Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Quotes

  • Choices

    "Harry Potter says he's not going back to school —"

    "Dobby...please..."

    "Say it, sir —"

    "I can't —"

    Dobby gave him a tragic look.

    "Then Dobby must do it, sir, for Harry Potter's own good."

    The pudding fell to the floor with a heart-stopping crash. Cream splattered the windows and walls as the dish shattered. With a crack like a whip, Dobby vanished. (2.89-95)

    Obviously, Dobby has a really misguided notion of what is for "Harry Potter's own good." By letting Harry take the blame for the destroyed dessert, Dobby gets poor Harry locked up in his bedroom by the Dursleys – there are even bars on the windows! Even though Dobby acts with the best of intentions, by not giving Harry any choices about his protection, he makes everything much worse. Dobby's actions underline one of the major themes of the Harry Potter series: the importance of free will and personal choice.

    My name was down for Eton, you know. I can't tell you how glad I am I came here instead. Of course, Mother was slightly disappointed, but since I made her read Lockhart's books I think she has begun to see how useful it'll be to have a fully trained wizard in the family. (6.67)

    This passage of dialogue comes from Justin Finch-Fletchley, a Muggle-born Hufflepuff second year. He seems like a nice enough kid, if a little too trusting of Professor Lockhart. (By the way, Eton is a very expensive, old, and established boys' school in Britain. So, Justin must be pretty highly placed in terms of social class.) Not only does this passage go to show that Professor Lockhart's reputation has spread far and wide; it also indicates that the kids at Hogwarts come from lots of different backgrounds. It's hard to imagine that Justin's mother was "slightly disappointed" at Justin's choice to go to Hogwarts instead of Eton – how could you not be insanely excited that your son is going to be a wizard? Why do you think Justin's mother values Eton over Hogwarts? What might Eton mean to her or to her family, that she's excited about Justin going there? Can you imagine a reason not to attend Hogwarts?

    "All right, Harry? I'm – I'm Colin Creevey," [a mousy-haired Gryffindor first year] said breathlessly, taking a tentative step forward. "I'm in Gryffindor, too. D'you think – would it be all right if – can I have a picture?" he said, raising the camera hopefully.

    "A picture?" Harry repeated blankly.

    "So I can prove I've met you," said Colin Creevey eagerly, edging further forward. "I know all about you. Everyone's told me. About how you survived when You-Know-Who tried to kill you, and how he disappeared and everything and how you've still got a lightning scar on your forehead [...] It's amazing here, isn't it? I never knew all the odd stuff I could do was magic till I got the letter from Hogwarts. My dad's a milkman, he couldn't believe it either." (6.84-86)

    Colin Creevey is Harry's one-person cheering squad in Book 2. He's so admiring of Harry that it gets a little embarrassing. Yet we find Colin interesting for two other reasons. First, like Justin Finch-Fletchley in the same chapter, he's a Muggle-born. Yet his father's a milkman, so he comes from a lower social class than Eton-bound Justin. Still, Colin and Justin's Muggle social backgrounds don't seem at all relevant at Hogwarts. In fact, Hogwarts seems more diverse in terms of social class than most Muggle private schools. Second, Colin's enthusiasm about Hogwarts and all the neat stuff he can do with magic keeps the wonder going from Book 1 to Book 2. In Book 1, everything at Hogwarts is new to Harry and he keeps discovering new things around every corner. By Book 2, there are still strange things for Harry to find (like the Mandrakes or Fawkes, the phoenix), but Hogwarts itself is starting to appear familiar. Colin's response reminds us how marvelous the wizarding world still is.

    Angelina, Alicia, and Katie had come over, too. There were no girls on the Slytherin team, who stood shoulder to shoulder, facing the Gryffindors, leering to a man. (7.61)

    Angelina, Alicia, and Katie are the three Gryffindor Quidditch team Chasers. Rowling's depictions of the Slytherins are uniformly awful: Here, all the guys on the team are "leering" at the three Gryffindor women. This is a description of a bunch of random, nameless guys whom we never see again, but because they're Slytherins, Rowling still takes care to emphasize that they are "leering" – an adjective with a negative connotation. We find this passage striking (even though it's so brief) because it points out something we've always wondered about the world of Harry Potter: Do you get sorted into Slytherin because you're a jerk already, or do you become a jerk because you have been sorted into Slytherin? By being sorted into a house where everyone (especially the Gryffindors) expects you to be a dangerous Dark wizard probably has a damaging psychological effect on the kids who are placed there. J.K. Rowling always emphasizes the various bad traits of her Slytherin characters, so it's hard to imagine their better qualities. Why does Rowling choose to portray the Slytherins in such dark terms, as opposed to the Gryffindors? How do you think a Slytherin would tell the story of the Harry Potter novels?

    "Training for the ballet, Potter?" yelled Malfoy as Harry was forced to do a stupid kind of twirl in midair to dodge the Bludger, and he fled, the Bludger trailing a few feet behind him; and then, glaring back at Malfoy in hatred, he saw it – the Golden Snitch. It was hovering inches above Malfoy's left ear – and Malfoy, busy laughing at Harry, hadn't seen it. (10.79)

    Draco manages to buy his way on the Slytherin team as Seeker. Yet it's not clear how much he's playing Quidditch because he loves the sport, and how much he's doing it because he desperately wants to beat Harry at something. Here, he doesn't notice the Golden Snitch right over his shoulder because he's too busy laughing at Harry. A surprising amount of Draco's life seems to revolve around Harry: He's jealous of him, and he hates him, so he seems to be distracted by him quite often. What do you think Draco does in his spare time, when he's not harassing Harry? What does he want in life? Do we get any kind of depth for his character in Book 2? How does he change from Book 2 to the later novels of the series?

    Harry swung his wand high, but Malfoy had already started on "two"; his spell hit Harry so hard he felt as though he'd been hit over the head with a saucepan. He stumbled, but everything still seemed to be working, and wasting no time, Harry pointed his wand straight at Malfoy and shouted, "Rictusempra!"

    A jet of silver light hit Malfoy in the stomach and he doubled up, wheezing.

    "I said Disarm only!" Lockhart shouted in alarm over the heads of the battling crowd, as Malfoy sank to his knees; Harry had hit him with a Tickling Charm, and he could barely move for laughing. (11.77-79)

    Obviously, Professor Snape's choice to pair Harry with Draco is intended to punish Harry for existing. Still, why do you think Professor Lockhart chooses to start this Dueling Club? What does he hope to get out of it? Why teach a bunch of students to hex each other? Why do you think Professor Dumbledore agreed to Professor Lockhart's request? What is the purpose of a duel?

    The pages of the diary began to blow as though caught in a high wind, stopping halfway through the month of June. Mouth hanging open, Harry saw the little square for June thirteenth seemed to have turned into a minuscule television screen. His hands trembling slightly, he raised the book to press his eye against the little window, and before he knew what was happening, he was tilting forward; the window was widening, he felt his body leave his bed, and he was pitched headfirst through the opening in the page, into a whirl of color and shadow. (13.138)

    Later in the series, we get to see Pensieve memories, which present events from a third-person perspective and in a relatively objective way. We know from the example of Professor Slughorn's altered memory in Book 6 that it is very difficult to lie using a Pensieve. Riddle's diary, on the other hand, gives a highly subjective view of the events at Hogwarts fifty years before. Riddle frames the whole memory with his own narrative – which turns out to be an utter lie. So, when Harry chooses to look into Riddle's diary, he believes that what he is seeing is objective truth, but it is in fact a sophisticated manipulation. How else does Voldemort try to trick Harry later on in the series? How do his later strategies seem similar to (or different from) the deception he pulls with the diary in Book 2?

    "The voice!" said Harry, looking over his shoulder. "I just heard it again – didn't you?"

    Ron shook his head, wide-eyed. Hermione, however, clapped a hand to her forehead.

    "Harry – I think I've just understood something! I've got to go to the library!"

    And she sprinted away, up the stairs.

    "What does she understand?" said Harry distractedly, still looking around, trying to tell where the voice had come from. (14.47-51)

    We've already wondered why Professor Dumbledore – who was present in Riddle's memory and must have some thoughts about Hagrid's expulsion and the Chamber of Secrets – doesn't just share his suspicions with Professor McGonagall when Justin Finch-Fletchley is first Petrified. Here, though, Hermione is doing it, too. She's clearly gotten an idea about the monster in the Chamber of Secrets, so why doesn't she stop and explain? If you had figured out something important about a monster attacking your school, wouldn't you take a few minutes to fill in your friends before bolting to the library? Is this an example of J.K. Rowling just looking for new ways to build suspense? Or can you think of a real reason why Hermione keeps her sudden inspiration secret?

    "Bad business, Hagrid," said Fudge in rather clipped tones. "Very bad business. Had to come. Four attacks on Muggle-borns. Things've gone far enough. Ministry's got to act."

    "I never," said Hagrid, looking imploringly at Dumbledore. "You know I never, Professor Dumbledore, sir —"

    "I want it understood, Cornelius, that Hagrid has my full confidence," said Dumbledore, frowning at Fudge.

    "Look, Albus," said Fudge, uncomfortably. "Hagrid's record's against him. The Ministry's got to do something – the school governors have been in touch —" (14.108-111)

    This scene in Book 2 between Cornelius Fudge, Hagrid, and Professor Dumbledore happens long before Cornelius Fudge goes power-mad and paranoid in Book 5. Still, we can already see signs of the kind of leader he's going to be. He wants to seem decisive, so he acts without clear evidence (and under pressure from the school governors) to arrest a man and send him straight to Azkaban, the wizard prison. Fudge is willing to lock Hagrid up without trial, a definite indication that the wizarding justice system is not all it should be in Britain. How do Fudge's choices in Book 2 foreshadow what's going to happen to him in the later Harry Potter novels? What flaws does Fudge show in this scene that continue on through the series? What makes Fudge a bad model of leadership?

    [Professor Lockhart] didn't seem to notice that the other teachers were looking at him with something remarkably like hatred. Snape stepped forward.

