Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Movie vs. Book – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Chapter 9: The Writing on the Wall

Unlike the last chapter, there’s quite a bit from this one that gets portrayed in the film. There are many details that have been left out, though. One of the scenes here is in the film with a different character, as well.

As in the film, Filch comes upon the crowd of students and immediately blames Harry for the cat, which he thinks is dead.

Dumbledore had arrived on the scene, followed by a number of other teachers. In seconds, he had swept past Harry, Ron, and Hermione and detached Mrs. Norris from the torch bracket.

Dumbledore asks Filch to follow him, as well as Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. Gilderoy Lockhart volunteers the use of his office, which is nearby. Professors Lockhart, McGonagall, and Snape follow him.

The tip of Dumbledore’s long, crooked nose was barely an inch from Mrs. Norris’s fur. He was looking at her closely through his half-moon spectacles, his long fingers gently prodding and poking. Professor McGonagall was bent almost as close, her eyes narrowed. Snape loomed behind them, half in shadow, wearing a most peculiar expression: It was as though he was trying hard not to smile. And Lockhart was hovering around all of them, making suggestions.

Lockhart tries his usual “If I was only there I know the very countercurse that would have saved her…” While Filch is sobbing over what he still thinks is the loss of his cat.

Dumbledore was now muttering strange words under his breath and tapping Mrs. Norris with his wand but nothing happened. She continued to look as though she had been recently stuffed.

The photos on the wall are nodding along with Lockhart’s statements while all of this is going on. Dumbledore finally pronounces that Mrs. Norris is not dead, but has been petrified. Filch immediately points the finger at Harry.

“No second year could have done this,” said Dumbledore firmly. “it would take Dark Magic of the most advanced —”

Filch continues to assert that it was Harry, and says it was because Harry knows he’s a squib. Harry declares his innocence, saying he doesn’t know what a squib is anyway. I’m not quite sure what would motivate someone to petrify a cat because Filch is a squib, but Filch doesn’t see it that way.

Snape comes to Harry’s defense, as he does in the film, but questions why they weren’t at the Halloween Feast. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine tell them about the Deathday Party and that they were seen there by hundreds of ghosts. Snape doesn’t believe they are being truthful and urges Dumbledore to suspend Harry from the Quidditch team as punishment.

“Really, Severus,” said Professor McGonagall sharply, “I see no reason to stop the boy playing Quidditch. This cat wasn’t hit over the head with a broomstick. There is no evidence at all that Potter has done anything wrong.”

Dumbledore looks at Harry for a long time. I think he knows Harry isn’t being completely honest here as well, but he doesn’t think it’s for a nefarious reason. Finally, he says that Harry is innocent until proven guilty. This sets off Filch.

“We will be able to cure her, Argus,” said Dumbledore patiently. “Professor Sprout recently managed to procure some Mandrakes. As soon as they have reached their fullsize, I will have a potion made that will revive Mrs. Norris.”

“I’ll make it,” Lockhart butted in. “I must have done it a hundred times. I could whip up a Mandrake Restorative Draught in my sleep —”

“Excuse me,” said Snape icily. “But I believe I am the Potions master at this school.”

The awkward silence that follows this exchange allows Dumbledore to dismiss the students, who can’t get out of there fast enough. They don’t return to Gryffindor Tower right away, but find an empty classroom and close the door.

“D’you think I should have told them about that voice I heard?”

“No,” said Ron, without hesitation. “Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world.”

Harry doesn’t understand what any of it means, from The Chamber of Secrest Has Been Opened to what a squib is.

“Well — it’s not funny really — but as it’s Filch,” he said. “A Squib is someone who was born into a wizarding family but hasn’t got any magic powers. Kind of the opposite of Muggle-born wizards, but Squibs are quite unusual. If Filch’s trying to learn magic from a Kwikspell course, I reckon he must be a Squib. It would explain a lot. Like why he hates students so much.” Ron gave a satisfied smile. “He’s bitter.”

In the films, Filch is portrayed as cranky, occasionally crossing into evil. This gives some insight as to why he’s that way.

