Re-Reading Harry Potter: Hermione and House Elves

houseelvesLook at this very cool House Elf Abolitionist Badge you can buy on Etsy!

I love Etsy.

That said, Hermione’s heart is in the right place, but she has it wrong about house elves, which is just one of the thoughts I have about chapters 21-25 of [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link].

Harry has successfully managed to beat the dragon in the first task, and he is trying to work out the egg clue for the second task, but it just sounds like wailing. Seamus Finnigan says it sounds like a banshee, which is what his boggart is. Neville says it sounds like someone being tortured and wonders if Harry will have to fight the Cruciatus Curse. He has been much preoccupied with this curse, for obvious reasons, and it begs the question: Did he remember, somewhere in the back of his mind, his parents’ torture? He would have been quite young, but it is possible that such an event left an impression on him.

I mentioned Hermione and house elves. As I said, she has good intentions, but house elves do not seem to want to be free, at least not for the most part. Winky is devastated when Crouch frees her, and she never really gets over it. She is so determined to view Dobby as the example instead of an exception to the rule. She can be quite stubborn when she thinks she’s right. On the other hand, Hermione is right. House elves are treated like slaves, and the fact that they seem to like it is ignorance. Even Dobby, the most “forward thinking” elf in terms of his conception of freedom, talks Dumbledore down from a larger paycheck and more benefits. So what do you do? How do you free a people who doesn’t want to be free? How do you educate them about their choices? The issue of house elves is not really resolved in the books, but I would be interested to learn more about them on Pottermore. I hope the issue of house elves is addressed when they release this book on Pottermore.

Harry faces his first major dating challenge and has to confront the dilemma of how to ask a girl out. He sets his sights on Cho Chang, with whom he has a few things in common: she’s a Seeker for the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, so at least there is Quidditch to talk about. I have always liked the actress who played her in the movies. Her wonderful Scottish accent! At any rate, of course, she already has a date, and Ron and Harry grow more desperate until Ron is even willing to go with Hermione. I love her response. And I love how gorgeous she looks at the ball. They wind up, of course, with the Patil twins, and Dean Thomas even remarks that he can’t figure out how they managed to get dates with the prettiest girls in their year. Interesting that Neville thinks to ask Hermione out before her two best friends. He seems to be able to appreciate her as a girl and as a friend before they can. As Ron relates, “He told me after Potions! Said she’s always been really nice, helping him out with work and stuff.” Ron thinks Hermione has made up a date to avoid going with Neville.

I have to admit I’ve always found it kind of odd that Viktor Krum asked Hermione out. I mean, she is quite a bit younger than he is, and it’s hard to see what might attract him. I suspect he is a much more serious student than his pro-Quidditch-player background would suggest. I was glad Rowling brought Krum back later in the books. I liked him.

Fred winds up asking Angelina Johnson to the ball. Their relationship is never really elucidated in the books, but Rowling has hinted that they dated for some time because she refers to Angelina as Fred’s ex. That’s not the kind of terminology you use to describe someone with whom you went to one dance. Later on, George winds up marrying Angelina. She has intimated that it is not the healthiest thing to marry your brother’s ex under the circumstances, but also perhaps that George and Angelina came together in their grief over Fred, and they did name their son Fred (they also had a daughter Roxanne).

One last note about the whole date-procuring fiasco. Parvati Patil’s best friend is Lavender Brown, and when Harry asks Parvati to the ball, he initially asks if Lavender will go with Ron, but Lavender already has a date with Seamus. So funny that later on, Lavender will be Won-Won’s first girlfriend.

Later, Hermione has a great time at the ball until Ron ruins the end of her evening by being a jealous jackass. Viktor describes Durmstrang. It sounds sort of stark and cold. Karkaroff is prompted to quiet Viktor so as not to reveal Durmstrang’s secrets, after which Dumbledore and Karkaroff have a short discussion about their school’s secrets, and Dumbledore’s reaction always makes me laugh: “Oh, I would never dream of assuming I know all Hogwarts’ secrets, Igor.” He describes finding the Room of Requirement when he had to use the bathroom. It had been full of chamber pots. In pondering the room’s appearance, he speculates finally that it might only appear when “the seeker has an exceptionally full bladder,” which is the closest explanation to the truth.

Then the Weird Sisters take the stage, and this one aspect of the books that I felt was really well represented in the films. Of course, the filmmakers were able to convince Jarvis Cocker to be the Weird Sisters’ lead singer and write songs for the film.

A side note: Rowling included the passage when Viktor is trying to learn to say Hermione’s name in order to address frequent questions from readers about how to pronounce it. Pretty sneaky, sis.

Ron and Harry overhear Hagrid admitting he is half-giant, and he notices the Rita Skeeter beetle for the first time. She’s a great character, isn’t she? I hope we learn more about her background on Pottermore. My bet is that she was a Slytherin because she doesn’t seem to mind bending the rules—at all—when she’s after a story. She doesn’t strike me as particularly brave, so Gryffindor is out. She is not kind and loyal, so Hufflepuff is out, too. She might possibly be a Ravenclaw because she does have some brains, but I think her ambition and hungry story-seeking is much more dominant in her personality, so my vote is Slytherin. Do you ever try to figure out what House characters whose Houses are not revealed in the series are in?

Naturally, Skeeter prints the news about Hagrid’s mother. Hagrid retreats to his cabin, and he doesn’t come back to work until the trio visit him. They find Dumbledore already there, trying to convince Hagrid to come back to work. Dumbledore says, “Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.” Isn’t that the truth? I love Dumbledore. I have always wondered exactly what inappropriate charms Aberforth was practicing on that goat.

In the next chapter, “The Egg and the Eye,” we learn more about the limitations of the Maruader’s Map. It does show everyone, even if they are magically concealed under an invisibility cloak or Polyjuice Potion, but it does not distinguish among people with the same name. Bartemius Crouch, Sr. or Bartemius Crouch, Jr. would both just read Bartemius Crouch, which is why Harry naturally assumes Barty Sr. is poking around Snape’s office. Why on earth would he assume it was Barty Jr.? Who would? But Barty Jr. realizes that the map could reveal his big secret and asks Harry if he can borrow it.

I always found it interesting that when Moody/Crouch arrives when Snape and Filch have found Harry’s egg, and Filch is about to reveal that someone has broken into Snape’s office to Moody, Snape hisses at Filch to “Shut up!” Snape doesn’t trust Moody. Now you could go the obvious route and note that as a former Death Eater, Snape likely tangled with Moody in some capacity, but I have a hunch that he knows something is up with Moody, but is not sure what. Possibly he is more attuned to the effects of Polyjuice Potion than others might be, being the Potions Master. I think it likely he hasn’t figured out that Moody is really Barty Crouch, Jr., though, but that he thinks there is something not quite right with the guy. Snape has pretty good instincts, when he doesn’t let his prejudices blind him, and he does seem to pick up on things that others miss. He did, after all, figure out Lupin was a werewolf back in school.

Interesting that Moody/Crouch suggests Harry consider a career as an Auror. I think it’s the first time Harry ever thinks about it, and even though the suggestion comes from a madman, he winds up doing exactly that with his life later. I still contend that no matter how insane Moody/Crouch was, he was still one of the best DADA teachers Harry had. Even Dean Thomas later says they learned a lot from Barty Jr. despite his being a maniac.

Hungarian Horntail

Re-Reading Harry Potter: “Never Laugh at Live Dragons”

Hungarian Horntail

My oldest daughter used to love dragons, and she drew some excellent ones over the years. One thing she couldn’t stand was a dragon who answered to a person, which was why she never got into the Christopher Paolini books and some other great dragon series by authors like Jane Yolen. Harry Potter dragons? Now those were more her speed because they will fry you crispy and bite you in half if they don’t stomp you first. In some ways, the subjugation of dragons in literature is much like the defanging of vampires. Dragons have traditionally been bad news. A dragon killed the great warrior Beowulf in the end. Dragons are fascinating mythical creatures in that they seem to have cropped up in the mythologies of many more ancient cultures than seems coincidental. But they are almost universally depicted in ancient myths as frightening creatures.

So on to my thoughts about chapters 16-20 of [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link].

In chapter 16, “The Goblet of Fire,” Harry is selected as a fourth champion in the Triwizard Tournament, alongside Viktor Krum of Durmstrang, Fleur Delacour of Beauxbatons, and Cedric Diggory of Hufflepuff. Moody himself suggests that someone cast a powerful Confundus Charm on the Goblet, hoodwinking the object into thinking a fourth school would be competing, and entered Harry’s name under that school. As he was the one who did it, he’s probably just telling the bald truth.

I have a big problem with how Michael Gambon portrays Dumbledore in chapter 17, “The Four Champions.” Aside from this one scene, I think Gambon does OK, though he never quite inhabits Dumbledore like Richard Harris did (or, I contend, like Ian McKellen would have—I have a feeling he was offered the gig and turned it down, don’t you?). But he manhandles Harry when questioning him about how his name was entered into the Goblet of Fire. He does not do this in the book, and he would never do it. He is a skilled Legilimens. All he needs to do is look into Harry’s eyes when asking him about entering his name, and he’ll have the truth of the matter. As a matter of fact, the book’s description reads, “‘Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?’ Dumbledore asked calmly.” CALMLY. Not freaking-out-and-pushing-Harry-around.

It is really sad that Ron doesn’t believe Harry and that they stop talking to each other.   Hermione knows exactly how Harry feels. She’s been on the receiving end of Ron’s stubbornness many times, but experiencing it from Harry’s point of view for the first time is interesting. It makes me feel more empathetic towards Hermione.

In chapter 18, “The Weighing of the Wands,” Ollivander returns to check that the Triwizard participants’ wands are in working order. Before that, Hermione tries to get Harry to see Ron’s point of view—he’s always overshadowed and shunted to the side. These feelings will resurface again, most strongly, when Ron believes Hermione prefers Harry to Ron himself and leaves his friends while they are hunting for horcruxes in [amazon_link id=”0545583004″ target=”_blank” ]Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link]. In this conversation, Hermione mentions Harry is “already in half the books about You-Know-Who, you know.” I realize Hermione is estimating here, but wouldn’t it be more logical for Harry to be in a lot more of the books than half? Especially those written after his downfall?

Malfoy and Harry duel before Potions class, and their spells hit Goyle and Hermione by mistake. Hermione’s teeth grow past her chin, and Snape says, “I see no difference” in reply to Ron’s protestations that Malfoy’s curse also caused damage. I think it’s easily the nastiest, meanest thing he says in the entire series, and there’s no excuse for it. It’s just cruel. It’s the one single thing he says that I can’t get past. He bullies Neville, all right, which is wrong, but if you consider he knew that Neville might have been the Chosen One instead of Harry, and the fact that he wasn’t chosen led to Lily Potter’s death, you can sort of see it. Not that it’s right. At all. But it makes some kind of twisted sense. It’s not Neville’s fault he wasn’t chosen any more than it’s Harry’s fault that James Potter was his father, and Snape is wrong to hold such ridiculous grudges. But his treatment of Hermione here is really beyond the pale, and he never redeems himself of it.