    "Just the man," he said. "The very man. A girl has been snatched by the monster, Lockhart. Taken into the Chamber of Secrets itself. Your moment has come at last.

    Lockhart blanched. […]

    "We'll leave it you, then, Gilderoy," said Professor McGonagall. Tonight will be an excellent time to do it. We'll make sure everyone's out of your way. You'll be able to tackle the monster all by yourself. A free rein at last."

    Lockhart gazed desperately around him, but nobody came to the rescue. He didn't look remotely handsome anymore. His lip was trembling, and in the absence of his usual toothy grin, he looked weak-chinned and feeble. (16.114-124)

    Throughout the book, we've remarked on the way Lockhart never, ever seems to notice how much people around him hate him. Sure, some girls are taken in by his good looks, but for the most part, he alienates everyone by being an obvious fool. Yet his bragging, insincerity, and lack of sensitivity for the people around him all come back to haunt him in this scene, now that the other Hogwarts professors are in such a good position to call his bluff. Professor Lockhart's fate is like a cautionary tale about the importance of choosing honesty and sincerity over self-importance and bragging. The problem with exaggerating your own abilities is that you might one day be asked to prove it – and you don't want to look like Professor Lockhart does here when that day comes.

    "Professor," [Harry] started again after a moment. "The Sorting Hat told me I'd – I'd have done well in Slytherin. Everyone thought I was Slytherin's heir for a while…because I can speak Parseltongue…"

    "You can speak Parseltongue, Harry," said Dumbledore calmly, "because Lord Voldemort – who is the last remaining descendant of Salazar Slytherin – can speak Parseltongue. Unless I'm much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I'm sure…"

    "Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?" Harry said, thunderstruck. […] "It only put me in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, "because I asked not to go in Slytherin…"

    "Exactly," said Dumbledore, beaming once more. "Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (18.54-61)

    In this discussion between Harry and Professor Dumbledore, Harry's choice between Gryffindor and Slytherin seems to mean the same thing as a choice between good and evil. Harry chooses to align himself with Gryffindor, so he is not a Slytherin. What if you don't know what you're choosing when you're Sorted, though? Do you think it would be possible to be placed in the wrong Hogwarts House? What would happen if you became a totally different person from 11 to 17 (which, after all, isn't that unusual)? Could you outgrow your Hogwarts House?

  • Fear

    "You've forgotten the magic word," said Harry irritably.

    The effect of this simple sentence on the rest of the family was incredible: Dudley gasped and fell off his chair with a crash that shook the whole kitchen; Mrs. Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands over her mouth; Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.

    "I meant 'please'!" said Harry quickly. "I didn't mean —"

    "WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU," thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, "ABOUT SAYING THE 'M' WORD IN OUR HOUSE?" (1.13-16)

    The Dursleys' responses to Harry's even mentioning the word 'magic' show how frightened they are of him. The root of their prejudice is clearly fear. Uncle Vernon blusters and bullies in attempt to get control of power that he doesn't have and can't understand. Obviously, the Dursleys' abuse of Harry is inexcusable. Still, their fear of wizards in general may be justifiable. Think of the power that evil wizards like Voldemort could use against the Muggles they despise.

    "Harry Potter got a Nimbus Two Thousand last year. Special permission from Dumbledore so he could play for Gryffindor. He's not even that good, it's just because he's famous...famous for having a stupid scar on his forehead..."

    Malfoy bent down to examine a shelf full of skulls.

    "...everyone thinks he's so smart, wonderful Potter with his scar and his broomstick —"

    "You have told me this at least a dozen times already," said Mr. Malfoy, with a quelling look at his son. "And I would remind you that it is not – prudent – to appear less than fond of Harry Potter, not when most of our kind regard him as the hero who made the Dark Lord disappear —" (4.65-68)

    This conversation between Draco and Lucius Malfoy reveals a bunch of things. First, Mr. Malfoy is clearly concerned about appearing socially correct. What his actual feelings about Harry might be doesn't really matter. The other thing that strikes us is that there is no warmth here between Draco and Lucius. Draco complains and whines, and his father shuts him up. The relationship between these two provides yet another foil to the wonderful Weasleys.

    Everyone filed out of the classroom except him and Ron, who was whacking his wand furiously on the desk.

    "Stupid – useless – thing —"

    "Write home for another one," Harry suggested as the wand let off a volley of bangs like a firecracker.

    "Oh, yeah, and get another Howler back," said Ron, stuffing the now hissing wand into his bag. "It's your own fault your wand got snapped —" (6.73-75)

    This is why we don't think Howlers are a good form of discipline. Ron is so embarrassed by them that he doesn't tell his parents about his very real need for a new wand. At the same time, this seems like kind of a flimsy excuse, since he obviously desperately needs one – why might Ron be worried about telling his parents that he needs a new wand? We wonder if this might be related to Fred and George's earlier concern about the cost of all of the Lockhart books. Could Ron be worried about costing his family lots more money?

    The dungeon was full of hundreds of pearly-white, translucent people, mostly drifting around a crowded dance floor, waltzing to the dreadful, quavering sound of thirty musical saws, played by an orchestra on a raised, black-draped platform. A chandelier overhead blazed midnight-blue with a thousand more black candles. Their breath rose in a mist before them; it was like stepping into a freezer. (8.83)

    J.K. Rowling spends a lot of the Harry Potter series reminding us that death itself (while sad) is not necessarily something to fear. In the first book, when Harry destroys the Sorcerer's Stone that had been sustaining Nicholas Flamel's unusually long life, Professor Dumbledore promises that, to Flamel, death will be like the next great adventure. Here, we've got this rather hilarious deathday party. Nearly Headless Nick seems quite proud of having died 500 years before. All the ghosts seem so human – they want to chat and eat and play just like we do. It's hard to take death seriously in these early books – though that really starts to change in Book 4 and especially Book 5.

    "Ah, if Harry Potter only knew!" Dobby groaned, more tears dripping onto his ragged pillowcase. "If he knew what he means to us, to the lowly, the enslaved, we dregs of the magical world! Dobby remembers how it was when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was at the height of his powers, sir! We house-elves were treated like vermin, sir! Of course, Dobby is still treated like that, sir," he admitted, drying his face on the pillowcase. "But mostly, sir, life has improved for my kind since you triumphed over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Harry Potter survived, and the Dark Lord's power was broken, and it was a new dawn, sir, and Harry Potter shone like a beacon of hope for those of us who thought the dark days would ever end, sir..." (10.148)

    Dobby's statement of admiration for Harry as the defeater of Voldemort eleven years ago is really touching. At the same time, it's a bit at odds with the experiences of other magical creatures (the goblins, giants, and centaurs) who seem pretty ambivalent about choosing between Voldemort and the Ministry of Magic in Book 5. These creatures all resent the rights they have been refused by the Ministry, and they consider siding with Voldemort in order to get those rights. What might make the house-elf population different? Why are they not in a position to negotiate with Voldemort? How is the status of the house-elves different from the status of other magical creatures (such as the centaurs) in the wizarding world? What does Dobby fear will happen if Harry is killed? How might Dobby's own life be materially different if there were no Boy-Who-Lived?

    The news that Colin Creevey had been attacked and was now lying as though dead in the hospital wing had spread through the entire school by Monday morning. The air was suddenly thick with rumor and suspicion. The first years were now moving around the castle in tight-knit groups, as though scared they would be attacked if they ventured forth alone. (11.23)

    One of Voldemort's main weapons is fear. A few unexplained Petrifications are all it takes to start turning the Hogwarts student body against one another. Most of the other students think the Heir of Slytherin must be Harry, while Harry and his friends (equally unjustly) suspect Draco Malfoy. This theme of fear turning innocent people against one another is a huge topic in the Harry Potter series, particularly in Book 5, when even the Sorting Hat starts to worry that the Hogwarts House system is creating unnecessary division among the students.

    "What d'you mean? You were there – you heard me —"

    "I heard you speaking Parseltongue," said Ron. "Snake language. You could have been saying anything – no wonder Justin panicked, you sounded like you were egging the snake on or something – it was creepy, you know —" (11.113-114)

    Parseltongue is a perfect example of the old saying that fear comes from lack of knowledge. The whole student body hears Harry saying things they don't understand, and so they automatically assume the worst: that he's egging on the snake to attack Justin Finch-Fletchley. Why does Parseltongue seem like an evil gift? What do snakes symbolize in Western culture that seems relevant to the wizarding world's fear of Parseltongue? If you could speak to one sort of animal, what would it be?

    No one knows how he survived that attack by You-Know-Who. I mean to say, he was only a baby when it happened. He should have been blasted into smithereens. Only a really powerful Dark wizard could have survived a curse like that [...] That's probably why You-Know-Who wanted to kill him in the first place. Didn't want another Dark Lord competing with him. I wonder what other powers Potter's been hiding? (11.142)

    In Book 1, the wizarding world treats the apparent death of Voldemort in 1981 as a miracle and Harry as a hero. In Book 2, we see another frame for the exact same event: where did Harry get the power to hold back Voldemort? Will he turn his power against the wizarding world the same way Voldemort did? How can they trust him? It goes to show that public opinion is fickle. No matter how beloved Harry may have been in his first year, that's no guarantee of how they'll feel about him in his second. What does this reversal of Harry's fortunes say about Rowling's view on public opinion? Do you think her assessment of public opinion in this book has any relation to her own growing fame as an author?

    "That's two Gryffindors down, not counting a Gryffindor ghost, one Ravenclaw, and one Hufflepuff," said the Weasley twins' friend Lee Jordan, counting on his fingers. "Haven't any of the teachers noticed that the Slytherins are all safe? Isn't it obvious all this stuff's coming from Slytherin? The Heir of Slytherin, the monster of Slytherin – why don't they just chuck all the Slytherins out?" he roared, to nods and scattered applause. (14.84)

    The whole House rivalry thing is a great example of the plot technique of misdirection. There is so much hatred between Gryffindor and Slytherin, but it turns out that the whole "Heir of Slytherin" thing is a fake clue. Ginny Weasley is the one who is opening the Chamber of Secrets, possessed by Voldemort. The thing that keeps her nighttime activities hidden is that she is a Gryffindor, an eleven-year-old, the youngest sister of a large and protective family – all of these things shield her from too much scrutiny from the people living in her dorm with her. Of course, Ginny is absolutely not doing these things on purpose. Still, she's a great choice for Voldemort to possess because she is, literally, the last person anyone would suspect of slaughtering roosters and Petrifying Muggle-borns. Harry's hatred for Draco and the Hufflepuffs' suspicion of Harry serves only to distract everyone from the real truth, which is something no one could guess.

