Harry Potter is now quite familiar with the wizarding world, the community and government of magic folks that exists right alongside the “Muggle,” or non-magic, one. After the school year lets out at Hogwarts, Harry spends another miserable summer with the Dursleys. It’s Harry’s birthday, and nobody has remembered it. Not even Ron or Hermione have written him all summer or sent him a card. Things are only going to get worse.

Harry’s shrieky Aunt Petunia sends him outside to pull weeds, mow the grass and other chores in anticipation of a dinner party with Mr. Mason, a potential client of Uncle Vernon’s drill company, and Mr. Mason’s wife. While he is out there, he sits and thinks about the awful day he is having, with no one remembering his birthday. He swears he sees big green eyes peering out at him from the bushes, but he’s not entirely sure.

When dinner arrives, Harry is confined to his bedroom. A strange creature with big eyes like car headlights, a squeaky voice and strange fractured dialect appears. He is dressed in only a pillowcase. He says his name is Dobby and he is a house elf. (He serves the Malfoy family.) He was the owner of the green eyes looking at Harry from the Dursley bushes.

He is very humble, to the point that he bangs his head against the wall when he’s sorry for something or cries a river in a very loud voice. Harry must rush to quiet Dobby down or get in trouble with Vernon! Dobby tells Harry that he must not go to Hogwarts this year, or he will be in great danger. He admits that he has intercepted all of Harry’s mail during the summer and dumps out a number of crumpled envelopes. Many are from Ron and Hermione.

Harry will not listen, so Dobby levitates Aunt Petunia’s prized pineapple upside down cake and lets it drop to the floor. Harry is immediately blamed after Dobby leaves. His guardians scold him severely, and lock him in his room. On top of that, an owl letter arrives from the Ministry of Magic warning him that he could be expelled from Hogwarts because minors are not allowed to do magic outside of school.

Uncle Vernon locks Harry into his room, vowing that he will never come out, and never go to Hogwarts. The next day he has a man put bars on his window. A small pet door is installed in his door so Petunia can give him his three meals a day – one of them is an open can of cold soup.

In the middle of the night, he is awakened by what looks like Ron’s face at the window. It is – Ron and his twin brothers, Fred and George, have come in their dad’s old Ford Anglia to rescue Harry. Mr. Weasley has put a spell on it so it can fly through the air! They use the car to pull the bars off the window and load Harry’s trunk into the vehicle. When they are about to leave, the forgotten Hedwig screeches and wakes up Uncle Vernon. He rushes to Harry’s room and grabs his leg as he tries to leave with Hedwig. The Weasleys pull harder, however, and Harry and the owl end up in the car. They’re off.

The Weasley boys take him to The Burrow, their family home near the village of Ottery St. Catchpole. Molly Weasley scolds her boys for taking the old turquoise Ford to get Harry because Muggles could have seen them. Harry doesn’t mind the overcrowded house or watching Mrs. Weasley run her busy household and use magic to do her housework.

He doesn’t mind the ghoul in the attic who moans and bangs things when he thinks it’s too quiet. He doesn’t mind helping Ron and his brothers clean the little bald, brown gnomes out of the garden. He is fascinated by the kitchen clock, which has chores at the places where there should be the hours. The only irritation is Ginny Weasley, the youngest, who is excited about starting at Hogwarts and who idolizes Harry.

Harry learns that Arthur Weasley works for the Ministry of Magic’s Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office. The Weasley dad is constantly breaking his own laws, bringing home Muggle items, dismantling and enchanting them. The Anglia car is one prime example. Arthur is also very interested in Muggle machines and things – he asks Harry that if during the time he went in a London subway station he rode an “escapator.”

The family uses “floo” powder to magically travel from their fireplace to ones in Diagon Alley, where they can buy their school supplies. Harry accidentally lands in Borgin & Burkes, a shop in the frightening Knockturn Alley that sells Dark Arts supplies. He overhears Lucius Malfoy selling some Dark Arts items from his household, so he can avoid a raid by Mr. Weasley’s office. Draco keeps bugging his dad to buy him something, such as the Hand of Glory, a severed hand that holds a candle and lights the way only for its owner. Lucius plans to buy Draco only a racing broom.