And now some commentary on the wands and their cores from Pottermore.

Ollivander first checks out Fleur Delacour’s wand, which is “nine and a half inches… inflexible … rosewood … and containing … dear me …” a veela hair. Ollivander only uses unicorn tail hair, dragon heartstrings, and phoenix feathers in his wand, as much study has led him to conclude these three substances produce the best wands. He is considered a master wandmaker in a long line of master wandmakers.

Wand flexibility is interesting. If you notice, many of the characters in Harry Potter books have wands described in various gradations of flexibility or rigidity. It is a sign of willingness to change. I, for instance, consider myself to be fairly flexible, but my wand is described as “hard,” so what do I know? Perhaps my husband would nod knowingly and just keep his mouth shut. Fleur’s wand is “inflexible,” meaning she herself has a certain inflexibility, and you do see that with her character.

No mention is made of rosewood among the wand woods that Ollivander uses, either. I will be interested to see if the article on wand woods is expanded when this chapter of Goblet of Fire is added to Pottermore.

Next, Ollivander examines Cedric’s wand, twelve and a quarter inches, ash, pleasantly springy, with a core of unicorn tail hair. This happens to be the same kind of wand wood and core my oldest daughter, the previously mentioned dragon lover, has. You will find if you join Pottermore that wands really do tend to match the personalities of their owners in some amazing respects. I think that every time I check on a friend or family member’s wand and look it up in the wand wood and wand core articles. Anyway, Cedric’s wand of ash:

The ash wand cleaves to its one true master and ought not to be passed on or gifted from the original owner, because it will lose power and skill. This tendency is extreme if the core is of unicorn. Old superstitions regarding wands rarely bear close examination, but I find that the old rhyme regarding rowan, chestnut, ash, and hazel wands (rowan gossips, chestnut drones, ash is stubborn, hazel moans) contains a small nugget of truth. Those witches and wizards best suited to ash wands are not, in my experience, lightly swayed from their beliefs or purposes. However, the brash or over-confident witch or wizard, who often insists on trying wands of this prestigious wood, will be disappointed by its effects. The ideal owner may be stubborn, and will certainly be courageous, but never crass or arrogant.

About unicorn tail hairs, we learn

Unicorn hair generally produces the most consistent magic, and is least subject to fluctuations and blockages. Wands with unicorn cores are generally the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts. They are the most faithful of all wands, and usually remain strongly attached to their first owner, irrespective of whether or not he or she was an accomplished witch or wizard.

Minor disadvantages of unicorn hair are that they do not make the most powerful wands (although the wand wood may compensate) and that they are prone to melancholy if seriously mishandled, meaning the hair may “die” and need replacing.

I think an ash wand with unicorn tail hair is a good fit for Cedric Diggory.

Next, we have Viktor Krum’s wand, a Gregorovitch creation “hornbeam and dragon heartstring … quite rigid … ten and a quarter inches.” Again, like Fleur, Krum is on the inflexible side. Ollivander also uses this wand wood and core.

Hornbeam, of which Ollivander’s own wand is also constructed, is an interesting wand wood:

My own wand is made of hornbeam, and so it is with all due modesty that I state that hornbeam selects for its life mate the talented witch or wizard with a single, pure passion, which some might call obsession (though I prefer the term “vision”), which will almost always be realized. Hornbeam wands adapt more quickly than almost any other to their owner’s style of magic, and will become so personalized, so quickly, that other people will find them extremely difficult to use even for the most simple of spells. Hornbeam wands likewise absorb their owner’s code of honor, whatever that might be, and will refuse to perform acts—whether for good or ill—that do not tally with their master’s principles. A particularly fine-tuned and sentient wand.

About the core, which, incidentally, he has in common with love interest Hermione Granger, we learn

As a rule, dragon heartstrings produce wands with the most power, and which are capable of the most flamboyant spells. Dragon wands tend to learn more quickly than other types. While they can change allegiance if won from their original master, they always bond strongly with the current owner.

The dragon wand tends to be easiest to turn to the Dark Arts, though it will not incline that way of its own accord. It is also the most prone of the three cores to accidents, being somewhat temperamental.

If Ollivander’s obsession is wandlore, perhaps Krum’s is Quidditch. It explains why Moody had to use a powerful Imperius Curse to get Krum to act against his nature and also why Krum has established himself as such a singular individual at such a young age. He’s clearly a gifted wizard, aside from being a gifted Quidditch player. The fact that Harry can hold his own with the likes of Krum speaks to Harry’s own astounding gifts.

Of Harry’s wand, I have previously written, but you can read it here.

In chapter 19, “The Hungarian Horntail,” Harry learns the champions will have to face dragons in their first challenge. I realize this competition is known for being dangerous, but really. It’s amazing anyone sends their kids to wizarding school. He actually defeats the dragon in chapter 20, “The First Task.” Despite being a Quidditch pro, Krum doesn’t think to use his broom, showing that Harry has a certain resourcefulness Krum lacks, although truth be told, Harry wouldn’t have thought of doing it either if Moody hadn’t planted the suggestion in his head. Krum, as it turns out, used the very curse Sirius was going to suggest Harry use when Ron interrupted them talking at the Gryffindor Common Room fireplace—the Conjunctivitis Curse.

Harry makes the unprecedented move of telling Cedric Diggory about the dragons. Cedric is dumbfounded.

“Why are you telling me?” he asked.

Harry looked at him in disbelief. He was sure Cedric wouldn’t have asked that if he had seen the dragons himself. Harry wouldn’t have let his worst enemy face those monsters unprepared—well, perhaps Malfoy or Snape …

“It’s just … fair, isn’t it?” he said to Cedric.

Harry has a strong moral character and sense of fair play, and this kindness toward Cedric cements their friendship. Hufflepuff is known for its friendship and loyalty as well as its goodness and amiability. Cedric embodies all Hufflepuff’s best characteristics. He will not forget Harry’s kindness in sharing this information.

Even Moody remarks it was “a very decent thing you just did, Potter.” Later, he mocks Harry for doing it after he has been unmasked as Barty, Jr., the Death Eater, but I have a feeling that old Barty, Jr. genuinely feels what Harry did for Cedric was very decent. Contrary to his own plans, yes, but decent nonetheless.

I like Ludo Bagman’s reaction to Harry being the fastest champion: “That’s going to shorten the odds on Mr. Potter!” Always thinking of gambling.

McGonagall offers rare, effusive praise: “That was excellent, Potter!” Of course, she was quite a Quidditch player herself in her Hogwarts days, and she has always appreciated Harry’s talents on the Quidditch pitch.

Seeing Harry nearly killed by a dragon gives Ron a good excuse to quit being a git and believe Harry would never have signed up for such a dangerous tournament (finally), and they make up by the end of the chapter.

Quote in the title courtesy J.R.R. Tolkien, who should know about such things.

Image by Mary Grandpré

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Triwizard Tournament

Harry-Potter-and-the-Goblet-of-Fire-the-guys-of-harry-potter-24264278-714-474Pottermore has recently released the last chapters of [amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link], but who knows when [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link] will be ready to go. I am going to try to remember to think of questions I hope will be answered on Pottermore as I go forward. This reflection will cover chapters 11-15 of Goblet of Fire.

Of note: at the beginning of Chapter 11, “Aboard the Hogwarts Express,” Harry expresses feeling “a definite end-of-the-holidays gloom” as he, Hermione, and the Weasleys will be setting off for King’s Cross to board the Hogwarts Express that morning. This is the first time in the series when Harry wishes summer would last longer, and I contend it’s because it’s the first time he’s spent the end of his summer with the Weasleys.

On the train, the trio overhears Malfoy talking about how his father wanted to send him to Durmstrang. I suppose it stands to reason that witches and wizards can attend school outside their home region or country, but this the first time we’ve encountered it in the series. Of course, even if it were unusual, Malfoy would not likely have had any trouble, given the connection between his father and Igor Karkaroff. Have you ever noticed how often the bad guys have Russian or Eastern European names in this series? It really started to bother me a bit the more I noticed it because it almost feels like Cold War era distrust of Soviets and communism.

In the course of the conversation the trio overhears, we learn two interesting things about Durmstrang: 1) According to Malfoy, they don’t admit Muggle-born students, and 2) Students at Durmstrang learn the Dark Arts. Likely Igor Karkaroff alone is not responsible for both policies. We will later learn that Gellert Grindelwald attended Durmstrang, and he was notorious for his desire to subjugate Muggles “for the greater good.” In typical Rowling fashion, she said during an interview that she “thinks that Durmstrang is in northern Scandinavia—the very north of Sweden or Norway and that Beauxbatons is somewhere near Cannes in the south of France.” Durmstrang has been around since at least 1294 because it competed in the Triwizard Tournament that year. The films made an interesting choice in depicting it as a boys’ school (and Beauxbatons as a girls’ school). I am not a fan of that choice, but it didn’t significantly alter the storyline, so it’s not a huge deal.

In chapter 12, “The Triwizard Tournament,” we learn another interesting tidbit about sorting. It stands to reason that families frequently share certain values, such as courage, intelligence, hard work and loyalty, or resourcefulness and ambition. Thus, it is not unusual for families to wind up in the same house. Notable exceptions have occurred. We know, for instance, that Sirius Black is the only Black who wasn’t as Slytherin. The Patil twins are an interesting case, as Parvati is in Gryffindor, and Padma is in Ravenclaw. However, all the Weasleys are in the same house (and the same house as their parents), and Harry was in the same house as his parents. But according to Hermione, it is not necessarily true that family members wind up in the same house, which is interesting for later on when we learn about Sirius’s family. I like it when Rowling plants an interesting fact in her books, but we don’t see it flower until much later.

The Sorting Hat sings a different song this time, and one line goes, “I’ve never yet been wrong.” I wonder about that. I don’t understand, for instance, how Peter Pettigrew wound up in Gryffindor. Pottermore explains beautifully how Neville did, and of course, Neville shows his bravery and courage as the series unfolds. Pettigrew just doesn’t. The Sorting Hat does occasionally have a very hard time deciding where to place students. Students who take longer than five minutes to sort are known as Hatstalls. On Pottermore, we learn that Neville and Hermione came closest to being Hatstalls in Harry’s year. BUT! According to Pottermore, “the Sorting Hat is notorious for refusing to admit it has made a mistake in sorting a student.” So, you can’t believe the hat. I really think that passage was written just to explain Peter Pettigrew.

Another very cool side note on this chapter. A girl named Natalie McDonald is sorted into Gryffindor. Natalie McDonald was a real fan of the books—a young Canadian girl who passed away from leukemia. A family friend had written to Rowling asking her to write to Natalie and tell her how the series would end. Rowling did, but Natalie didn’t receive the letter before she passed. Natalie’s mother responded, and the two women developed a friendship. If you did not tear up a little when you heard that story, then I just don’t know about you, my friend. Here is a link to an article about it.