    There was a sudden movement behind them. Gilderoy Lockhart's knees had given way.

    "Get up," said Ron sharply, pointing his wand at Lockhart.

    Lockhart got to his feet – then he dived at Ron, knocking him to the ground.

    Harry jumped forward, but too late – Lockhart was straightening up, panting, Ron's wand in his hand and a gleaming smile on his face.

    "The adventure ends here, boys!" he said. I shall take a bit of this skin back up to the school, tell them I was too late to save the girl, and that you two tragically lost your minds at the sight of her mangled body – say good-bye to your memories!" (16.214-218)

    Professor Lockhart is so frightened of what is waiting for them at the end of the tunnel that he doesn't seem troubled about leaving Ginny to become a "mangled body." As someone whose entire reputation is built on lies and Memory Charms, Professor Lockhart's whole life must also be ruled by the fear that he's going to be found out. Why might Lockhart choose to live his life with so much uncertainty? What is he getting out of this hypocrisy? What does Professor Lockhart appear most afraid of? How do Lockhart's fears shape his character in the novel?

  • Friendship

    As neither Dudley nor the hedge was in any way hurt, Aunt Petunia knew he hadn't really done magic, but he still had to duck as she aimed a heavy blow at his head with the soapy frying pan. Then she gave him work to do, with the promise he wouldn't eat again until he was finished.

    While Dudley lolled around watching and eating ice cream, Harry cleaned the windows, washed the car, mowed the lawn, trimmed the flower beds, pruned and watered the roses, and repainted the garden bench. The sun blazed overhead, burning the back of his neck. Harry knew he shouldn't have risen to Dudley's bait, but Dudley had said the very thing Harry had been thinking himself...maybe he didn't have any friends at Hogwarts. (1.86)

    First off, Harry is twelve. This is an insane amount of work that Aunt Petunia makes him do, underlining once more that the Dursleys are abusive jerks. What's interesting about this scene, though, is that, as unfair as it is that Aunt Petunia tries to hit Harry with a frying pan and then sets him to work like a slave, it's not this treatment that seems to be truly bothering him. What's really getting to Harry is his worry that his friends don't like him anymore. If Harry really knew his friends still cared about him, it appears that he would be able to put up with this treatment with relative calm. This theme of friendship as more important than hardship or bad treatment is one that develops throughout the series.

    It was as though they had been plunged into a fabulous dream. This, thought Harry, was surely the only way to travel – past swirls and turrets of snowy cloud, in a car full of hot, bright sunlight, with a fat pack of toffees in the glove compartment, and the prospect of seeing Fred's and George's jealous faces when they landed smoothly and spectacularly on the sweeping lawn in front of Hogwarts castle. (5.68)

    OK, aside from the Harry Potter series' important themes, it's also just really cool. This whole sequence of Ron and Harry's flying drive to Hogwarts reminds us why we all wish we were wizards: there are so many fun times! It seems fitting that Harry's sharing this "fabulous dream" with his best friend – part of the pleasure in this sequence comes from the fact that he's driving with Ron. J.K. Rowling gives plenty of play to the more serious side of friendship, since Harry needs support to get through his fight with Voldemort, but she doesn't forget that we have friends because it's fun (most of the time).

    They didn't know the new year's password, not having met a Gryffindor prefect yet, but help came almost immediately; they heard hurrying feet behind them and turned to see Hermione dashing toward them.

    "There you are! Where have you been? The most ridiculous rumors – someone said you'd been expelled for crashing a flying car —" (5.181-182)

    We adore Hermione, but for a twelve-year-old girl, she sounds surprisingly like Mrs. Weasley in her panic. She loves Harry and Ron, but she shows that love by scolding them mercilessly when they break the rules. She gets a little self-righteous at times – again, out of love and concern for her friends, but that doesn't mean it's not irritating. Do you have friends who show their affection that way? Does it ever get annoying? How do you cope with that annoyance?

    "What've we got this afternoon?" said Harry [...]

    "Defense Against the Dark Arts," said Hermione at once.

    "Why," demanded Ron, seizing her schedule, "have you outlined all Lockhart's lessons in little hearts?" (6.77-79)

    Here's a moment where we really see the disadvantage to poor Hermione of having two boys as best friends. She clearly has a normal girly crush on Professor Lockhart (her 100% on the pop quiz he offers about his own famous deeds is further proof that Hermione likes him). Still, her twelve-year-old girl behavior gets merciless ribbing from Ron – who, of course, is too emotionally dense to start wondering why it bothers him so much that Hermione has a giant crush on their handsome Defense teacher.

    Ginny Weasley, who sat next to Colin Creevey in Charms, was distraught, but Harry felt that Fred and George were going the wrong way about cheering her up. They were taking turns covering themselves with fur or boils and jumping out at her from behind statues. They only stopped when Percy, apoplectic with rage, told them he was going to write to Mrs. Weasley and tell her Ginny was having nightmares. (11.24)

    We love the twins, but they don't always have the greatest sense of what is actually going to help their loved ones. This moment with Ginny accomplishes two things. First, it makes us laugh. Secondly, it indicates that Ginny seems to be suffering over something – what, of course, we find out later in the novel. This moment with the twins also reminds us of later moments in the Harry Potter series, when Fred and George's (mostly) well-meaning teasing has the opposite of its intended effect. We're thinking specifically of their mockery of Ron during Book 5, when he's doing such a bad job of being Quidditch Keeper. The twins manage to erode Ron's already shaky confidence (possibly) without meaning to. They're not bad guys, but they're not sensitive. How does the twins' insensitivity shape their love of (and skill with) practical jokes? What role do the twins' shenanigans play in the Harry Potter novels?

    "I must ask you, Harry, whether there is anything you'd like to tell me," he said gently. "Anything at all."

    Harry didn't know what to say. He thought of Malfoy shouting, "You'll be next, Mudbloods!" and of the Polyjuice Potion simmering away in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Then he thought of the disembodied voice he heard twice and remembered what Ron had said: "Hearing voices no one else can hear isn't a good sign, even in the Wizarding world." He thought, too, about what everyone was saying about him, and his growing dread that he was somehow connected with Salazar Slytherin...

    "No," said Harry. "There isn't anything, Professor..." (12.36-38)

    Harry willingly tells his friends about all of these things – that he's connected to Slytherin and that he's been hearing voices. It's also clear that Professor Dumbledore suspects something is up, though we can't be sure that he knows exactly what. So, why doesn't Harry want to tell Professor Dumbledore what has been troubling him? What is the difference between a friend and a mentor? What does Harry's behavior towards Professor Dumbledore in Book 2 tell us about his relationship with the Headmaster at this point in the novels? How do his motivations differ in this book, as compared to his refusal to speak to Professor Dumbledore in Book 5?

    They heard the lock slide back and Hermione emerged, sobbing, her robes pulled up over her head.

    "What's up?" said Ron uncertainly. "Have you still got Millicent's nose or something?"

    Hermione let her robes fall and Ron backed into the sink.

    Her face was covered in black fur. Her eyes had turned yellow and there were long, pointed ears poking through her hair.

    "It was a c-cat hair!" she howled. "M-Millicent Bulstrode m-must have a cat! And the p-potion isn't supposed to be used for animal transformations!"

    "Uh-oh," said Ron.

    "You'll be teased something dreadful," said Myrtle happily.

    "It's okay, Hermione," said Harry quickly. "We'll take you up to the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey never asks too many questions..." (12.199-206)

    Moaning Myrtle is so obvious. She's thrilled that Hermione is going to be teased because she gets some weird pleasure from other people's misfortunes. No wonder no one likes to use her bathroom. She's not a very pleasant ghost. That's a tangent, though. We really chose this passage because we love that Hermione accidentally turns herself into a cat-girl. This moment shows that Hermione is brilliant and amazing, but she's also human and messes up occasionally. Without this episode, Hermione might not be as believable as a character. She'd be too perfect. We also really love that neither Harry nor Ron laugh at Hermione or tease her for her mistake – they are truly loyal friends.

    Malfoy was looking furious, and as Ginny passed him to enter her classroom, he yelled spitefully after her, "I don't think Potter liked your valentine much!"

    Ginny covered her face with her hands and ran into class. Snarling, Ron pulled out his wand, too, but Harry pulled him away. Ron didn't need to spend the whole of Charms belching slugs. (13.113-114)

    The teenage years are suppose to be the Awkward Age, but Ginny's only eleven in Book 2 and she appears to be cramming all of her awkwardness in early. In the later books, Ginny seems relatively self-possessed and self-confident. In Book 2, though, she's got a crush she can't deal with and she's getting possessed by Tom Riddle's diary. She really can't get a break. Even so, she has loyal friends and family who express concern for her throughout the book. Even though she's going through a rough time, she's not as alone as she may imagine she is. Are there parallels we can draw between Ginny's experiences in Book 2 and Harry's emotional crises in Book 5? What might they be?

    "I was not born in the castle. I come from a distant land. A traveler gave me to Hagrid when I was an egg. Hagrid was only a boy, but he cared for me, hidden in a cupboard in the castle, feeding me on scraps from the table. Hagrid is my good friend, and a good man. When I was discovered, and blamed for the death of a girl, he protected me. I have lived here in the forest every since, where Hagrid still visits me. He even found me a wife, Mosag, and you see how our family has grown, all through Hagrid's goodness…" (15.122)

    Aragog loves Hagrid for his kindness. Clearly, that is the basis of Hagrid's friendship with all of the magical creatures he introduces into the castle, from Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback dragon in Book 1 to Grawp the giant in Book 5. Still, Hagrid's kindness is often blind. He is absolutely without judgment about what is safe, so he willingly sends Harry and Ron into a hollow full of giant spiders ready to kill and eat them. Do you think the risk Hagrid takes with their lives is worth the reward? If something bad had happened to Harry and Ron, what responsibility would Hagrid bear?

