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In the question How did Ginny Weasley set the Basilisk on Muggleborns without getting killed or petrified?, Tom Riddle mentions that he had Ginny set the Basilisk on Mrs. Norris, Filch's cat.

‘Ginny Weasley opened the Chamber of Secrets. She strangled the school roosters and daubed threatening messages on the walls. She set the serpent of Slytherin on four Mudbloods, and the Squib’s cat.’

Chamber of Secrets - page 229 - Bloomsbury - chapter 17, The Heir of Slytherin

Why would Riddle want Mrs. Norris to be petrified? Mrs. Norris is definitely a snoop and a tattletale, but there is no way she could have seen Tom Riddle in his memory form, or know what Ginny was writing in Tom Riddle's diary. Why was Mrs. Norris targeted as a Basilisk victim? What did Tom Riddle have to gain by killing or petrifying Mrs. Norris?

★ I prefer a canon-based answer if possible (the Harry Potter novels, the three supplemental books, quotes from J.K. Rowling, or Pottermore information) and do not prefer an answer from either the HP Wikia or the Wikipedia.

  • I upated my answer with proof #1 - a canon answer. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 19 '13 at 12:41
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    Although a valid point.. Umm... The quote you added is in the original question :) You are proving that it happened, but that's not in question; the question was why. – K-H-W Jul 19 '13 at 15:47
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I don't know that she was initially targeted, but she would have been as soon as she showed up; her natural inclination is to prowl around and snoop on things; we know from the story that she was likely in the hall outside of the bathroom:

“The water …” he said slowly. “The flood from Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. I bet you Mrs. Norris only saw the reflection. …”

I'm thinking that Mrs. Norris being petrified was simply a happy accident (from a certain point of view) that Tom chose to use to increase the terror -- she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and rather than risk discovery, Ginny set the Basilisk on her; snooping can kill. (My personal image of the 'attack' was her sniffing under the door, and seeing the basilisk (in the bathroom, perhaps coming up, or even sent to peer under the door by Ginny) via the reflection upon the water under the door -- but that's just my personal image, since cats hunting for something tend to sniff first, and look second, in my experience.)

That being said, she was a cat, and, as such, had a better sense of smell (and other senses) than a human would have; she might have made the connection between Ginny and the basilisk, or at minimum, pulled a Lassie, and dragged Timmy (Filch) to the well (Sink) at some point. So, while it may have been simply a crime of opportunity, it was not one that Tom would have passed up, when the opportunity presented itself.

Hanging her by her tail from the bracket was just an extra touch; it moved her from the actual site of the attack, thus eliminating a little bit of data, for those trying to figure out what happened, and it added extra 'creepy' feel - as the Painted Messages attest, Tom was working on instilling fear and dread at this point.

22

Yes, Mrs. Norris was definitely a target. So were the other victims.


Proof #1.

“Haven’t you guessed yet, Harry Potter?” said Riddle softly. “Ginny Weasley opened the Chamber of Secrets. She strangled the school roosters and daubed threatening messages on the walls. She set the Serpent of Slytherin on four Mudbloods, and the Squib’s cat.(Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17)

"she set" clearly implies it was intentional and targeted.


Proof #2.

... Foot-high words had been daubed on the wall between two windows, shimmering in the light cast by the flaming torches.
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED.
ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE
“What’s that thing — hanging underneath?” said Ron, a slight quiver in his voice.

... Mrs. Norris, the caretaker’s cat, was hanging by her tail from the torch bracket. She was stiff as a board, her eyes wide and staring

  1. You do NOT naturally hang from a torch bracket by a tail, even if you are a weird cat.

  2. That means someone took the pains to do so (Ginny, naturally), and therefore, was around to observe the attack.

  3. There were no muggle victims. If Mrs. Norris was just collateral damage, Tom/Ginny would have hidden the body and hunted for real human mudbloods.


On top of that, there were good reasons to target Mrs Norris:

  • Good test for Ginny and Basilisk

  • Filch was a Squib, and as such, a great target for Tom's ire at all things non-magical. Hurting him would be a bonus for Riddle.

  • Mrs. Norris was a risk as far as discovering Ginny wondering around on Tom's business. She was extra-known for success at just such accomplishments, therefore removing her would have been a positive step for Tom's plans.

    • Not confirmed, but it could have been that she actually saw Ginny and taking her out would have been a good immediate tactical move as well.
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    Incidentally, do we know whether Filch was already at Hogwarts back in Riddle's time? The cat was probably born later, but I presume the diarry Riddle might have already known Filch. – b_jonas Nov 13 '12 at 20:50

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