get the sense that Dippet was just relieved to have an answer. And this is where it gets hairy, because having a scapegoat is one way to end this situation, and that would be a relief to anyone. And as we have seen recently, people when under stress will go to any lengths to return to normalcy, even if they are inventing that normalcy in their own heads.

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Looking at you, Van Jones

So for someone like Dippet, maybe just that it stopped and everything was operations as usual was enough. And the fact that it’s Hagrid – well, it’s regrettable, but look who it is. You know those giants, they’re just more violent than you and me. Probably more likely to end up in jail. It’s part of their culture and how they’re brought up. Their bad life choices, being born giants.

C: Yeah, if only they lived better lives they would never need to go to Madam Pomfrey’s or St. Mungo’s.

S: Exactly. There are so many echoes of prejudice in this situation that Tom Riddle fully exploits, because he understands exactly how people will – and do – react to Hagrid in this situation. And it’s believable, because Hagrid did admittedly have a monster in a box. But we know enough about Hagrid to know that even though he has a tendency to collect dangerous creatures, he usually can handle them to a point. You don’t want to get too close, but he does seem to have an affinity with them. They’re dangerous, but I guess it depends on how much you trust Hagrid.

C: It’s interesting. For example, Norbert in the last book – it didn’t take them long to convince him that he had to let Norbert go. He didn’t want to but he came to his senses and let Norbert go with Charlie’s friends. Everything else we see of him with magical creatures – the centaurs respect him when everybody else has to stay away, the spiders respect him when everyone else has to stay away, Buckbeak the Hippogriff – he can handle him, and if people aren’t fucking around like Malfoy was, he can teach people to handle them. I think the hippogriff trusts Hagrid and the people he brings.

S: You make an interesting point that a lot of the creatures Hagrid is drawn to rely on respect. He respects them and he’s able to deal with them. Even the thestrals, who are considered dangerous, he handles well. I’d say the only exception to that rule are those damn Blast-Ended Skrewts, because they’re some weird hybrid monstrosity.

That tells you a lot about Hagrid too as a person, and we see strong echoes of that in Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts – someone who respects and appreciates these creatures when no one else does, and doesn’t immediately assume authority and superiority over them. For someone like Hagrid, I don’t know if that’s partly because he’s not a member of the ruling class and never has been, so maybe he doesn’t go through life normally assuming superiority over things the way someone like, say, the Malfoys would.

C: I could see him feeling like an outcast, knowing he’s different, and because of that turning to these creatures that can sense his kindness and interest and respect, and who will be good to him because he’s good to them.

S: Both Newt and Hagrid have struggled with others judging them. Newt does not play well with others, and they are both drawn to animals because they don’t judge you. They respect you if you respect them, and if you can gain their trust you gain so much. So interesting parallels.

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But Tom Riddle knows what he’s doing, and that’s the scary thing, that he is able to so quickly – to me it feels like he thinks quickly when he realizes Harry has the diary, he knows immediately what to show him. I don’t know how long he’s been thinking about this, or if it this is a quick decision. And what he selected is an extremely well done – literarily and in the story – introduction to Riddle. He hits serious parallels with Harry, making us and Harry sympathetic to him. In terms of the story it creates great misdirection because we know Hagrid was expelled, and that raises questions in our heads and Harry’s. It’s well done. If you’re going to tell a lie, the best one is one they’ll be likely to believe AND which allows them to indulge in a prejudice they already had. People love those. I can’t think of any examples, because it never happens in real life, but people love lies that give them excuses to be prejudiced.

That’s not Harry‘s situation, because he is deeply troubled. What bothers him is the parallel between himself and Tom Riddle, which makes him worry about what he would have done in a similar situation.

Clearly it worked on everyone else –

C: Except Dumbledore.

S: Who already had a pretty good reason to suspect Tom Riddle is trouble. So we also now can infer why Hagrid is so loyal to Dumbledore – because Dumbledore stood up for him. Hagrid got expelled, and Dumbledore got him a job after the fact. You can understand where that loyalty comes from.

C: Do we know what happened to Hagrid immediately after he was expelled? Did he start living and working as game keeper right away? Did he have some lost years before Dumbledore took him in?