    But I knew what I must do. It was clear to me that you were on the trail of Slytherin's heir. From everything Ginny had told me about you, I knew you would go to any lengths to solve the mystery – particularly if one of your best friends was attacked. And Ginny had told me the whole school was buzzing because you could speak Parseltongue…

    So I made Ginny write her own farewell on the wall and come down here to wait. She struggled and cried and became very boring. But there isn't much life left in her…She put too much into the diary, into me. Enough to let me leave its pages at last…I have been waiting for you to appear since we arrived here. I knew you'd come. I have many questions for you, Harry Potter. (17.63-64)

    Tom Riddle knows that Harry takes his friendships extremely seriously. He uses this knowledge to manipulate Harry right into a trap. Riddle's manipulation of Harry by threatening his friends foreshadows a similar maneuver he pulls on Harry in Book 5 with regard to Sirius Black. So Voldemort's sixteen-year-old self is already using tactics that his adult self continues to exploit later on in the series. This raises a question for us: when exactly did Voldemort learn to do all of this stuff? If he's already behaving as an adult Dark wizard at sixteen, was he born knowing how to cheat and manipulate? One way of looking at Voldemort is that he appears fated to become evil (as the Heir of Slytherin). Yet he also develops his evil tendencies in response to his family history and his awful Muggle orphanage background (see Book 6). So Voldemort both chooses the Dark side and seems fated to be Dark. Why do you think Voldemort is the way he is? Could Harry become like Voldemort, under the right circumstances?

  • Isolation

    All Harry's spellbooks, his wand, robes, cauldron, and top-of-the-line Nimbus Two Thousand broomstick had been locked in a cupboard under the stairs by Uncle Vernon the instant Harry had come home. What did the Dursleys care if Harry lost his place on the House Quidditch team because he hadn't practiced all summer? What was it to the Dursleys if Harry went back to school without any of his homework done? The Dursleys were what wizards called Muggles (not a drop of magical blood in their veins), and as far as they were concerned, having a wizard in the family was a matter of deepest shame. Uncle Vernon had even padlocked Harry's owl, Hedwig, inside her cage, to stop her from carrying messages to anyone in the Wizarding world. (1.27)

    One of the things that strikes us about the early chapters of Book 2 is that, because it is very early in the series, the Harry Potter books have yet to become a true sensation. So J.K. Rowling can't assume that everyone who picks up Chamber of Secrets will be completely familiar with the world of Harry Potter. She has to define "Muggle" quickly here. In the later Harry Potter novels, though, she can be more confident that everyone in the world knows what she means when she says "Muggle." Second, J.K. Rowling lays out very clearly (a) how much Harry feels excluded at the Dursleys' house, and (b) how much he idolizes Hogwarts and the wizarding world. He misses the wizarding world hugely – little realizing, at this point, how much anguish he's going to encounter there.

    "And you?"

    "I'll be in my bedroom, making no noise and pretending I'm not there," said Harry tonelessly. (1.43-44)

    Before the Masons come over for their dinner party, Uncle Vernon makes Harry repeat that he will stay in his room making no noise and pretending he's not there three times. The repetition emphasizes how little Harry is wanted in the Dursley home. While the later novels give us a reason why Professor Dumbledore leaves Harry in the Dursley household even though they are not nice to him, what effects do you think it's having on Harry to be stuck with the Dursleys over summer holidays? How would you respond to this kind of treatment?

    [Uncle Vernon] was bearing down on Harry like a great bulldog, all his teeth bared. "Well, I've got news for you, boy... I'm locking you up...You're never going back to that school...never...and if you try and magic yourself out – they'll expel you!"

    And laughing like a maniac, he dragged Harry back upstairs.

    Uncle Vernon was as bad as his word. The following morning, he paid a man to fit bars on Harry's window. He himself fitted a cat-flap in the bedroom door, so that small amounts of food could be pushed inside three times a day. They let Harry out to use the bathroom morning and evening. Otherwise, he was locked in his room around the clock. (2.110-112)

    Aside from being ridiculously inappropriate behavior, Uncle Vernon's punishment of Harry makes no sense. If he hates Harry's guts so much, why does he decide to lock him in his room – in other words, to keep him around at all? What do you think Uncle Vernon is trying to achieve with this horribly cruel punishment? What are the Dursleys trying to get out of this?

    Life at the Burrow was as different as possible from life on Privet Drive. The Dursleys liked everything neat and ordered; the Weasleys' house burst with the strange and unexpected. Harry got a shock the first time he looked in the mirror over the kitchen mantelpiece and it shouted, "Tuck your shirt in, scruffy!" The ghoul in the attic howled and dropped pipes whenever he felt things were getting too quiet, and small explosions from Fed and George's bedroom were considered perfectly normal. What Harry found most unusual about life at Ron's, however, wasn't the talking mirror or the clanking ghoul: It was the fact that everybody there seemed to like him. (4.1)

    Harry's uncle and aunt think he's a freak. They've always treated him like an outcast because he can use magic. Now, though, he's found this new, magical home where he feels comfortable for the first time in his life. We have to say, this switch from the Dursleys to the Weasleys gives us hope. Even if you feel isolated or left out of the house where you grew up, you can always find new family to accept your quirks. The message of this chapter seems to be, isolation doesn't have to last, even if it is awful while it is happening.

    "You were seen," [Professor Snape] hissed, showing them the headline: FLYING FORD ANGLIA MYSTIFIES MUGGLES. He began to read aloud: "Two Muggles in London, convinced they saw an old car flying over the Post Office tower...at noon in Norfolk, Mrs. Hetty Bayliss, while hanging out her washing...Mr. Angus Fleet, of Peebles, reported to police...Six or seven Muggles in all. I believe your father works in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office?" he said, looking up at Ron and smiling still more nastily. (5.135)

    Professor Snape hates Harry's guts, so he is obviously pleased at this chance to threaten Harry with expulsion for almost exposing the wizarding world with his flying car. At the same time, Professor Snape is pointing out a real danger: Wizards are doing their best to keep themselves secret from us. Some Muggles did see Harry and Ron's flying car. So they did break wizarding law. What do you think of the wizarding policy of keeping themselves a secret from Muggles? What do you think would happen if wizards suddenly announced themselves to our world? What would happen to wizards? What might happen to Muggles?

    "He did it, he did it!" Filch spat, his pouchy face purpling. "You saw what he wrote on the wall! He found – in my office – he knows I'm a – I'm a —" Filch's face worked horribly. "He knows I'm a Squib!" he finished.

    "I never touched Mrs. Norris!" Harry said loudly, uncomfortably aware of everyone looking at him, including all the Lockharts on the walls. "And I don't even know what a Squib is." (9.27-28)

    Argus Filch is a pretty warped individual, since he seems to get positive pleasure from punishing Hogwarts students. On the other hand, he seems desperately isolated. His only friend is Mrs. Norris, his cat, and he genuinely appears to feel that he's being persecuted because he is a Squib. We can't imagine what it would be like to be a non-magical person totally aware of the magical world – how awful, to know about magic but not to be able to do it! If you were a Squib, would you choose to keep working around wizards and witches? Would you join the Muggle world?

    "So anyway," a stout boy was saying, "I told Justin to hide up in our dormitory. I mean to say, if Potter's marked him down as his next victim, it's best if he keeps a low profile for a while. Of course, Justin's been waiting for something like this to happen ever since he let slip to Potter he was Muggle-born. Justin actually told him he'd been down for Eton. That's not the kind of thing you bandy about with Slytherin's heir on the loose, is it?

    "You definitely think it is Potter, then, Ernie?" said a girl with blonde pigtails anxiously.

    "Hannah," said the stout boy solemnly, "he's a Parselmouth. Everybody knows that's the mark of a Dark wizard. Have you ever heard of a decent one who could talk to snakes? They called Slytherin himself Serpent-tongue."

    There was some heavy murmuring at this, and Ernie went on, "Remember what was written on the wall? Enemies of the Heir, Beware. Potter had some sort of run-in with Filch. Next thing we know, Filch's cat is attacked. That first year, Creevey, was annoying Potter at the Quidditch match, taking pictures of him while he was lying in the mud. Next thing we know – Creevey's been attacked." (11.136-139)

    What do you think of Ernie's evidence here? Would you believe him, based on this logic, if you didn't know that Harry is innocent? If the book weren't from Harry's perspective, could Ernie's deductions sound right? Why is Ernie so quick to believe that Harry Potter is the Heir of Slytherin?

    Moaning Myrtle was crying, if possible, louder and harder than ever before. She seemed to be hiding down her usual toilet. It was dark in the bathroom because the candles had been extinguished in the great rush of water that had left both walls and floor soaking wet. (13.21)

    First of all, can you imagine anything worse than spending eternity haunting a bathroom? Maybe Moaning Myrtle is annoying and spends too much time feeling sorry for herself, but she really does get a raw deal. Secondly, Moaning Myrtle's hysterics mainly get played for laughs during Book 2. She's so over the top, with her crying and her self-pity. Yet she really is isolated from all of the other characters in the book, not only because she is dead, but also because she is so unpleasant personally. She's neither bad nor cruel; she's just supremely annoying. Why do you think J.K. Rowling depicts a dead girl in this relatively unsympathetic way? How might Book 2 be different if Moaning Myrtle were a tragic figure instead of a ridiculous one?

    Just then, Ginny Weasley came over and sat down next to Ron. She looked tense and nervous, and Harry noticed that he hands were twisting in her lap.

    "What's up?" said Ron, helping himself to more porridge.

    Ginny didn't say anything, but glanced up and down the Gryffindor table with a scared look on her face that reminded Harry of someone, though he couldn't think who.

    "Spit it out," said Ron, watching her.

