Pipelines and Bloodlines

by Michele Lawson

It’s been a matter of curiosity to me, as I believe to others, why the chamber of secrets would be concealed behind a relatively modern aperture in a bathroom. It couldn’t have been so secret, could it? Surely the plumbers who installed it would have been aware of its existence. How could they not?

If the Chamber of Secrets was consigned to mythological status, why would Tom Riddle (a.k.a. Voldemort) have been so persistent in searching for it? Why, if he knew about its existence, did he have to search in the first place?

This is my theory explaining the above and, consequently, a few things more.

Things we know about Tom Riddle:

  1. He is the last surviving heir of Salazar Slytherin
  2. He is a parseltongue
  3. He has a witch mother through whom he is a descendent of Salazar Slytherin.
  4. His mother died shortly after giving birth to him, consequently unable to educate him about his true wizarding identity
  5. His Muggle father – a man of position and privilege – abandoned his mother
  6. He was raised in a Muggle orphanage

Things we know about the Chamber of Secrets:

  1. It was constructed by Salazar Slytherin in a huff over the presence of Muggleborns at Hogwarts
  2. Only his heir would be able to control the monster within the Chamber
  3. Only a parseltongue could open the Chamber
  4. None of the staff at Hogwarts knew where to find the Chamber but they knew it existed
  5. Some of the members of Slytherin House knew it existed (ie. Malfoy through his father’s telling him)
  6. The entrance is hidden behind a sink in the girl’s bathroom

Using these facts, I’m going to put together a theory to explain some of the apparent oddities to the story.

Slytherin’s bloodline would be a matter of record in the Wizarding World. In fact, those who are descendents of him would be inordinately proud of that fact, holding to his value that pureblood is the best blood, thus keeping the family tree intact. They wouldn’t be careless about who they marry. Dumbledore states that Tom Riddle is the last surviving heir of Slytherin as though he knows it to be a fact.

The family would have passed the knowledge of the Chamber of Secrets down through the ages. Even with that knowledge, the Chamber didn’t get much use. Why? Either parseltongue was rare even among Slytherin’s descendents, access to the chamber was limited or there was a reason for them to walk carefully and avoid its use. Most likely, a descendent of Slytherin would have been involved covertly in the concealment of the entrance in the girl’s bathroom (possibly in the 1800’s when indoor plumbing came en vogue). Slytherin’s descendents probably kept an eye on Hogwarts – part of their ‘inheritance’ was there. Upon hearing that a new plumbing system is to be put in, (there are several ways of finding out such innocuous information), someone would have been planted to attend that spot which is to be converted to a girl’s lavatory.

Moving on to more modern times, we come to an odd circumstance. Tom Riddle’s witch mother marries a Muggle. Considering the pride Slytherin’s descendents must have in the purity of the bloodline, this must have been an act of either deep passion or desperation on her part. Surely she could have found another pureblood to marry? Unless…

Tom Riddle Jr. was born in the 1920’s. This would have been after World War I. In relation to Dumbledore’s defeat of Grindelwald in 1945, it’s possible that to some extent the events of the magical world mirror those of the Muggle world. There may have been a Wizard World War around the time of WW I as well. It could have been around nationalist issues, or around racism against Muggles, or both. (Wizards aren’t above being nationalists, as evidenced by their behavior at the World Quidditch Cup in GoF; the bigotry by some is self-evident). Tom Jr.’s mother may have backed the losing side and been the daughter of a war criminal, or perhaps a war criminal herself.

The wizarding world, like the Muggle world, would have been in a state of disarray at the end of the war. In a last ditch attempt to conceal her identity, Tom Riddle’s mother marries a Muggle. Of course, if she’s going to lower herself to do so, she’s going to marry a Muggle of means and family – not too high as to attract attention, but not so low as to totally debase herself. What she didn’t count on was her Muggle husband having his own set of prejudices. She didn’t count on HIM seeing HER as the lower person. (After all, in her mind, he’s getting the best of the bargain). He throws her out when he finds out she’s a witch.

I may have it all wrong of course. She may have been a relatively decent woman who put her faith in the wrong man and then was pitched out of her family and circle of friends for her pains. But you would think that there would be a sympathetic witch or wizard somewhere that would help. At the very least she shouldn’t have to leave her son to the tender mercies of a Muggle orphanage.

In any case, now she’s destitute, in hiding and pregnant. Either she has some feelings for her louse of a husband, or she wants her son to be able to claim his parentage, and hopefully some provision, so she names the baby for him. So, why does baby Tom end up in an orphanage?

Tom Riddle, Sr. either didn’t know of his son’s existence, or he was a lowlife of the first order who callously abandoned his own son. If the latter is the case, I’m not sure I would blame Tom Jr. for wanting revenge. But I find it hard to believe that anyone would abandon his own child for only a matter of pride, especially a man of Tom Sr.’s position in society. If nothing else, certainly he was aware that any legitimate offspring would have some legal claim on him. (Yes, I know it happens in the real world often enough, but usually there are some circumstances that if not excusable are understandable. Please don’t anyone think that I advocate the abandonment of helpless infants under any circumstances. I’m just stating that there’s a world of difference between the poor and frightened and a man in Tom Sr.’s position)

Tom Jr. may have erroneously believed his father discarded him based on the resentment he felt for his situation. It would be easy for him to imagine his disadvantaged mother a saint and his Muggle father a devil.

As we know from Harry’s situation, growing up misunderstood among Muggles can leave a few scars, especially if those Muggles do not have parental feelings for their “odd” child. Tom Riddle, Jr. must have finally found his home in Slytherin house. Not only does he find people with whom he belongs, but he also finds out through his mother’s name that he has an illustrious ancestry. It is the dream of every unhappy orphan. In his mind, those Muggles who mistreated him become scum, and he justifies himself in classing them all that way. He hates the Muggles and, because of them, also the Muggle-born at Hogwarts. The atmosphere of bigotry in Slytherin house then further amplifies this hatred. He learns of the legend of the Chamber of Secrets through his fellow Slytherins, and that it is more than a legend, though they do not know the secret of its location or how to open it. As his mother is dead, and he has no known surviving wizard relatives to help him out, he has to figure this part out himself.

It takes him five years to find it, but he does and among his friends with Dark Arts leanings, it sets him among the stars. He not only is heir to Slytherin’s blood, but heir to his power and therefore this formerly pitiable boy becomes royalty. A rags-to-riches story – Dark Arts style.