The Whomping Willow
chapter five of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry heads to Kings Cross with the Weasleys, but when he and Ron discover they can’t get to Platform 9 3/4, they fly the car to Hogwarts instead. The car dies, though, and after a crash landing, they get into serious trouble.
Silhouetted on the dark horizon, high on the cliff over the lake, stood the many turrets and towers of Hogwarts castle.
With an earsplitting bang of metal on wood, they hit the thick tree trunk and dropped to the ground with a heavy jolt.
The car, however, had reached the end of its tether. With two sharp clunks, the doors flew open and Harry felt his seat tip sideways….
“Or maybe,” said a very cold voice right behind them, “he’s waiting to hear why you two didn’t arrive on the school train.”
about the chapter
I know they’re twelve and not thinking through the ramifications. But Harry and Ron’s stupidity in this chapter drives me crazy, and watching them needlessly get themselves into so much trouble has always made this one of the hardest chapters for me to get through (in fact, I’ve been known to skip it on occasion). It’s a classic “both very brave and very stupid” moment for both of them, and also a classic example of why they should never be allowed out of the house without Hermione in tow. ;)
The Wizarding World
The speed with which the Evening Prophet is published is rather astonishing. After all, there’s a reference in Snape’s article to a Muggle in Peebles spotting the flying car – and Peebles is in Scotland. There’s no way it took more than a couple of hours for Harry and Ron to get from Peebles to Hogwarts, and in that time the Muggle reported it to police; wizards found out; the story was written; the newspaper was printed; and copies of the newspaper were delivered to Hogwarts.
Of course, Harry and Ron were also following the school train, and it took them longer to crash and walk up a hill to the Great Hall than it took hundreds of students to unload, take carriages and boats up to the school, sit for the feast, and begin the Sorting.
Maybe Harry and Ron just had to walk up a very large hill.
Life at Hogwarts
It’s hard to imagine there are very many students that would inspire Snape, McGonagall, and Dumbledore to all leave the welcoming feast at once. It seems the teachers probably had some very tense moments wondering what happened to Harry and Ron, especially when you consider that Snape was skipping the feast altogether before they even arrived. But no, Harry Potter wasn’t attacked by Voldemort; he was just busy being dumb.
The Boy Who Lived
Harry is so jealous of Ron for living at the Burrow, which is funny since it’s pretty clear that Ron is equally jealous of Harry for almost exactly the same reason. Because while Harry looks at the Burrow and sees a loving family and a warm, inviting house, Ron sees mostly its small size and lack of things like space and servants that would indicate wealth and status. This difference in worldview is one that the best friends will have, to varying extents, for many years.
The Final Word
“The Flying Ford Anglia was based on a real car driven by Seán Harris, the first of my friends to learn to drive. We were at school together. At the time I lived in the middle of nowhere and had to rely on my parents for transport. Sometimes Seán would come for me in his car. The sight of that car meant freedom to me…my heart still leaps whenever I see a Ford Anglia! That’s why, when I thought of Ron’s flying car, I immediately pictured a Ford Anglia.”–J.K. Rowling, November 2001.
(Chamber of Secrets is dedicated to Seán, who Rowling has said was an inspiration for the character of Ron Weasley. The inscription reads, “For Seán P.F. Harris, getaway driver and foul-weather friend.”)