    Harry suddenly realized who Ginny looked like. She was rocking backward and forward slightly in her chair, exactly like Dobby did when he was teetering on the edge of revealing forbidden information. (16.20-24)

    Finally, just before all the events of Book 2 come to a head, Ginny plucks up the courage to try and speak to Harry and Ron. Percy interrupts her before she can tell them about the cursed diary, so it doesn't work anyway. Still, we are impressed by her courage. Ginny's slow decline throughout Book 2, as she gets more and more nervous and sensitive, demonstrates the incredible damage that holding on to secrets can cause. In fact, the whole idea of the Chamber of Secrets itself takes on a negative connotation because it's secret, hidden, deliberately mysterious. Under what circumstances might secrets be necessary or even virtuous? What examples do we have of good secrets in the Harry Potter series?

  • Lies and Deceit

    "Now, we should aim to get in a few good compliments at dinner. Petunia, any ideas?"

    "Vernon tells me you're a wonderful golfer, Mr. Mason...Do tell me where you bought your dress, Mrs. Mason..."

    "Perfect...Dudley?"

    "How about – 'We had to write an essay about our hero at school, Mr. Mason, and I wrote about you.'" (1.52-55)

    One of the weird things about the Dursleys isn't just that they are so obsessed with being normal; it's that they're so bad at it. Aunt Petunia's compliments seem insincere but at least not crazy. As for Dudley, though – who wouldn't see through his claim that he's going to write a school essay about Mr. Mason? This is why we feel that the depiction of the Dursleys in the early novels of the series are almost cartoonish in their exaggeration. It's later on that we get a more realistic sense of how small-minded, fearful, and difficult they are.

    "Friends who don't even write to Harry Potter?" said Dobby slyly.

    "I expect they've just been – wait a minute," said Harry, frowning. "How do you know my friends haven't been writing to me?"

    Dobby shuffled his feet.

    "Harry Potter mustn't be angry with Dobby. Dobby did it for the best —" (2.72-75)

    Dobby is the first in a long line of people – most notably, Professor Dumbledore later in the series – who keep things from Harry "for his own good." Here, Dobby is stopping Harry's friends' letters to make Harry think that he has nothing to go back to at Hogwarts. It doesn't work to keep Harry from going to school, of course. Still, do you think that it ever works to try and hide information from people "for their own good"? Are there times when it is necessary to keep secrets to prevent others from being hurt or offended? Do you think Dobby's deception here is justified?

    Fred and George climbed catlike through the window into Harry's room. You had to hand it to them, thought Harry, as George took an ordinary hairpin from his pocket and started to pick the lock.

    "A lot of wizards think it's a waste of time, knowing this sort of Muggle trick," said Fred, "but we feel they're skills worth learning, even if they are a bit slow." (3.23-24)

    The fact that Fred and George know how to use Muggle lock-picking techniques at thirteen years old demonstrates in about three sentences that they are born troublemakers. They're using their powers of deception for good. They may be pranksters happily breaking into Harry's house, but they're hearts are also in the right place.

    "Harry, Harry, Harry," said Lockhart, reaching out and grasping [Harry's] shoulder. "I understand. Natural to want a bit more once you've had that first taste – and I blame myself for giving you that, because it was bound to go to your head – but see here, young man, you can't start flying cars to try and get yourself noticed. Just calm down, all right? Plenty of time for all that when you're older. Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking! 'It's all right for him, he's an internationally famous wizard already!' But when I was twelve, I was just as much of a nobody as you are now. In fact, I'd say I was even more of a nobody! I mean, a few people have heard of you, haven't they? All that business with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!" He glanced at the lightning scar on Harry's forehead. "I know, I know – it's not quite as good as winning Witch Weekly's Most-Charming-Smile Award five times in a row, as I have – but it's a start, Harry, it's a start." (6.43)

    Compared to the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructors we get later on in the series, Professor Lockhart seems vain and stupid, but mostly harmless. Still, it's definitely a bad sign about his character that he actually bothers to interrupt class to pull out one of his twelve-year-old students and assure that student that some day he'll be lucky enough to be as famous as Professor Lockhart himself. Professor Lockhart is absurdly jealous of Harry, which, again, given that he's about three times Harry's age, is pretty pathetic.

    "That will do," [Professor Binns] said sharply. "[The Chamber of Secrets] is a myth! It does not exist! There is not a shred of evidence that Slytherin ever built so much as a secret broom cupboard! I regret telling you such a foolish story! We will return, if you please, to history, to solid, believable, verifiable fact!" (9.116)

    First of all, it's sad that Professor Binns seems to think that anything interesting has to be fake, while "solid, believable, verifiable" fact has to be boring. Why can't things be both true and interesting in his class? Second of all, what do you think of Professor Binns's claim that history is "solid"? Doesn't history depend on who's telling it? Yes, history is based on research into contemporary documents and "verifiable fact." At the same time, the way you put together a historical narrative can really influence the impressions people get about who was right, who was wrong, and why things happened the way they did. For example, if it was Slytherin's followers telling us about the Chamber of Secrets, they would probably make it sound like the other three founders were being unreasonable and prejudiced against Slytherin's teachings when they drove him out of the castle. So, we think Professor Binns has too much faith in the power of history to be objective – and since the Chamber of Secrets does turn out to exist, we think J.K. Rowling is also being critical of his idea of "solid, believable" fact.

    So, Harry [...] Tomorrow's the first Quidditch match of the season, I believe? Gryffindor against Slytherin, is it not? I hear you're a useful player. I was a Seeker, too. I was asked to try for the National Squad, but preferred to dedicate my life to the eradication of the Dark Forces. Still, if ever you feel the need for a little private training, don't hesitate to ask. Always happy to pass on my expertise to less able players. (10.15)

    The thing that's odd about Professor Lockhart is less that he's willing to lie to make himself look better and more that he is so bad at it. How does anyone not see through this guy? Mrs. Weasley is a woman of the world, and yet she still seems really taken with Lockhart, and even after hearing this little speech to Harry, Hermione's crush continues on. Does Professor Lockhart remind you of anyone you know? What do you think drives his compulsive need to make himself look good all the time? Does Professor Lockhart believe that he is truly as great as he claims to be?

    "It means," said Dumbledore, "that the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open again."

    Madam Pomfrey clapped a hand to her mouth. Professor McGonagall stared at Dumbledore.

    "But, Albus...surely...who?"

    "The question is not who," said Dumbledore, his eyes on Colin. "The question is, how."

    And from what Harry could see of Professor McGonagall's shadowy face, she didn't understand this any better than he did. (10.175-179)

    Professor Dumbledore obviously means well. We still have to wonder, though: why doesn't he just tell the people around him what he knows? It would save them all a lot of trouble, especially in the later novels. Oh, of course, it preserves the suspense of the books that he's not totally open about his suspicions ever, but it would be nice if he explained himself once in a while, and avoided these totally obscure and incomprehensible hints. Why do you think Professor Dumbledore doesn't just tell Professor McGonagall what he thinks has happened to Colin Creevey? Why must he be so mysterious all the time? What reasons does he give in the later novels for keeping secrets? What do you think his motivations are in not explaining everything he knows up front to his colleagues?

    "Dreadful thing, Dumbledore," said Malfoy lazily, taking out a long roll of parchment, "but the governors feel it's time for you to step aside. This is an Order of Suspension – you'll find all twelve signatures on it. I'm afraid we feel you're losing your touch. How many attacks have there been now? Two more this afternoon, wasn't it? At this rate, there'll be no Muggle-borns left at Hogwarts, and we all know what an awful loss that would be to the school." (14.124)

    Lucius Malfoy is the single biggest opportunist in all of the Harry Potter novels. He's great at seizing chances to twist things to his advantage. These attacks on the Muggle-borns give him an apparently righteous reason to get rid of one of Voldemort's biggest enemies, Professor Dumbledore. Lucius is also remarkably good at saying the opposite of what he means and yet, making his true feelings perfectly clear. Obviously, he does not care at all if "there'll be no Muggle-borns left at Hogwarts." He's a callous, evil bastard, but he does have style and skill with language. How does Rowling show that Lucius is not to be trusted? Do we have any sense of his motivations beyond being an enemy to all things good?

    "We haven't seen [Hermione] for ages, Professor," Harry went on hurriedly, treading on Ron's foot, "and we thought we'd sneak down to the hospital wing, you know, and tell her the Mandrakes are nearly ready and, er, not to worry —"

    Professor McGonagall was still staring at him, and for a moment, Harry thought she was going to explode, but when she spoke, it was in a strangely croaky voice.

    "Of course," she said, and Harry, amazed, saw a tear glistening in her beady eye. "Of course, I realize that this has all been hardest on the friends of those who have been…I quite understand. Yes, Potter, of course you may visit Miss Granger. I will inform Professor Binns where you've gone. Tell Madam Pomfrey I have given my permission." (16.59-61)

    Remember how the Sorting Hat confirms that Harry would've done well in Slytherin? Here's a great example. He can be sneaky when he needs to be. Harry expertly manipulates Professor McGonagall's good nature and her care for her students. It's really a pretty impressive piece of lying. So, much of Book 2 is about the ways in which Harry is or isn't Slytherin. Why is his skill with manipulation not Slytherin here? What makes his lying to Professor McGonagall OK?

    "Books can be misleading," said Lockhart delicately.

    "You wrote them!" Harry shouted.

    "My dear boy," said Lockhart, straightening up and frowning at Harry. "Do use your common sense. My books wouldn't have sold half as well if people didn't think I'd done all those things. No one wants to read about some ugly old Armenian warlock, even if he did save a village from werewolves. He'd look dreadful on the front cover. No dress sense at all. And the witch who banished the Bandon Banshee had a hairy chin. I mean, come on —" (16.151-153)

    Professor Lockhart is obviously a self-serving jerk. Still, he is also pointing out something that might be kind of true: people probably wouldn't make "some ugly old" warlock a celebrity the way Professor Lockhart has become a celebrity. Looks definitely do matter in marketing a person's image to the public. Professor Lockhart is a fraud, but he gets adoring fan mail because he is so handsome. What do you think is the link between celebrity and good looks? Does the public necessarily care what a hero looks like, if he or she has done genuinely great deeds? Can you be hideous and a hero in the public eye?

