Harry’s Sympathy for Voldemort – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 13

Hey there, Muggles! Welcome back to Muggles and Mocha.

I hope you all had an excellent Halloween and that you enjoyed our little Halloween surprise. If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, check out our Halloween special, All About Peeves the Poltergeist. It was a blast to make, and I truly learned a lot about this sneaky jokester. Honestly, I discovered a lot about poltergeists in general. I hope you do, too!

Today, we’re finally in one of my favorite chapters—Chapter 13, “The Very Secret Diary!” It’s a HUGE chapter, and if you watch the video, you’ll get my full thoughts on why it’s such a big deal. In the video, we talk all about the diary, Horcruxes, and Harry and Riddle’s first real meeting. Check it out! As usual, there are major *SPOILERS* in both the article and video.

For our article, we’re focusing on perhaps the most important part of this chapter—Harry and Tom Riddle’s first meeting.

Now, I know Harry has met Voldemort twice before this—even though he was a baby, he “met” him on the night Lily and James were killed, and in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, he came face-to-face with the barely-human Voldemort. However, in my opinion, this is the first time Harry truly meets the man Tom Riddle as he was before. The memory Harry witnesses in this chapter takes place just around the time of Riddle’s first Horcrux—the diary Harry finds in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Due to the mysterious nature of how to create a Horcrux, I’m not certain whether or not Riddle had already made it. However, I personally believe since Myrtle was already killed, Riddle would have created his first Horcrux at this time.  

In this chapter, Harry stumbles upon Tom Riddle’s diary from fifty years ago—as we’ll later (a lot later!) discover, he’s actually holding an object that contains a piece of Voldemort’s soul. As I discuss in further detail in the video above, this is the first moment we see two of Voldemort’s Horcruxes interacting.

After witnessing the way this book absorbs ink, Harry decides to write in this mysterious diary, hoping he will learn more about the Chamber of Secrets… and someone answers. Someone named Tom Marvolo Riddle.

I just got chills.

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

Looking back on this scene, this is an extremely significant moment. At this point in the book series, we (and Harry) know nothing of Voldemort’s history. Harry doesn’t realize the boy he is about to meet is the man who murdered his parents and so many others. But this scene is meaningful in more ways than one, even beyond the meeting itself.

J.K. Rowling has done an excellent job framing this interaction with Voldemort in a way no one would expect—with empathy and understanding.

Before this moment, we’ve only heard of Voldemort’s reign of terror and seen him once—on the back of Quirrell’s head. In that form, Harry views him more as a creature, a nightmare, a monster. He was a mix of darkness and evil energy focused on killing Harry. Harry has never known much at all about who Voldemort actually is or his agenda. But here, he’s a boy. And not only does Harry view this boy as a human—he’s someone Harry can relate to, feel sorry for.

Before Harry knows who this truly is, he feels empathy toward Voldemort.

Let’s break down all the significant moments in this scene.

First, Harry confides in Tom Riddle.

Granted, he does this because of his desperation to uncover the truth about the Chamber of Secrets, and he doesn’t say too much. But this is still important. Harry relies on Voldemort’s information here and views him as someone who is “on his side.” He’s someone who possibly has information that can help Hogwarts and who may be willing to give it. After seeing his memory, Harry’s trust in and reliance on Riddle is solidified. He doesn’t blame Riddle for turning in Hagrid because he thinks he understands Riddle’s motivation—wanting Hogwarts to remain open. And honestly, if Harry were in his shoes, he might have done the same thing…

But we’ll talk more about this in a minute.

Next is probably the most important moment in this scene.

Harry sees Tom Riddle, nervous and apprehensive, requesting to stay at Hogwarts instead of going home for the summer. Riddle is an orphan, you see, and hates his life outside of Hogwarts. If anyone can relate to this feeling, it’s Harry Potter.

Every summer, Harry reluctantly (to say the least) returns to Privet Drive and the Dursleys for a torturous couple of months before the next school year. After Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry thankfully doesn’t always have to stay at the Dursleys for the full summer. Something always pulls him away, whether it’s the Weasleys, possible expulsion, the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore… In this moment, I wonder if Harry pondered if Riddle had anyone in his life like that, anywhere he could go.

For the audience, too, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for Riddle (before knowing his past and identity, of course). We have a boy without a home, gripping his hands together until his knuckles turn white as he waits for his headmaster’s response. And the headmaster says no.

Harry’s first interaction with Tom Riddle is one of empathy, as he views a boy in a situation much like his own. He can completely understand Riddle’s disappointment as his request is rejected.

This was such, such smart writing on Rowling’s part for a couple of reasons:

  • It starts Harry off on his “Chosen One” journey relating to the teenage Voldemort—the antagonist of the book series. It’s something he (nor we) would see coming. Harry spends the rest of the series wrestling with the possibility that he and Voldemort are more alike than he initially thought—and this ends up terrifying him. And this speculation is doubly important because it doesn’t simply come from others’ opinions of Harry’s and Voldemort’s relationship; it comes from Harry’s own thoughts about him, a moment where he can look back and see the similarities for himself. A moment where he can look back and say, “I felt sorry for him.”
  • This moment also shows us, the audience, the similarities between Harry and Voldemort. We’ll learn more and more about the connections between the two as the series continues, but this is a pretty big start. We see firsthand the relationship between our hero and villain.

Harry hears Tom’s answer to Dippet’s question—one that reflects Harry’s conversation with Dumbledore.

When Harry eavesdrops on Riddle and Dippet’s conversation, he hears Riddle answer the headmaster’s question much in the same way that Harry answered Dumbledore’s.

“Tom, do you know something about these attacks?”

“Is there anything you wish to tell me, Harry?”

No, sir.

