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The Real Chamber of Secrets
By Shamika Denise McFarland


Upon his arrival in the Chamber of Secrets Harry finds the cold, nearly lifeless body of Ginny Weasley and inquires how she ended up like this. “I suppose the real reason Ginny Weasley’s like this,” 1 replied Tom, “is because she opened her heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger.” 2

If you’re anything like me, then you felt there was some huge piece of information that was being kept from us. Not until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince did we learn why: the diary was a Horcrux, containing a piece of Lord Voldemort’s soul, so Ginny was actually conversing with the soul of a sixteen-year-old Voldemort. Knowing that there is even more to the diary than was first thought I was prompted to re-read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to see what further answers I could discover about Ginny’s possession and her connection to Tom Riddle.

Tom later explains:

Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted.... I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets. I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her...3

When I first read this passage I thought Tom was speaking metaphorically or figuratively, but now I see that he meant this quite literally. He poured the piece of his soul that resided in the Horcrux diary inside of Ginny and fed secrets to her that only that piece of Voldemort’s soul would know. The more Ginny used the diary the stronger Tom became, using her fears and secrets as nourishment, if you will. The more Ginny wrote in the diary the more Tom was able to take from her. Once he was strong enough he began pouring bits of his soul into her in an effort to poison her soul so that he could weaken her, and eventually become strong enough to be freed from the diary and gain a life of his own, having sapped the life out of Ginny by poisoning her soul. For, as we learned from Professor Slughorn, the soul is meant to be whole; due to the poison that Riddle fed her, Ginny’s soul was no longer intact. As a result, when Harry finds her down in the Chamber “there isn’t much life left in her…” because “she put too much into the diary, into [Tom],” 4 freeing him from the pages.

What was it about Ginny’s soul that made Tom feel she was “exactly” what he wanted? I find it most likely that Tom thought Ginny’s soul was perfect because she was so young and innocent and had lead a very sheltered life, always protected by her family. This made her both very willing to trust Tom and very unwilling to believe that he was using her to attack her fellow students. This also made her more vulnerable to the poison that he was feeding her.

J.K. Rowling’s emphasis on the words my and her in conjunction with the words soul and secrets hints that there was a connection between Ginny and Tom which ran deeper than we first thought. At first glance there doesn’t appear to be any connection; once Riddle’s diary was destroyed Ginny is said to be “perfectly happy again.” 5 But how is this possible? How could anyone be “perfectly happy again” after having a piece of Voldemort living inside of them for months? It’s not. Dumbledore even told Harry, in Half-Blood Prince, how extraordinary it was that he hadn’t suffered any lasting damage from his close contact with Voldemort.

So how was Ginny “perfectly happy again”? The closest explanation I’ve found is in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Ginny explains to Harry what life was like during her first year: “When he did it to me, I couldn’t remember what I’d been doing for hours at a time. I’d find myself somewhere and not know how I got there.” 6 And as far as we know Ginny still hasn’t been able to fill in the “big blank periods.” 7 Thus she was able to be “perfectly happy again,” because she doesn’t remember. But what happened to everything Tom fed and poured into her when the diary was destroyed? Was it somehow erased from her mind, never to be found, or was it buried just below the surface waiting to be unleashed?

Now the question becomes, why doesn’t Ginny remember anything about her possession, when Harry remembers his (albeit brief) possession by Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic? It seems most likely that Tom put some type of memory charm on the diary to prevent the user from realizing they were being manipulated and betrayed, so that they would keep using the diary long enough for him to leave its pages forever.

For those of you who think that Ginny was weak for allowing Tom Riddle to manipulate her like this, imagine for a moment that you are in Ginny’s shoes: you’re an eleven-year-old girl, the youngest of seven children and the only girl in the family, in your first year at boarding school. This should be the happiest time of your life, but all your brothers ignore you, you can’t even speak in front of your crush, and he only knows you as his best friend’s little sister. You’re lonely and homesick. Then you meet your invisible friend Tom; he’s patient, always has time for you, listens to you and cares about you. You finally have someone who pays attention to you and likes you just the way you are. Now imagine being betrayed by your perfect friend, and having him force you to do horrible things, like strangle roosters and attack your friends. You would feel as Harry did over the Half-Blood Prince’s betrayal, “as though a beloved pet had turned suddenly savage.” 8 When you look at it this way, Ginny’s memory loss is completely understandable.

In the film, Riddle says that “she was, shall we say, in a kind of trance.” 9 This is the only clue we have as to what it was like for Ginny being possessed, and if this is true then Ginny could be suffering from posthypnotic amnesia, a form of memory loss in which the subject is unable to recollect the events that transpired while they were in a hypnotic state10 or “trance” due to the suggestion of another.11 So Riddle put Ginny into a trance in order to take her over, and then suggested to her that she forget everything. This would explain why Ginny didn’t remember anything initially. However, hypnotic suggestion is a temporary state in which a pre-arranged cue is given that allows the subject to recover their lost memories.12 Yet it has been four years now, and Ginny still has not regained these memories.