S: That’s a good question. Let’s see if the Harry wiki knows, since they seem to know everything. It says he was allowed to move onto and live on school grounds at the request of Dumbledore. Expelled, wand destroyed…

The then-Transfiguration teacher Albus Dumbledore, who was convinced that Hagrid was innocent, nonetheless convinced then-Headmaster, Armando Dippet, to give Hagrid the job of Gamekeeper and allow him to remain a resident of the school. Hagrid continued to do magic using his pink umbrella, which most likely contained the broken fragments of his wand, or perhaps even his entire wand intact, reconstructed for him by Dumbledore using the Elder Wand.[16]

C: That’s an interesting theory.

S: I like it. Seems totally in character.

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C: Dumbledore knows he’s innocent, and then a few years later you have the rise of Voldemort and a bunch of Dark Wizards running around. Can you really let someone you know to be innocent not have a way to at least try to protect themselves from that?

S: Yeah. And to think Dumbledore doesn’t know about the pink umbrella is crazy. Hagrid’s wand was snapped in half. We know from Harry ‘s experience later that broken halves don’t really work, so clearly SOMEONE helped him put it back together in a form that worked.

C: That’s my new headcanon.

S: And it fits well with what we know of Dumbledore.

C: Dumbledore is a great man.

S: Well, the kids are distraught. It fits logically – we know Hagrid was expelled, the attacks must have stopped after that because otherwise Tom Riddle wouldn’t have gotten his award. Of course Ron is inclined to dislike this Tom Riddle because he sounds like Percy. “Who asked him to tell, anyway?”

Hermione: “Someone had died!” Harry: “Tom Riddle was going to have to go back to an orphanage. I don’t blame him for wanting to stay.”

Hermione finally asks the hard question: “Do you think we should go ask Hagrid about it?”

“That’d be a cheerful visit,” said Ron. “Hello Hagrid! Tell us, have you been setting anything mad and hairy loose about the castle lately?”

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C: I love the way Ron says that in the movie.

S: They decide not to say anything unless there’s another attack, and as more time goes by they think maybe they won’t have to. It’s been 4 months since Justin was petrified, everyone seems to think that it’s over, Peeves has even stopped singing, Ernie Macmillan is speaking to Harry again…

C: Oh, joy!

S: And party in Greenhouse 3! Mandrakes getting’ it on. The moment they start trying to move into each other’s pots we know they’re fully mature, and we’re getting close.

Now, fun over Easter holidays – second years have to choose their classes for next year.

C: I love this scene.

S: Talk about this scene.

C: I just think it’s hilarious.

S: Why?

C: Let me find the line:

“Hermione took no one’s advice, but signed up for everything.”

S: And a nice little dig if you’re paying attention, for Book 3. Poor Neville has everyone telling him what to do. Dean Thomas has no clue what to do, so he’s jabbing his wand at the list and picking what it lands on. They can’t give up old subjects, they just have to add new ones. Percy is of course full of advice. “People say Muggle Studies is a soft option.” Is it like Anthropology?

C: What would that be like? Taking Gender Studies vs. hard math or science? People look down on it?

S: That seems about right! Harry doesn’t feel like he’s good at much other than Quidditch, and so he chooses what Ron chooses. And THAT is what Harry is good with – he chooses based on his friends. He may not be the most academic, but he is extremely loyal and caring, and so he plays to his strength.

C: Can we just talk a minute about the fact that Percy is recommending Divination? Which is the worst advice.

S: Has he even taken Divination?

“It’s never too early to think about the future, so I’d recommend Divination.”

C: WHY? It barely ever works and you have to be, from what I remember, a real Seer and those are very rare, and even when you have one their visions are rarer than the Seers themselves. Random people taking Divination does fuck-all. You’re not going to learn to see the future.

S: The only thing I can think is that Percy is that guy, who recommends all these books to you but has not read them himself. “Oh yeah, Catcher in the Rye, amazing novel.”

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C: It’s actually terrible, in my opinion.

S: “Have you read it?” “Well, no, but I know it’s amazing.” I bet Percy has never set foot in Divination. He’s just talking about how great it is because it might be important – although he himself never took it.

Quidditch is back! So Harry goes upstairs after another practice to find – uh-oh. His entire dorm has been ransacked. Bedclothes off the bed, drawer turned out, and the thing they were seeking is gone – the diary is missing.

I would just like to say that in an alternate universe, Evil Neville Longbottom is playing all you for fools, is not nearly as dumb as he seems, faked ransacking the dormitory and stole the diary himself. Because why not?

