Chapter 14 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Cornelius Fudge
Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss this revelation endlessly—none want to believe that Hagrid would have anything to do with a monster. And yet, he was expelled from Hogwarts, and he has an affection for large, terrifying creatures, like Norbert the Dragon, and "Fluffy," the giant three-headed dog that guarded the Philosopher's Stone the previous year. The attacks must have stopped after Tom Riddle turned in Hagrid. Otherwise, Tom would not have received the Special Services award. They decide to do nothing unless there are more attacks. The school seems to be returning to normal, and the Mandrake plants are maturing and nearly ready for treating the Petrified victims.
Starting in their third year, Hogwarts students can attend elective courses, so over Easter Break, the second-years are to select their third-year classes. Hermione eventually decides she wants to take everything. Harry seeks advice from Percy, who pompously tells him to stay with his strengths. Feeling his only strength is Quidditch, Harry decides to take the same courses as Ron so they can work together.
Returning from Quidditch practice, Harry discovers his dorm has been ransacked and Riddle's Diary is gone. Harry surmises that a Gryffindor must have taken it; nobody else knows the password to the tower.
While heading to the Quidditch pitch for the match against Hufflepuff, Harry hears the voice again. Ron and Hermione hear nothing, but something suddenly occurs to Hermione and she runs to the library, while Ron and Harry head to the Pitch. Just before the game starts, Professor McGonagall announces it has been canceled and orders everyone to their House Common room. She singles out Harry and Ron to follow her to the infirmary. There has been a double attack: Penelope Clearwater, a Ravenclaw Prefect, and Hermione have been Petrified. Both were found near the library, Hermione clutching a small mirror. Percy is in shock that Penelope was attacked, apparently believing Prefects were immune.
In an attempt to protect the students from the monster, several restrictions are announced. Among them are a 6:00 PM curfew, which has the additional result of banning all evening activities outside the House dormitories. Further, students are to be escorted from class to class by teachers. If the monster is not found and dealt with, the school may have to be closed permanently.
Hidden under the Invisibility Cloak, Harry and Ron sneak out to Hagrid's hut to ask him about the Chamber of Secrets. Before he can reveal anything, a knock on the door sends Harry and Ron diving back under the Cloak; Professor Dumbledore and Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge enter. Fudge, apparently believing Hagrid had previously opened the Chamber, and ignoring Dumbledore's protests, is sending Hagrid to Azkaban, the wizard prison, as a precaution. Lucius Malfoy suddenly arrives with an Order signed by the Governors of Hogwarts calling for Dumbledore's removal as Headmaster. Fudge objects to Dumbledore's removal, as does Hagrid, but Malfoy insists that it is an internal affair and no concern of the Ministry. As he is leaving, Dumbledore, staring directly at where Harry and Ron are huddled under the Cloak, says, "I will only truly have left the school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it." As Hagrid is led away by Fudge, he calls out that if anyone wants to find answers, they should just follow the spiders, and to also feed Fang.
That Hagrid may be involved with the Chamber's opening is clearly a hard revelation for Harry. But the proof seems incontrovertible, and in the memory Harry actually saw Hagrid being discovered. Harry's trust in Hagrid has been shaken, but not fatally; it is only after the attacks start again that Harry felt he must approach Hagrid about the events resulting in his expulsion.
Meanwhile, the Diary has been stolen; Harry believes it was a targeted theft, as nothing else was taken. Harry and Ron also conclude it was a Gryffindor who stole it, as someone would need to know the password to get into the dormitory. Both facts may be significant. One thing is certain: Harry can no longer use it to learn more about Hagrid's expulsion from Hogwarts.