  • Principles

    "A house-elf must be set free, sir. And the family will never set Dobby free...Dobby will serve the family until he dies, sir..."

    Harry stared.

    "And I thought I had it bad staying here for another four weeks," he said. "This makes the Dursleys sound almost human. Can't anyone help you? Can't I?"

    Almost at once, Harry wished he hadn't spoken. Dobby dissolved again into wails of gratitude. (2.32-35)

    Poor Harry. He tries to be a nice guy to Dobby, but Dobby's loud cries annoy the Dursleys. He really can't win when he's staying with his aunt and uncle. More to the point: the house-elf/wizard relationship gets more attention in the later Harry Potter novels. When it's first introduced in this book, how is it represented? How do you feel about the fact that wizards basically have a slave population to look after them? How does the existence of house-elves reflect on wizarding society?

    "[The Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office at the Ministry of Magic] is all to do with bewitching things that are Muggle-made, you know, in case they end up back in a Muggle shop or house." [...]

    "But your dad – this car —"

    Fred laughed. "Yeah, Dad's crazy about everything to do with Muggles; our shed's full of Muggle stuff. He takes it apart, puts spells on it, and puts it back together again. If he raided our house, he'd have to put himself under arrest. It drives Mum mad." (3.79-83)

    One reason why the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office is so disrespected at the Ministry is because it deals with Muggle things, and there's a lot of anti-Muggle bigotry in the wizarding world. Mr. Weasley's fascination with Muggle things seems pretty funny at this point in the series, when he has the same glee for our things that we have in exploring the wizarding world. Later on in the series, though, Mr. Weasley's love of Muggle things becomes a political principle: Mr. Weasley is from an old wizard family, but he's standing against prejudiced pureblood families like the Malfoys. His admiration for all things Muggle shows how liberal he is.

    "Dear me, what's the use of being a disgrace to the name of wizard if they don't even pay you well for it?"

    Mr. Weasley flushed darker than either Ron or Ginny.

    "We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy," he said.

    "Clearly," said Mr. Malfoy, his pale eyes straying to Mr. and Mrs. Granger, who were watching apprehensively. "The company you keep, Weasley...and I thought your family could sink no lower —" (4.176-179)

    It's still early in the Harry Potter series, but we're already starting to get a sense of the different politics of the wizarding world. Lucius Malfoy is a snob, both about money and about family. What other major social issues do the wizards of this series face? How much of a role do these social issues play in the plot of Chamber of Secrets?

    "Now, listen here, you lot," he said, glowing at them all. "We should have won the Quidditch Cup last year. We're easily the best team. But unfortunately – owing to circumstances beyond our control —"

    Harry shifted guilty in his seat. He had been unconscious in the hospital wing for the final match of the previous year, meaning that Gryffindor had been a player short and had suffered their worst defeat in three hundred years.

    Wood took a moment to regain control of himself. Their last defeat was clearly still torturing him. (7.38-40)

    Lucius Malfoy's principle is that Muggles are bad and wizards are awesome. Professor Dumbledore's principles seem to be all about good vs. evil, and morality. Then there's Oliver Wood, with the refreshingly simple principle that Quidditch is the Most Important Thing on Earth. He mainly seems to feel bad about Harry's hospitalization at the end of Book 1 because it meant Gryffindor lost the Quidditch Cup. Wood is like a stereotype of the serious sports fan, for whom nothing matters except the sport. Wood's presence (and Quidditch in general) lightens things up a little. Harry Potter may be caught in the battle between good and evil, but at least there's always his favorite broomstick sport. How do you compare to Wood? Do you have a sport that makes everything else seem unimportant in comparison? Do you know fans like Wood? Which sports seem to inspire this kind of loyalty among the people you know?

    "Good, aren't they?" said Malfoy smoothly. "But perhaps the Gryffindor team will be able to raise some gold and get new brooms, too. You could raffle off those Cleansweep Fives; I expect a museum would bid for them."

    The Slytherin team howled with laughter.

    "At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in," said Hermione sharply. "They got in on pure talent."

    The smug look on Malfoy's face flickered.

    "No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood," he spat.

    Harry knew at once that Malfoy had something really bad because there was an instant uproar at his words. Flint had to dive in front of Malfoy to stop Fred and George jumping on him. (7.77-82)

    Draco's introduction of the word "Mudblood" is huge in terms of the overall direction of the novel. It's the first time that we hear a real epithet about magical people born from Muggles – and it's proof that Draco is a giant bigot. All of the nasty stuff he says about the Weasleys and their poverty is awful, but it's also more familiar. Even here in the Muggle world, we have snobs who think badly of people who are poor. Still, "Mudblood" is an ugly word that we don't have in the Muggle world (of course), so we're getting into a new area of prejudice here. Clearly, the whole idea of Mudbloods and wizarding supremacy is at the core of the Death Eater movement, so this expression is key to the main conflicts of the Harry Potter series.

    For a few years, the founders worked in harmony together, seeking out youngsters who showed signs of magic and bringing them to the castle to be educated. But then disagreements sprang up between them. A rift began to grow between Slytherin and the others. Slytherin wished to be more selective about the students admitted to Hogwarts. He believed that magical learning should be kept within all-magic families. He disliked taking students of Muggle parentage, believing them to be untrustworthy. (9.100)

    Salazar Slytherin's argument with Godric Gryffindor and the other founders of Hogwarts shows that, no matter what happens between Harry, Draco, and Lord Voldemort, these tensions between "purebloods" and "Muggle-borns" will persist. After all, the wizarding world has a thousand year history of prejudice – it's never going to disappear entirely. That's human nature, we suppose (which is disappointing). At the same time, even if you can't get rid of prejudice entirely, at least you can fight back against it. We also wonder how much of Slytherin's suspicion of Muggle-borns comes from the fact that he lived in "an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution" (9.98). So the suspicion is mutual: Slytherin hates Muggles, but Muggles in this period also hate wizards. Why can't they all just get along?!

    "Well, if you two are going to chicken out, fine," [Hermione] said. There were bright pink patches on her cheeks and her eyes were brighter than usual. "I don't want to break rules, you know. I think threatening Muggle-borns is far worse than brewing up a difficult potion. But you don't want to find out if it's Malfoy, I'll go straight to Madam Pince now and hand the book back in —"

    "I never thought I'd see the day when you'd be persuading us to break rules," said Ron. (10.36-37)

    Hermione believes in school rules. She's much more hard core about being obedient and following the rules in Book 1; as the series continues, Hermione relaxes more and more (under the influence of Harry and Ron). She comes to see that Truth and Justice are more important than following the rules at every turn – it's what keeps Hermione from turning into another Percy Weasley. At the same time, Hermione is generally obedient, more so than her best friends. When does she decide it's OK to break the rules? What will she break the rules to achieve? What does Hermione's rule-breaking tell us about her principles?

    Malfoy started taking pictures with an imaginary camera and did a cruel but accurate impression of Colin: "'Potter, can I have your picture, Potter? Can I have your autograph? Can I lick your shoes, please, Potter? [...] Saint Potter, the Mudbloods' friend," said Malfoy slowly. "He's another one with no proper wizard feeling, or he wouldn't go around with that jumped-up Granger Mudblood. And people think he's Slytherin's heir!" (12.171-175)

    Clearly, Draco's family represents the worst of wizarding prejudice. Lucius Malfoy believes absolutely in anti-Muggle-born claptrap, and Draco also buys right into it. Yet a lot of Draco's principles seem tied to jealousy. He's jealous of Harry for his fame and of Hermione for her genius. He uses the insults he's been taught by his father to try and shame them, but what really seems to bother him is that they do better at everything than he does. How much of Draco's conflict with Harry and his friends is because Draco really believes all of this pureblood stuff, and how much is because he is jealous and resentful? How much faith do you think Draco has in the belief system of the Death Eaters (Voldemort's supporters) or Voldemort himself?

    Professor Sprout set them all to work pruning the Abyssinian Shrivelfigs. Harry went to tip an armful of withered stalks onto the compost heap and found himself face-to-face with Ernie Macmillan. Ernie took a deep breath and said, very formally, "I just want to say, Harry, that I'm sorry I ever suspected you. I know you'd never attack Hermione Granger, and I apologize for all the stuff I said. We're all in the same boat now, and, well —"

    He held out a pudgy hand, and Harry shook it.

    Ernie and his friend Hannah came to work at the same Shrivelfig as Harry and Ron.

    "That Draco Malfoy character," said Ernie, breaking off dead twigs, "he seems very pleased about all this, doesn't he? D'you know, I think he might be Slytherin's heir." (15.19-22)

    Honestly, we do have to admire Ernie's willingness to admit that he's wrong under such stressful circumstances. No wonder he and Harry manage to get along so well during the Defense Association/Dumbledore's Army portion of Book 5. Hufflepuff is probably the least immediately distinguishable or recognizable House of the four, but Ernie provides a pretty good model for the House trait of fair play. That said, even though he does have some excellent qualities, why does he immediately jump to blame someone else without direct evidence? Does Ernie learn a lesson from this whole episode with Harry? Why or why not? What lesson is there to learn?

    "Sorry to disappoint you and all that, but the greatest wizard in the world is Albus Dumbledore. Everyone says so. Even when you were strong, you didn't dare try and take over at Hogwarts. Dumbledore saw through you when you were at school and he still frightens you now, wherever you're hiding these days – " (17.76)

    Harry gives this speech to Riddle as he starts ranting about how great he is. At this stage in the series, Harry's loyalty and faith in Professor Dumbledore's power is absolute. Harry loves and admires Professor Dumbledore. The thing is, though, that Harry also has to become a leader in his own right. Eventually, he has to start questioning Professor Dumbledore's decisions, so that he can become his own man. When does Harry start distinguishing himself from Professor Dumbledore? When does he start challenging Dumbledore's authority? What events trigger Harry's break with Professor Dumbledore? How are Harry and Professor Dumbledore's leadership styles similar or different in the later novels of the series?

