We have finally arrived at a chapter that is (mostly) missing from the film. In a way, it’s a shame. The events that take place and the characters readers meet add richness to the Wizarding World. On the other had, most of what’s in this chapter doesn’t advance Harry’s overall story at all, and losing it in the film doesn’t take anything away from that. However, it would have been a lot of fun to see.
October arrived, spreading a damp chill over the grounds and into the castle. Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was kept busy by a sudden spate of colds among the staff and students. Her Pepperup potion worked instantly, though it left the drinker smoking at the ears for several hours afterward.
We never see much about illness in the Wizarding World. We get injuries, particularly from Quidditch, as well as wands and spells misfiring, but little else.
Raindrops the size of bullets thundered on the castle windows for days on end; the lake rose, the flower beds turned into muddy streams, and Hagrid’s pumpkins swelled to the size of garden sheds. Oliver Wood’s enthusiasm for regular training sessions, however, was not dampened, which was why Harry was to be found, late one stormy Saturday afternoon a few days before Halloween, returning to Gryffindor Tower, drenched to the skin and splattered with mud.
I’d think with the rain, it would be easier to slide off the broomsticks, but apparently, it’s not a deterrent. Harry is discouraged by reports that the Slytherin team is really fast on those new broomsticks that Lucius Malfoy gave the team.
As Harry squelched along the deserted corridor he came across somebody who looked just as preoccupied as he was. Nearly Headless Nick, the ghost of Gryffindor Tower, was staring morosely out of a window, muttering under his breath, “… don’t fulfill their requirements… half an inch, if that…”
In this chapter, readers get to see a lot of Nearly Headless Nick, as well as the poltergeist, Peeves. It’s really a spotlight on Nick, though, who only makes a few appearances in the films. He asks Harry what’s troubling him, and Harry asks him the same thing.
“But you would think, wouldn’t you,” he erupted suddenly, pulling the letter back out of his pocket, “that getting hit forty-five times in the neck with a blunt axe would qualify you to join the Headless Hunt?”
He reads Harry the rejection letter, which is pretty comical. I would love to see “Head Polo” just once. Harry listens to his complaints very dutifully, and then Nick asks Harry what his problem is and if he can help.
“No,” said Harry. “Not unless you know where we can get seven free Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones for our match against Sly—”
Harry is interrupted by Mrs. Norris, Filch’s (the caretaker’s) cat.
“You’d better get out of here, Harry,” said Nick quickly. “Filch isn’t in a good mood — he’s got the flu and some third years accidentally plastered frog brains all over the ceiling in dungeon five. He’s been cleaning all morning, and if he sees you dripping mud all over the place —”
But it’s too late.
“Filth!” he shouted, his jowls aquiver, his eyes popping alarmingly as he pointed at the muddy puddle that had dripped from Harry’s Quidditch robes. “Mess and muck everywhere! I’ve had enough of it, I tell you! Follow me, Potter!”
It seems that Harry is in trouble now. Or is that again?
Filch brings Harry down to his office, creating more muddy footprints along the way. There are file cabinets in his office which contain details on every student Filch has ever punished, and Harry notes that Fred and George Weasley have an entire drawer to themselves.
“It was only a bit of mud!” said Harry.
“It’s only a bit of mud to you, boy, but to me it’s an extra hour scrubbing!” shouted Filch, a drip shivering unpleasantly at the end of his bulbous nose. “Crime… befouling the castle… suggested sentence…”
Harry is anxiously waiting to hear what Filch wants to be done to him when there is a large bang from above the office. Filch immediately blames Peeves, the school poltergeist. Instead of running out of the office, Harry waits for Filch to come back. Harry’s curiosity gets the better of him when he sees an envelope on Filch’s desk.
A Correspondence Course in Beginners’ Magic.
Harry opens the envelope and reads the contents. When he hears Filch returning, he stuffs the contents back in and tosses the envelope back on the desk, missing where it originally was by about two feet.
“That vanishing cabinet was extremely valuable!” he was saying gleefully to Mrs. Norris. “We’ll have Peeves out this time, my sweet —”
His eyes fell on Harry and then darted to the Kwikspell envelope, which, Harry realized too late, was lying two feet away from where it had started.
Harry thinks he’s about to get in more trouble and lies about having looked at it. Filch looks angrier than Harrys ever seen him.
“Very well — go — and don’t breathe a word — not that — however, if you didn’t read — go now, I have to write up Peeves’ report — go —”
Harry is on his way back to Gryffindor Tower when he runs into Nearly Headless Nick again. It turns out Nick persuaded Peeves to crash the cabinet, hoping it would distract Filch and save Harry from being punished. Harry is so grateful to Nick.
“I wish there was something I could do for you about the Headless Hunt,” Harry said. Nearly Headless Nick stopped in his tracks and Harry walked right through him. He wished he hadn’t; it was like stepping through an icy shower.
And with that, Nick invites Harry, Ron, and Hermoine to his 500th Deathday celebration on October 31st. Harry feels obligated to go, and is a bit curious.
“My dear boy! Harry Potter, at my deathday party! And —” he hesitated, looking excited “— do you think you could possibly mention to Sir Patrick how very frightening and impressive you find me?”