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PLEASE LET ME JOIN THE DARK SIDE

Only a Gryffindor could have done it, because no one else knows the password.

Then the scene immediately changes to Quidditch conditions. They’re about to have a great game. Harry is still trying to figure out who stole the diary, but he can’t report it because then he’d have some splainin to do.

And then we’re back with the kinky wall voices!

C: And then we’re back with Hermione ‘s genius, except for the fact that she doesn’t tell them anything before she runs off, which almost ruins everything.

S: Because she has to check it in a book, because it’s not true unless a book confirms it. But at least finally Hermione seems to understand what is happening here. Good girl! And again we have one of the more amazing lines in the book.

“Because that’s what Hermione does,” Ron said with a shrug. “When in doubt, go to the library.”

C: Which is brilliant.

S: And true!

C: I want to get a shirt that says that. Maybe a tattoo.

S: If for no other reason than to enjoy the smell of old books! You need that shirt.

C: I do.

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S: They’re headed down to the Quidditch pitch to play Hufflepuff, and they’re just about to start the game when Professor McGonagall shows up with a huge purple megaphone. OH! So you DO have a way to communicate with players during the game! AMAZING! What is this technology you speak of?

Professor McGonagall is canceling the Quidditch game. Oliver Wood is devastated.

C: “But Professor! The Cup!”

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“Can it, Wood!”

S: Everyone needs to get their asses back to the castle right now, except you, Potter, and maybe you too, Weasley. Professor McGonagall leads them to the infirmary and warns them it might be a bit of a shock. It’s pretty bad when Professor McGonagall is warning you about what your reaction might be.

C: Yeah.

S: There are 2 people in the hospital wing – a sixth year girl with long, curly hair whom Harry recognizes as the Ravenclaw they asked for directions to the Slytherin common room COUGH*PENELOPE CLEARWATER*COUGH and Hermione. And she has an odd thing with her – a small, circular mirror was on the floor next to her, and the boys have no idea why it was there. Again with the mirrors!

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C: We are now at the point where the questions I have been dying to raise can be raised.

S: Raise them!

C: At this point we’ve got Justin, HG, Penelope, and Colin who are all petrified, right?

S: Right.

C: Where the fuck are these people’s parents?

S: Is Hogwarts even notifying parents? I don’t think they are. I think they’re sitting on this and thinking, ‘Hey, it’s okay, they’re Petrified, not dead, so it’ll all be good.’

C: Do none of these children communicate with their parents throughout the year? At all?

S: Surely they must.

C: So either Hogwarts has told them, or the school is falsifying letters. Think about it. If you or me were in an accident at school, they’d be there or at the hospital as soon as humanly possible. And I know you can’t Apparate on Hogwarts grounds, but you can get pretty darn close. Where are these people’s parents?

S: I 100 percent agree with you. And I’m surprised there aren’t’ parents marching up to the school demanding to see their children, or just concerned in general. It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

C: I think we touched on this a few chapters ago – Moaning Myrtle. Did her parents know what happened to her? I assume they just thought she got killed by a giant spider? I don’t know.

S: There was a monster roaming loose, your daughter was killed, we’re not sure how…she just died…and you’d think there’d be bite marks, but we’re not going to think too carefully about this…

C: And then she haunts Hogwarts for eternity and they never come visit her ghost?

S: There’s a serious lack of parenting. I get the feeling Hermione ‘s parents would be upset to know this.

C: Especially as Muggles they’d be so out of their depth.

S: Well, now the school is more or less back under lockdown – have to be in common rooms by 6 p.m., escorted to all lessons and bathrooms by a teacher, which is awkward, no more Quidditch practice, no more after school activities. Even Professor McGonagall is shaken by this. Everyone seems afraid the school will close for real.

C: She did just lose the most brilliant student in her house.

S: I could see that be upsetting. Lee Jordan points out that is 2 Gryffindor s down, 1 Ravenclaw and 1 Hufflepuff. Of those attacked: Colin, Penelope, Hermione, Justin — when Ginny is being used to let the monster out, is Tom Riddle actually having her target Muggle-borns? Or is it people in the right place, right time?

C: Do we know if Penelope is Muggle-Born?

S: Not for sure. So it’s either a coincidence useful for misdirection, or they are trying to target specific people. It feels very haphazard.