After the Malfoys leave and Borgin goes into a back room, Harry escapes. He is terrified at the sights along Knockturn Alley – shrunken heads, poisonous candles and big black spiders in shop windows, a witch selling whole fingernails on a tray. Harry encounters Hagrid, who was there to buy a flesh-eating slug repellent. He takes Harry to Diagon Alley. Gildreoy Lockhart

While purchasing his textbooks at Flourish & Blotts, he runs into his future Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He is Gilderoy Lockhart – vain, blond, grinning, clad in fancy designer robes and author of numerous books on tracking monsters. He quickly hauls Harry into a photo of him for The Daily Prophet, the wizards’ newspaper.

When school arrives, Arthur Weasley takes everyone in the Anglia to King’s Cross Station to board at Platform 9 3/4 The car has been enchanted to hold the big family and Harry. Everyone except Ron and Harry makes it through the invisible entrance to the platform. ***Dobby is trying to prevent Harry returning to Hogwarts and has blocked the doorway with his entire body.

They finally decide they can take the flying Ford Anglia to Hogwarts. Ron and Harry glide through the sky, enjoying the scenery and watching the Hogwarts Express steam north. Unfortunately, when they land, they do so on the Whomping Willow, the most dangerous tree in the Forbidden Forest. The tree’s long tentacles attack the car, which reacts violently, falling down to the ground, dumping out its passengers and luggage, and running off into the woods.

Ron faces expulsion – and Harry a second time – but Assistant Headmistress Minerva McGonagall lets them off with a warning. Mrs. Weasley sends an owl letter in a bright red envelope, and Ron braces himself. It’s a Howler, a letter that screams or scolds the recipient when it is opened. Ron’s mom’s voice rips through the air about the car.

Harry’s year is only going to get more rough...

Colin Creevey, a first year from Gryffindor, worships Harry and has started a fan club for him. Ginny is not far behind. Potions Professor Severus Snape again leans on him and Gryffindor House, taking points away at will. The points are important, because the house with the most wins the House Cup at the end of the year.

Draco Malfoy gets his digs in on Harry. He calls Hermione a “Mudblood,” because she was born to non-magic parents. He ridicules Ron for coming from a poor family (just about all of Ron’s stuff is hand-me-downs from his brothers). A plump, teenage ghost named Moaning Myrtle whines in the girls’ bathroom. A story is circulating about a legendary room called the Chamber of Secrets, created by Hogwarts co-founder Salazar Slytherin, that will be opened by his last heir. Could it get worse?

Yes, it can. A series of strange "petrifyings" begins, in which Mrs. Norris, caretaker Argus Filch’s cat, faculty, students, and even ghosts are frozen in a stiff, coma-like state. Harry is creeped out when he hears a voice inside Hogwarts’ walls, muttering about killing and injuring. Someone is killing the roosters residing on the Hogwarts grounds. They have written messages in blood on the castle walls, such as "The Chamber Has Been Opened," and "Enemies of the Heir, Beware."

Harry becomes the prime suspect in the incidents. Spiders begin to swarm around windows and seem to be fleeing something.

Lockhart is all over, promoting his books, and acting as if he is better than anyone else. He proves to be a fraud when he cannot control the smallest of creatures, such as pixies, and instead of mending Harry's broken arm, he disintegrates all the bones.

Lockhart tries to start a dueling club. He pits Harry against Draco. The latter utters a spell to send a big black snake against Harry, who recoils. The snake starts going toward another boy, and Harry yells at it. That suddenly stops the reptile. Everyone is terrified, even though the snake was stopped. Unknowingly, Harry spoke to the snake in Parseltongue, its own language. This makes Harry even more of a suspect in the stunnings. Harry begins to wonder if the Sorting Hat were correct in sending him to Gryffindor. What if he were the heir of Slytherin and should be in the same house as Draco?