Towards the end of the chapter, there is yet another mention of Neville’s poor memory. Some fans have speculated he suffered from a poorly-cast memory charm and that he may have seen his parents being tortured. I am not sure if I buy it, but it’s an interesting theory. As evidence, I have seen these fans mention Neville’s upset over seeing the spider undergo the Cruciatus Curse. He also describes the mermish screeching from the Golden Egg as sounding like people being tortured. Later on, when Neville doesn’t sign up for Charms, McGonagall reveals that Augusta Longbottom wasn’t very good at Charms herself, which is why she denigrated it to Neville. If she were the one who cast the memory charm, so the line of thinking goes, perhaps it explains why he seems to suffer in the same way as other characters who have experienced problems with memory charms. At any rate, Rowling mentions it several times, and I wonder if we’ll find out at some point on Pottermore why Neville has such a bad memory. Or maybe there’s no reason. But I am curious.

In chapter 13, “Mad-Eye Moody,” we see Moody turn Malfoy into a bouncing ferret. Satisfying as that may have been, it’s pretty appalling behavior for a professor. I wonder if the real Moody would have done it. I have a lot of questions about Barty Crouch, Jr.

Note also that Professor McGonagall once again has an armful of books that she drops. Someone ought to count how many times she does that in the series. It’s dangerously close to a motif.

In chapter 14, “The Unforgivable Curses,” we learn for the first time exactly how Voldemort killed Harry’s parents. I actually really love this chapter. I am not sure Dumbledore actually does know what Moody is doing in his classes and actually approves, but the end result is that the class learns a lot from him. Even if he is a Death Eater. Also, unusually for a DADA teacher, Moody has communicated with their previous teacher to find out what they have learned. I guess since Quirrell died and Lockhart lost his memory, it would have been impossible for anyone to find out from them what the students had learned, but it is interesting that Moody mentions it.

The class on curses is really interesting. When Moody asks what the three Unforgivable Curses are, Ron volunteers the Imperius Curse, which he would, of course, have heard about from his dad. Neville knows about the Cruciatus Curse. He can’t know he’s possibly looking at one of the Death Eaters who tortured his parents with that curse. Hermione volunteers the Avada Kedavra. Now, I have always thought this part was genius. Avada Kedavra sounds most like the magical phrase abra cadabra that you hear in all sorts of magic shows, cartoons, stories, and even Steve Miller Band songs. It stands to reason the one curse Muggles would know about would be the Killing Curse, as any accidental witnesses wouldn’t likely forget it. But Moody tells us you have to be a powerful wizard to cast it and actually kill anyone with it: “you could all get your wands out and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I’d get so much as a nose-bleed.”

I really hope Pottermore reveals more about the Crouches. I would love to know what house Barty, Jr. was in. I suspect Ravenclaw, but I know others think Slytherin. Not all the bad guys come from that house. Quirrell was a Ravenclaw, and in many ways, Barty, Jr.’s career as a Death Eater seems to follow the same trajectory as Quirrell’s ill-fated entanglement with Voldemort. I also want to know if he really was guilty of torturing the Longbottoms or not. The books leave this open to question.

About the Avada Kedavra, Moody says, “there’s no counter-curse. There’s no blocking it.” Of course, it can be dodged, but that’s not the same thing as Moody’s talking about. “Only one known person has ever survived it, and he’s sitting right in front of me.” That sentence still gives me chills when I read it. Harry thinks, “So that was how his parents had died… exactly like that spider. Had they been unblemished and unmarked, too? Had they simply seen the flash of green light and heard the rush of speeding death, before life was wiped from their bodies?”

Later, Moody takes Neville aside and gives him a book about Mediterranean water plants, telling him Professor Sprout mentioned his aptitude for Herbology. Harry thinks, “Telling Neville what Professor Sprout had said… had been a very tactful way of cheering Neville up, for Neville very rarely heard that he was good at anything. It was the sort of thing Professor Lupin would have done.”

It is rather amazing that despite the fact that DADA is taught by a mentally unstable Death Eater that year, Harry and Co. still learn a lot. Perhaps more than they learned from any other DADA teacher. Even Lupin.

In chapter 15, “Beauxbatons and Durmstrang,” the class’s lessons continue as each of the students is put under the Imperius Curse, and Harry alone fights it. As with casting the Patronus, this ability to fight the Imperius Curse sets Harry apart from his peers in DADA. I still maintain he would have been the best DADA teacher ever had he gone that route with his career. And, in fact, some of his peers comment that he was their best DADA teacher when he teaches the DA how to fight.

Another question I have, and I hope Pottermore addresses it, is why Professor Binns was so preoccupied with goblins. True, the history of Gryffindor’s sword is really important in the last book, but I wouldn’t mind knowing more about why goblins are so important to wizarding history. Or at least to Binns. He has them writing essay after essay about Goblin rebellions in this chapter.

Of course, by the end of the chapter, the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang delegations have arrived. More about all of that anon.

Dark Mark

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Dark Mark

Dark MarkI’m not a fan of the movie version of [amazon_link id=”B00271DNP4″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link], as I have mentioned before, but it isn’t until the movie version of [amazon_link id=”B000HKY9W8″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire[/amazon_link] that you start to see really major cutting and condensing because the books are so long. Quite possibly, the last four books each could have been made into two films. As a result of the choice to make only one film per book up until the last book, certain major details and even some entertaining ones do not appear in the films. The first conspicuous absence in the film of Goblet of Fire is the absence of the Dursleys, which I seem to recall Richard Griffiths, who played Uncle Vernon, protested vociferously. Instead, we have a condensed version of Frank Bryce’s murder followed by Harry, already staying with the Weasleys and being awoken from a bad dream about Frank Bryce’s murder by Hermione.

The Ton-Tongue Toffee scene is great, and I missed it in the film, but the cut I miss even more is the actual Quidditch World Cup. It is an incredible game, as described by Rowling, and given all the lead up, followed by its denouement when the Death Eaters torment the Coles and the Dark Mark is cast over the grounds, it seems strange not to give Quidditch fans the payoff of seeing this incredible game. Movie Krum is more of a show-off than book Krum. Ludo Bagman is cut entirely from the film.

This World Cup is the 422nd Quidditch World Cup, which means the first was held in 1473. According to [amazon_link id=”B005CRQ2JO” target=”_blank” ]Quidditch Through the Ages[/amazon_link], the first two teams to compete in that World Cup were Transylvania and Flanders. All 700 known Quidditch fouls were committed at this game, including the “Transfiguration of a Chaser into a polecat, the attempted decapitation of a Keeper with a broadsword, and the release, from under the robes of the Transylvanian Captain, of a hundred blood-sucking vampire bats.”

In chapter 6, “The Portkey,” we learn about two new means of magical transport: Apparition and Portkeys. Apparition apparently takes some skill, and some wizards never master it. In order to take the Apparition test, a wizard must be 17. George mocks Percy for “Apparating downstairs every morning since [he passed the test], just to prove he can.” The next year, when he and Fred pass the test, they will do the exact same thing.

Because Rowling has chosen to focus on Harry’s point of view, we as readers often learn things only as Harry learns them, with some notable exceptions at the beginning of several of the books. This kind of narration is known as third-person limited. Harry doesn’t tell his own story, but most of the story is told through his limited viewpoint, which offers several advantages for Rowling (adapted from [amazon_link id=”0061340405″ target=”_blank” ]How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World’s Favorite Literary Form[/amazon_link] by Thomas C. Foster, p. 51 on first-person narration).

  • We often don’t know what other characters think (though sometimes we do).
  • For the most part, we can’t go anywhere Harry doesn’t go (again, with a few notable exceptions).
  • Harry is sometimes wrong, and we get to be surprised when he finds out the truth (cf. Snape).
  • Harry is not objective. He sees things through his own subjective point-of-view, like all of us.

Because Harry has been raised by Muggles and hasn’t had an opportunity to need to learn about Apparition or Portkeys yet, he doesn’t know what they are. We also see the Summoning charm for the first time as Mrs. Weasley confiscates all the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes Fred and George have concealed.

Apparition, Portkeys, and the Summoning charm will all be important to the plot later on, but Rowling introduces them earlier so it doesn’t feel like a cheat for wizards to do something we hadn’t heard about before for the first time during a crisis or climactic situation.

We also learn the Lovegoods and Fawcetts are two other wizarding families that live near Ottery St. Catchpole, in addition to the Weasleys and Diggorys. The Fawcetts don’t enter into the story much (Snape takes points from one of them at the Yule Ball), but we get to know Luna Lovegood better next year.

Once everyone arrives at the Quidditch World Cup in chapter  7, “Bagman and Crouch,” we are treated to wizards inexpertly dressed as Muggles (one in a tweed suit with galoshes and another in a kilt and a poncho), once again reminding us why it’s necessary to use Memory Charms on Muggles all the time. It’s no wonder it’s the full-time job of many wizards to hide the Wizarding World from Muggles. They aren’t exactly good at concealing themselves. Who could forget poor Archie, who refuses to wear Muggle trousers because he likes “a healthy breeze round [his] privates, thanks.” He shows up in Pottermore:

Some members of the magical community go out of their way to break the clothing clause in the Statute of Secrecy. A fringe movement calling itself Fresh Air Refreshes Totally (F.A.R.T.)* insists that Muggle trousers “stem the magical flow at source” and insist on wearing robes in public, in spite of repeated warnings and fines.** More unusually, wizards deliberately adopt laughable Muggle confections, such as a crinoline worn with a sombrero and football boots.***

* President Archie Aymslowe
** To date, they appear to have been taken as cult members by Muggles.
*** These are generally taken by Muggles to be students on a dare.

As the crew heads into the campground to find their tent, they see one that looks “like a miniature palace, with several live peacocks tethered at the entrance.” The only other time we see peacocks as decor is at Malfoy Manor, so I’ve always wondered if this is the Malfoys’ tent. Perhaps when Pottermore releases the chapters for Goblet of Fire, we’ll find out.

When Harry goes into their tent, he finds it has been magically enlarged inside, probably with the same Undetectable Enlargement Charm Hermione uses on her purse in [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link]. Anyone else reminded of the TARDIS? It’s bigger on the inside!

In this section of the novel, we, like Harry, are surprised to learn about other wizarding schools, and then, like Harry, we also think, “Of course there are other wizarding schools. How silly. The world is big.” Some we learn about include Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, probably in France; Durmstrang Institute, “somewhere in the far north,” probably Scandinavia; Salem Witches’ Institute in Salem, MA; an unnamed Brazilian wizarding school; Mahoutokoro, a wizarding school in Japan (which is mentioned only on Pottermore). There seems to be some debate about whether or not Salem Witches’ Institute is a school or a women’s organization, but my vote is a school. If the wizarding world has a school in America, trust me, it is located in Salem. If you’ve ever been there, you can attest to that fact, and I’ll bet it’s not even concealed. Obviously, there have to be others. Europe alone has three, and it’s not even the largest continent (though it’s third most populated). Asia and Africa both have larger populations than Europe, and if Europe has only three magical schools, then I would think that the others have at least three themselves. I really, really want to read Hogwarts, A History at some point. I hope they release it as a book like they did Quidditch Through the Ages, [amazon_link id=”B005CRQ3IE” target=”_blank” ]Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”0545128285″ target=”_blank” ]The Tales of Beedle the Bard[/amazon_link]. I hope when Pottermore gets to this part of Goblet of Fire, we might learn a bit more about other wizarding schools.

