31 January 2013

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Readalong: Part Deux

Well thank goodness this book is behind us and we can move on to the BEST BOOK IN THE SERIES. Not that I feel strongly about it or anything. No, the second half of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets vastly improves on the first half, but frankly that's setting the bar pretty low. All of the excitement in the book happens here: the dueling club! the polyjuice! the diary that appears and then mysteriously disappears! Hagrid suspected of monstrous things! and then the *actual* chamber itself.

Here we go then: some of the things that struck me as terrific or puzzling or just plain incorrect...

Chapter Eleven, p. 187.  I get that Harry and Ron need to distract Snape so that Hermione can steal the boomslang and whatnot (ugh, that almost sounds like a dirty euphemism!), but really? A firecracker tossed into somebody's potion, that could have exploded and maimed/injured/killed their classmates?  That seems seriously misguided. It makes me realize, however, that Snape must have the antidote on hand for every single class: potions can be a seriously dangerous class. Far moreso than any other core curriculum.

Chapter 11, p. 190.  Dueling club, where Harry learns his signature spell.  How ironic that it's Snape who teaches Harry the expelliarmus. Harry uses it throughout the rest of the book, and of course we know when it becomes important later. But the first time I read this book it didn't occur to me that mostly Harry just tried to disarm his opponents. 

Chapter 11, p. 191: Snape's usage of student names interests me: Gryffindor boys are referred to only by their surnames, but Slytherin boys & girls AND Gryffindor girls get the honorifics of "Mr." and "Miss" added to their surnames. But then two pages later refers to Potter and Malfoy, not Potter and Mr. Malfoy.  Just curious to me. But I LOVE Snape's and Lockhart's interactions.

Chapter 11, p. 193. OMG. Lockhart's wand is a little overexcited. And his fangirls everywhere let out a magical squee.

Chapter 11, p. 196. If any other founder had been able to talk to snakes it would have been a badass trait.  But because it was Salazar Slytherin it's merely bad.  Puh-leeze.

Chapter 11, p. 200.  Ernie McMillan claims he can trace his family "back through nine generations of witches and warlocks." Why not witches and wizards?  Why not a school for warlockery instead of wizardry? Misprint?

Chapter Twelve, p. 214. Ron asks Harry, "Have you ever heard of a plan where so many things could go wrong?" Uh, yeah.  It's called Camping for Horcruxes, my friend. You'll hear of it in a few years.

Chapter 12, ongoing: It's pretty amazing that Hermione was able to make the polyjuice potion correctly. But it really bugs me that she wasn't able to go into the Slytherin common room with them to learn more.  And why the heck is Malfoy staying at school over Christmas?  Just last year he was making snarky comments about Ron and Harry's being at school over the break. Malfoy really pisses me off in this scene, but I have to say it reads fairly unrealistically to me. Malfoy is not a pleasant child, but I find it difficult to believe that he truly wants his classmates petrified and/or killed and that he would like to help out whomever is doing it.

Basically I couldn't find any relevant images, so I'm just going to insert ones I like at random.
Chapter Thirteen, p. 234. I love how Sprout knows that the mandrakes are nearly ready since they're "becoming moody and secretive, meaning they were fast leaving childhood."

Moving on. Blah, blah--Hagrid has a monster--big surprise.  Blah, blah, follow the spiders, because when did Hagrid ever give bad advice? Aragog is mostly just a bland derivative of Shelob, but with a better name. My real quibble with this chapter is why Hagrid was put in prison without a trial. Why not just look at his pensieve memories? Dumbledore is stripped of his position at the same time they come to take Hagrid away, which apparently means that without school duties tying him up, he had nothing better to do than sit on his ass all day watching Vampire Diaries reruns and pining for Damon because he's a handsome & devilish rogue like Grindelwald. Ahem.

Or instead, he could have put that formidable power and intelligence to some good use, like keeping Hagrid out of prison. But apparently Dumbles was less interested in the mental health of his gamekeeper than watching muggle tv. Or whatever. I admit that might be a bit of extra-textal extrapolation.

Chapter Sixteen, page 288. Harry and Ron lie to Professor McGonagall about why they're unaccompanied by another teacher and say they're on their way to see Hermione: "We haven't seen her in ages," they claim.  But why not?  She's their best friend. Why haven't they visited her in the hospital wing? You know damned sure that Hermione would visit them if the roles were reversed.

