“Follow the spiders”

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 13-15

In every Harry Potter book there comes a time when things abruptly shift towards the end of the book. Typically Harry is just going through his Hogwarts life, pondering some mysteries, playing quidditch. Then shit hits the fan pretty quickly and all of a sudden he is facing the big bad of the book. In this book that shift is definitely happening in these chapters. Hermione is sidelined after being petrified. Dumbledore is voted out by the school’s board of governors. And Hagrid is sent to Azkaban so that the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, can look like he is doing something.

Tom riddle’s Diary

This first chapter in this section, “The Very Secret Diary” is definitely the meatiest chapter. The remaining two are more plot set up to get to the big finale in the last three chapters. Once you have read the whole series, this chapter is definitely one to come back to. There is so much to mine out of it. So spoilers ahead.

Harry finds Tom Riddle’s diary after someone tried to flush it down the toilet. Initially it looks like an empty diary but Harry just can’t let it go. Ron figures out that T.M. Riddle is the same person whose “special award for services to the school” trophy he had had to clean up during detention. That means that Riddle went to Hogwarts 50 years ago and now someone is trying to throw out his “empty” diary. The trio pretty quickly puts together that those special services were probably capturing the person who opened the chamber last time.

The fact that Harry is inexplicably drawn to this diary is of course much more than curiosity. The diary is a horcrux and so is Harry, which is probably why he can’t stop touching it. He eventually figures out how the diary works and still being a new wizard, Harry doesn’t really question whether this type of magic is normal or not. Tying a part of your memory, or soul, to an object is definitely not normal. This is the second time in this book that he has underestimated the uniqueness of a type of magic. A few chapters back he though that being a parselmouth was common amongst wizards. But in the entire series we only ever know about those that are direct descendents of Salazar Slytherin, and Harry.

Harry’s initial impression of Riddle is that he is a lot like him. They have similar backgrounds. Both were orphaned at a young age, grew up with muggles, and feel much more at home in the wizarding world. When Harry sees Riddle turn Hagrid in for opening the chamber, Harry recognizes it is because he wants to stay at Hogwarts. A sentiment Harry definitely understands. But Harry, being an innately good person, doesn’t question whether Riddle was telling the truth. He doesn’t imagine that Riddle could have set Hagrid up just so Hogwarts wouldn’t be shut down. Even if Harry doesn’t think Hagrid would intentionally hurt anyone, he takes Riddle at his word.

The Attacks Continue

After a dormant period, the monster strikes again. This time Hermione gets petrified, just as she figures out an important clue. Of course she doesn’t tell Harry and Ron what her hunch is before she gets attacked. This is very convenient and it means that Harry and Ron are going to have to figure it out on their own. Ultimately Harry always has to face his battles alone but losing Hermione this early on is definitely a setback.

When Hagrid is taken off to Azkaban, he tells Harry and Ron to “follow the spiders” to get the truth. Despite being terrified of spiders, Ron takes on the challenge because Hermione needs them. Ron gets a lot of shit for being useless, but going up against your greatest fear to help your friend is the definition of bravery. Turns out Ron was right to be afraid of these particular spiders though because they are not one of Hagrid’s “misunderstood” creatures. Aragog only gives them some bare minimum information, and refuses to tell them what the monster is, because they don’t speak of it. Aragog then throws them to his very hungry offspring. Aragog’s loyalty to Hagrid doesn’t extend very far.

Miscellaneous

  • There is a fan theory that Ron is a “seer” because he says a lot of things offhanded and those things often turn out to be true in some way. In Chapter 13, when they are thinking about what Riddle’s special services to the school might have been he says that maybe it was for murdering Myrtle because she is so annoying. That obviously isn’t what the award is for, but Riddle did kill Myrtle.
  • Harry picks his electives for next year based on what Ron is taking.
  • Surprisingly, Percy suggests Harry take Divination. Percy doesn’t seem like he would care for such a muddy subject.
  • With Hermione petrified, Ernie MacMillan finally moves his suspicions off Harry and now onto Draco. Ernie seems like a sensationalist.
  • “I will only truly have left this school when non here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it”

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