Released on July 2, 1998, in the UK and June 2, 1999, in the US, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series. It has 18 chapters and it is 251 pages long in the UK and 341 pages long in the US.
The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike. And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny. But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone–or something–starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects… Harry Potter himself?
– Back cover description
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Rowling found it difficult to finish Chamber of Secrets because she was afraid it would not live up to the expectations raised by Sorcerer's Stone. After delivering the manuscript to Bloomsbury on schedule, she took it back for six weeks of revision. When published in the UK, it immediately took first place on UK best-seller lists.
There were several large changes in editing along the way. In early drafts of the book, the ghost Nearly Headless Nick sang a self-composed song explaining his condition and the circumstances of his death. This was cut as the book's editor did not care for the poem, which has been subsequently published as an extra on J.K. Rowling's official website. The family background of Dean Thomas was removed because Rowling and her publishers considered it an "unnecessary digression," and she considered Neville Longbottom's own journey of discovery "more important to the central plot." First edition printings had several errors, which were fixed in subsequent reprints. Initially, Dumbledore said that Voldemort was the last remaining ancestor of Salazar Slytherin, instead of his descendant. Gilderoy Lockhart's book on werewolves is entitled Weekends with Werewolves at one point and Wanderings with Werewolves later in the book.
The audiobook in the US is read by Jim Dale and Stephen Fry in the UK.
Harry Potter is once again miserable at the Dursley house. They have locked away all his school things and forbidden him from mentioning that he is a wizard. He hasn't gotten letters from his friends all summer. During a dinner party that his uncle is hosting for a work associate, Harry is visited by a house-elf named Dobby. Dobby tells Harry he cannot return to Hogwarts or he will be in terrible danger. When Harry will not agree to stay away from Hogwarts, Dobby sabotages the Dursleys' dinner party and Harry is blamed. Uncle Vernon locks Harry in his bedroom, but Harry's best friend Ron Weasley shows up in a flying car with his brothers Fred and George to rescue Harry.
The Weasleys take Harry to The Burrow, their family home. Though Mrs. Weasley is unhappy that the boys stole the car, she and Mr. Weasley are very glad to see Harry and make him feel like part of the family. Ron's sister Ginny, meanwhile, is so shy around Harry that she cannot speak to him without blushing. When the Hogwarts letters arrive, Harry goes with the Weasley family to Diagon Alley. After a mishap traveling by Floo powder, Harry ends up in a shop in Knockturn Alley where he overhears his nemesis Draco Malfoy and Draco's father Lucius selling some shady items. After being rescued by Hagrid, Harry meets up with his other best friend Hermione Granger and the Weasley family.
They go to the bookshop Flourish and Blotts where they meet the famous wizard Gilderoy Lockhart, who announces to the eager crowd that he is going to become the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts. On the way out of the shop, the Weasleys are stopped by Lucius Malfoy. Lucius taunts Arthur for not being wealthy and associating with muggles as part of his job, which causes a fight.
Harry and Ron are unable to get through the barrier to platform nine and three-quarters the day they are to return to Hogwarts. Ron suggests they use the flying car again, but upon arrival at Hogwarts they crash the car into the Whomping Willow and Ron's wand is destroyed. They are discovered by Professor Snape and he attempts to have them expelled. Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall decide Harry and Ron will receive letters home to their families and detention instead. Harry and Ron count themselves lucky, but Harry cannot help wondering why someone would be so determined to keep him from getting to school.
Term begins at Hogwarts and the students quickly realize that Gilderoy Lockhart, though very famous, doesn't seem to know the first thing about teaching. Draco Malfoy is named the new seeker for the Slytherin Quidditch team because his father buys new brooms for the team. When Hermione points this out in front of everyone, he calls her "mudblood," which is an offensive word calling out her muggle parentage. Harry begins hearing an eerie voice around the school talking about killing someone. One night, after attending a deathday party for Nearly-Headless Nick, Harry, Ron, and Hermione encounter the caretaker's cat, Mrs. Norris, petrified and hanging from the wall with a message warning that "the Chamber of Secrets has been opened." Mr. Filch, the caretaker, tries to blame Harry and his friends, but Dumbledore believes that Harry is innocent.