It all comes down to this: if Rowling allowed Ginny to regain her memory of opening the Chamber of Secrets and setting the basilisk loose on her fellow students, she would also have to allow Ginny to remember everything that Tom “poured” into her. That information needed to be hidden from us, because in order for Riddle to escape the diary he needed to grow stronger by making Ginny weaker – and what would accomplish this better than pouring into her the supreme act of evil: the creation of a Horcrux?

Whether or not Ginny knows how to make a Horcrux hinges on whether or not Riddle made the diary into a Horcrux the same year that he opened the Chamber. If he did, then that memory would have been stored in the diary along with all his others from that year. But there is a possibility that he created the diary but didn’t put a piece of his soul inside it, thus making it a Horcrux, until a later point in time. However, even if this is the case Ginny could still possess information about Riddle that could possibly point Harry in the right direction.

In Half-Blood Prince, we watched as a teenage Tom Riddle inquired about Horcruxes from Professor Slughorn and heard in his voice his hope that one would be stronger if one’s soul were split into more pieces, seven perhaps. Reading this scene led me to believe that Riddle possessed some previous knowledge about Horcruxes, as he’s already contemplated the possible ramifications of making more than one. It seems likely that he simply wished to verify his information with a reliable source, because he didn’t really seem surprised by what Slughorn told him.

After closely examining this scene I came to the conclusion that this memory takes place during Riddle’s sixth year at Hogwarts for two reasons. First, because both times Harry views Slughorn’s memory, he notes that Tom is wearing Marvolo Gaunt’s ring, which is a relic of Salazar Slytherin, meaning that he’s already meet his uncle Morfin, which according to Dumbledore took place “in the summer of his sixteenth year.” 13 Second, Slughorn refers to him as a “Prefect” 14 and not Head Boy, which he became in his seventh year.15 Therefore this memory occurs during Riddle’s sixth year at Hogwarts. And knowing that Riddle opened the Chamber of Secrets when he was sixteen, I became curious as to how closely related these two events were.

In Chamber of Secrets Tom is always described as “a boy of about 16.” Since his birthday falls on December 31, he would be sixteen during both his fifth and sixth years at Hogwarts, so he had to have opened the Chamber during one of these years. According to Tom “In [his] fifth year, the Chamber was opened and the monster attacked several students, finally killing one;” 16 however, I’ve found several other statements made by Tom that make this statement impossible. First, while down in the Chamber of Secrets;

But I admit, even I was surprised how well the plan worked. I thought someone must realize that Hagrid couldn’t possibly be the Heir of Slytherin. It had taken me five whole years to find out everything I could about the Chamber of Secrets and discover the secret entrance ... as though Hagrid had the brains, or the power!17

If he spent five whole years learning about the Chamber beforehand he wouldn’t have had time to open the Chamber and “attack several students” during his fifth year, even if he starting searching on his very first day at Hogwarts. Next, his mention of the Heir of Slytherin tells the reader that he knows only they can open the Chamber; so being the brilliant boy that he was he wouldn’t have dared try to open the Chamber until after he had his little chat with Uncle Morfin.

“I thought you was that Muggle,” whispered Morfin.“You look mighty like that Muggle.”

“That Muggle what my sister took a fancy to, that Muggle what lives in the big house over the way, [...] You look right like him. Riddle. But he’s older now, in ‘e? He’s older’n you, now I think on it.... ”

“He come back, see,” [...]

“Riddle came back?”

“Ar, he left her, and serve her right, marrying filth! [...] Robbed us, mind, before she ran off! Where’s the locket, eh, where’s Slytherin’s locket?” 18

Until the moment Tom came face to face with his father, all he had to go on were his own suspicions and the ravings of a madman. So when Tom was slapped in the face with the truth, he decided to take that disappointment, anger and hatred and murder his Muggle father and grandparents. Thus armed with a deep hatred for all things Muggle he was ready to follow in his ancestor’s footsteps and open the Chamber of Secrets and unleash the horror that lay within.

There are also other seemingly small bits of information found in Chamber of Secrets that give further credence to my theory, revealing just how much Riddle knew about his family as well as his quest for immortality.

I AM LORD VOLDEMORT.

“You see?” he whispered. “It was a name I was already using at Hogwarts, to my most intimate friends only, of course. You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father’s name forever? I, in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother’s side? I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle, who abandoned me even before I was born, just because he found out his wife was a witch? No, Harry — I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world! 19

As we have seen, Riddle didn’t know anything about his father, other than his name, or his parents’ relationship until he meet Morfin; thus this moment must take place after their meeting, which gave him further incentive to his change his name.

