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"Now, Harry, I’m going to teach you a little lesson. Let’s match the powers of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against famous Harry Potter, and the best weapons Dumbledore can give him..."
— Harry Potter battles the Serpent of Slytherin and Slytherin's heir[src]

This skirmish was a conflict that took place on 29 May, 1993 in the Chamber of Secrets where Harry Potter slayed Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk and destroyed Tom Riddle's Diary.[1]

It was precipitated when Tom Riddle's Diary (one of Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes) possessed first year Ginny Weasley and forced her to open the Chamber of Secrets and write frightening messages on the walls. As the 1992-1993 school year came to an end Riddle forced her into the Chamber itself.[1][3]

Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Gilderoy Lockhart came to the rescue. Ron and Lockhart were stuck behind an avalanche of stone,[3] so the battle was fought mostly by Harry.[1] Harry managed to defeat both the Basilisk and the memory of Tom Riddle, thus saving Ginny's life.[1] He also unknowingly eliminated one of Voldemort's Horcruxes.[4]


Background information

"The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the Heir, beware."
— The threatening messages on the walls of Hogwarts[src]

On New Year's Eve, 1926 Tom Riddle was born to the pure-blood witch Merope Gaunt in a London orphanage. He was an odd boy and discovered in his eleventh year that he was a wizard. Believing death to be the realm of the weak, he initially believed his mother could not have been magical, given her death, and the young Tom focused on finding his father among the records at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.[5] However, his search was fruitless, as Tom Riddle Snr had never set foot in the school. After discovering this, he turned his attention to his mother's family and found the Gaunt line, direct descendants of Salazar Slytherin himself leaving near Little Hangleton.[6]

Riddle took some time to research his famous ancestor and in his fifth year, he found the fabled Chamber of Secrets. Having come to believe in fanatical pure-blood supremacy, Riddle planned to use the "terror within" the chamber to rid the school of those "unworthy" to learn magic; that is, Muggle-born wizards and witches.[1] Throughout the 1942-1943 school year, a series of Muggle-born students were petrified.

Young Hagrid is framed by Tom Riddle for opening the chamber

Finally, late in the school year, Myrtle Warren was killed, and the Headmaster threatened to close the school unless the culprit was apprehended. Not wanting to return to the Muggle orphanage from which he came, Riddle decided that he needed a patsy. He chose third year Gryffindor Rubeus Hagrid, who had a reputation already and took the information to Professor Dippet, the Headmaster.

Hagrid was expelled but allowed to remain as Gamekeeper, because the Transfiguration professor, Albus Dumbledore, did not believe him to be guilty.[7] Riddle used the girl's death to create his first Horcrux, Tom Riddle's Diary,[4] but he did not want his work forgotten, so later in his life, he planned with Lucius Malfoy that the diary makes its way back to Hogwarts, where it could finish Salazar Slytherin's work.[2]

After Voldemort's first defeat

Lucius Malfoy: "How should I know how the stupid little girl got hold of it?"
Harry Potter: "Because you gave it to her. In Flourish and Blotts. You picked up her old Transfiguration book and slipped the diary inside it, didn’t you?"
Lucius Malfoy: "Prove it."
Albus Dumbledore: "Oh, no one will be able to do that. Not now that Riddle has vanished from the book. On the other hand, I would advise you, Lucius, not to go giving out any more of Lord Voldemort’s old school things. If any more of them find their way into innocent hands, I think Arthur Weasley, for one, will make sure they are traced back to you..."
— Lucius Malfoy's role in the second opening of the chamber[src]

Lucius Malfoy planting the diary on Ginny Weasley

After Lord Voldemort's defeat, Mr Malfoy shelved the plan, until such time his master returned. However, after a decade had passed, he revived it, as a way to accomplish some personal goals. A new Muggle Protection Act was coming down from the British Ministry of Magic, and Mr Malfoy was desperate to derail it. Therefore, he planted the diary on Ginny Weasley in Flourish and Blotts in Diagon Alley, the daughter of the Act's chief proponent and his enemy, Arthur Weasley. He hoped that if the authorities discovered Arthur Weasley's daughter attacking Muggle-borns, the Act would die with Arthur Weasley's career.[8][2]

When Ginny discovered the diary among her possessions, she began to use it, and slowly, the piece of Tom Riddle's soul inside began to exert an influence over the young girl. By Hallowe'en, it could possess her entirely, and that night, it forced her to open the Chamber of Secrets for the first time in fifty years and to attack Mrs Norris.[9] Panic set in at Hogwarts as more students were attacked, including Colin Creevey[10] and Justin Finch-Fletchley. In December, when Harry Potter revealed that he was a Parselmouth in front of the entire Duelling Club, many students began to believe that he was the Heir of Slytherin. After the double attack on Justin Finch-Fletchley and Nearly-Headless Nick, the rash of attacks suddenly stopped.[11]