Gryffindor wins the first Quidditch match of the season against Slytherin, though Harry is injured by a rogue bludger. While recovering in the hospital, Dobby shows up and admits it was him that controlled the bludger and stopped the barrier from letting Harry and Ron through. Dobby warns Harry that he must leave Hogwarts because "history is to repeat itself," then disappears just as yet another petrified victim is brought into the hospital wing. Harry overhears Dumbledore confirm that the Chamber of Secrets has indeed been opened and it has happened before.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to try and catch the culprit behind the attacks. They suspect Malfoy and come up with a plan to interrogate him by disguising themselves using a Polyjuice Potion, which will take one month to brew. They do this in a bathroom haunted by the ghost of a lonely girl called Moaning Myrtle to ensure they will not get caught. In the meantime, Professor Lockhart begins a dueling club so students can learn to protect themselves. Malfoy summons a snake during a duel with Harry, and Harry talks to the snake to keep it from attacking Hufflepuff student Justin Finch-Fletchley. Ron explains to Harry that this makes him a Parselmouth and this makes the other students suspicious of him, especially when Justin and Nearly-Headless Nick are the next victims to be petrified. When Harry is sent to Dumbledore's office, he witnesses Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes, burst into flames. Dumbledore assures Harry that he did not cause the phoenix to catch fire, nor did he cause the attacks on fellow students.
With the Polyjuice Potion brewed by Hermione, Harry and Ron are able to take the forms of Crabbe and Goyle after stealing a few of their hairs. Hermione is unable to assist because the hairs she uses turn out to be from a cat. While interrogating Malfoy, Harry and Ron learn that Malfoy is not the heir of Slytherin. They also learn that the last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened was fifty years ago and a muggle-born student was killed. They do not learn who opened the chamber, only that the person responsible was caught and expelled.
One day, Harry and Ron are walking through the halls and discover that the corridor outside Moaning Myrtle's bathroom is flooded. They go in to check and find a discarded diary. Harry examines the diary and finds it once belonged to someone named Tom Marvolo Riddle. What is even stranger is that when he writes in the diary, Tom Riddle starts writing back to him. Through the diary, Harry learns that Tom Riddle was the one who caught the culprit the last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened. Much to Harry's surprise, the person Tom Riddle catches in the vision he shows Harry turns out to be none other than Rubeus Hagrid. A few days later, Harry's dormitory is broken into and the diary is missing. On the day of Gryffindor's Quidditch match against Hufflepuff, Professor McGonagall announces the match is canceled and escorts Harry and Ron to the hospital wing to show them that Hermione, along with a girl from Ravenclaw House, are the latest victims to be petrified.
Harry and Ron try to talk to Hagrid about what Harry saw in the diary, but Dumbledore shows up with the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, and they inform Hagrid that he is being taken to Azkaban prison as a precaution. While this is going on, Lucius Malfoy shows up and tells Dumbledore the board of school governors has voted to suspend him as headmaster for being unable to stop the attacks. Hagrid gives a tip to Harry and Ron, who are watching all this under Harry's invisibility cloak, that they should "follow the spiders" to find out the truth of what is going on. They reluctantly take Hagrid's advice and follow the spiders into the dark forest one night where they meet the giant spider Aragog. Aragog tells them that Hagrid was keeping him safe in the castle when the Chamber of Secrets opened, which is why Hagrid was blamed. He also tells them that the girl who died was killed by a creature all spiders fear and that she was found in a bathroom. Harry and Ron are about to be eaten by Aragog's family when the Weasleys' flying car shows up just in time to get them safely back to school.
Harry and Ron realize that the girl who died fifty years ago could have been Moaning Myrtle. They also find a scrap of paper in Hermione's hand while visiting her in the hospital wing that describes a horrible creature called the basilisk. Based on the description of the basilisk, a giant serpent who can kill with a single glance and is the mortal enemy of spiders, they deduce this must be what lives in the Chamber of Secrets. They are about to tell the Hogwarts staff when a meeting is called and Harry and Ron overhear that Ron's sister, Ginny, has been taken by the monster into the chamber itself. The teachers are arranging for the students to be sent home except for Lockhart, who has been tasked with catching the monster.
When Harry and Ron go to tell Lockhart what they know, they find him in the middle of packing. Lockhart is forced to admit that he never did any of the heroic deeds he wrote about in the books that made him famous. Harry and Ron blackmail him into coming along to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom so he can help them try to rescue Ginny. In the bathroom, they learn from Moaning Myrtle that the only thing she remembers from the day she died was seeing a pair of large yellow eyes near the sink. Harry tries telling the sink to "open" in Parseltongue, and the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is opened. Once Harry, Ron, and Lockhart are through the entrance, Lockhart tries to double-cross the boys using a memory charm. He uses Ron's wand, which has been broken and malfunctioning all year, and the charm hits himself instead, which also causes a rockfall separating Ron from Harry.
Harry continues on and finds the Chamber of Secrets. He finds Ginny's body lying on the floor watched over by Tom Riddle. Tom tells Harry that he has been possessing Ginny all year to use her to open the Chamber of Secrets and control the basilisk. He has also been leeching off of her soul so that he can regenerate. When Harry asks why he has done all this, Tom reveals that he is the young man who grows up to become Lord Voldemort. Tom then tries to kill Harry by using the basilisk, but Fawkes comes to Harry's aid. Fawkes blinds the basilisk and presents Harry with the Sorting Hat, which yields a mysterious sword. Harry is able to defeat the basilisk with the sword, but the basilisk's poisonous fang pierces his skin. Fawkes is able to treat the poisonous wound with his tears, which allows Harry time to take the fang and pierce Tom Riddle's diary. Riddle's spirit is destroyed and Ginny is revived. Together, they are able to return back to the castle with Ron and a very confused Professor Lockhart.