Another interesting thing to contemplate reading this section is how Cornelius Fudge greets Harry “like an old friend” and shakes “Harry’s hand in fatherly fashion.” By this time next year, he would actively be trying to discredit Harry, having just been unsuccessful at silencing him through expulsion from Hogwarts.

We meet Narcissa Malfoy, who “would have been nice looking if she hadn’t been wearing a look that suggested there was a nasty smell under her nose,” for the first time in this section. In the next book, we learn she is Sirius’s first cousin and that her maiden name had been Black. Narcissa is not a Death Eater, but she is their ally; however, she is instrumental later on in Deathly Hallows, which I’ll discuss when we get to it. A fun fact: Helen McCrory, who plays Narcissa Malfoy in the films, was originally cast to play Bellatrix Lestrange. She does a fine job as Narcissa, but I’m glad we didn’t miss out on Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix. McCrory had to turn the part down after she became pregnant and could no longer play Bellatrix.

Following the match, for some reason, the Death Eaters decide to torment Mr. Cole and his family, likely just because they are plain evil and because they can. They scatter in fear when the Dark Mark appears in the sky. It’s interesting to re-read this scene when you know that Barty Crouch, Jr. is hidden under the cloak because suddenly, a lot of it makes much more sense.

  1. The trio hears a rustling noise and sees Winky “fighting her way out of a clump of bushes nearby.” She was moving “as though someone invisible was trying to hold her back.” Winky is trying to push a reluctant Barty Jr. to safety. At the time, Harry chalks it up to a notion that Winky didn’t ask permission to hide. It is probably right before this that Harry dropped his wand, which Barty Jr. found.
  2. The trio hears a strange voice utter the incantation “Morsmordre” to conjure the Dark Mark.
  3. The Stunning spells unleashed by all the Ministry wizards who Apparate to the scene probably knock Barty Jr. unconscious, right along with Winky. He is still under his cloak, so it is only Winky who has been found, but she managed to take the wand away from Barty Jr. after he conjured the Dark Mark.
  4. Crouch quickly dashes over to the bushes where Amos Diggory found Winky to search for Barty Jr. When he finds him and ensures he remains concealed, he returns to the group. Amos tries to stop Crouch from investigating further: “No point, Mr. Crouch… There’s no one else there.” But Crouch doesn’t listen because he knows someone else is there.
  5. Winky covers up for Barty Jr. during the interrogation because of her loyalty, which is why she does not tell the others what she had seen. Otherwise, she might have corroborated the trio’s story about hearing a man’s voice conjure the Dark Mark.

Near the end of this section of the book, we are introduced to Molly Weasley’s family clock, which shows the locations of each of her family members. Harry notes that “It was completely useless if you wanted to know the time, but otherwise very informative.” Some German students built a version of this clock and share instructions for how to build your own on their website.

Creepy House

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Creepy Riddle House

Creepy HouseJ.K. Rowling begins [amazon_link id=”059035342X” target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”0439785960″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link] with an outside point of view. In the case of the first book, some exposition is necessary to properly set the stage for the rest of the book. In the case of the other books, Harry is not present for some essential information. I have noticed some folks make rather a big deal of this deviation from Harry’s point of of view, but really, by the end of the series, Rowling employed this alternate POV beginning more often than she didn’t.

The events of Goblet of Fire take place a matter of nine weeks after the end of Prisoner of Azkaban. According to the Harry Potter Lexicon, whom you can usually trust to be quite thorough about these sorts of things, Harry and Co. return to London on the Hogwarts Express on June 18. Pettigrew escapes about June 9. The action of Goblet of Fire picks up again on August 23, when Voldemort murders Frank Bryce, which wakes Harry up with a prickling scar. It sure didn’t take Peter Pettigrew very long to find Voldemort in Albania, did it? He has already been with Voldemort for a few weeks when the events of the novel begin, so let’s say that he has been with Voldemort only three weeks. That would possibly give them enough time to accomplish killing Bertha Jorkins and to return to Britain. That would mean that Pettigrew found Voldemort some time around the beginning of August at the latest. Just kind of interesting to think about in terms of timing.

The Hanged Man Tarot CardI always kind of liked that opening chapter. It’s so creepy. I love the description of the Riddle House and the gossipy pub, known as the Hanged Man. The Hanged Man is in the Tarot deck. In his Pictorial Key to the Tarot, A.E. Waite said of this card

The gallows from which he is suspended forms a Tau cross, while the figure—from the position of the legs—forms a fylfot cross. There is a nimbus about the head of the seeming martyr. It should be noted (1) that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves thereon; (2) that the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering; (3) that the figure, as a whole, suggests life in suspension, but life and not death. […] It has been called falsely a card of martyrdom, a card a of prudence, a card of the Great Work, a card of duty […] I will say very simply on my own part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe.

He who can understand that the story of his higher nature is imbedded in this symbolism will receive intimations concerning a great awakening that is possible, and will know that after the sacred Mystery of Death there is a glorious Mystery of Resurrection.

So that’s kind of interesting to think about. Another thing to think about is Frank Bryce. He is described as a war veteran, and at first glance, one assumes World War II. However, if you think about it, it’s not so clear. Frank has been working for the Riddles ever since he returned from the war, whichever war it was, which implies some time, right? Using the descriptor “ever since” the war implies it has been some time, at any rate. However, we know that the events of Goblet of Fire take place in 1994. The murder of the Riddle family happened 50 years earlier, according to the description in the book, so around 1944 or 1945. If Frank had been a World War II veteran, then he hadn’t been working very long at the Riddles’ house when they were murdered. The only way this works is if Frank was wounded earlier in the war, which in Britain, took place from 1939-1945. I think Frank is probably intended to be a World War II veteran because he is too young to be a World War I veteran, but it’s confusingly written. Rowling has repeatedly said that math is not her strong suit, and when people try to pin down events like this, it is clear.

When the Riddles are found, their cook Dot tells everyone that “Nobody forced the door last night! No broken windows!” Everyone assumes that the person who killed the Riddles must have had a key and access to the house. Around 50 years later when Frank goes over to the house to check out the light he sees, he notices that the “front door of the Riddle House bore no sign of being forced, and nor did any of the windows.” It is interesting that Frank doesn’t immediately suspect something is wrong and hightail it home because last time that happened, he was accused of murder.

I really think Rowling is great with exposition. We need to know Voldemort’s plans, and Frank Bryce overhearing Voldemort and Wormtail plot is a brilliant device for sharing them. Dumbledore appears to have been right about Pettigrew, as one of the first things he tries to do is convince Voldemort not to use Harry Potter to return to his body. When Frank is discovered and killed, surely his body is just left in the house, and one has to wonder what the gossip in Little Hangleton was like when Frank Bryce was found in the exact same condition as the Riddles. Of course, he wasn’t sitting at the dinner table, so the authorities may have been more likely to attribute his death to a heart attack or something else. Still, an autopsy should prove otherwise, right?

Chapter 2, “The Scar,” represents the last time in the series when Rowling backtracks and fills in information for readers who might not have read the earlier books. Harry is thinking about how hard it was to return to the Dursleys knowing he very nearly had been able to move in with Sirius. I wonder if Dumbledore would have allowed it, though. Remember that Harry is protected through his familial bond with Petunia.

There is yet another fine example of exposition when Harry writes to Sirius and mentions Dudley’s diet is going poorly.

In Chapter 3, “The Invitation,” Harry is invited to the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasleys, and there is a funny scene when Uncle Vernon retrieves a letter covered in stamps from the postman. Mrs. Weasley’s postscript says, “I do hope we’ve put enough stamps on.” When Harry sees the envelope, completely covered in stamps, he snarkily replies to Vernon, “She did put enough stamps on, then.” Harry in the books is much funnier than movie Harry.

In Chapter 4, “Back to the Burrow,” the Weasleys bust up the Dursleys’ fireplace. I have to admit I can see things from the Dursleys’ point of view in this chapter. I mean, first they demolish my house, then they leave stray bit of candy behind that engorges my son’s tongue. I would think they were mad and dangerous, too. I kind of wonder how Ton Tongue Toffees work. Arthur Weasley says he thinks it is an Engorgement Charm, but it could be a Swelling Solution, too. I wonder how they did in Potions class. I can’t picture Snape liking them very much, but you can’t deny they have learned a few things.

In Chapter 5, “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes,” Harry finds out that Fred and George want to start a joke shop and have been creating products and order forms. We also get to meet Charlie and Bill for the first time. I like both of the elder Weasley brothers. I kind of wish Charlie hadn’t been deleted from the films. I realize his part’s minor, but still.

Ludo Bagman is first mentioned in this chapter, too. Arthur Weasley says that he is responsible for the Weasleys’ World Cup tickets. His name is interesting. Ludo means “I play” in Latin. A bagman is “an agent who collects or distributes the proceeds of illicit activities.” So his name basically means, “I gamble illegally”! Old Ludo has been derelict in searching for Bertha Jorkins. Wonder why he shows so little interest? Barty Crouch is sure interested. Of course, that’s likely because of the memory charm he’s placed on her. He would want to keep tabs on her.

Image via Christine


Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Trouble with Time-Turners

Time-TurnerI finished [amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link] this evening. This post covers the last seven chapters, as it didn’t seem like a good idea to stop at chapter 20 and just write a separate post for the last two.

Chapter 16, “Professor Trelawney’s Prediction,” has all the Hogwarts students preparing for their exams, including Fred and George, who will be sitting their O.W.L.’s, and Percy, who is taking the N.E.W.T.’s. Lupin gives a completely practical final exam—it’s easily the most authentic assessment Harry ever takes, and this exam is one of the reasons I approve of Lupin so highly as a teacher. He asks the students to perform in a real-world situation and apply what they have learned throughout the year in his class to that situation. It is interesting to see Hermione completely lose it with the Boggart, and as it turns out, Ron was pretty close when he joked earlier that Hermione’s Boggart would have been a piece of homework that only received a 9 out of 10. No, instead, it was Professor McGonagall telling her she had failed everything. It’s interesting how Hermione becomes upset by something so completely irrational. There is no way Hermione would fail even one class, let alone them all, and if she had been able to put her rational mind to good use during the exam, she might have remembered that and been able to use it against the Boggart.

Later, Harry takes his Divination exam, which consists of looking into the crystal ball. He tells Trelawney he sees Buckbeak flying away, escaping his execution. Professor Trelawney dismisses his “prediction,” but it turns out to be true. Then she is somehow possessed and delivers what Dumbledore calls her second real prediction. It’s only chance that Harry was still there to hear her. I wonder if seers can deliver predictions when they are alone, or if another witch or wizard must be there to hear it? That makes more sense to me because otherwise tons of prophecies might be lost.

