Like the first Harry Potter book, the second installment got off to a slow start for me. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets had been my least favorite of the films; on the plus side, I haven’t seen it in years, remember it the least well, and thus had the greatest opportunity to be surprised by the book, since I might have forgotten more details from the film.
However, Chamber of Secrets opens with more of the Dursleys, and as I’ve already covered, I hate them. Not just hate the characters, but hate reading about them. Then Dobby came in. I know he’s beloved by many Harry Potter fans, but my most lasting memories of the film are how annoying Dobby and Moaning Myrtle were. The book version wasn’t nearly as bad; perhaps because I couldn’t hear him, it was easier to find his antics a little amusing. Still, I was relieved when Fred, George, and Ron showed up, taking Harry (and the reader) away from that house.
What followed was my favorite part of the series thus far. Because I love the Weasleys.
Seriously, the entire family is just awesome. Arthur Weasley and his fascination with Muggles. Molly Weasley and her hilarious parenting. Fred and George Wesley, the twins, who are easily the funniest characters so far. Of course Ron, with his blend of loyalty, charm, and insecurity that makes him so likable. Ginny Weasley and her shy crush. Even douchey Percy Weasley, who’s at least a good target for the twins’ jokes. That poor damn owl. That cluttered house, the Burrow, that requires magic to hold it together. The Weasleys instantly steal your heart, and feel like they didn’t even have to try to do it.
Given that a central theme of Chamber of Secrets revolves around purity of blood, it was a wise choice to give readers a slice of Weasley life early on. Because of how awful the Malfoys are, there could have been a temptation for the reader to jump to conclusions about the hubris of pure-blood magic families. But by giving us a healthy dose of the Weasleys — charming, funny, and without an ounce of hubris — Rowling makes sure that temptation never exists. We know it’s not pure-blood families who are the problem, because the best family ever is pure blood. The Malfoys just suck.
I could have spent the entire book in the Burrow and shopping with the Weasleys. As I’ve said before, moments like those, where you get to just see the characters together even with nothing too exciting happening, are what the series does best so far. By the time we get back to Hogwarts by way of flying car, I was thoroughly prepared to love the book. And I already loved the Weasleys.