Chapter 16, p. 295.  Harry and Ron don't seem to be able to recognize sarcasm for the first (and last/only) time in the series. You'd think that growing up with/being in the same House as Fred & George would make both of them pros with the whole sarcasm thing. McGonagall has finally gotten Lockhart out of the way so she and the heads of houses can get some shit done, and Ron and Harry overhear the entire conversation, but they don't pick up on it?  Better yet, they went to the staff room to find a teacher to let them know about the basilisk, but once all of the teachers arrive, they somehow think it's better to hide under the cloak and not inform them?  That makes me want to do this:

Chapter 16, p. 301. Harry is sliding down a large pipe underground and yet is able to see things flash by, and then all of them are deposited at the bottom, beneath the dungeons and the lake. So where, pray tell, is this wonderful light source, allowing them to see before casting lumos?

Chapter Seventeen, p. 311. Tom Riddle talks about Hagrid "trying to raise werewolf cubs under his bed," etc. Ummm...that's another logic fail.  Werewolves are human for 27 days out of the month. Hogwarts is pretty lax about rules and everything, but I'm pretty sure that Hagrid didn't have a box of human babies under his bed

Okay, I've been mostly snarky and/or petty so far, but here's something for real that has had me thinking for years and to which I will be paying a lot of attention to during this readalong: the four orphaned (mostly literally, but in one case, figuratively) half-blood boys in these books: Rubeus Hagrid, Tom Riddle, Severus Snape, Harry Potter. Two Gryffindors, two Slytherins.  So much rides on them, their choices, and their actions. Before DH was published in 2007, there was an essay making its rounds on the interwebs about the alchemy of the Harry Potter books and how it could be used to make predictions about the last book--and many of them turned out to be right. I'm not sure if this is the same essay as the one I read back then, but this link will take you to one if you have lots of spare time and want to read more.

Back to the regularly-scheduled snark...

Chapter Eighteen, p. 327. GrandPre's illustration of the Gryffindor sword on the chapter heading page is markedly different from the one on the cover of the book.  Honestly, wasn't anybody editing these books for continuity?

Chapter 18, p. 333: look at Dumbledore dancing around the whole Harry-is-a-horcrux-and-oh-yeah-there's-a-prophecy-I'll-tell-you-about-in-a-few-years issue.

Chapter 18, p. 338. Lucius Malfoy: "'You'll meet the same sticky end as your parents one of these days, Harry Potter,' he said softly. 'They were meddlesome fools, too.'" Tell me--does anybody outside of a Scooby Doo villain use the phrase "meddlesome fools?"

But okay, Dobby finally gets some of his own back against the Malfoy family and it's pretty satisfying, despite my general exasperation with Dobby in the first half of the book. Sidebar: does it actually look like Malfoy is about to say Avada Kedavra? Also, do you think Lucius got the idea of stowing his wand in his cane from watching an episode of "Pimp My Wand"?

Who else is excited about moving on to PoA?  Lupin and Sirius and Crookshanks, oh my!


  1. Ok, I have sooooooo much I want to comment on I'm going to head straight for list form....

    1. I snigger every time Lockhart's wand gets over excited. Kayleigh's sense of humour = 14 year old boy.

    2. re: Warlocks. JK seems to interchange between the two every now and again, but they're different things and she doesn't seem like the kind of writer who doesn't know there's a difference between a wizard and a warlock - so I don't really have anything to add here except that I've noticed it to and I can't explain why. Ha!

    3.JK was trying to redherring Malfoy as the heir of Slytherin so hard that he's just a monstrously bad character in this one. If he was older he'd have been twirling a thin black moustache and tying ladies to railway lines.

    4. This doesn't really build on any of your comments specifically, but by this point in the series Slytherin has been made out as such bad people that I wonder how Tom Riddle made it as Head Boy/exceptional-dude-who-no-one-doubted-ever.

    1. i rather fancy the idea of tom felton twirlingn a thin black moustache. nice image!

      re: your #4, i think it's the harry filter. remember how before harry started shcool that thte slytherins had won the house cup several years running? i think that post-vold war one, that tensions between slytherin & the other houses must have been a bit lower before harry arrives at school. slytherin house had been getting all the glory before he shows up, which probably served to flam the rivalry even more.

    2. You're probably right, and I suppose that was pre-voldemort so the Slytherin=Voldemort+Death Eaters mentality wasn't around yet.

    3. Excellent point about Harry causing extra rivalry tensions between Slytherin and everyone else. I'm sure the fact that in his first year he stole the house cup from Slytherin at the last possible moment just fanned the flames.

  2. I don't know if it's okay or legal in the wizarding world to use the Pensieve for most trials? Cause otherwise they'd do it a lot and then Sirius wouldn't have gone to Azkaban. Basically any argument ever could be solved by the Pensieve, but maybe there's some sort of health risk involved in taking memories from people's heads all the time? I don't know.

