Hey there, Muggles!
Chapter 12 is full of information, and I hope you’ll check out our video for today, where I do my very best to cover it all. We talk about all the details of what goes down in Dumbledore’s office in this chapter, CHRISTMAS (a certain sweater may or may not be making an appearance), and the Polyjuice Potion adventure. For only twenty pages, A LOT happens.
As always, *SPOILER ALERT* for both the video and article.
Today, we’re going to focus on an element that guides this entire book and can be summed up through one of the characters we meet in this chapter: Fawkes the phoenix.
Quick review: Fawkes is Dumbledore’s pet phoenix, and Harry gets the opportunity to meet him in this chapter. A phoenix is a beautiful, scarlet and gold, mythological bird that continually lives, burns up, and is reborn from the ashes. Over and over again. We actually know Fawkes was born by at least the 1930s (which I discuss in even more detail in today’s video above), so he’s pretty old.
When Harry enters Dumbledore’s office, he catches Fawkes on what Dumbledore refers to as his “Burning Day.” Fawkes bursts into flames and is then born again out of the ashes. It’s a beautiful, beautiful idea.
While we could talk and talk about how cool this is on its own as well as the mythology behind it, I want to discuss why this concept is so important for this book, and more specifically, this very scene.
As we’ve read through this book again, I’ve further noticed the importance of history repeating itself, or cyclical events reoccurring during Harry’s second year at Hogwarts. As Harry witnesses Fawkes’s rebirth, history is repeating itself at this very moment at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Of course, I’m referring to the Chamber of Secrets—it’s been opened once again, throwing the school into chaos.
However, there are a couple of other little situations and themes reoccurring here as well… in the very office where Harry stands. Today, using the idea of Fawkes’s cyclical lifespan, we’re going to analyze this scene and identify all the moments when “history repeats itself.”
HARRY AND THE SORTING HAT
First, we see Harry “repeat” his sorting ceremony.
When he enters Dumbledore’s office, Harry sees the Sorting Hat and decides to put it on, desperate to confirm that he truly does belong in Gryffindor. The hat slips over his eyes, and he hears that familiar voice once more. The first time Harry put this hat on his head, the hat whispered truths about how Harry would do well in Slytherin. Unfortunately for Harry, the same situation happens again.
Though we know Harry truly is a Gryffindor, the hat doesn’t hesitate to remind him he would have done well in Slytherin. While Harry was hoping for a different outcome, he leaves this second encounter with the hat more confused than ever.
Next is the moment that has become my favorite part of the chapter.
Just as Dumbledore and Harry begin talking, Hagrid bursts into the room and begins defending Harry, assuring Dumbledore there’s no way Harry could have petrified the Heir of Slytherin’s latest victims. Eyes wild, bushy beard flying, he desperately talks over Dumbledore, wanting to ensure he knows Harry is innocent.
The situation repeating here is an innocent boy falsely accused of something horrible. However, last time, that boy—Hagrid—had no one to defend him. When Hagrid was accused of this same crime, he didn’t have anyone to provide an alibi for him or prove he was innocent. Now on the other side and with the chance to save Harry, Hagrid seizes his opportunity to give Harry what he never had—a rescuer, an advocate.
Hagrid’s desperation stems from the horror that someone else—someone he loves—could experience the same nightmare he did fifty years ago. He knows the consequences that come with being accused of a crime like this, and he’s here to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
History is repeating itself here, but this time, Hagrid’s determined to change the outcome.
“I MUST ASK YOU, HARRY, WHETHER THERE IS ANYTHING YOU WISH TO TELL ME…”
In this scene, Dumbledore thankfully knows Harry couldn’t have committed this crime. However, he does realize something’s wrong. Let’s face it—Harry’s a twelve-year-old kid, and he’s never been the best at concealing his emotions. However, Harry decides not to confide in Dumbledore here, instead telling him nothing is wrong.
As Harry will soon find out, a boy named Tom Riddle was asked a similar question fifty years ago by the then-headmaster Armando Dippet. And he responded in the same way.
This is a moment where I actually prefer the movie’s version to the book’s. In the movie, Dumbledore is the one to ask Tom if anything is bothering him, and he asks the question much in the same way he asks Harry. It’s neat to see this repetition in action, further drawing us to connections between Harry and Voldemort.
This is perhaps the most important moment of this scene in Dumbledore’s office. As we will soon see, Harry will empathize with this Tom Riddle before he realizes who he is—before he finds out this person, Voldemort, actually did open the Chamber of Secrets.
But for now, we have Harry, more than a little scared, holding on to his secrets for a little while longer. Fifty years ago, another boy did the same thing… except his reasons were much more malevolent.
The entire point of this scene to me (and perhaps the whole book) is summed up in Fawkes’s Burning Day, when we watch his cycle continue. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is full of repeated themes, situations, and ideas, and this chapter is one where we can see that most clearly. Don’t worry, we’ll definitely talk about Fawkes again!
Honestly, I’ve been underestimating this book. It’s SO important to the narrative as a whole and is the beginning of the deeper themes that will be present from this moment on.
Thanks for tuning in today, Muggles! I had a great time breaking down this chapter, and I hope you did, too. Don’t forget to check out the video above.
Before we go, I do have an exciting surprise: WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A HALLOWEEN VIDEO!
That’s right, Muggles and Mocha is about to drop some extra content with a new video on Halloween. It’s going to be spooky for sure, and I’ll even have on my costume. I feel a little nerdy saying that, but it is what it is… You guys know what’s up at this point. Watch my social media accounts to see what’s in store!
If you haven’t followed my social media yet, all the links are located below. For now, read Chapter 13 (which I’m ESPECIALLY excited about) for next week.
I’ll see you on Halloween!
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter series.