C: When Justin was Petrified, where was Harry coming from when he found him in the hallway? He’d just been to the library, right? So I assume that was their off period. But other kids were still in class. It wasn’t a situation where Slytherins were all off campus. So… there’s nothing to say it was deliberate, but I don’t know. What level of consciousness does a Basilisk have? Can it smell Slytherins? Muggle-Borns? Does it just go after whoever is in its path?

S: Seems like it goes for whoever unless it’s controlled. But that’s a curious question. Percy is in shock, for a perfectly logical reason: Penelope was a prefect, and Percy didn’t think the monster would dare attack a prefect.

Harry now feels at the point of no return.

Tom Riddle had turned Hagrid in when faced with the prospect of returning to the orphanage over the summer. Harry now knew exactly how he felt.

He’s thinking about a lifetime back at the Dursleys, and he decides they have to talk to Hagrid.

I can’t believe it was him this time, but if he did open the Chamber of Secrets last time he’ll know how to control the monster, and that’s a start.

C: I can’t believe you skipped this line from Lee Jordan:

“Why don’t they just chuck all the Slytherins out?”

That’s your thing!

S: Damn straight! Why don’t they! Okay, no. They don’t need to kick them out, they need to just stop identifying them as Slytherin and stop encouraging them to identify with Salazar Slytherin!

C: They need to assimilate.

S: The Civil War is over! The South shall not rise again! Slytherin needs to go away. Good Lord.

Well, they’re going. They get the Cloak, they wait until it’s safe and they’re out the door.

The Invisibility Cloak didn’t stop them making noise, and there was a particularly tense moment when Ron stubbed his toe only yards from where Snape stood. Fortunately, Snape sneezed at almost exactly the moment when Ron swore.

C: Lucky Ron. This is an interesting line: Teachers, prefects and ghosts were marching the halls in pairs. I know they’re prefects, but you’re still putting students in danger.

S: I wonder if they volunteered, or if they’re paired with adults? It doesn’t specify who is paired with who.

Either way, Harry and Ron have bolted down to Hagrid‘s hut. And seconds after they knock, Hagrid has opened the door and they find themselves face to face with him aiming a crossbow at them. What was Hagrid planning to do with that crossbow, exactly?

C: Shoot Lucius Malfoy.

S: Because when Dumbledore shows up a moment later, he puts the crossbow away immediately.

C: Maybe he thought they were going to bring the Dementors with them. It wouldn’t surprise me if Hagrid thought they were going to do the Dementor’s kiss on him right away. He’s basically been convicted of doing this already. And if they think it’s happening again, it’s two strikes, we’re not giving you a chance for a third one, here’s the Dementors, say good night.

S: Possibly he thinks they’re going to take him straight to Azkaban. Harry has the same question: “What that for?” Hagrid: “I’ve bin expecting…doesn’t matter.” He’s very nervous, keeps looking out the window, serves hot water instead of tea, smashes the tea pot – he’s a mess. There’s a knock at the door, so Ron and Harry dive for the corner. Hagrid opens the door, and finds Dumbledore standing outside, followed by a second, very odd looking man: a stranger with rumpled gray hair, and anxious expression, a gray pinstriped suit, tie, long black coat, purple boots, and a lime green bowler hat.

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C: He would really piss Uncle Vernon off.

S: What is it with Fudge and that bowler hat? He seems very attached to it.

C: It was a present from Ottaline Gambol.

S: Her influence knows no bounds. Ron recognizes immediately that this is Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, so this is pretty serious. Hagrid is pale. He seems to have been expecting this. He tells him that he didn’t do this, that Dumbledore knows it. And I like the way Book Dumbledore differs from Movie Dumbledore here. Movie Dumbledore defends Hagrid, but he’s pretty calm overall. But Book Dumbledore is clearly very unhappy with this situation.

C: Fudge:

“Had to come, four attacks on Muggle-Borns.”

So we know how that Penelope was Muggle-born.

Look, Albus,” said Fudge uncomfortably. “Hagrid’s record’s against him. Ministry’s got to do something—“

“Yet again, Cornelius, I tell you that taking Hagrid away will not help in the slightest,” said Dumbledore. His blue eyes were full of a fire Harry had never seen before.

