So, after a rushing week, it's time to cozy down with Chamber of Secrets. But don't get too comfortable. The Mudblood-targeting monster has got itself its first human victim. Quite a jump in the danger range, from cat to Creevey. And Dobby is back and with more dire warnings, but he let slip some valuable information before pummeling himself silent: the Chamber of Secrets exists, and it's been opened before!
Jenna at this point mentions Harry as "the Physical Hero." Sacrifice that comes in the literal form of pain and suffering is common in Harry Potter. A lot of time is spent in in-castle hospital, where the cures are almost as bad as the ailments!
I feel for Harry's plight being a Parselmouth. He's already under the suspicion of his classmates most of the time, without them suspecting him of setting snakes on them. The scene in the library when Harry confronts the Hufflepuffs is one of those character-building moments, when we see that Harry has heat in him. At least it is for me. I don't know why I tend to forget that--maybe from Daniel Radcliffe's performance in the movies--but I subconsciously consider Harry as one acted-upon. Not as much the one who acts. It could be an illusion brought about by his place as central character in a plot-dense story. So much happens all around him that it seems like most of the time he is in reaction-mode. So when I see his anger and confrontation, I fluctuate between pride and surprise. In a difficult situation (especially for adolescents, and this particular adolescent cares for the opinions of his peers more than most because his family is abusive), Harry doesn't run away in tears like I would have; nor does he lunge out in anger, until he is accused of something vile. I glad for these jolts every now and then, to remind me that Harry is more master of his fate than I give him credit for.
About the Parselmouth gift being the domain of dark wizards, I feel the same as I do about his suitability for placement in Slytherin. Though the wizarding world is stubborn in its prejudices, I insist that the evilness (or goodness) of a thing, a created object or a genetic gift, is in how it is used. I'm pulling strongly for Harry, here. I sense and understand his fear. It is true that the Parselmouth gift is one often used for evil. But that makes me even more determined to see Harry use it for good. The ability to speak to snakes, like most things, is not intrinsically wrong. So it's unfortunate his classmates see it as such.
An interesting thought, from the Harry Potter Companion, which I thought worth sharing:
It’s interesting that Snape completely sets up Harry’s exposure as a Parseltongue when he puts Harry and Malfoy on stage, and then suggests that Malfoy use Serpensortia. Why on earth would Snape have done it? It’s a useless spell for a duel (as Irene M. Cesca mentions below, “What? You cross your fingers… that he’s gonna run out screaming?”). So was something more sinister at work? Did Snape, or Dumbledore, suspect that Harry was a Parselmouth and use the opportunity to learn more?
On the one hand, Dumbledore is such a mastermind so much of the time that my brain tends to immediately jump to conspiracy theories when something like this happens. But as several readers pointed out, it’s just not Dumbledore’s style to publicly expose anybody in this fashion, much less Harry Potter. Snape, however, is not above any such things – especially when it comes to Harry. And he is certainly suspicious (even though Dumbledore is not) that Harry had something to do with the Mrs. Norris incident. Is it possible Snape just took it on himself to throw a snake in front of Harry and see what happened? It would certainly be an awfully big, awfully convenient coincidence if that’s all it was. But I can’t make sense of it any other way.
Can't say that it's been like Rowling so far to be super subtle with ulterior motives, so I don't think Snape suspected Harry of snake-speaking capabilities and had Malfoy set the snake on him to out him. That doesn't keep it from being an entertaining thought!
Malfoy further ingratiates himself to my disfavor in this chapter. What kind of person wishes for a classmate to die? He's horrid to his friends. And how much of this is truly how he feels, and how much is show? How much is a desire to make himself acceptable to his cool-favored parents? So far, we've only met the father, and Lucius is not one I'd describe as "supportive."
We also learn that Percy is creeping around and that the last person who opened the chamber might be in Azkaban--first mention of the foreboding wizard prison.
|Catmione, far-eviler of dA, source|
Like Masha, I find more beauty and solace in the old fairy tale depiction of the phoenix rather than Rowling's. But hers is suitable for the story she tells.
Like Jenna, I wondered what Dumbledore meant by asking Harry if there was anything Harry'd like to tell him. If Dumbledore does know everything that goes on in Hogwarts--which would be a natural position to assume as children looking up to their wise, knowledgeable mentor--then there is something unsettling in his allowance for things to run their course. The way he asks it makes me think he knows Harry knows something. But it might not be more than a feeling or a guess, and perhaps Dumbledore is not as confident as he comes off to be.
The student-mentor relationship between Harry and Dumbledore has potential for much growing pain. I do believe that before the end, Harry's heart will be broken by the bitter knowledge that his beloved Professor doesn't have all the answers. But Oscar Wilde has something profound to say regarding that matter.