The writing, it seems, cannot be washed off of the wall. Filch tries everything he knows, and yet the words are still as bright as ever.

Ginny Weasley seemed very disturbed by Mrs. Norris’s fate. According to Ron, she was a great cat lover.

Of course, by now, we know why. Hermoine seems to spend all of her time reading, and barely talks to Harry and Ron. The other students are treating Harry differently as well. When he sees one of the Hufflepuff students in the hall and starts to say “Hello” to him, the student turns and walks away in the other direction.

Harry found Ron at the back of the library, measuring his History of Magic homework. Professor Binns had asked for a three foot long composition on “The Medieval Assembly of European Wizards.”

“I don’t believe it, I’m still eight inches short said Ron furiously, letting go of his parchment, which sprang back into a roll. “And Hermione’s done four feet seven inches and her writing’s tiny.”

This gives a good idea of the work required of the students at Hogwarts. Not much of this is shown in the films.

Hermoine finally appears from in between the shelves and complains that all of the copies of Hogwarts: A History have been taken out.

“Why do you want it?” said Harry.

“The same reason everyone else wants it,” said Hermione, “to read up on the legend of the Chamber of Secrets.”

“What’s that?” said Harry quickly.

“That’s just it. I can’t remember,” said Hermione, biting her lip. “And I can’t find the story anywhere else —”

Ron tries to cajole Hermoine into showing him the composition she wrote. The three of them leave for their next class, Ron and Hermoine bickering all the way.

History of Magic was the dullest subject on their schedule. Professor Binns, who taught it, was their only ghost teacher, and the most exciting thing that ever happened in his classes was his entering the room through the blackboard. Ancient and shriveled, many people said he hadn’t noticed he was dead. He had simply got up to teach one day and left his body behind him in an armchair in front of the staff room fire; his routine had not varied in the slightest since.

We don’t get to see this teacher in the films. The scene that takes place next is done with Professor McGonagall.

After Professor Binns speaks for half an hour, Hermoine puts up her hand.

“Miss — er —?”

“Granger, Professor. I was wondering if you could tell us anything about the Chamber of Secrets,” said Hermione in a clear voice.

The other students, who have been bored and listless in the class up until now, are suddenly very interested.

“My subject is History of Magic,” he said in his dry, wheezy voice. “I deal with facts, Miss Granger, not myths and legends.” He cleared his throat with a small noise like chalk slipping and continued, “In September of that year, a subcommittee of Sardinian sorcerers —”

Hermoine is not discouraged. She raises her hand again and asks if legends have a basis in fact.

“Well,” said Professor Binns slowly, “yes, one could argue that, I suppose.” He peered at Hermione as though he had never seen a student properly before. “However, the legend of which you speak is such a very sensational, even ludicrous tale —”

But the whole class was now hanging on Professor Binns’s every word. He looked dimly at them all, every face turned to his. Harry could tell he was completely thrown by such an unusual show of interest

He’s just about forced to give in and tell them the legend of the Chamber of Secrets. It’s pretty much the same as it is in the film. He concludes his telling with:

“Slytherin, according to the legend, sealed the Chamber of Secrets so that none would be able to open it until his own true heir arrived at the school. The heir alone would be able to unseal the Chamber of Secrets, unleash the horror within, and use it to purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic.”

Several students as him questions. What’s funny is every time Professor Binns addresses a student, he gets their name wrong.

“That will do,” he said sharply. “It is a myth! It does not exist! There is not a shred of evidence that Slytherin ever built so much as a secret broom cupboard! I regret telling you such a foolish story! We will return, if you please, to history, to solid, believable,
verifiable fact!”

And within five minutes, the class had sunk back into its usual torpor.

When Harry, Ron, and Hermoine leave the classroom, they discuss Slytherin House and the possibility of a Chamber of Secrets. Harry never told his friends what happened with the Sorting Hat, and keeps quiet even now that he was almost put in Slytherin instead of Gryffindor.

They pass Colin Creevey in the hallway and he tries to tell Harry something, but the students in the hall are moving too fast for him to tell them all.