Dumbledore is pissed, with good reason. They’re going after Hagrid when it’s not him, he knows why they’re going after him, and it won’t accomplish anything but make the Ministry look like they’re doing something when they aren’t. They’re going to send him to Azkaban –

“for a short stretch only, If someone else is caught you’ll be let out with a full apology.”

C: Oh, but it’s not a punishment, it’s a precaution. Oh well in that case.

S: Sure, send me to Guantanamo! As long as you apologize afterwards! This is the second mention we’ve had of Azkaban. Then another knock! Hagrid ‘s hut is happening tonight. Then Lucius Malfoy fabulouses in through the door,

“swathed in a long black traveling cloak, smiling a cold and satisfied smile.”

The film plays this scene flawlessly.

C: He’s so disdainful.

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S: Malfoy has come to find Dumbledore because he has an order of suspension from the 12 governors, who have decided Dumbledore needs to step aside. Who are the 12 governors? Who are on the school board of Hogwarts?

Fudgecos

C: One of them is Ottaline Gambol.

S: And why are parents not yelling at them during school board meetings? That’s what happens in our world.

C: If we ever get to talk to JK Rowling, that’s what we should ask – who are the 12 governors of Hogwarts? That, and what is the deal with Ottaline Gambol? Those are the two things I would ask.

S: I think we definitely need to address Ottaline Gambol first. It could answer so many lingering questions.

C: Maybe the governors are appointed by Ottaline Gambol.

S: Maybe Ottaline Gambol is infinite, and all of the governors are Ottaline Gambol.

C: Eleven Ottaline Gambols, and Lucius Malfoy.

S: Imagine that meeting. Now, Fudge of course is very alarmed.

“That is the last thing we want.”

“See here, Malfoy – that is to say, if Dumbledore can’t stop these attacks – I mean to say, who can?”

I know who. I know who! The book’s named after him!

Of course, Lucius is feeling extremely confident. He knows how the diary is being used and who’s behind the attacks, so not only does he get to score a few political points for what he’s been wanting to accomplish this whole time, but it also frees up the diary to do its thing. Have a little fun, I guess. Why not get rid of Dumbledore?

We all know. Hagrid knows that he blackmailed the governors. All the Otalline Gambols were bribed.

C: How dare you? All the Ottaline Gambols are above reproach. All 11 of her.

S: Fine. Lucius Malfoy forged 11 Ottaline Gambol signatures.

C: That is far more likely.

S: I like the way she’s careful not to use the word “Dementor” in this book – not until 3 when it’s time to properly introduced. So Lucius tells Hagrid not to shout at the “Azkaban guards,” since they won’t like that. But yes, this is bad. Everyone seems aware of that. If you take Dumbledore away, people will start dying next.  But Dumbledore has this situation under control.

“If the governors wish my removal Lucius I will, of course, step aside. However, you will find that I will only be truly gone from this school when none left are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

Oh, come on Harry, you know he knows you and Ron are there! You think he doesn’t know that Cloak? You’re not imagining things.

C: Agreed.

S: Malfoy makes fun of Hagrid ‘s speech! See, speech is an indicator of class in this world.

C: He’s an asshole.

S: And now we’re leaving. Fudge steps out, Dumbledore steps out, but Hagrid stands his ground and announces, for no reason at all,

“If anyone wanted to find out some stuff, all they’d have to do is follow the spiders. That’d lead em right. That’s all I’m sayin.”

Some STUFF. I don’t know if I want to find stuff by following spiders.

C: No. No, no. No.

S: And now Hagrid is gone. We’re in trouble now – no Dumbledore, no Hagrid. We might as well close the school tonight. There’ll be an attack a day with him gone. That is an accurate grasp of the situation, Ron.

This is bad. Dumbledore is gone, Ottaline Gambol is being taken advantage of, we’re throwing people in Azkaban for no damn reason, Muggleborns are being attacked b kinky wall voices, Hermione didn’t explain – failure on so many levels.

C: I have a question going back to what you said about Lucius not knowing exactly what the deal was with the diary. Does he know about the Horcruxes?

S: No, I don’t believe so.

C: So then what does he think it is? He knows it belonged to Tom Riddle.