Hermoine is fascinated by the idea of going to a Deathday Party, while Ron is a bit grumpy about it. Fred and George are there in the common room, trying to find out what happens when you feed a Filibuster firework to a salamander. It’s quite epic when it goes off, and Percy is furious, making himself hoarse yelling at his brothers.
By the time Halloween arrived, Harry was regretting his rash promise to go to the deathday party. The rest of the school was happily anticipating their Halloween feast; the Great Hall had been decorated with the usual live bats, Hagrid’s vast pumpkins had been carved into lanterns large enough for three men to sit in, and there were rumors that Dumbledore had booked a troupe of dancing skeletons for the entertainment.
Hermoine reminds him that a promise is a promise. On that evening, they walk past the gaiety in the Great Hall and head for the dungeons.
It was an incredible sight. The dungeon was full of hundreds of pearly-white, translucent people, mostly drifting around a crowded dance floor, waltzing to the dreadful, quavering sound of thirty musical saws, played by an orchestra on a raised, blackdraped platform. A chandelier overhead blazed midnight-blue with a thousand more black candles. Their breath rose in a mist before them; it was like stepping into a freezer.
As they walk around they take in the ghosts. Hermoine spots Moaning Myrtle.
“Oh, no,” said Hermione, stopping abruptly. “Turn back, turn back, I don’t want to talk to Moaning Myrtle —”
“Who?” said Harry as they backtracked quickly.
“She haunts one of the toilets in the girls’ bathroom on the first floor,” said Hermione
This is the introduction of Moaning Myrtle in the books. She’s seen later on in this film for the first time. Hermoine tries to explain about her haunting the toilet, but Ron interrupts her.
“Look, food!” said Ron.
On the other side of the dungeon was a long table, also covered in black velvet. They approached it eagerly but next moment had stopped in their tracks, horrified. The smell was quite disgusting. Large, rotten fish were laid on handsome silver platters; cakes, burned charcoal-black, were heaped on salvers; there was a great maggoty haggis, a slab of cheese covered in furry green mold and, in pride of place, an enormous gray cake in the shape of a tombstone, with tar-like icing forming the words,
SIR NICHOLAS DE MIMSY-PORPINGTON
DIED 31ST OCTOBER, 1492
All in all, the food in the Great Hall is much more appealing.
Peeves the poltergeist spots them and comes over. He offers them some fungus-covered peanuts, then tells them he overheard them talking about Moaning Myrtle.
“Heard you talking about poor Myrtle,” said Peeves, his eyes dancing. “Rude you was about poor Myrtle.” He took a deep breath and bellowed, “OY! MYRTLE!”
Hermoine tries to stop him, but it’s too late. Moaning Myrtle comes over. Hermoine tries to make nice to her, but Myrtle sees through her feeble attempts.
“Don’t lie to me,” Myrtle gasped, tears now flooding down her face, while Peeves chuckled happily over her shoulder. “D’you think I don’t know what people call me behind my back? Fat Myrtle! Ugly Myrtle! Miserable, moaning, moping Myrtle!”
Nick comes over to see how they’re doing, and they lie that they are enjoying themselves. A hunting horn sounds before Nick can begin making his speech.
Through the dungeon wall burst a dozen ghost horses, each ridden by a headless horseman. The assembly clapped wildly; Harry started to clap, too, but stopped quickly at the sight of Nick’s face.
The horses galloped into the middle of the dance floor and halted, rearing and plunging. At the front of the pack was a large ghost who held his bearded head under his arm, from which position he was blowing the horn. The ghost leapt down, lifted his head high in the air so he could see over the crowd (everyone laughed), and strode over to Nearly Headless Nick, squashing his head back onto his neck.
What a sight this would have been to see on film!
Nick tries to give his speech, but the Headless Hunters start a game of head hockey. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine take that distraction as a cue to leave. They are hoping that there is some food left up in the Great Hall. Before they can get there, Harry starts hearing the same voice he heard in Lockhart’s office. Ron and Hermoine can’t hear anything. Harry can hear it moving away and attempts to follow the voice.
“It’s going to kill someone!” he shouted, and ignoring Ron’s and Hermione’s bewildered faces, he ran up the next flight of steps three at a time, trying to listen over his own pounding footsteps — Harry hurtled around the whole of the second floor, Ron and Hermione panting behind him, not stopping until they turned a corner into the last, deserted passage.
Hermoine spots something down the hall.
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED.
ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE
As they edge closer, they realize Mrs. Norris is hanging below the message, stiff as a board. Before they can get away from there, the feasts ends, and students begin to approach.
Then someone shouted through the quiet.
“Enemies of the Heir, beware! You’ll be next, Mudbloods!”
It was Draco Malfoy. He had pushed to the front of the crowd, his cold eyes alive, his usually bloodless face flushed, as he grinned at the sight of the hanging, immobile cat.
Of course, this plays more into events later on, when Harry, Ron, and Hermoine believe Draco to be the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets.
I think it would have been nice to see some of this in the film. The ghost scenes would have been a lot of fun. However, concentrating on the central story of the Chamber of Secrets, it’s not really a problem that it’s missing.
Previous chapter (link): Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs
Next chapter (link): Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Chapter 9: The Writing on the Wall