Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 10-12
Is Slytherin the Evil House?
Harry is having a bit of an identity crisis in these chapters. He is terrified he might really be a descendent of Slytherin, especially once he learns that they share a very rare trait. Harry asks the Sorting Hat if it was sure that Harry belonged in Gryffindor and the hat just responds that he would have done well in Slytherin too. There is a lot of debate within the Harry Potter fandom about whether Slytherin is the “evil house” or not. Rowling herself seems to go back and forth on this throughout the books. Of course we are reading it through the lens of Harry’s inner thoughts and he is definitely anti-Slytherin. But there are other characters that voice the opinion that Slytherins are not by nature evil. The central characteristics of Slytherin students is that they are cunning and ambitious. These are not necessarily bad traits, but it depends on how they are used. However, Rowling provides very few truly good Slytherins, if there are any at all. Which makes it difficult to argue that it isn’t just the house for bad kids. It also doesn’t help when the password to the Slytherin common room is “pureblood”.
Since finding out he was a wizard, Harry hasn’t though much about the fact that he was able to communicate with that snake at the zoo in the first book. He figures that it’s something that any wizard could do. However when he talks to the snake in the dueling club in front of most of the school, he learns that it is not a common trait, and it is typically associated with dark wizards. Especially Salazar Slytherin. Now a large portion of the student population is convinced that he is Slytherin’s heir and thus he is the one that opened the Chamber of Secrets. Throughout the series we will see that the student body at Hogwarts is pretty fickle towards Harry. At least once per book there has to be a period where everyone hates him but they always get over it. Especially when he keeps saving the school from mortal peril.
Hermione makes the very complicated polyjuice potion so that they can turn themselves into Slytherins and find out if Malfoy is the heir. As per usual they have very little proof but they are absolutely convinced it must be Malfoy. They have yet to learn that he really is all talk and no action. This seems like a very complicated plan for something that probably isn’t worth it. Harry and Ron turn into Crabbe and Goyle and basically learn that Malfoy isn’t the heir and doesn’t know who it is, but he is sympathetic to the cause. The most interesting part of the polyjuice potion subplot is that we learn that Hermione isn’t as much of a rule follower as she is originally thought to be. If she feels that breaking the rules is for the greater good or she feels the rule is unjust she has no problem breaking it. In this case being a muggle born means that she will be a target of whatever is lurking in the chamber and thus she has to learn who is behind it. Too bad she accidentally turns herself into a cat when she drinks her polyjuice.
- Dobby returns to once again try to get Harry sent home. He reveals that it was him that sealed the passage onto platform 9 and 3/4 so that Harry wouldn’t be able to get to school. This time he enchanted a bludger to attack Harry during a quidditch match in hopes that if Harry was injured enough he would go home. Clearly Dobby doesn’t know Harry at all because absolutely nothing would make him go back to the Dursley’s before he has to.
- Lockhart’s classes have just become story hour where he reenacts his heroic deeds.
- Harry is more concerned with beating Slytherin in the quidditch match than his safety and Oliver Wood feels the same.
- We learn that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened before. Even though all of the teachers like to act like it doesn’t exist.
- More people get petrified including Colin Creevey, Justin Finch-Fletchley, and Nearly Headless Nick.
- Ernie MacMillan uses a fan to waft a petrified Nearly Headless Nick out of the hallway.
- We meet Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix for the first time.
- Why didn’t Harry and Ron find out where the Slytherin common room was before they drank the polyjuice potion? They really waste some of their very limited time.