The trio discussing the diary after finding it in a washroom

Shortly before Valentine's Day, Harry found an old diary abandoned in Myrtle Warren's bathroom. While he found nothing in the diary, he was drawn to it. Late in the evening, he wrote in the diary and was shocked to see it write back. When asked about the Chamber of Secrets, the diary showed Harry Tom Riddle's capture of Hagrid. Not willing to believe that Hagrid was the culprit, Harry decided to ask him about it if another attack occurred.[7] Meanwhile, Ginny stole the diary back from Harry so it would not divulge her secrets. On a Saturday, early in May, Hermione Granger and Penelope Clearwater were attacked, and Harry and Ron felt that it was time to question Hagrid. Unfortunately, Hagrid was arrested by Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge, and Professor Dumbledore was suspended that night, but not before Hagrid gave them a cryptic clue about spiders.[12]

Harry and Ron obtain information from Aragog

Following Hagrid's clue, they ventured into the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid's dog Fang, and encountered Aragog, an Acromantula and Hagrid's pet, who informed them that he was not the monster who attacked students, with them only narrowing escaping his carnivorous colony with the Flying Ford Anglia.[13] After this event, they both learned that Hagrid was innocent and that the girl who died was killed in a bathroom. Putting these clues together with Hermione's clue about the basilisk, Harry was able to intuit that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets was in the second-floor girls' lavatory.[3]

Discovering the Chamber

"Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever."
Ginny Weasley is forced into the chamber[src]

Harry and Ron confront Lockhart in his office

On 29 May, when the petrified students were to be cured and it appeared that life at Hogwarts was going to return to normal, the diary possessed Ginny again, forcing her to go down to the Chamber of Secrets and await her death. Before she went into the Chamber for the final time, the diary coerced her into scrawling "Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever" on the wall. This alerted the faculty to her disappearance. They appointed Gilderoy Lockhart to save her, as Lockhart had said the previous night at dinner he knew where the entrance to the Chamber was, mainly to get him out of the way, while they prepared for the worst. Lockhart, a charlatan, tried to sneak out of the school, but was stopped by Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, who intended to save Ginny Weasley.[3]

The entrance in the girls' first floor washroom

At wand point, Harry and Ron forced Lockhart to take them to the bathroom. Once there, Harry asked Myrtle about her death in the hope that she would confirm his hypothesis. She claimed that she heard a boy's voice speaking a strange language and then saw a pair of great yellow eyes. When he further inspected the lavatory, Harry found a broken tap with a snake engraved in the handle. He spoke to the engraving in Parseltongue, and the entrance to the Chamber opened, the entrance behind the sink was a pipe big enough for a man to crawl through. Ready to take the plunge, Harry and Ron forced Lockhart into the opening and followed.[3]

Entering the Chamber

"Slytherin’s gigantic stone face was moving. Horror-struck, Harry saw his mouth opening, wider and wider, to make a huge black hole... And something was stirring inside the statue’s mouth. Something was slithering up from its depths."
— The basilisk is unleashed[src]

Harry upon entering a series of maze-like dungeons

Upon entering a series of maze-like dungeons, Harry, Ron, and Lockhart set out in search of Ginny. They found nothing until they came across a great snake skin, upon seeing which Lockhart feigned a collapse. Ron tried to force him to his feet, but Lockhart grabbed Ron's wand and told the boys that he was going to wipe their memories and escape. However, his plan failed, as the Memory Charm backfired, causing the ceiling to cave in. Ron and an amnesiac Lockhart were stuck behind the wall of rocks, and Harry had to venture into the Chamber by himself. As Harry turned to head deeper in the dungeon, Ron told Harry he would try moving some of the rock while he waited.[3]

Snake entrance to the Chamber of Secrets

Harry next reached a set of doors engraved with serpents, and when he spoke in Parseltongue, they opened, allowing him into the Chamber properly. Reaching the end of the Chamber, Harry discovered Ginny collapsed at the foot of a statue of Salazar Slytherin.

Meeting Tom Riddle

Harry Potter: "Why do you care how I escaped? Voldemort was after your time..."
Tom Riddle: "Voldemort, is my past, present, and future, Harry Potter..."
— Tom Riddle revealing his true identity to Harry Potter[src]

Harry and an unconscious Ginny in the main chamber

As Harry tried to wake her, Tom Riddle appeared behind him telling Harry that she would not wake. Harry tried to tell Tom that they were in great danger, but Tom just scoffed. This confused Harry, as he had seen Riddle's capture of Hagrid and believed that he too wanted to stop the attacks. Then Riddle began asking Harry how he survived Voldemort's attack on him when he was a baby, which worried Harry more.[1]

He then showed Harry that his name, Tom Marvolo Riddle, could be rearranged into I am Lord Voldemort. After Harry realised the truth, Riddle continued to question him. They argued over the merits of Voldemort's magical experimentation, and Harry told Riddle that Dumbledore was the greatest sorcerer in the world. His loyalty summoned Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix. Fawkes brought the old school Sorting Hat. When satisfactorily answered, Riddle used Parseltongue to order Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk to attack Harry.