If Harry had braced Hagrid about those events, almost certainly Harry would also have had to explain how he had seen them, and the author revealing the Diary's role early on would have significantly weakened the plot. Thus, Hagrid's arrest, or some means, stronger than the easily-breached curfew, that renders Hagrid unavailable, is necessary to the story line. Hagrid's arrest also introduces us to Azkaban Prison, and how much wizards fear it. From the next book's title, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we can assume Azkaban will figure largely in it; and as it has been at least mentioned now in both this and the previous book, Azkaban will likely reappear in future books as well.
Lucius Malfoy is seldom, if ever, straightforward in his motives. In this case, he claims the Board of Hogwarts is suspending Dumbledore for failing to prevent the student attacks. We are aware that Malfoy's motives are usually something other than what they appear, and his machinations are extensive. It is a safe assumption that he has coerced the board into suspending Dumbledore; his smug satisfaction when delivering the document speaks to that. However, we are left wondering exactly what he hopes to gain by this action. Is hatred of Dumbledore sufficient reason for this level of action against him? Or is there something more to discover?
Hagrid is careful to tell Harry and Ron about the spiders, though we have no idea yet as to why. The spiders near Moaning Myrtle's bathroom were acting odd, however.
Readers should take note that when Hermione ambitiously states she wants to take every class in Year 3, this may foreshadow future events, as well as being an example of be careful what you wish for.
- Before he leaves, Dumbledore seems to look directly at Harry and Ron, though they are under the Invisibility Cloak. Can Dumbledore actually see them? If so, how?
- Why does Hermione suddenly go to the library?
- Is Hagrid's being sent to Azkaban justified?
- Who might have taken the Diary? How did they know about it, and why was it taken?
- What evidence is there that Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets? Is it believable or merely circumstantial? Explain.
- Can Harry trust what he sees in the Diary? Explain why or why not.
- When Harry and Ron go to Hagrid for an explanation about the Chamber of Secrets, can they trust what he will tell them? Explain.
- Why would Hagrid tell Harry to follow the spiders? Where might they lead?
- Why was Hermione holding a small mirror when she was petrified?
- Is Dumbledore's removal as headmaster justified or is there another reason behind it? Explain.
- As he is leaving Hagrid's hut, what might Dumbledore's words to Harry mean?
It should be noted that a new attack occurs immediately after the diary is stolen. It is certain that the diary had been deliberately disposed of; carrying something into a disused bathroom and flushing it down the toilet is hardly accidental. It is likely that the diary, in the hands of its original owner, was somehow connected to the attacks, and the recurrence of the attacks so shortly following the theft of the diary would imply that the original owner has reclaimed it. Harry, while not understanding why the diary has been stolen, suspects the thief is a Gryffindor student. This would probably also lead Harry to speculate, probably surprisingly, that a Gryffindor, rather than someone connected to Slytherin House, could be the Heir. We will discover in the final chapters that the Diary is directly associated with the attacks and that a Gryffindor student is involved, though that person is not the Heir of Slytherin.
The Twins' comments lead us to surmise that Percy is distressed only because a prefect has been attacked. Percy quite plainly believed that prefects were invulnerable. Even so, his reaction appears extreme, until we learn at the end of this book that Ginny had caught him kissing Penelope Clearwater. This romantic entanglement's revelation makes Percy's shock understandable at last.
Hermione's running to the library after Harry hears "the voice" again is perhaps what most helps Harry to once again save the day: connecting Harry to being the only person who can hear the voice inside the walls, Hermione correctly concludes that the monster is a Basilisk. Harry can hear it because he is a Parselmouth, possessing the rare ability to speak to snakes. A Basilisk's gaze is lethal to anyone looking directly into its eyes. However, no one has died because each saw the monster indirectly: Mrs. Norris saw it reflected in the water outside Myrtle's bathroom, Colin through his camera, Justin through Nearly-Headless Nick (who sees it directly, but since he is already dead, cannot be killed again), and Hermione and Penelope reflected in a mirror Hermione was carrying. Hermione also correctly guesses that the Basilisk uses the plumbing to move through the school's walls unmolested.