During Chapter 17, “Cat, Rat, and Dog,” the truth about Sirius is revealed, but before Harry learns it, he makes a move to kill Black. A voice in his head says, “Do it now!” I wonder if that is the horcrux? Lupin arrives, and Hermione tells the others he’s a werewolf. By the end of the chapter, we learn also that Ron’s rat Scabbers is also an animagus by the name of Peter Pettigrew. Now I have to ask the question we’re all wondering about: all those times that Fred, George, and even Harry looked at the Marauder’s Map, and they never wondered what on earth Peter Pettigrew was doing with Ron? Come on. This is one instance in which I think the film gets it right because Harry notices Pettigrew on the map and says something about it to Lupin.

I also wonder about animagi. Is it possible to choose which animal you become, or is the animal a reflection of your personality in some way? I mean, Pettigrew is pretty rat-like, but you wouldn’t think he would choose to become a rat. Not really all that noble an animal, after all. I lean toward the belief that you cannot choose your animagus form, as J.K. Rowling was once asked about it, and she said she would like to turn into an otter, but suspects that she’d turn into “a guinea pig or something, which would be quite embarrassing.” However, it would seem that wizards have a little more control over the form their Patronus takes, as Snape and Tonks both create Patronuses that mimic the form of the person whom they love most.

In Chapter 18, “Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs,” I noticed another strange possible oversight when Lupin discusses how he was bitten and became a werewolf as a small boy, but “in those days there was no cure.” Well, there still isn’t, right? I mean, the Wolfsbane Potion makes it easier, but Lupin still transforms. He’s just gentler and more docile. If there were a cure, then folks wouldn’t be as terrified of Fenrir Greyback, and there wouldn’t have been the fear that Bill would become a werewolf when he’s bitten later. After all, if there were a cure, it would simply be administered, right? I think Rowling probably meant to refer to the Wolfsbane Potion and perhaps meant “treatment,” rather than “cure,” but there it is in print, so it’s a question.

Another interesting comment later on when Lupin says, “I doubt whether any Hogwarts students ever found out more about the Hogwarts grounds and Hogsmeade than we did,” but the fact remains that the Chamber of Secrets and possibly the Room of Requirement were unknown to them. It stands to reason that as none of them were Parselmouths like Harry, they never discovered the Chamber of Secrets, which in any case was widely believed to be legendary. The Room of Requirement is probably Unplottable, and the Marauders were likely unable to include it on the map if they knew about it, which brings up another point. Hogwarts itself is Unplottable. So how was this map made? Is it possible because it was made at Hogwarts and depicts Hogwarts rather than directions to Hogwarts from, say, Little Whinging or Godric’s Hollow or somewhere else?

Another thing that has always bothered me about this chapter is the way that Sirius and Remus each admit suspecting each other of being Voldemort’s spy. In Lupin’s case, all the evidence seemed to point to Sirius, but why would Sirius suspect Remus? Was it a bit of latent werewolf prejudice? I imagine that would be hard to shake.

Lupin also ascribes Snape’s hatred of James to his jealousy “of James’s talent on the Quidditch pitch.” Obviously, Lupin doesn’t know Snape very well, and he never suspected that Snape’s hatred was based on Snape’s feelings for Lily. However, Lupin very carefully does not bring up all the bullying that went on. He is embarrassed about it now, clearly, and we see that later when he admits as much to Harry when Harry discovers the Marauders bullied Snape.

In Chapter 19, “The Servant of Lord Voldemort,” Snape has arrived and reminded us all that Lupin has not taken his Wolfsbane Potion tonight (cue ominous music). This scene is really well played in the movie, particularly by Alan Rickman (as always) and Gary Oldman. The trio gets a little overexcited and knocks Snape out, and we learn that Harry’s hunch about Crookshanks is right. He has been helping Sirius Black. He’s part-Kneazle, which is how he knew that Sirius was not really a dog. He is a sort of furry Sneakoscope and is able to ferret out untrustworthy folks, too.

So Pettigrew has been living as a rat for the last 12 years. Do you think ever transformed into himself, even once, during that time he lived with the Weasleys? We also learn that he has done it because he’s dead scared of Voldemort’s old supporters, and he chose a wizard family to live with so he could keep an ear out for any news. So how much human thought are animagi capable of? Sirius mentions that he thinks the Dementors perceived his thoughts were less complex as a dog, but that they probably thought he was losing his mind. So how does a wizard transform himself back into a human, then? He must retain much more of a human mind than Sirius seems to indicate, or he’d not be able to do it, right?

And finally, my last question before I move on to the next chapter. How on earth does Peter Pettigrew get sorted into Gryffindor? He sold out James and Lily rather than dying, as Sirius or James would have done for him. He never shows even a modicum of bravery, not one single time. He should have been place in Slytherin or Hufflepuff. So what’s up with that? Pettigrew is not like Neville, who truly is brave but needs to grow into his confidence. Pettigrew never becomes brave. He dies a coward.

In chapter 20, “The Dementor’s Kiss,” Harry accomplishes a first that no one much remarks upon. We learn in the next book that Harry is the only known survivor of the killing curse, but he is apparently also the only known person to see what’s under a Dementor’s hood who “survives.” Remember that he asked Lupin about it, and Lupin said that the only people who knew were in no shape to tell anyone else. But Harry sees it as the Dementor prepares to suck out his soul; however, his Patronus knocks the Dementor away and saves him. Interesting. No one ever mentions it in the long list of Harry’s exceptionalities.

In chapter 21, “Hermione’s Secret,” Ron is still knocked out by whatever spell Pettigrew used on him. What do you think it was, for the record? A particularly powerful stunning spell? The book only describes a bang and a burst of light, but it doesn’t say what color. Stunning spells expel jets of red light.

We finally learn how Hermione has been able to get to all her lessons, and I must say, I have big problems with the Time-Turner. I do not understand why the Ministry would allow a 13-year-old witch to have such a device and trust she was only going to use it for classes. Update, 8/4/13: Now that the last chapters of Azkaban have been revealed on Pottermore, Rowling has shared she, too, found she was in a bit of a bind with the Time-Turner. I’ll put in-line updates where Pottermore has answered a question I had.

I know that Hermione explains that she had to make all kinds of assurances, and all kinds of special permissions were needed before she could have it, but I mean, really. I think the school should have told Hermione to suck it up, you can’t take every single class, so make a choice. I don’t care how responsible she is. And then Dumbledore encourages her to use it to change time? I mean, I agree with him and all, but why, for instance, don’t wizards use these magical undo devices for everything then? I know it would be a bad idea, but you can’t tell me Dumbledore wouldn’t go back and save Ariana. There is a lot of pain in life, and if there was a device you could use to go back in time and alter it and prevent it from happening—well, those devices wouldn’t be safe. Everyone would want one, and there’s no way that the Ministry would give one to a 13-year-old girl. This, to me, strains credulity. Hermione explains that “We’re breaking one of the most important wizarding laws! Nobody’s supposed to change time, nobody!” So perhaps one might go to Azkaban for changing time. But here’s the problem: how does one prove time was changed? Even Harry has to be prevented from changing the timeline several times that evening (in addition to the way he is already changing it). The alternate timeline would now be the timeline, right? I like the results, but I think Time-Turners are one of those aspects of the books that is not particularly well thought out.

Update, 8/4/13: As it turns out, wizards have wreaked havoc on time. The longest period of time that may be relived using a Time-Turner without causing damage to the witch or wizard using it is five hours. Witches and wizards who have attempted to go back further have most often died. Pottermore shares the interesting tale of Eloise Mintumble, who traveled back in time from 1899 to 1402. She was stuck there for five days, and when she returned to 1899, her body aged five centuries, and she died. While she lived in the past, she changed the course of history so drastically that 25 people were simply not born because of the alteration that interacting with Eloise had wrought upon the lives of the ancestors of these 25 people.

Harry conjures his Patronus and saves Sirius, Hermione, and himself from the Dementors. As Hermione notes, this is really advanced magic, and well beyond the abilities of some fully-qualified wizards. Harry’s performance in his third year is a strong predictor of his abilities in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Many DA members believe Harry to be their best DADA teacher, and if Harry had wanted to go into education, I’m sure he would have had an excellent career as DADA professor. At any rate, Hermione and Harry rescue Sirius and send him on his way aboard Buckbeak.

In the final chapter, “Owl Post Again,” Dumbledore says to Snape, “Unless you are suggesting that Harry and Hermione are able to be in two places at once, I’m afraid I don’t see any point in troubling them further.” But wouldn’t Snape know about Hermione’s Time-Turner? I mean, even if it were kept secret, the professors are bound to notice Hermione never misses her classes, even when they are scheduled at the same time. It stands to reason that there is no conflict with Potions, so perhaps Snape was not in the know, but still. And even if Snape doesn’t know, Fudge probably does. He’s the Minister for Magic. Of course, knowing who has Time-Turners might be a matter for an underling to worry about, but with Sirius Black on the loose, one would think Fudge himself would be keeping a closer eye on Time-Turners. Except he’s incompetent, so there’s that. I don’t know. Like I said, the whole thing troubles me.

In this very chapter, Dumbledore even says, “The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.” Which is exactly why 13-year-olds should not be handed Time-Turners!

Even more astonishingly, giving Time-Turners to Hogwarts students may not even be all that rare, as Bill and Percy Weasley and Barty Crouch, Jr. are all known to have achieved 12 O.W.L.’s—a feat which may only be possible with a Time-Turner. (Unless some other options for scheduling existed for them.)

Update, 8/4/13: It would seem Hermione Granger is the only known Hogwarts student to use a Time-Turner. Rowling said, “I had Hermione give back the only Time-Turner ever to enter Hogwarts.” Bill, Percy, and Barty, Jr. must have found other means to achieve their 12 O.W.L.’s.

If you start wondering whether or not people age when they use the Time-Turner and start adding up all the additional hours Hermione has lived over the course of the year, then you will truly go nuts. Update, 8/4/13: Pottermore doesn’t say whether or not there were lasting ill-effects from Hermione’s use of the Time-Turner this year.

At any rate, Dumbledore says some wise stuff about how Pettigrew is now in Harry’s debt, and that is all very complicated. He also mentions that Harry looks “extraordinarily like James. Except for your eyes… you have your mother’s eyes.” Which is really important and is repeated a lot for good reasons. Then Dumbledore says, “You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?” And of course, this seems absolutely prophetic when Harry uses the Resurrection Stone to recall his parents, Lupin, and Sirius to help him face his own death. And it has been a while since I read [amazon_link id=”0545139708″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[/amazon_link], but I saw the movie recently, and in the movie, Sirius says that Voldemort will not be able to see them because they are in Harry’s heart. I always cry at that part. Anyway, I will be interested to see if that shows up in the novel, too. My memory on that book is not as ironclad because I haven’t read it as many times.

Before I close, I just have to say I’m not sure how I feel about Charity Burbage as a teacher. We only really see her when Voldemort kills her, but she is probably Hermione’s Muggle Studies teacher, since she was the teacher four years later (unless some change of staffing took place, which is possible). At any rate, how does Hermione manage to score 320% on an exam? Only on a bogus exam, that’s how. That is way too much extra credit.