“What’s a boy in his class saying about you?” Hermione wondered.

“That I’m Slytherin’s heir, I expect,” said Harry, his stomach dropping another inch or so as he suddenly remembered the way Justin Finch-Fletchley had run away from him at lunchtime.

As they walk, they find themselves in the hallway where Mrs. Norris was found. With no one else there, they poke around a bit. Harry finds scorch marks, but is called to a window by Hermoine.

“Come and look at this!” said Hermione. “This is funny…”

Harry got up and crossed to the window next to the message on the wall. Hermione was pointing at the topmost pane, where around twenty spiders were scuttling, apparently fighting to get through a small crack. A long, silvery thread was dangling like a rope, as though they had all climbed it in their hurry to get outside.

This is where they find out that Ron is terrified of spiders.

“It’s not funny,” said Ron, fiercely. “If you must know, when I was three, Fred turned my — my teddy bear into a great big filthy spider because I broke his toy broomstick… You wouldn’t like them either if you’d been holding your bear and suddenly it had too many legs and…”

Hmmm, do children who are the product of a witch and wizard have an earlier ability to use magic and control it? After all, Fred and George are only two or three years older than Ron.

They then think about the water that was on the floor, and Hermoine takes them to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.

Hermione put her fingers to her lips and set off toward the end stall. When she reached it she said, “Hello, Myrtle, how are you?”

Harry and Ron went to look. Moaning Myrtle was floating above the tank of the toilet, picking a spot on her chin.

This interaction with Myrtle isn’t in the film. The three of them aren’t in the bathroom with Myrtle until after Harry has found Tom Riddle’s diary.

“Did you see anyone near here that night?” said Harry.

“I wasn’t paying attention,” said Myrtle dramatically. “Peeves upset me so much I came in here and tried to kill myself. Then, of course, I remembered that I’m — that I’m —”

“Already dead,” said Ron helpfully.

This is kind of a dark thing to be in a kid’s book. It’s dark humor, but it seems like Myrtle suffered as an outcast as a student and still does somewhat in death.

As they are leaving the bathroom, they are caught by Percy.

“Get — away — from — there —” Perry said, striding toward them and starting to bustle them along, flapping his arms. “Don’t you care what this looks like? Coming back here while everyone’s at dinner —”

Ron protests that they never laid a hand on Mrs. Norris and why shouldn’t they be there.

“That’s what I told Ginny,” said Percy fiercely, “but she still seems to think you’re going to be expelled, I’ve never seen her so upset, crying her eyes out, you might think of her, all the first years are thoroughly overexcited by this business —”

“You don’t care about Ginny,” said Ron, whose ears were now reddening. “You’re just worried I’m going to mess up your chances of being Head Boy —

Sibling rivalry at its finest. Percy threatens to write Mrs. Weasley and takes five points from Gryffindor.

Of course, after having read the books and seen the film already, we know why Ginny is so upset by all of this.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione chose seats as far as possible from Percy in the common room that night. Ron was still in a very bad temper and kept blotting his Charms homework. When he reached absently for his wand to remove the smudges, it ignited the parchment.

Hermoine stops working to muse about who could have possibly done it.

“Let’s think,” said Ron in mock puzzlement. “Who do we know who thinks Muggle-borns are scum?

This conversation is in the film, where Hermoine comes up with the idea of using the Polyjuice Potion.

“No, it’s not,” said Hermione. “All we’d need would be some Polyjuice Potion.”

“What’s that?” said Ron and Harry together.

“Snape mentioned it in class a few weeks ago —”

“D’you think we’ve got nothing better to do in Potions than listen to Snape?” muttered Ron.

Harry and Ron are not the best of students. Hermoine says the potion is in a book in the Restricted Section, and the only way they can check it out is if they have a note from a teacher.

“I think,” said Hermione, “that if we made it sound as though we were just interested in the theory, we might stand a chance…

“Oh, come on, no teacher’s going to fall for that,” said Ron. “They’d have to be really thick…”

Do you know who she’s going to ask for a note? I have a pretty good idea….

Previous chapter (link): Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Chapter 8: The Deathday Party

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