  • Education

    We have received intelligence that a Hover Charm was used at your place of residence this evening at twelve minutes past nine.

    As you know, underage wizards are not permitted to perform spells outside school, and further spellwork on your part may lead to expulsion from said school (Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, 1875, Paragraph C). (2.103-104)

    This Ministry notice to Harry scolding him for a Hover Charm that he didn't even cast (it was Dobby!) seems terribly unfair. It's the first definite evidence we get that the Ministry of Magic is not the world's most competent governing body. After all, how can you send someone an official warning without even knowing for sure if that person is the one who broke the law?

    All three of Mrs. Weasley's sons were taller than she was, but they cowered as her rage broke over them.

    "Beds empty! No note! Car gone – could have crashed – out of my mind with worry – did you care? – never, as long as I've lived – you wait until your father gets home, we never had trouble like this from Bill or Charlie or Percy – [...] You could have died, you could have been seen, you could have lost your father his job —"

    It seemed to go on for hours. Mrs. Weasley had shouted herself hoarse before she turned on Harry, who backed away.

    "I'm very pleased to see you, Harry, dear," she said. "Come in and have some breakfast." (3.105-110)

    The Burrow is the first wizarding house Harry has ever seen, so it's filled with things that are still new to him. It's not just the house itself that is new; this is also Harry's first experience of family life that isn't completely abusive and hostile to him. Mrs. Weasley yells at her kids, sure, but they have scared her to death. She shrieks because she worries. She also welcomes Harry with open arms. Harry is learning what a loving family looks like. No wonder he gets so attached to all of the Weasleys and not just Ron.

    "This is what you have to do," [Ron] said. He raised the gnome above his head ("Gerroff me!") and started to swing it in great circles like a lasso. Seeing the shocked look on Harry's face, Ron added, "It doesn't hurt them – you've just got to make them really dizzy so they can't find their way back to the gnomeholes."

    He let go of the gnome's ankles: It flew twenty feet into the air and landed with a thud in the field over the hedge [...]

    "See, [the gnomes] are not too bright," said George, seizing five or six gnomes at once. "The moment they know the de-gnoming's going on they storm up to have a look. You'd think they'd have learned by now to just stay put."

    Soon, the crowd of gnomes in the field started walking away in a straggling line, their little shoulders hunched. (3.141-149)

    The Harry Potter series is set in a school, so of course it's about education. It also focuses on Harry (and the reader) learning more about the larger wizarding world. The Burrow isn't just a house where wizards live; it's also a magical place in its own right, filled with creatures like these (cute) gnomes and the ghoul in the attic. These scenes teach both Harry and us how different the day-to-day life of wizards truly is. By making Harry unfamiliar with wizarding culture, Rowling has a plot-level reason to explain cool details like the gnomes. All of this stuff is as new to Harry as it is to us, so of course he's curious and wants to know more – which is great, because we want to know more, too.

    "I hope my son will amount to more than a thief or a plunderer, Borgin," said Mr. Malfoy coldly, and Mr. Borgin said quickly, "No offense, sir, no offense meant —"

    "Though if his grades don't pick up," said Mr. Malfoy, more coldly still, "that may indeed be all he is fit for —"

    "It's not my fault," retorted Draco. "The teachers all have favorites, that Hermione Granger "

    "I would have thought you'd be ashamed that a girl of no wizard family beat you in every exam," snapped Mr. Malfoy. (4.83-86)

    Obviously, this scene between Draco and Lucius Malfoy underlines the Malfoys' bigotry. Lucius is outraged that Draco's scores aren't as good as the marks of "a girl of no wizard family." Beyond that, though, we have here an extremely negative example of parenting (clearly). Lucius publicly shames Draco for his grades rather than, say, doing anything to help him improve. He offers Draco a racing broom – so he's willing to spoil Draco – but he doesn't encourage Draco to work for the broom. So Lucius gives Draco things that he hasn't earned but then mocks him for poor grades without assisting him to improve. This is very bad parenting technique – a lesson for us all to bear in mind!

    Mrs. Weasley's yells, a hundred times louder than usual, made the plates and spoons rattle on the table, and echoed deafeningly off the stone walls. People throughout the hall were swiveling around to see who had received the Howler, and Ron sank so low in his chair that only his crimson forehead could be seen.

    "— LETTER FROM DUMBLEDORE LAST NIGHT, I THOUGHT YOUR FATHER WOULD DIE OF SHAME, WE DIDN'T BRING YOU UP TO BEHAVE LIKE THIS, YOU AND HARRY COULD BOTH HAVE DIED —" (6.18-19)

    Ron and Harry both felt really cool, arriving at school in a flying car, but Mrs. Weasley's Howler – and the news that Mr. Weasley is facing an investigation at work because of the whole Misuse of Muggle Artifacts thing – suddenly makes them realize that they were taking a huge risk that freaks out Ron's parents. Harry feels guilty for abusing the Weasleys' trust and Ron feels mortified. A Howler seems like a really humiliating thing to receive in the middle of a full dining hall, though. Does this seem like effective parental discipline? Or does it seem like overkill? If you had kids, would you be willing to send Howlers to their schools? Would your parents Howler you if they had the chance? What might their Howlers say?

    "I don't really understand Quidditch," said Colin breathlessly. "Is it true there are four balls? And two of them fly around trying to knock people off their brooms?"

    "Yes," said Harry heavily, resigned to explaining the complicated rules of Quidditch. "They're called Bludgers. There are two Beaters on each team who carry clubs to beat the Bludgers away from their side. Fred and George Weasley are the Gryffindor Beaters." (7.22-23)

    Moments like this one between first year Colin Creevey and Harry remind us that this is the second book of the series. For her potential new readers, J.K. Rowling has to include some exposition of all of the things she's set up in Book 1, things like the wizarding world's moving photographs or Quidditch. Of course, later on in the series, Rowling can assume that her readers are familiar enough with Harry's world not to need instruction in Quidditch. By Book 2, though, it's still early days in the Harry Potter series and all of these things we take for granted now aren't as widely known or established as they will be by Book 7. With his endless questions, Colin becomes an excellent tool for Rowling to instruct her new readers in the basic rules of Hogwarts and Harry's life, since he's (a) obsessed with Harry, and (b) a first year, so, busily absorbing the amazing world around him. Colin is both a character and a mechanism of the narrative.

    History of Magic was the dullest subject on their schedule. Professor Binns, who taught it, was their only ghost teacher, and the most exciting thing that ever happened in his classes was his entering the room through the blackboard. Ancient and shriveled, many people said he hadn't noticed he was dead. He had simply got up to teach one day and left his body behind him in front of the staffroom fire; his routine had not varied in the slightest since. (9.83)

    There's something ironic about a dead man teaching history, since history is all about the past and the activities of long-dead people. We have to wonder a little at the wisdom of Professor Dumbledore leaving such a deadly dull instructor in charge of a subject that's actually really important. Not only is the history of the four founding wizards and witches essential to the plot of Book 2, but wouldn't it have been helpful for Harry to know about Grindelwald before Book 7?

    "Dangerous?" said Harry, laughing. "Come off it, how could it be dangerous?"

    "You'd be surprised, said Ron, who was looking apprehensively at the book. "Some of the books the Ministry's confiscated – Dad's told me – there was one that burned your eyes out. And everyone who read Sonnets of a Sorcerer spoke in limericks for the rest of their lives. And some old witch in Bath had a book that you could never stop reading! You just had to wander around with your nose in it, trying to do everything one-handed." (13.33-34)

    Muggle-born wizards and witches obviously are just as good (or in Hermione's case, better) than purebloods. Still, Book 2 does show evidence of real cultural differences between people who have been raised in the wizard world and those who have been brought up in the Muggle world. Harry is a great example. As a kid brought up by the Dursleys, he has no idea why being a Parselmouth would make him terrifying to other wizards. Here, he has none of the caution around an unknown book that comes naturally to Ron. So Harry has none of the prejudices that purebloods have about their world, but he's also still learning a basic level of caution and understanding as he integrates with other wizards. As an early part of the Harry Potter series, Book 2 shows us that Harry is still in the middle of a process of adapting to the unfamiliar dangers and differences of the wizarding world. He doesn't think about this new, empty book as a danger because he hasn't been raised by a magical family, but his experiences with Tom Riddle's diary give him a quick education in taking bewitched objects very, very seriously.

    "Ginny!" said Mr. Weasley, flabbergasted. "Haven't I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain. Why didn't you show the diary to me, or to your mother? A suspicious object like that, it was clearly full of Dark Magic —"

    "I d-didn't know," sobbed Ginny. "I found it inside one of the books Mum got me. I th-thought someone had just left it there and forgotten about it." (18.21-22)

    This is certainly a useful lesson to have: only trust thinking things if you can tell where their brains are. Wizarding lessons are definitely different from ours. At the same time, we find this rule completely puzzling. Why would a visible or invisible brain case make a difference to trustworthiness? What does Mr. Weasley's lesson mean? How might this lesson apply to another book we come across in the series, the Half-Blood Prince's advanced potions textbook in Book 6?

    "This is called a telephone number," [Harry] told Ron, scribbling it twice, tearing the parchment in two, and handing it to them. "I told your dad how to use a telephone last summer – he'll know. Call me at the Dursleys', okay? I can't stand another two months with only Dudley to talk to…"

    "Your aunt and uncle will be proud, though, won't they?" said Hermione as they got off the train and joined the crowd thronging toward the enchanted barrier. "When they hear what you did this year?"

    "Proud?" said Harry. "Are you crazy? All those times I could've died, and I didn't manage it? They'll be furious…" (18.143-145)

    How can Harry say things like this about his home life and yet continue to get sent back to the Dursleys? He's joking, yes, but – not really. Still, we also find it amazing that Hermione, one of Harry's best friends, doesn't seem aware of how bad things are at Harry's aunt and uncle's house. It's naive of her to think they'll suddenly grow some pride in their nephew, when they haven't all of these years. What long-term effects does Harry's treatment at the Dursleys have on his character? Why do you think J.K. Rowling chose to give Harry this kind of Muggle home life? How would the novels be different if his aunt and uncle loved him as they are supposed to?

