Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Friendship

By J.K. Rowling

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?