After the Parseltongue incident, McGonagall takes Harry to Dumbledore's office. The Sorting Hat is in the office, and he asks it if it really put him into the right house. The hat reminds him that he could have done great things in Slytherin. That only unnerves Harry even more. Harry is further disturbed when a weak old bird in Dumbledore’s office suddenly bursts into flames and burns up. He apologizes to the old wizard, hoping he doesn’t get blamed for the bird’s “demise.”

Dumbledore tells him the bird is his pet phoenix named Fawkes. The phoenix, a legendary bird dating to ancient times, burns itself when it dies and is reborn in its own ashes. Sure enough, there is a newborn bird in the soot.

Harry and other students in Professor Sprout’s Herbology class race against the clock to raise mandrakes, loud, human-like plants that Madam Poppy Pomfrey, the nurse, will use to make an antidote for the petrified people and ghosts. Pomfrey’s hospital wing becomes crowded with victims the more time passes.

While many Hogwarts students suspect Harry, he and his friends believe Draco is the person behind the stunnings and rooster murders. Hermione, always very good at potion making, creates Polyjuice, a mixture that will turn a person into the likeness of another for one hour. The potion works when a hair or other part of the person (such as skin) is placed into it, and then drunk.

Harry and Ron become Crabbe and Goyle, Draco’s bodyguards, to go to Slytherin house quarters to find out if he is the one. ***However, Draco says he is not the heir, but wishes that the heir rids Hogwarts of all Mudbloods, and his father will eject Dumbledore from the school.

***Poor Hermione, who drinks the potion to assume Slytherin Millicent Bulstrode's appearance, accidentally puts a cat hair into her mix and turns partially feline! She spends several weeks in the hospital wing to recover.

Eventually Harry finds a magic diary that may have clues to identify the real perpetrator in the stunnings. He finds that by writing in it, the original keeper, Tom Riddle, will write back. The diary additionally allows the reader to magically become parts of recreations of the past.

In one such sequence, Harry finds out why Hagrid was expelled in Hogwarts. Some huge, black, furry pet he owned was blamed for similar stunning murders of several students 50 years before. Harry also sees a younger Albus Dumbledore, who is professor of Transfiguration. Tom Riddle finds out about Hagrid’s pet and reports him to Headmaster Armando Dippet. He receives a special award for saving the school.

Dobby eventually reveals that he has repeatedly tried to prevent Harry from going to Hogwarts because he knew the Malfoys were aware the Chamber of Secrets would be opened. ***Draco left the diary out deliberately so Ginny would find it and start the process to open the chamber up.

Ron and Harry use the latter’s Invisibility Cloak to sneak over to Hagrid’s hut. They begin to ask him about the expulsion incident, but they are interrupted by voices. Dumbledore enters the cottage, along with Cornelius Fudge, head of the British Ministry of Magic. They inform Hagrid that he has been placed on temporary suspension and will be removed from the Hogwarts grounds. This action is based on what happened 50 years ago.

Lucius Malfoy arrives. He informs Hagrid, Fudge and Dumbledore that he has signatures from all 12 members of the Hogwarts board of governors on an order suspending Dumbledore. The headmaster is being held responsible for not protecting the school from the attacks.

After the visitors leave, Hagrid suggests if Ron and Harry want to find the heir of Slytherin, they should follow the fleeing spiders. Soon after, on another night, Ron and Harry use the Invisibility Cloak to return to the Forbidden Forest.

The running creatures lead them deep into the forest. There they meet Aragog, a giant black talking spider called an acromantula. Aragog was Hagrid’s pet and was the animal falsely accused of attacking the people 50 years ago. Hagrid protected him and put him into the forest and gave him a mate named Mahog. They and their huge family live in the woods.

Though Ron and Harry tell the spider they are Hagrid’s friend, Aragog says that unfortunately he and his family will still eat them. As the legions of arachnids advance, a pair of lights and a beeping sound rush toward them. It’s the old Weasley Ford Anglia, still running around the woods. It rescues the boys and takes them back to the school.

Dumbledore is suspended and will have to leave.
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