Harry heads home to Privet Drive with a signed Hogsmeade permission form and the threat of a mad murderer to use against the Dursleys. Life, at least for a little while (sadly) is good.

Now it’s on to [amazon_link id=”0439139600″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire[/amazon_link].

Movie still via the Harry Potter Wiki.

Re-Reading Harry Potter: Quidditch Rules

Quidditch is one of those games that even I, who remain almost completely uninterested in sports (with possibly the inexplicable support of the Bruins—I cannot explain it as I do not fully comprehend it) could get into. Can you imagine watching Harry play that game against Slytherin that appears in [amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link]? It’s one intense match. More on that in a moment, however, though Quidditch does seem to dominate Harry’s thoughts in chapters 11-15 of Azkaban, starting with chapter 11, “The Firebolt,” in which Harry receives for Christmas the awesomest gift ever.

In this chapter, the trio visits Hagrid because Harry wants to question him about Sirius Black following the incident when Harry overhears his teachers, Madam Rosmerta, and Cornelius Fudge discussing Black’s role in the deaths of Harry’s parents. However, once they arrive, they find a grief-stricken Hagrid who has just learned that Buckbeak must be brought before a hearing with the Committee for the Disposal of Dangers Creatures for his attack on Draco Malfoy. Hermione resolves to help Hagrid with his case. In fact, after leaving Hogwarts, Hermione would work for Ministry in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and later in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement as a type of wizard lawyer, but her offer to help Hagrid with this case is the first time we see her take up a legal cause on behalf of magical creatures. She will, of course, do so again. Hermione even says, “I’m sure I’ve read about a case of Hippogriff baiting,” which I imagine no other witch of her age can truthfully say; however, it doesn’t strain my credulity. Hermione has always shown an interest in understanding the why of what she learns, and it makes sense to me that she has come across court cases in her reading.

At Christmas, Harry receives the Firebolt from an anonymous benefactor. Pottermore shares that one of the Firebolt’s secrets is goblin-made ironwork in the footrests, stand, and twig bands. The goblin-made ironwork’s properties are mysterious, but they do seem to give the Firebolt “additional stability and power.” In the scene when Hermione visits Ron and Harry’s dorm on Christmas morning, Harry’s Sneakoscope once more goes off in the presence of Scabbers.

Later at Christmas lunch, Harry and Ron find that all the students and teachers remaining at Hogwarts are sitting at one table. This is the only time in the series when you see this kind of fellowship. Here is the funny thing. Professor Trelawney makes rather a show of not wanting to sit down because there will then be 13 people at the table. However, no one knows that an unregistered Animagus by the name of Peter Pettigrew is sitting at the table in the form of Scabbers the rat, so when the trio sits down at the table along with Scabbers, the number of people is 13. When Trelawney arrives, Dumbledore stands to greet her. He is, therefore, the first person to rise from the table, and as Trelawney says, is the first to die. See? Like I said before, if you really pay close attention to what she says and what happens later, she’s not as much of a fraud as you’d think, but her accurate predictions most often seem to occur when she doesn’t really know what she’s talking about or when she has incomplete information, and she is, thus, not aware of them.

McGonagall’s reaction to Trelawney in this scene is pretty funny. First she “offers” her tripe, and later she jokes about the mad axe-man in the hallway. When Trelawney says, “I frequently act as though I am not possessed of the Inner Eye, so as not to make others nervous,” McGonagall responds, “That explains a great deal.” However, Trelawney then accurately predicts Lupin will not be with them for very long. Anyone else read into this scene that Trelawney has a little crush on Lupin? I have always kind of thought the hope of seeing Lupin drew her to eat lunch with the others. She asks after him specifically when she arrives, and later, she lets slip that she offered to crystal gaze for him. Lupin may have wished to avoid any sort of embarrassing scenes she might claim to see in the crystal ball, so he “positively fled.” Hermione, sure Harry’s new Firebolt was sent by Sirius Black and poses a threat to Harry, tells Professor McGonagall, who immediately confiscates it to test it for jinxes. Of course, Hermione was right about the benefactor, but wrong about the jinxes.

In chapter 12, “The Patronus,” Hermione hints that she knows what is “wrong” with Lupin, but as the boys are not really on speaking terms with her right now because of the Firebolt, she doesn’t tell them. As the only student who actually completed Snape’s werewolf essay, she is the only third year who has put two-and-two together; however, one wonders about the older students. Surely some of them have figured out Lupin’s absences coincide with the full moon? Or has their Defense Against the Dark Arts education been so disjointed that they never learned it? That’s certainly possible, and I dare say it was Voldemort’s goal in cursing the position. An ignorant populace is much easier to subdue.

Also in this chapter, we first learn about the Patronus. Dark Wizards are not able to conjure Patronuses, and in fact, Snape is the only Death Eater who can. I imagine he must keep this ability close to the vest when he’s palling around his Death Eater friends and Voldemort. Conjuring a Patronus is advanced magic, and the fact that Harry is able to master it is much remarked upon later in the series.

During one of his Patronus lessons, Harry asks Lupin what is under a Dementor’s hood. Lupin says that no one is really sure because the “only people who really know are in no condition to tell us,” having been victims of the Dementor’s Kiss. Lupin says that the victims live, but their “soul is gone forever… lost.” If you give much thought to it, it’s a horrible prospect, particularly when one considers the implications for the afterlife as Rowling describes it. You exist until you die, and then, just… nothing. While some of the other characters in the series clearly go on to Heaven, or whatever you wish to call it. It’s very sad.

This conversation echoes one that Gandalf has with Frodo about Gollum. Frodo says that Gollum deserves death for all that he has done, and Gandalf replies, “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

Lupin says that the Dementor’s Kiss is the “fate that awaits Sirius Black.” Harry replies that “He deserves it.” Lupin’s response is, “You think so?… Do you really think anyone deserves that?” And Harry says, “Yes… For… for some things…” Interestingly enough, by the end of the series, Harry has changed his opinion. He offers Voldemort a chance to save his own soul by expressing remorse for his crimes.

At the end of the chapter, Harry receives his Firebolt back—jinx-free, but everyone’s happiness is cut short when Ron discovers evidence that seems to indicate that Crookshanks has finally eaten Scabbers.

Chapter 13, “Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw” pits Harry Potter against Cho Chang for the first time, and it also appears to be the genesis of his crush on her. Prior to the match, Harry delivers possibly his best burn in the series when Malfoy teases Harry: “Shame it doesn’t come with a parachute—in case you get too near a Dementor.” Harry says, “Pity you can’t attach an extra arm to yours, Malfoy… Then it could catch the Snitch for you.” Ouch!

During the game, Lee Jordan can’t help talking about the Firebolt during his commentary. He mentions that “the Firebolt’s going to be the broom of choice for the national teams at this year’s World Championship,” which of course it was. Both the Bulgarians and the Irish rode Firebolts during the Quidditch World Cup later that year.

After the party to celebrate Gryffindor’s defeat of Ravenclaw, Harry goes to sleep and dreams that “He was walking through a forest, his Firebolt over his shoulder, following something silvery white.” I never noticed this sentence in particular until this re-read, but it seems almost as though Harry is dreaming about following Snape’s Patronus in the forest when the Patronus leads him to the Sword of Gryffindor. Of course, the Firebolt was not present in that second scene, but it is an interesting parallel. He is awakened when Ron screams that Sirius Black is standing over him with a knife.

Chapter 14, “Snape’s Grudge,” might be one of the best chapters in the series. I laugh every time I read it. The most arresting image at the beginning of the chapter is that of Professor Flitwick teaching the front doors to recognize a picture of Sirius Black, which is a waste of time, of course, as Sirius isn’t coming in through the front doors, a fact which Harry considers, but then dismisses because it will prevent him from going to Hogsmeade.

Hagrid calls Ron and Harry to visit because he has a bone to pick with them about Hermione, but Ron, at least, isn’t ready to forgive and forget.

Harry decides to sneak into Hogsmeade, but before he goes, he is waylaid by Snape in yet another scene when he appears to be using Legilimency to figure out what Harry is hiding. Harry eventually sneaks out and meets up with Ron. In a memorable scene, Harry, hiding under his Invisibility Cloak, throws mud at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, but Harry will pay for that bit of fun when the Slytherins tell Snape about seeing Harry in Hogsmeade: “What would your head have been doing in Hogsmeade, Potter?… Your head is not allowed in Hogsmeade. No part of your body has permission to be in Hogsmeade.”

Because of his prejudices regarding Harry and his father, Snape leaps to the conclusion that Harry’s presence in Hogsmeade is a form of arrogance: “Everyone from he Minister for Magic downwards has been trying to keep famous Harry Potter safe from Sirius Black, But famous Harry Potter is a law unto himself. Let the ordinary people worry about his safety! Harry Potter goes where he wants to, with no thought for the consequences… How extraordinarily like your father you are, Potter… He, too, was exceedingly arrogant.”

If Snape had ever bothered to try to understand Harry (like Harry later would do for Snape, and as a result, come to admire Snape a great deal), Snape would have realized that Harry acted out of a sense of wanting to belong. His childhood had been every bit as bad as Snape’s. He was not privileged. All of his friends (except Neville) can go to Hogsmeade. He doesn’t want to feel left out. Feeling left out is something Snape could relate to. But, as the chapter title alludes, Snape is one for holding grudges.

Towards the end of their confrontation, Snape asks Harry to turn out his pockets and discovers the Marauder’s Map, but he is unable to work it because the makers have included a charm designed to keep Snape from ever discovering its secrets, and each of the map makers insults Snape in turn as Harry wants to disappear on the spot. He immediately calls Lupin to his office. I contend that Snape knew his enemies’ private nicknames in school, but that Lupin didn’t realize that Snape knew them. Why else would he call Lupin instead of, say, Dumbledore? Or McGonagall as Harry’s Head of House? He was trying to get Lupin to admit he knew what the object was as well as his connection to it. Lupin wasn’t doing it. Harry notices that “odd, closed expression appeared on Lupin’s face.” My guess is that Lupin is using Occlumency to hide his thoughts from Snape. Snape goes on to hint that Harry got the map “directly from the manufacturers.” See? He knows Lupin is Mr. Moony.

Lupin manages to get Harry out of trouble through a fairly superb bit of Occlumency and quick thinking, but he says pretty much the same thing to Harry that Snape said, albeit in kinder terms: “I cannot make you take Sirius Black seriously. But I would have thought that what you have heard when the Dementors draw near you would have had more of an effect on you. Your parents gave their lives to keep you alive, Harry. A poor way to repay them—gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks.”


But the point is driven home this time because Harry respects Lupin’s opinion, and the way in which Lupin chastises Harry makes Harry understand why sneaking into Hogsmeade is wrong.

And the end of the chapter, Hermione tells the boys that Buckbeak lost his case and is set to be executed.

In chapter 15, “The Quidditch Final,” pretty much the most awesome Quidditch game of the series takes place between Gryffindor and Slytherin.