    Oh, and Ron & Harry hadn't seen Hermione in a long time because they couldn't move about the castle freely and because Madam Pomfrey banned everyone from visiting the Petrified people until they were cured. At least I think. I don't have my book with me so I can't double-check.

    I LOVE Dobby's big moment at the end :) It makes me wanna do a happy dance.

    1. I don't think Sirius actually got a trial back in the day, but I think he was all so freaked out about what happened with his best friends that he didn't try to defend himself, either.

      mabe pensieves aren't a legal defense BUT dumbledore still should have done something to help keep hagrid out of azkaban. he did everything he could to keep snape out back in vold war one.

    2. And pensieve memories can be altered - like with Prof. Slughorn's. But yeah, weird that Dumbledore didn't do more to help Hagrid.

  3. "Hogwarts is pretty lax about rules and everything, but I'm pretty sure that Hagrid didn't have a box of human babies under his bed" - oh my god, this nearly made me pee myself. LOL.

    I don't know, Herbology seems pretty dangerous too. The mandrakes can kill you if you don't mind your magical earmuffs.

    And Snape teaching Harry expelliarmus - I know, right?? I so wish I had realized that before this reading.

    I get confused about the difference between wizards and warlocks too, and it comes up a few times throughout the series. Maybe it's a familiar or individual thing, like guy versus man?

    And I would be excited for Prisoner of Azkaban except that I've already read 14 chapters of it. I really need to take a break.

    1. lucky you to have read that far in PoA already! I've been trying so hard to just keep pace with the readalong, but it's hard.

      you're right about herbology--the mandrakes are dangerous, and so is the tentacula that comes into play later.

  4. Re: werewolf cubs -- it only says Hagrid was TRYING to raise werewolf cubs under his bed. He's not really the brightest crayon in the box, so he may have just gone out and gotten regular wolf cubs without knowing that they were going to stay regular wolf cubs... Maybe?

    This goes along with the issue of how Malfoy says in Sorcerer's Stone that there are werewolves in the Forbidden Forest. So, were there just a crowd of people camping in the forest who happened to every once in a while go furry?

    And putting Lucius's wand in a snake cane was the absolute best change they made when making the films. SO AWESOME.

    1. It's also possible that Tom was exaggerating for effect there, but I just got the best/worst mental images from hagrid keeping a box of babies under his bed.

      good point about the werewolves in the forbidden forest. though i wonder if that's where Fenrir was living, like in some kind of werewolf commune?

  5. I was glad to see Snape already had the antidotes to the potions on hand. See how good of a professor he is? You know, other than the unfairly picking on students for the sins of their parents...

    I forgot to mention Lockhart and his overexcited wand. Ohh I giggled at that one for awhile.

    "'trying to raise werewolf cubs under his bed,' etc. Ummm...that's another logic fail. Werewolves are human for 27 days out of the month." Ahahaha now I'm picturing him with a box of babies. Silly Hagrid

    Hehe, pimp my wand.

    1. yes! snape is a very good teacher but not a nice one. and apparently gryffindors cannot grasp that distinction.

  6. I totally believe that Malfoy wants his classmates to be Petrified. Because he's a prejudiced weenie.

    But maaaaaan, I LOVE Snape and Lockhart's interactions. And Lockhart's interactions with all the other teachers. WHY IS HE SO OBLIVIOUS AND WHY AM I SO AMUSED BY IT?!

    Um um, lots of other stuff! But, ooh, so even WHEN I read it I kind of didn't twig on the whole 'Snape teaching Harry expelliarmus' thing. I probably need to read these books more than every 4 years to notice stuff like this...

    1. yeah, malfoy is just about at his weeniest in this book. but thinking ahead to the issues he has at the end of book 6, i think deep down he doesn't actually wish lasting physical harm or death to his fellow students. he just postures that way. but that could totally be my own pro-slytherin bias coming out. or possibly both.

    2. I think you're right about it being posturing - he hears his dad say that kind of stuff, and so he regurgitates it to seem, I don't know, badass and superior. I don't think he's thought the whole thing through.

  7. I am enjoying all of your Harry Potter re-read posts so much. lol.

  8. Why couldn't Harry, Ron and/or Hermione use the invisibility cloak to steal the ingredients they needed??

    I totally believe that Malfoy wishes the worst on others. He's a typical bully - a bully bullied by his own father. I have yet to see one redeeming quality about him.

    What's the difference between a wizard and a warlock?

  9. There is so much in your post that I love that I can't even really begin to list it all, so suffice it to say, excellent post, attention to detail (do you write in the books as you read? Just curious!), and onwards to #3!

  10. I am not that into POA, this one is my joint favourite (along with Half-Blood Prince). I seem to be the only person who thinks this unfortunately.


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