The four head straight to the headmaster's office, where they find Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley waiting for them. The truth about everything that has happened over the past school year comes out and nobody is punished. Harry and Dumbledore share a private word where Dumbeldore explains that Fawkes was able to come to him because of Harry's loyalty to Dumbledore and the sword that came from the Sorting Hat once belonged to Godric Gryffindor. Lucius Malfoy turns up, outraged that Dumbeldore has been reinstated. Harry sees that Dobby is with him, and Harry understands what has been going on. Dobby heard of the plan to reopen the Chamber of Secrets from his masters, the Malfoys, and Lucius slipped the diary into Ginny Weasley's cauldron the day of the fight in Flourish and Blotts. Harry returns the diary to them, knowing it will be handed to Dobby, but with a sock slipped in because Dobby had told him house-elves can only be freed if their masters present them with clothes. Dobby saves Harry from Malfoy's retaliation before leaving to start his new life as a free elf.
The whole school gathers in the Great Hall for a celebratory feast. Everyone who was petrified has been restored thanks to a mandrake potion brewed by Professor Sprout and Madam Pomfrey. Hagrid joins them at the feast after being released from Azkaban. Dumbledore decides to cancel the end-of-year exams as a school treat, which delights everyone but Hermione. At the end of term, Harry must once again return to Privet Drive to stay with the Dursleys for the summer. He is hopeful that his friends will keep in touch this time now that Dobby won't be stealing his letters.
For Sean P.F. Harris, getaway driver and foulweather friend.
Jo met Sean at her secondary school, Wyedean, when she was 11. From JKRowling.com:
He was the first of my friends to learn to drive and that turquoise and white car meant FREEDOM and no more having to ask my father to give me lifts, which is the worst thing about living in the countryside when you are a teenager. Some of the happiest memories of my teenage years involve zooming off into the darkness in Sean's car. He was the first person with whom I really discussed my serious ambition to be a writer and he was also the only person who thought I was bound to be a success at it, which meant much more to me than I ever told him at the time.
- ALA Notable Children's Books, 2000
- YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2000
- Booklist Editors' Choice, Books for Youth, 1999
- Booklist Top Ten Fantasy Novels for Youth, 1998-99
- The Booksellers Association/The Bookseller Author of the Year 1998
- British Book Awards (Nibbies), Children's Book of the Year, 1998
- CBC Not Just for Children Anymore! List
- CCBC Choices, Fiction for Children, 2000
- FCBG Children's Book Awards, Overall Category, 1999
- FCBG Children's Book Awards, Longer Novel Category, 1999
- Children's Choices, 2000
- Young Adult Choices, 2000
- Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, Gold Award, 9–11 Years, 1998
- North East Book Award, 1999
- North East Scotland Book Award, 1998
- Publishers Weekly's Best Books, 1999
- School Library Journal's Best Books, 1999
- Scottish Arts Council Awards, Book of the Year, 1999
- Whitaker Platinum Book Award, 1999
- Carnegie Medal Shortlist, 1998
- Guardian Children's Fiction Prize Shortlist, 1998
The illustrated edition of Chamber of Secrets was released on October 4, 2016, by Bloomsbury and Scholastic. It features over 115 color illustrations provided by award-winning artist Jim Kay. The cover of the hardcover edition depicts the blue Ford Anglia flying toward the Burrow. The cover of the UK illustrated paperback edition, released on August 22, 2019, depicts a different version of the same image. The hardcover edition also includes a ribbon marker and illustrated endpapers.
Deluxe Illustrated Edition
Released on October 10, 2016, by Bloomsbury and Scholastic, the deluxe illustrated edition of Chamber of Secrets features a red cloth cover and a slipcase adorned with gold foil-stamped artwork by Jim Kay. This edition also includes special features such as premium-grade paper with gilt edges, a two-and-a-half-foot-wide accordion-folded removable poster, and two ribbon bookmarks.
The new and magical edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets illustrated by graphic designers Eduardo Lima and Miraphora Mina was published simultaneously by Scholastic and Bloomsbury on October 26, 2021. The detailed cover is filled with highlights from the book, such as spiders crawling across it, Ron's broken wand, a mandrake plant, and Harry and Ron's epic journey to Hogwarts. This 400-page edition is packed with illustrations of bubbling Polyjuice Potion, powerful charms, the terrifying basilisk, and more.