I knew it wouldn’t be safe to open the Chamber again while I was still at school. But I wasn’t going to waste those long years I’d spent searching for it. I decided to leave behind a diary, preserving my sixteen-year-old self in its pages, so that one day, with luck, I would be able to lead another in my footsteps, and finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.20

Tom made plans to create the diary after Myrtle was killed. It makes sense that he would be seeking Slughorn’s knowledge about Horcruxes that same year, so he could preserve his “memories in some more lasting way than ink,” 21 just as he told Harry. This means that he was already contemplating ways of making himself immortal, and if I’m right this would have put Tom in a perfect position to create a Horcrux, if there’s no time limit, because he’d already committed three murders.

My last piece of evidence is this: the opening of the Chamber of Secrets, the murder of the Riddle Family, Tom Riddle’s award for special services to Hogwarts, and Tom Riddle’s diary are all said to have taken place fifty years ago.22 Now I accept that this is a rather generic clue, but I’m convinced that Rowling has all these events taking place fifty years ago, not because it sounded cool, but because they all happened the exact same year. Therefore Ginny knows more about Tom Riddle than anyone else. This information will be invaluable to Harry in the seventh book if he can overcome his pride and learn to ask others for help.

Knowing that Ginny was possessed for months by Riddle’s Horcrux diary and that he poured a bit of his soul and his secrets back into her, I ask you, isn’t it extremely likely that he showed her the murder of his Riddle relatives and his creation of the diary? As Hermione read from Magick Moste Evile “Of the Horcrux, wickedest of magical inventions, we shall not speak nor give direction…,” 23 but that wouldn’t stop Tom Riddle. Ginny’s extreme reactions to both the veil and Dementors suggest that there is some truth to this claim, because those with similar reactions to hers have all witnessed death. It’s said that she looked “nearly as bad as Harry felt” and “was shaking like mad” the one time she encountered Dementors and she was staring at the veil so entranced that Hermione had to drag her away.24

But if this is true then why can’t Ginny see Thestrals? I think what’s true for Harry is true for Ginny. When asked, “Why could Harry see the Thestrals in ‘Order of the Phoenix’? Shouldn’t he have been able to see them much earlier?” 25 J.K. Rowling indicated that the first murder Harry witnessed was Cedric’s:

And it is this that makes him able to see the Thestrals at last. Why couldn’t he see the Thestrals on his trip back to the train station? Well, I didn’t want to start a new mystery, which would not be resolved for a long time, at the very end of the fourth book. I decided, therefore, that until Harry is over the first shock, and really feels what death means (i.e., when he fully appreciates that Cedric is gone forever and that he can never come back, which takes time, whatever age you are) he would not be able to see the Thestrals. After two months away from school during which he has dwelled endlessly on his memories of the murder and had nightmares about it, the Thestrals have taken shape and form and he can see them quite clearly.26

Ginny’s couldn’t see the Thestrals because she is unable to get over the initial shock and come to terms with what death means because she has no memory of the things Tom poured into her.

So what does this mean for the future? To start with, I don’t see Ginny having a large role to play in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in terms of the number of pages she’ll be in; she’ll have a similar role to that in the Chamber of Secrets where she pops up here and there, yet is hugely significant to the plot.

Rowling dropped what I think is a big hint towards the end of Half-Blood Prince, when Ginny says, “I haven’t been sleeping that well since…well…I could do with some sleep.” 27 It seems that dealing with the aftermath of the Death Eater attack has left Ginny’s mind restless. Now, I don’t think Rowling puts anything in the books without a good reason. This entire year was a stressful one with not only the war raging, but also students being attacked. Hagrid even said it was the “Chamber o’ Secrets all over again, isn’t it?” 28 So Ginny’s had all this stress and anxiety building throughout the year dealing with the war, being reminded about her first year at school, her brother Bill having his face mutilated, Ron nearly dying, Dumbledore being murdered by Snape, and waiting for Harry to break up with her.29 I think it all finally got to be too much for her to handle and a crack started to form in the wall that’s been holding back all her possession memories, and that, with enough time and pressure, the wall will crumble and all those memories will come rushing out.

This could play out in two possible ways; either Harry will figure out that Ginny has this information locked in her mind all on his own, or Voldemort will forces the issue in some way.