We talked about this similarity a little bit last week. Harry knows what it feels like to be isolated, to want to keep secrets… to feel that no one understands him. From what he sees here, he believes Riddle must feel the same way, further causing Harry to relate to him.

Harry sees Riddle struggle to decide to do what’s “right.”

Of course, right now we’re viewing this through Harry’s point of view. We know his perspective is a bit warped because, as we’ll discover, Riddle actually is the guilty party in this situation. But based on what Harry sees unfold, Harry believes Riddle is acting in courage, doing what’s right for Hogwarts—the only place he views as home. This is something Harry understands, and the way he talks about it later, it’s something he respects.

We end this chapter with Harry afraid Hagrid was involved with the Chamber of Secrets. As he’ll soon learn, Hagrid was framed for these crimes—the real culprit is the boy he just met, the boy who is more than he seems: Voldemort. What’s most important about this chapter, though, is Harry starts off his fight against Voldemort by accidentally viewing him in a positive light. As our story unfolds, Harry will suddenly realize how wrong he was about Tom Riddle.

Voldemort’s history is one of the most fascinating parts of the series to me, and I’m excited to follow Harry on his journey as he learns the shocking secrets of our villain’s past.

For Tom Riddle and Harry’s first real meeting, this was pretty significant. And as I said, I love the decisions Rowling has made here with this interaction. We and Harry have viewed Voldemort as a monster up to this point (with good reason), and I’m sure Harry never expected to feel sorry for him. Of course, Harry doesn’t know the full story at this point. However, as we’ll see, Harry’s sympathy for Voldemort will actually grow and develop through the series as Harry comes to realize this dark wizard is most likely the most miserable being he will ever meet. This misery comes from an insatiable lust for power and a lack of comprehension about the power of love. And as you guys already know… the magic behind love is very important.

Don’t get me on a rant again.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed our article and video for today! If you have any questions or additional thoughts about it, don’t forget to comment below!

Okay, guys… we’re breaking the streak. For next week, read Chapters 14 and 15 because we’re grouping them together. Yep, there will be a little petrification, Minister of Magic, and Aragog action. Man, I’ve missed this spider.

See you next week right here on Muggles and Mocha!

Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.


2 Replies to “Harry’s Sympathy for Voldemort – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 13”

  1. Okay, gotta start with the plot hole discovery in your video! I’m not sure I noticed this before, mostly because I’ve seen the movies MUCH more frequently than I read the books. This is a completely fair point, and might actually be a legit mess up… Have you seen any fan theories about this? Surely you aren’t the first to notice.

    In regards to the ring (and the other horcruxes) “reacting” to Harry, I personally think that movies almost always have to make things a little more overt for the audience, where books have the space and time to afford more subtlety. Movies will always have a larger and broader audience to cater to, and I think that more overt details are necessary when you’re watching something versus reading something. I’m not saying that I necessarily like that, but I do think this is why they do it.

    One more random thing. I have a suggestion or two for future “specials”! I think that if there ends up being some interesting details/background info for the justification of the “Ron is a seer” theory that this would be a super cool special (whether we end up agreeing with it or not). Also, if you wanted to do more of a holiday themed one, you could always see if there is anything on the wonderful Wizarding World website about magic-specific holiday traditions or some holiday-themed stories from The Tales of Beetle the Bard! I have NO idea if there’s enough meat on the bones of either one of those suggestions for a video, but I figured I’d pass that thought along.

    Okay I lied – I do have one more thing. I completely forgot about Lockhart’s Valentine’s Day “treat”! This must be why they included a Valentine’s Day appearance by Lockhart in the Hogwarts Mystery game (did you ever get to that?)!

    Now, on to horcruxes. I without a doubt would use my class ring, a bookmark, or a car lol.

    Once again, I really like how you’ve broken this topic down. I truly love how Rowling has introduced us to THE antagonist by getting us to unwittingly empathize with him – this made for SUCH a big surprise during my first read. You pointed out that Harry’s empathy (while it does change over time) essentially remains through the whole series. By the end of course we know that he sees the true sadness of Voldemort’s life, and it is for this very reason that he was the “chosen one”. I think that the list of people who would be capable of this is VERY short and in the end this is what gives Harry what he needs to emerge victorious. It certainly made for a few agonizing and long years, but ultimately this is what equipped him to do what needed to be done.

    Also, your point about two horcruxes interacting with each other was super interesting. This actually got me thinking – these are the only two horcruxes that are truly capable of this. And what’s even more interesting is that it’s the first and the last that Voldemort made, AND arguably the two most influential things that led to his demise. His own attempts to escape death are what ended up bringing about his end. Poetic.

    My opinions of this book are definitely changing. I think that there’s a solid argument to be made that the events that take place during this book are even more important to the rest of the series than most of what happens in the first. I’m not quite sure where I would put it in the rankings either, but wherever it was before I think it has earned a higher spot.

    Another great article and video!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ya know, I need to look into if there’s anything out there about the plot hole thing… I’m sure you’re right. Thanks so much for the “specials” recommendations! I’m sure you’ll see them pop up in the future, especially the “Ron is a seer” thing. I find that theory so funny, and it is neat how right he is when he isn’t trying. When he’s convinced of something, it’s usually wrong, but when he makes sarcastic, off-hand comments, he ends up being right!

      I agree with you about the Horcrux movie thing. I try not to blame the filmmakers for the changes they made to make the storyline more understandable for viewers, especially since movies are much, much shorter than books anyway.

      Nice choices for your Horcrux, ha! And I’m so glad you enjoyed the article and video! Your comments mean a lot to me, and I really appreciate it. This book IS so important! I’m definitely going to need to rank the books (if that’s even possible) before all of this is said and done.

      Thanks again!


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