As mentioned in my new year's resolutions for this blog, I'm starting a new series of posts with in-depth looks at particular passages in the Harry Potter books. I love how rich and multi layered the text is. I've read the books many, many times, and have gradually discovered wonderful subtle clues to the plot that Rowling has hidden throughout the series. Here's one from the Chamber of Secrets.
Two things: this post contains spoilers for Harry Potter 2. And all quotes referred to in this post are from the Scholastic hardcover edition of Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets.
So you've read Book 2 and you know that there is a Basilisk (giant snake) in the Chamber of Secrets. According to the library book Hermione found: "the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it." (page 290). So, obviously, whoever is opening the Chamber of Secrets wants to get roosters out of the way so that the Basilisk can't be killed. How is this accomplished and how does Rowling bury the clues? Take a look:
'What did Lockhart want with you, Hagrid?' Harry asked, scratching Fang's ears.
'Givin' me advice on gettin' kelpies out of a well' growled Hagrid, moving a half-plucked rooster off of his scrubbed table and setting down the teapot." (page 115)
Since the rooster is half plucked, that means it was probably killed recently, such as the day before. If it had been dead longer than that, the rooster would have been fully plucked.
A few pages later, Hermione compliments Hagrid's enormous pumpkins and tells him that he's 'done a good job on them.'
'That's what your little sister said,' said Hagrid, nodding at Ron. 'Met her jus' yesterday.' Hagrid looked sideways at Harry, his beard twitching. 'Said she was jus' lookin' round the grounds, but I reckon she was hopin' she might run inter someone else at my house.' He winked at Harry." (page 118)
This is actually a bit of misdirection. Ginny wasn't at Hagrid's house hoping to see Harry... she was there (although she didn't realize it) to kill Hagrid's rooster.
Later that evening, Harry hears the basilisk while serving detention in Gilderoy Lockhart's office. Why does Harry hear the basilisk that particular night? Because the rooster has been just been killed and can't pose a threat to the basilisk.
In the next chapter, Ginny sees the school nurse.
"Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was kept busy by a sudden spate of colds among the staff and students. Her Pepperup potion worked instantly, though it left the drinker smoking at the ears for several hours afterward. Ginny Weasley, who had been looking pale, was bullied into taking some by Percy." (page 122)
Why does Ginny look pale? Because she strangled the rooster and released the basilisk. She doesn't know that she did either of those things, but she is aware that she doesn't know where she was during those periods of time.
Interesting, isn't it?