  • Perseverance

    "Petunia" roared Uncle Vernon. "He's getting away! HE'S GETTING AWAY!"

    But the Weasleys gave a gigantic tug and Harry's leg slid out of Uncle Vernon's grasp – Harry was in the car – he'd slammed the door shut – (3.40-41)

    Perseverance – the ability to follow through on something even when it gets difficult – is a virtue. Arguably, Uncle Vernon has perseverance in his efforts to (a) make Harry's life miserable, and (b) squash the magic out of Harry. Of course, much though we may admire the idea of dedication, Uncle Vernon's goals are obviously insane. Why do you think he's so mad that Harry is getting away? Why does Uncle Vernon want to keep Harry at home when he hates him so much?

    "Dunno how Mum and Dad are going to afford all our school stuff this year," said George after a while. "Five sets of Lockhart books! And Ginny needs robes and a wand and everything..."

    Harry said nothing. He felt a bit awkward. Stored in an underground vault at Gringotts in London was a small fortune that his parents had left him. (4.28-29)

    The Weasleys are poor and Harry is rich, which creates some tension between Harry and Ron (tension that really explodes around Book 4). Despite their poverty, the Weasleys accept Harry into their home with open arms, never making him feel like a burden (unlike the Dursleys). They make do with what they have. Yet their poverty is also important as an illustration of one of the rules of Harry Potter's world. You can't just conjure stuff out of nothing. Even though magic can make your life a lot easier, it can't make problems like poverty go away. The Weasleys may be accomplished wizards, but they can't just create gold – magic doesn't work like that in this series. So social problems like poverty persist.

    Mr. Malfoy's lip curled.

    "I have not been visited yet. The name Malfoy still commands a certain respect, yet the Ministry grows ever more meddlesome. There are rumors about a new Muggle Protection Act – no doubt that flea-bitten, Muggle-loving fool Arthur Weasley is behind it —" (4.76-77)

    Perhaps this quote is an example of persistence rather than the more positive virtue of perseverance. We're going to include it here anyway because this category is about things that go on, negative or positive. Lucius Malfoy's conversation with Mr. Borgin in Knockturn Alley indicates how little respect he has for Arthur Weasley. We find it interesting that Lucius's hatred for Arthur carries over to the next generation. Obviously, Draco despises Ron. The Harry Potter series often focuses on how the past continues to influence the present. Here is our first inkling that the resentments of prior generations are influencing events happening right now in the novels. For a clearer example of this kind of persistence, check out Professor Snape's relation to Sirius Black in Book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

    Fascinated, Harry thumbed through the rest of the envelope's contents. Why on earth did Filch want a Kwikspell course? Did this mean he wasn't a proper wizard? Harry was just reading "Lesson One: Holding Your Wand (Some Useful Tips)" when shuffling footsteps outside told him Filch was coming back. Stuffing the parchment back into the envelope, Harry threw it back onto the desk just as the door opened. (8.35)

    It's nice to know that wizards get junk mail the same way we do – this Kwikspell ad that Filch receives seems about on the level of the "get out of debt free!" and "lose weight now!" emails that fill our inboxes. The course promises "an all-new, fail-safe, quick-result, easy-learn course" (8.34) in magic for people who are dissatisfied with their own magical power. It's got plenty of buzzwords, but we doubt there's much in the way of results. This ad plays on Filch's insecurities as a man living in the wizarding world without magic – and it also gives us some insight into why Filch loathes the students of Hogwarts so much. No wonder he hates a bunch of twelve-year olds who are learning things that he is trying to master through a correspondence course in secret. It doesn't excuse his horrible behavior, but we can't imagine the bitterness of Filch struggling on his own to become a wizard while surrounded by kids who make it look easy to master magic.

    Harry watched, amazed, as a portly ghost approached the table, crouched low, and walked through it, his mouth held wide so that it passed through one of the stinking salmon.

    "Can you taste it if you walk through it?" Harry asked him.

    "Almost," said the ghost sadly, and he drifted away.

    "I expect they've let it rot to give it a stronger flavor," said Hermione knowledgeably, pinching her nose and leaning closer to look at the putrid haggis. (8.93-96)

    One of the most notable things about the ghosts in Book 2 is how human they choose to be. Nick is hurt and angry that Sir Patrick won't let him join the Headless Hunt, and here we have this fat ghost who misses food so much that he tries to taste salmon by drifting through an empty plate of it. So it comes down to sports and food. These ghosts may have died, but they still want to play and eat the way they did when they were alive. If you were a ghost, would you try to continue your human life? Would you do something else?

    As [the Gryffindor Quidditch team] walked out onto the pitch, a roar of noise greeted them; mainly cheers, because Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were anxious to see Slytherin beaten, but the Slytherins in the crowd made their boos and hisses heard, too. (10.48)

    The entire school hates Slytherin. All three of the other houses are cheering Gryffindor over Slytherin because they hate Slytherin house. Now, we're not saying that there aren't plenty of bad people in Slytherin, because there are (obviously). Still, we do feel kind of sorry for the house as a whole, since everybody hates them. They're not really being given much of an option except to turn bad. It's not exactly a joyous life, being a Slytherin, which seems a bit unfair – it is a Hogwarts House, after all, in the same way that Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and even Gryffindor are. Or does this logic not get very far with you? What do you think of the Slytherins? Are they all like Draco? What do you think the primary traits of Slytherin House are? Who are the good Slytherins in the Harry Potter novels? How do they differ from the bad ones?

    Harry couldn't take anymore. Clearing his throat loudly, he stepped out from behind the bookshelves. If he hadn't been feeling so angry, he would have found the sight that greeted him funny: Every one of the Hufflepuffs looked as though they had been Petrified by the sight of him, and the color was draining out of Ernie's face.

    "Hello," said harry. "I'm looking for Justin Finch-Fletchley."

    The Hufflepuffs' worst fears had clearly been confirmed. They all looked fearfully at Ernie. (11.143-145)

    Harry overhears the Hufflepuff second years accusing him of trying to kill Justin Finch-Fletchley with a snake. They even think that he is rising to be the next Dark Lord. Instead of continuing to hide or sneaking off, though, Harry chooses to confront the Hufflepuffs openly about their assumptions. He's a Gryffindor, and their main quality is supposed to be courage; we imagine it would take a lot of bravery to go and talk normally to a bunch of people who think you're a crazed killer on the loose.

    "My friendly, card-carrying cupids!" beamed Lockhart. "They will be roving around the school today delivering your valentines! And the fun doesn't stop here! I'm sure my colleagues will want to enter into the spirit of the occasion! Why not ask Professor Snape to show you how to whip up a Love Potion! And while you're at it, Professor Flitwick knows more about Entrancing Enchantments than any wizard I've ever met, the sly old dog!"

    Professor Flitwick buried his face in his hands. Snape was looking as though the first person to ask him for a Love Potion would be force-fed poison. (13.87-88)

    As with the Dueling Club, we have to be impressed at Professor Lockhart's complete and utter lack of self-consciousness. He really does not seem to notice (or care) that he is making the other professors loathe him with his horrible behavior. Why does Professor Lockhart persist in these stunts? Does he think it will win him popularity at the school? Is he really just that stupid, that he doesn't realize most of Hogwarts thinks he's a laughing stock? Or could it be more sinister? Maybe Professor Lockhart is trying to use these ridiculous stunts to distract people from wondering too much about the truth of his books. What do you think Professor Lockhart's motivations are?

    Harry couldn't explain, even to himself, why he didn't just throw Tom Riddle's diary away. The fact was that even though he knew the diary was blank, he kept absentmindedly picking it up and turning the pages, as though it were a story he wanted to finish. And while 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'd had when he was very small, and had half-forgotten. But this was absurd. He'd never had friends before Hogwarts, Dudley had made sure of that. (13.69)

    While the diary still appears blank to Harry, he keeps flipping through it as though it means something to him. What do you think is prompting this curiosity? Is the diary beginning to work its possessing magic? Is Harry working on his own personal instincts (which have led him to battle Voldemort successfully before)? How lucky is Harry that he was in the right place to find this diary in the first place? In some way, Harry seems to be fated to be in the right place at the right time to find the diary and discover Tom Riddle. What if someone else had picked up Riddle's diary in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom?

    "The diary," said Riddle. "My diary. Little Ginny's been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes – how her brothers tease her, how she had to come to school with secondhand robes and books, how" – Riddle's eyes glinted – "how she didn't think famous, good, great Harry Potter would ever like her."

    All the time he spoke, Riddle's eyes never left Harry's face. There was an almost hungry look in them.

    "It's very boring, having to listen to the silly little troubles of an eleven-year-old girl," he went on. "But I was patient. I wrote back. I was sympathetic. I was kind. Ginny simply loved me. No one's ever understood me like you, TomI'm so glad I've got this diary to confide in…It's like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket…"

    Riddle laughed, a high, cold, laugh that didn't suit him. It made the hairs stand up on the back of Harry's neck.

    "If I say so myself, Harry, I've always been able to charm the people I needed. So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted…I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets." (17.41-45)

    This is a terrible violation, as Tom Riddle exposes Ginny's deepest secrets to Harry. Tom Riddle's strategy for Ginny's possession involves lies and deceit, so we could certainly put this quote under that theme. Still, we also have to remark on how long it takes for Tom Riddle to gain greater control over Ginny's soul. We have very little sense of who Ginny is at this point of the series – she doesn't really begin to come into her own until Book 5 and later. Yet the fact that she could resist the complete domination of Voldemort for such a long time speaks to the strength of her character. We know Ginny is going to be important to Harry, not just because she's a Weasley or Ron's little sister, but because she shows the same kind of resilience that Harry did when he was eleven and facing down Voldemort. She may make bad choices – she really should have told someone about the diary earlier, and she doesn't actually succeed in throwing off Riddle's influence – but she perseveres as best she can against his powers. As well, she does try to protect Harry from Riddle's diary. We don't think we were so tough at eleven. So we're pretty impressed with Ginny Weasley.