Lucius' motives in getting Dumbledore suspended are never entirely explained, but some understanding may come from knowing that Lucius engineered the attacks, even though he apparently remains uncertain what mechanism is involved. Knowing that Lucius provided the weapon, we can see that his orchestrating Dumbledore's suspension is a means to give that weapon free rein. Only three teachers at Hogwarts seem to believe that there might be a Chamber of Secrets containing a monster: Dumbledore, who was at Hogwarts at the time it was last opened; McGonagall, who accepts Dumbledore's word; and Lockhart, who is utterly ineffectual. By removing Dumbledore, Lucius is effectively halving the forces countering the monster.
Hagrid's final words as he is being taken away indicate strongly that Hagrid is more aware than we had thought of what is going on. What we will find out is that the spiders, in fear of the Monster, are heading for safe territory, the Forbidden Forest home of Aragog and the Acromantulae. Hagrid's suggestion that Harry and Ron should do likewise would argue that Hagrid has spoken with Aragog about the Monster, and that Hagrid believes Aragog can shed some light on current events. In retrospect, this is not too surprising; the Monster was last active at Hogwarts when Hagrid was caring for the then-juvenile Aragog, and it is to be expected that Hagrid would discuss the events at the school with Aragog. As Aragog is unable to name the Monster for Harry and Ron, we can assume that he is unable to name it for Hagrid either, and so Hagrid may not know exactly what the Monster is, but he does know that Aragog knows about it, and apparently believes that Aragog will be able to help Harry identify it.
Also, while Hermione's claim that she wants to take "every" third-year class seems like childish hyperbole, she is actually quite serious. She will arrange with McGonagall to do just that, and how she is able to accomplish this feat will play a major role in the next book. As a result, Hermione will painfully learn that sacrifices must be made to obtain so much knowledge and that there are limitations as to just how much one person can learn. She will, however, turn her misstep into an advantage.
- Though Harry and Ron have previously noted spiders acting oddly in this book, this is the first concrete mention that their actions are related to the Monster. The spiders, of course, will lead us to Aragog shortly. Aragog will not be seen again until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, at his funeral. However, his descendants will appear in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- Hermione's signing up for every possible third year course will result in her being issued a Time-turner, which she carries for the duration of the next book. This device would prove so useful in the final battle that it must be destroyed before the end of the series. That destruction happens in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but we don't learn about its import until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
- In particular, Hermione's selection of Ancient Runes is connected to key plot point in the final book. Dumbledore will bequeath a book to Hermione, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which will be written in ancient Runic. It will be Hermione's puzzling over the runes, and particularly over one particular symbol that she doesn't recognize, that will lead Harry to gradually understand the import of the Deathly Hallows. The symbol that Hermione can't understand is not a rune at all, but the sigil of the Hallows, and it will be to decipher the meaning of this sigil that the Trio will visit Xeno Lovegood. Xeno will explain the Tale of the Three Brothers and how it relates to the Hallows. The book's being in runes, and Hermione's high marks in that course through the years, likely caused Dumbledore to leave the book to Hermione; and her lengthy efforts to decipher the runes are essential to the timing of the visit to Xeno Lovegood.
- Dumbledore's statement that he "will only truly have left Hogwarts when none here are loyal to me" will be echoed later in this book, and in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. A variant of this, where Harry agrees that he is "Dumbledore's man through and through", appears in that same book twice, at Christmas and after Dumbledore's funeral.
- We will mention here that Cornelius Fudge's character is consistent throughout. In this instance, we can see that he is taking action to prevent a perceived threat; the action, we believe, is wrong, but Fudge feels he must do something to alleviate the worries of his constituents. We will see his political nature again almost every time we see him, next in July in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, then in December in that same book, and again in June of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Looking back at Fudge's actions from the end of the series, we can see that he is ever the consummate politician, acting always to attempt to retain power, doing what looks good rather than determining what would be best done.