Harry and Ron make up with Hermione early in the chapter. Hermione smacks Malfoy in the face (that was awesome), forgets to go to Charms, and quits Divination in a fit of pique when Trelawney insinuates she doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in the subject—Hermione contends the subject is hokum. Lavender recalls after Hermione storms out that Trelawney predicted “one of our number will leave us forever.”

Then the game takes place, during which there is quite a deal of dirty play on the part of both teams, though it’s instigated by the Slytherins. Slytherin’s Keeper doesn’t appear to be very good, does he? He lets in just about every penalty shot, while Wood manages to block most of Slytherin’s penalty shots. But Harry manages to nab the Snitch in a narrow miss, as Malfoy saw it first and was already streaking after it.

I thought it might be fun to share this treasury of Quidditch swag you can buy on Etsy.

Re-Reading Harry Potter: Trelawney’s Not a Fraud

Tea_leaf_readingWhat do you see in this cup? Harry would say, “A load of soggy brown stuff.” Sybill Trelawney gets a bad rap because of all of her supposed inaccurate predictions. Leaving aside the two predictions she made when she was “possessed” by her inner eye, she made a few pretty accurate predictions, some of them in chapter six, “Talons and Tea Leaves.” First, Neville did break that cup. While you could argue it was coincidence or that she had heard about Neville’s clumsiness or perhaps deduced it by observing him in class for a few moments, it is still kind of weird. She told Lavender the thing she’d been dreading would happen on October 16. Lavender found out that day that her rabbit had died. She told Parvati to beware a red-headed man, and Parvati instantly suspected Trelawney meant Ron. Ron was somewhat responsible for Parvati’s bad date with Harry at the Yule Ball (and he was completely responsible for Padma’s). He also drew Lavender Brown’s attention away from Parvati during sixth year when Ron and Lavender dated. She predicted that one of the class would leave them forever around Easter. Hermione dropped the class around Easter. Her record is not actually all that bad. She does make some inaccurate predictions, but on the whole, her record is better than you’d think, especially if you start looking closely and paying attention to what she says.

However, I do absolutely love Professor McGonagall’s reaction to the moroseness in Transfiguration: “‘Ah, of course,’ said Professor McGonagall, suddenly frowning. ‘There is no need to say any more, Miss Granger. Tell me, which of you will be dying this year.'” McGonagall is often at her funniest when she’s responding to Professor Trelawney in some way. “You look in excellent health to me, Potter, so you will excuse me if I don’t let you off homework today. I assure you that if you die, you need not hand it in.”

And here a note about some differences between the American and British versions of the series. I like the British versions better. I can’t remember if I mentioned it or not before, but, for example, in the scene at Nearly-Headless Nick’s Deathday Party, when Hermione sees Moaning Myrtle and moves to avoid her, she says, in the American edition, that it’s “awful trying to have a pee with her wailing at you.” In the British edition, the same line is rendered, “it’s awful trying to go to the loo with her wailing at you.” Obviously, the American editors didn’t think American children would be smart enough to deduce what “go to the loo” meant or, Heaven forfend, that they’d look it up. Sigh. I just think it’s out of character for Hermione to say the word “pee.” She would naturally use a more proper term. That line always bothered me for that reason, and after I read the British version, it bothered me more because Hermione didn’t say it. Another case in point happens in chapter six of Prisoner of Azkaban when Hermione says, “The Grim’s not an omen, it’s the cause of death! And Harry’s still with us because he’s not stupid enough to see one and think, right, well, I’d better kick the bucket then!” in the American edition. In the British edition, she says, “The Grim’s not an omen, it’s the cause of death! And Harry’s still with us because he’s not stupid enough to see one and think, right, well, I’d better pop my clogs then!” Way funnier, and I’m not sure why. A lot of the great British diction is removed from the story in the American editions, and as an English teacher who values the choices authors make in their writing, it makes me sad. It may seem like a small difference in that no meaning is changed, but the changes do alter Hermione’s character a bit. She is funnier in British English.

In chapter seven, “The Boggart in the Wardrobe,” we get our first real look at Professor Lupin’s skills as a teacher, and let me say, as a teacher, that I think he’s possibly the best teacher at Hogwarts. He is awesome. First, I love it that he begins with a hands-on, practical lesson. Instead of assigning the chapter for reading first, he engages the class in solving an authentic problem. Then they read the chapter for homework in order to understand the theory. Their reading comprehension and understanding is likely enhanced by their own experience with the boggart. He also ensures that every student in the class participates and ignores Hermione and calls on Harry after Hermione had already answered his first question. You watch. The only other teacher in the series who ignores Hermione and tries to call on another student is Snape. All the other teachers call on her because it is easier to call on the student bouncing out of her seat to answer your questions. It is much harder to identify the student who has something to share and doesn’t, for whatever reason. You learn a lot from those students, and Hermione’s other teachers don’t give other students the opportunity to participate. Lupin’s lessons are also very organized. The students always seem to know what the roadmap for the class will be to the point that they protest when Snape tries to make them skip ahead.

Rowling expertly juxtaposes Lupin’s first lesson next to a description of the Potions lesson in which Snape tries to poison Neville’s toad. If Snape were not so horrible, he would be a great teacher himself. In fact, as I will continue to argue as I finish the series, Harry learns more about how to defeat Voldemort from Snape than from anyone else. Even Dumbledore. The only quibble I really have with Lupin’s lesson is that he asks the students to summarize the chapter. It might be that he is just trying to help them improve their note-taking skills, but I think he could go a little deeper with that assignment. Since I haven’t read the chapter in question, I’m not sure what he might have done with it, but summary is just checking comprehension and is not a very high critical thinking skill.

I actually was interviewed for an Irish radio show about Professor Lupin many years ago. You can list to what I had to say if you like (just click the link, and you can play it in a new tab):

Moncrieff Interview

In chapter eight, “Flight of the Fat Lady,” Harry and Professor Lupin have an interesting conversation about the Boggart class. Lupin is direct with Harry when Harry asks why Lupin didn’t give him a crack at the Boggart. (He didn’t give Hermione one, either… that is curious, no?) Instead of denying he did any such thing, he admits he feared the Boggart would assume the shape of Lord Voldemort. When Harry confesses it would have been a Dementor instead, Lupin says, “Well, well… I’m impressed… That suggests that what you fear most of all is—fear. Very wise, Harry.” Naturally, one thinks of FDR’s speech, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Later when Snape comes in with the Wolfsbane Potion for Lupin to drink, Lupin is very complimentary of Snape’s skills—you never see Snape reciprocate. In fact, he denigrates Lupin in front of his students. Lupin says, “I am very lucky to be working alongside Professor Snape; there aren’t many wizards who are up to making it.” He is grateful in spite of Snape’s outright disrespect. However, it must be noted, Snape makes the potion carefully, and it does ease Lupin’s symptoms while he is at Hogwarts.

In chapter nine, “Grim Defeat,” Hermione notes that it’s lucky that Black picked Halloween to try to break into the Gryffindor Common Room. Ron suggests that Black must have lost track of time, being on the run. I would, of course, submit he chose that night precisely because he knew the students would all be out, and if he could catch Peter Pettigrew, he could do away with the rat with little fuss.

We also meet Cedric Diggory for the first time in this chapter. He is the new captain and Seeker for Hufflepuff, and he famously catches the Snitch before Harry. Possessed of a tremendous sense of fair play, however, he offers to call the game off when he learns that Harry has fallen off his broom, but Hufflepuff won, fair and square. He is a pretty decent person.

Of course, also in the chapter, we see another example of Snape’s meanness when he takes five points from Gryffindor because Hermione is “an insufferable know-it-all.” While on the surface, it’s a horrible thing to say, and it’s completely out of line, I think it might be a misguided attempt on Snape’s part to remind Hermione there are other students in the class. He goes about it in exactly the wrong way, but even Harry says the rest of the class had at one point called Hermione at know-it-all, too. But Ron is right: “You asked a question and she knows the answer! Why ask if you don’t want to be told?” Later on Ron wonders aloud, “Why couldn’t Black have hidden in Snape’s office, eh? He could have finished him off for us!” Once again, Ron is right when he’s only joking around—Black and Snape are enemies, and had they seen each other, a duel likely would have ensued. However, I don’t think Black would have been finishing Snape off. Snape repeatedly shows he is an extremely skilled wizard in this series, and I really don’t think Black would have had a chance, especially not after being in Azkaban for 12 years. He is subtle in his attempt to unmask Professor Lupin as a werewolf, but he’s effective. It’s still a jerk move.

In chapter ten “The Marauder’s Map,” Lupin tells us a great deal about Dementors:

Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them.

Rowling has said that Dementors were meant to be her description of what depression is like. It’s an apt description.

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it, but there is a mention in this chapter of the match between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, during which “Ravenclaw flattened Hufflepuff.” Cedric Diggory was the Hufflepuff Seeker, but did you remember who was Seeker for Ravenclaw? Cho Chang. That means that Cho was pitted against both of her Hogwarts boyfriends in Quidditch this year. She wouldn’t face off against both of them again as Quidditch would be canceled for the Triwizard Tournament the next year, and Cedric would die. Harry is a little taken with her charms and almost lets her get one over on him (more on that later when we get to it), but did you ever wonder if maybe Cedric did lose some focus because he was checking her out? I mean, Hufflepuff was flattened, the book says. Cho had to have caught the Snitch. We know that Cedric is a good Quidditch player. It adds up for me, anyway.

As everyone else is in Hogsmeade, Harry is brooding and trying to figure out how to spend his time when Fred and George Weasley gift him with the Marauder’s Map. First of all, why do they give Harry this map? He is really more Ron’s friend than theirs, and this artifact is really valuable to them. Second, how did Fred and George happen upon the right incantation to work this map? Do a number of variations on the phrase, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good” work just as well? Or does it have to be that exact phrase? Pottermore does not answer this question, but does mention that the magic involved in its creation was complex and difficult: “it includes the Homonculous Charm, enabling the possessor of the map to track the movements of every person in the castle, and it was also enchanted to forever repel (as insultingly as possible) the curiosity of their nemesis, Severus Snape.” Rowling said in an interview that Harry’s son James later finds the map in his father’s study and sneaked it out. After Harry uses the map to sneak into Hogsmeade, we are treated to this fabulous description of Honeyduke’s:

There were shelves upon shelves of the most succulent-looking sweets imaginable. Creamy chunks of nougat, shimmering pink squares of coconut ice, fat, honey-colored toffees; hundreds of different kinds of chocolate in neat rows; there was a large barrel of Every Flavor Beans, and another of Fizzing Whizzbees, the levitating sherbet balls that Ron had mentioned; along yet another wall were ‘Special Effects’ sweets: Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum (which filled a room with bluebell-colored bubbles that refused to pop for days), the strange, splintery Toothflossing Stringmints, tiny black Pepper Imps (‘breathe fire for your friends!’), Ice Mice (‘hear your teeth chatter and squeak!’), peppermint creams shaped like toads (‘hop realistically in the stomach!’), fragile sugar-spun quills and exploding bonbons.

I cannot read that passage without wanting to scarf some candy. One thing Rowling has a gift for is food descriptions.