Battling the Basilisk

"It lunged blindly — Harry dodged and it hit the Chamber wall. It lunged again, and its forked tongue lashed Harry’s side. He raised the sword in both his hands — The basilisk lunged again, and this time its aim was true — Harry threw his whole weight behind the sword and drove it to the hilt into the roof of the serpent’s mouth — But as warm blood drenched Harry’s arms, he felt a searing pain just above his elbow. One long, poisonous fang was sinking deeper and deeper into his arm and it splintered as the basilisk keeled over sideways and fell, twitching, to the floor."
— Harry Potter slaying the Serpent of Slytherin with the Sword of Gryffindor[src]

Fawkes blinds the Basilisk after coming to Harry Potter's aid

Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes, then came to the rescue. He was able to blind the Basilisk, which allowed Harry to fight her without the fear of being killed instantly by her gaze. While Harry ran with his eyes covered, Fawkes dug his claws into the basilisk's eyes, blinding it and allowing Harry to look at the monster. Unfortunately, the basilisk had an acute sense of hearing and smell. It continued its attack on Harry, but Harry dodged each time it lunged. Unsure of what to do, Harry suddenly saw Godric Gryffindor's Sword appear from the hat.[1]

Impalement of Slytherin's basilisk

Harry lured the serpent to the top of the Statue of Slytherin, where he slashed at the evil beast fiercely. The Basilisk lunged at him, and knocked Harry over, but just as she lunged again to kill him, Harry grabbed the sword and impaled the Basilisk through the roof of her mouth, mortally wounding her. Unfortunately, one of her fangs pierced Harry in his sword arm as a result of the struggle, and splintered off as the Basilisk pulled away and flailed around in agony before she ultimately lost her ability to live and her massive weight finally brought her crashing down to the floor.

Harry yanked the fang out, but knew it was too late: he had been wounded with her venom, and he felt the poison spreading. Harry was only saved by Fawkes' tears, and subsequently used the fang (on which his arm had been impaled) to destroy Riddle's diary, which he later discovered was one of Voldemort's seven Horcruxes.[14]

Destroying the Horcrux

"For a split second, both Harry and Riddle, wand still raised, stared at it. Then, without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along, Harry seized the basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it straight into the heart of the book. There was a long, dreadful, piercing scream. Ink spurted out of the diary in torrents, streaming over Harry’s hands, flooding the floor. Riddle was writhing and twisting, screaming and flailing and then — He had gone. Harry’s wand fell to the floor with a clatter and there was silence. Silence except for the steady drip drip of ink still oozing from the diary. The basilisk venom had burned a sizzling hole right through it."
— Harry destroying the diary Horcrux[src]

Harry stabbing the diary with a basilisk fang

As Harry lay dying with the poison running through his veins, Riddle taunted him telling him "he'll be reunited with his dear Mudblood mother soon. Harry pulled the fang out of his arm and plunged it into the pages and front cover of the diary, destroying Riddle beyond magical repair, saving Ginny's life and unknowingly eliminating one of Lord Voldemort's seven Horcruxes.

The Horcrux essentially died with ink pouring from its pages like blood from an open wound and addiction with Riddle's screams. The diary was rendered useless and unable to function. Fawkes came to Harry's rescue by using his tears to heal Harry's wound poisoned by the basilisk venom.[1]


"You will both receive Special Awards for Services to the School and — let me see — yes, I think two hundred points apiece for Gryffindor."
— Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are rewarded fir their bravery[src]

Harry Potter and Dumbledore discuss the previous events

When Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Lockhart emerged from the Chamber, they headed to the office of Minerva McGonagall. Dumbledore was in there when they arrived, as were Ginny's parents, Arthur and Molly Weasley. Harry explained all that had happened, but tread lightly around Ginny's involvement. Dumbledore came to his rescue, by asking how Voldemort managed to enchant Ginny. Harry explained all about the Diary. Ginny was not punished, and Harry and Ron both received Special Awards for Services to the School and 200 points each for Gryffindor. Harry exposed Lockhart as a fraud, and he was sent to St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.[2]

After slaying the basilisk, the sword was impregnated with basilisk venom; basilisk venom is one of the rare ways to destroy a Horcrux, as its only cure is also incredibly rare: phoenix tears. Since the sword was in his possession, Albus Dumbledore used it to destroy Marvolo Gaunt's Ring,[4] and, after his death, he left it to Harry Potter.[15] Ron Weasley used it to destroy the locket horcrux,[16] and Neville Longbottom used it to decapitate Nagini.[17]

Behind the scenes

"Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four."
— Tom Riddle's soul unleashing the Basilisk upon Harry Potter[src]


This skirmish as illustrated by Mary GrandPré


Notes and references

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 18 (Dobby's Reward)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 16 (The Chamber of Secrets)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)
  5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 13 (The Secret Riddle)
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 17 (A Sluggish Memory)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 13 (The Very Secret Diary)
  8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 4 (At Flourish and Blotts)
  9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9 (The Writing on the Wall)
  10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 10 (The Rogue Bludger)
  11. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 11 (The Duelling Club)
  12. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 14 (Cornelius Fudge)
  13. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 15 (Aragog)
  14. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
  15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 7 (The Will of Albus Dumbledore)
  16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 19 (The Silver Doe)
  17. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)