S: I think he thinks it’s what everyone thinks it is until we find out otherwise in Book 6 – a diary that, as Tom Riddle explains it himself, contains a memory of him and his time at Hogwarts. Clearly Lucius knows the memory can help reopen the chamber. But does he know it’s a Horcrux? No. Because Voldemort gave Lucius that diary to protect. And one would assume, he expected him to protect it with his life. But Voldemort’s gone…and he’s gone…and he’s gone…and he’s not coming back….and now Lucius is in a political pickle. He doesn’t like what Arthur Weasley is trying to pull with the Muggle Protection Act, so he thinks maybe I could use this to my advantage. He sneaks the diary into Ginny’s cauldron. It’s clearly not an accident that he gives it to a Weasley kid – he wants Arthur and his Act to go down, so he wants Arthur to be caught committing a terrible crime that endangers Muggle borns, thus showing the Act to be useless, thus eliminating that particular bit of legislation. At this point he is only thinking of himself, because he has no reason to believe Voldemort will ever come back.

I’m pretty sure Lucius is comfortable in the belief that Voldemort is completely gone. If he ever thought he was coming back, I doubt Lucius would be so cavalier as to hand off an item that Voldemort told him to protect. This is extremely careless on Lucius’s part – not fully understanding what he has, and using it so lightly for political gain and personal revenge. If he had known what it was, he would have known to expect that Voldemort could possibly return, and in that case Voldemort would be extremely angry that Lucius gave away one of his Horcruxes willy-nilly.

So Lucius knows what it does to an extent – it has a memory of Tom Riddle in it that can interact with others and get up to some mischief, and he plans to use it to bring the Weasleys down. Which is extremely short sighted.

C: That all makes sense, but at the same time I would think that having a bunch of Muggle-borns attacked at Hogwarts under the watchful eye of Dumbledore would make the Muggle Protection Act that much more important.

S: Yeah, and that’s why it has to be a Weasley kid that gets caught doing it. Arthur is sponsoring this bill – he probably wrote it. So if his kid is caught engaging in this activity, Lucius can discredit the act by discrediting Arthur. Then it becomes not about the legislation but about who wrote it, and their family. So you can’t pass any legislation this man is backing, because he’s not trying to help the Muggles at all. He’s up to something infernal – look what his own child has done.

This is the most petty plot, truly. It’s probably one of the pettier things in this series. It FEELS like it’s about Voldemort – but it’s not! It’s about Lucius Malfoy being really short sighted and stupid, and trying to get some revenge on Arthur Weasley.

Which is a really bad move! Because if he hadn’t done this, think of all the things we wouldn’t know – that Dumbledore wouldn’t know about Horcruxes, that Harry wouldn’t know about Voldemort – all the things we wouldn’t have if Lucius hadn’t been ambitious and petty and vengeful.

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C: Knowing that makes this all the more delightful.

S: It does, because he’s being really stupid at this point! And he’s cocky and confident that he won’t get caught, because he’s the only one who knows what the diary does. It really is delightful, and that’s why the way the book ends up is really enjoyable and cements the Potter-Malfoy hatred. Also it explains why when Voldemort returns, he might be a little peeved at Lucius. So when Lucius screws up again in 5, I can see why Voldemort is like, “Yeah, your kid is going to die now and you’re going to watch.”

C: And that’s why you don’t hang out with the bad guys – because they turn on you and kill you. Or kill people you love.

S: WHAT??? NOOOO. Bad guys are so loyal!

C: I just love how people who go down ill-advised paths and do terrible things to people, or watch their allies do terrible things, never see it coming when it happens to them.

S: “It was going so well. They told me we were friends! Right?” So that’s our lesson for today – don’t be friends with bad people, and don’t be dumb like Lucius Malfoy. I feel like that should be everyone’s motto for life.

C: If you want to model your fashion and look after him, that’s one thing. Just don’t behave like him.

S: By all means do that, because he is fabulous.

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“I am. Fabulous.”

C: Carry a fancy cane!

S: Grow your hair out and rock it. Because that family can style. Otherwise, the rest of it is no.

C: Agreed.

S: Next week – Aragog! And we’ll see if we can’t wrap up this crazy Chamber of Secrets nonsense – and Lockhart to the rescue!

C: Ohhhhh yes.

S: Until next time – I am Professor Seraphine –

C: I am Ottaline Gambol –

S: And you are infinite and always! And we will see you next time on Advanced Muggle Studies.

Show Notes

Intro music: “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, performed by Kevin McLeod

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