The latter seems more likely. Voldemort has plenty of valid reasons to go after Ginny; first of all she was the one that used his diary; if you were Voldemort, wouldn’t you want to talk to this person to find out knowledge they might have about your teenage self? One of the reasons Dumbledore didn’t want Harry telling people about their lessons was that he didn’t want to run the risk of Voldemort finding out just how much he truly knows about him. Besides that, Ginny is also Harry Potter’s girlfriend (Snape and Malfoy don’t know that he dumped her). Lastly, she comes from a family of blood traitors, of which she is both the youngest and the only girl and is thus viewed as weak. Everyone around her, including Harry and Hermione, wants to protect her and all the Death Eaters see her as an easy target. Lucius gave her the diary, Bellatrix threatened her in the Hall of Prophecy, saying “take the smallest one [. . .] Let him watch while we torture the little girl. I’ll do it.” 30 During the Battle of the Tower the Death Eater Amycus giggled and taunted Ginny whilst she dodged curse after curse, “CrucioCrucio—you can’t dance forever, pretty.” 31 And Tom himself once referred to her as “stupid little Ginny.” 32

However, I feel that it is both essential to Harry’s personal growth and to Ginny’s health that he discovers this secret for himself. We all know what happened to Bertha Jorkins when Voldemort broke the memory charm that Barty Crouch put on her.33 Of course this doesn’t rule out the possibility that Voldemort will seek to hurt Ginny in order to get to Harry, but hopefully even if he does it will only end up aiding Harry in the end. Evil often ends up hindering itself by overextending its reach and striking too soon, just as Voldemort did on October 31, 1981, when he tried to murder Harry only to end up marking him as his equal and giving him the drive and determination to kill him.

I think Dumbledore purposely left this as the last leg of Harry’s journey, with only this auspicious clue to guide him, “I have not been able to find many memories of Riddle at Hogwarts.” 34 I know it sounds like I’m making an ocean out of a stream, but both Harry and Dumbledore know Ginny was possessed by a sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle when she was eleven, so what other reason could there be for him not seeking to learn as much first hand information as he could about Tom from Ginny?

Ginny went through this horrible experience that only Harry can fully understand, and he didn’t feel right asking her to relive it. Harry was down there with her so only he has a genuine right to make this request of her. If Harry can only swallow his pride and ask for help, he may gain that last piece of knowledge he needs to vanquish Lord Voldemort.

If Dumbledore had asked, Ginny would have tried, but as we learned from Harry’s failed attempts to get the real Tom Riddle Horcrux memory from Slughorn, the person has to be one-hundred-percent ready and willing to give up the memory. Having retrieved that memory from Slughorn, Harry will know how to get those memories from Ginny. We see him try many different ways to get the memory, but in the end all he had to do was express to Slughorn how important that memory was to him, speaking plainly from his heart, and he got it without delay. This is all he has to do with Ginny; the request has to come from Harry, and it has to come from a pure place of love. Only then will he be able to discover Riddle’s pre-arranged cue and safely allow Ginny to recover her lost memories.

Of course there is always the alternative possibility that nothing will happen, that Harry will go through all the trouble of vanquishing Voldemort only to discover that Ginny had all the answers that he was looking for the whole time. This would give Harry an extremely painful, but much needed, lesson in not pushing away those that he’s closest to, and would be a rather serendipitous twist that no one would see coming. But as we witnessed in Half-Blood Prince, Voldemort has an obsession with collecting trophies; what would be a better trophy than Ginny, who’s got a strong connection to both Harry and him? Quite simply put, Ginny is a threat to Lord Voldemort due to the invaluable knowledge that she has about him locked in her mind. Couple this with Harry’s “saving people thing” 35 and you have a potentially fatal situation.


Notes

1. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets, 309.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., 310.

4. Ibid., 313.

5. Ibid., 340.

6. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 500.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 525.

9. Chamber of Secrets film.

10. How Stuff Works, “What is amnesia?”

11. Kihlstrom, “Hypnosis, Memory, and Amnesia.”

12. Ibid.

13. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 363.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 329.

16. Ibid., 241.

17. Ibid., 311–2.

18. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 365.

19. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 314.

20. Ibid., 312.

21. Ibid., 240.

22. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 223, 232, 233; Goblet of Fire, 1–2.

23. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 381.

24. Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 86; Order of the Phoenix, 775.

25. Rowling Official Site, “Why could Harry see the Thestrals ‘Order of the Phoenix’?”

26. Ibid.

27. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 635.

28. Ibid., 404.

29. Ibid., 612, 397–8, 596, 647.

30. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets 63, 337; Order of the Phoenix, 783.

31. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 598.

32. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 311.

33. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 655.

34. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 362.

35. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 733.


Bibliography

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Chris Columbus, Warner Bros Pictures, 2002, DVD).

J.K. Rowling Official Site. “Why could Harry see the Thestrals ‘Order of the Phoenix’?” http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/faq_view.cfm?id=21 (accessed 6 December 2006).

Kihlstrom, John F. “Hypnosis, Memory, and Amnesia.” http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~kihlstrm/hypnosis_memory.htm (accessed 22 December 2006).

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.

———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.

———. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.

———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.

———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.

How Stuff Works. “What is amnesia?” http://www.howstuffworks.com/question672.htm (accessed 22 December 2006).


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