Later in the chapter, of course, Harry overhears that Sirius Black betrayed his parents and was responsible for their deaths when he is listening to Cornelius Fudge, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, and Rosmerta talking. Cornelius Fudge makes a very accurate observation, though he has confusion about the particulars: “I must say, You-Know-You alone and friendless is one thing … but give him back his most devoted servant, and I shudder to think how quickly he’ll rise again…” And yet, as we know, his inability to acknowledge that what he says he fears in this passage has come to pass causes all sorts of problems and makes it possible for Voldemort to infiltrate the government in a matter of years.

Re-Reading Harry Potter: Dementors are Scary


[amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link] is such a great book. The movie based on it is my least favorite Harry Potter movie.

There are many reasons I love the book:

  • Professor Lupin is awesome.
  • Patronuses (Patroni?) are some seriously cool magic.
  • Sirius Black is seriously scary as a villain.
  • Divination is hilarious. Trelawney role is cut too much from the films compared to her role in the books.
  • The Marauder’s Map is a seriously cool magical object.
  • You get to learn a little bit more about Harry’s father and his friends for the first time in the series.

There are many reasons I don’t love the movie:

  • Professor Lupin is not nearly as awesome. Not even close.
  • Divination is given a short shrift. So is Care of Magical Creatures, but I didn’t care as much.
  • The cuts are so extreme. So much of the James Potter and Co. backstory is deleted.
  • Lupin as werewolf looks weird. Not like a scary werewolf.

There are more reasons.

In the first chapter, “Owl Post,” we find Harry in bed late at night writing an essay for History of Magic about witch burning. It’s an awesome little scene because it acknowledges real history and blends it with the wizarding world of the novels. He also gets his first ever birthday cards and presents. What a sad little scene, isn’t it? I mean, it makes you wonder why the Dursleys had to be that awful.

In the second chapter, “Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake,” perhaps one of the funniest events in the whole series takes place when Harry blows Aunt Marge up like a balloon. I do happen to think the movie handled that scene pretty well. What a horrible human being she is. You know, Pottermore says that part of Aunt Marge’s problem is that she harbors an unrequited love for her neighbor Col. Fubster (who is taking care of the dogs during her absence). Can you imagine how horrible it would be to have Marge Dursley in love with you? Gross. Anyway, according to Pottermore, a lot of her “nasty behavior” towards other people is down to the fact that Col. Fubster doesn’t return her feelings. However, interesting side note, the incident with Marge convinces the Dursleys that it’s not safe to invite Marge to visit when Harry is home, and so he never sees her again. That’s great news, isn’t it? For both of them, probably. J.K. Rowling has said that Lockhart was based on a real person, and I have a feeling that Marge is probably based on a particularly horrible person, too, though perhaps is a composite of a couple of horrible people. The description is too rich, if a little over the top. I love to hate her. I mean, for real—she gave Harry a box of dog biscuits? Who does that?

In chapter three, “The Knight Bus,” Harry is rescued in the form of yet another deus ex machina the Knight Bus. Lucky for him you have to stick out your wand arm and call it, right? How else would he get to London? Ah well, if Rowling relies on these kinds of devices, you can’t blame her too much. In a fantasy novel, they make more sense than in other types of fiction. Right before the bus shows up, Harry has run off and is wondering to himself why Ministry of Magic officials weren’t “swooping down on him where he sat.” Yeah. Why aren’t they? He has the Trace on him, according to Moody, until he’s 17. He should not be that hard to find. Apparition is instantaneous. How does he slip away before they can get there? At any rate, in case you are wondering why there might be a need for the Knight Bus, Pottermore says:

For witches and wizards who are Floo-sick, whose Apparition is unreliable, who hate heights or who feel frightened or queasy taking Portkeys, there is always the Knight Bus, which appears whenever a witch or wizard in urgent need of transportation sticks out their wand arm at the curb.

I do kind of love Stan Shunpike’s explanation when Harry asks “How come the Muggles don’t hear the bus?”

“Them!” said Stan contemptuously. “Don’ listen properly, do they? Don’ look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don’.”

Incidentally, Rowling named the two Knight Bus conductors after her grandfathers, Ernest and Stanley.

Harry arrives at the Leaky Cauldron, more or less in one piece (I would never want to ride that bus myself) and runs smack into Cornelius Fudge, who doesn’t yet hate Harry. I do think it’s kind of funny when Fudge tells Harry that members of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad went to Privet Drive and “punctured” Marge, then modified her memory… “So that’s that, and no harm done.” Harry is rightly skeptical about not being in trouble, and Fudge says, “We don’t send people to Azkaban just for flowing up their aunts!”

Chapter four, “The Leaky Cauldron,” deals with Harry’s last two weeks before returning to Hogwarts. I do like to read about Harry spending two weeks staying in Diagon Alley. It seems like such a grand adventure to be on your own in a place like that at the age of 13 for two weeks. I love the part where Harry does his essay at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. There is a throwaway description of the sorts of people Harry sees at the Leaky Cauldron: “wild-looking warlocks, raucous dwarfs, and, once, what looked suspiciously like a hag, who ordered a plate of raw liver from behind a thick woolen balaclava.” So, though hags are mentioned several times in the series, we never really learn much about them. How are they demonstrably different from witches? Warlock seems to be either a special title given to some wizards or a particularly frightening looking wizard. Dwarfs are mentioned also as delivering singing Valentines in [amazon_link id=”0439064872″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets[/amazon_link].

Harry runs into Ron and Hermione, who are staying at the Leaky Cauldron the night before leaving for Hogwarts. The trio discuss why Harry didn’t land in more trouble over the Aunt Marge incident, and Ron ascribes it to the fact that Harry is Harry Potter, after all:

“I’d hate to see what the Ministry’d do to me if I blew up an aunt. Mind you, they’d have to dig me up first, because Mum would’ve killed me.”

Hermione has three shopping bags of books, and the boys wonder why she is taking Muggle Studies when she’s Muggle-born, but she says, “It’ll be fascinating to study them from the wizarding point of view.” What does it say about me that I totally get what Hermione is saying here, and that I agree, it would be fascinating. Ron also gets a new wand, willow with a unicorn tail-hair. It seems that wands are long or short in proportion to their owners’ heights. Ron, being fairly tall, has a long wand at 14 inches. About willow wands, Pottermore says:

Willow is an uncommon wand wood with healing power, and I have noted that the ideal owner for a willow wand often has some (usually unwarranted) insecurity, however well they may try and hide it. While many confident customers insist on trying a willow wand (attracted by their handsome appearance and well-founded reputation for enabling advanced, non-verbal magic) my willow wands have consistently selected those of greatest potential, rather than those who feel they have little to learn. It has always been a proverb in my family that he who has furthest to travel will go fastest with willow.

Sounds like Ron, doesn’t it? Here is what Pottermore says about unicorn tail-hairs:

Unicorn hair generally produces the most consistent magic, and is least subject to fluctuations and blockages. Wands with unicorn cores are generally the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts. They are the most faithful of all wands, and usually remain strongly attached to their first owner, irrespective of whether he or she was an accomplished witch or wizard.

Minor disadvantages of unicorn hair are that they do not make the most powerful wands (although the wand wood may compensate) and that they are prone to melancholy if seriously mishandled, meaning that the hair may ‘die’ and need replacing.

Of course, Ron’s first wand, Charlie’s old wand, also had a unicorn tail-hair. Interesting to note that Harry’s wand has a phoenix feather core, Ron’s has a unicorn tail-hair, and Hermione’s has dragon heartstring. The trio combined have wands made from the only three substances Ollivander uses as wand cores.

Then we meet Crookshanks. I can’t remember anymore where I read it, but Rowling has said that Crookshanks is part Kneazle, which is why he is particularly aggressive with Wormtail—Kneazles are great at ferreting out untrustworthy individuals. Incidentally, Mrs. Figg breeds Kneazles for a living, which is why she has so many cats.

Later on at dinner, there is a funny scene when Fred said that the Ministry cars would have little flags with HB on them—”for Humungous Bighead.” And right after that, “Everyone except Percy and Mrs. Weasley snorted into their pudding.” Which means that even Hermione, who normally disapproves of Percy-mocking, and Mr. Weasley (!) laughed at Fred’s joke. But Percy is a git, so I don’t blame them too much.

In chapter five, “The Dementor,” we meet not just Dementors, but also Professor Lupin. Lupin in the books is so cool. He is arguably the best teacher Harry has because Harry not only manages to learn a lot from him, but he also establishes a warm relationship with him, unlike the relationship he has with Snape. Lupin also gives excellent assessments (I’ll talk more about that later as we get to it). What is he doing on the Hogwarts Express, though? Is he there by Dumbledore’s request in order to look out for the students or Harry in particular? Surely he has no difficulty with apparition, and if he did, he could travel to Hogwarts by Floo Powder or some other means. There’s no reason for him to be on the train unless he’s meant to protect the students.

Several times in the book we learn the pocket Sneakoscope Ron gave Harry actually works pretty well. Ron mentions to Harry that it went off when Fred and George put beetles in Bill’s soup, though it also could have gone off because Wormtail was nearby. Then again, it went off in this chapter because of Wormtail. Ron says it also went off when he was tying it Errol’s leg. Errol is obviously not trustworthy, as he’s just about ready to keel over after every flight, but Hermione zeroes in on Ron’s behavior at the time instead, and Ron admits he was not supposed to be using Errol for long distances.

The Dementor boards the train and scares the crap out of everybody. I think they are possibly some of the creepiest things I’ve ever read about in any literature, and one of the things I like about them is that they can be felt by Muggles, who experience their presence as depression. Indeed, Rowling has said that depression inspired her creation of Dementors. She said she experienced depression as an “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad.” And I love the fact that chocolate does somewhat counteract the effects of Dementors. According to Pottermore:

The mood-enhancing properties of chocolate are well known in both the Muggle and wizard worlds. Chocolate is the perfect antidote for anyone who has been overcome in the presence of Dementors, which suck hope and happiness out of their surroundings. Chocolate can only be a short-term remedy, however. Finding ways to fight off Dementors—or depression—are essential if one is to become permanently happier. Excessive chocolate consumption cannot benefit either Muggle or wizard.

When announcing the new faculty at the feast, Dumbledore mentions that Professor Kettleburn, Care of Magical Creatures professor, is retiring to “enjoy more time with his remaining limbs.” Pottermore has more to share about Silvanus Kettleburn:

Kettleburn was an enthusiastic and occasionally reckless man whose great love of the often dangerous creatures he studied and looked after led to serious injuries to himself and, occasionally, others. This fact led to no fewer than sixty-two periods of probation during his time of employment at the school (a record that still stands). Like Hagrid after him, he was prone to underestimating the risks involved in caring for creatures such as Occamys, Grindylows and Fire Crabs, and once famously caused the Great Hall to catch fire after enchanting an Ashwinder to play the Worm in a play of “The Fountain of Fair Fortune.”

Kettleburn was a loveable if eccentric man and his continuing employment at the school was evidence of the great affection in which staff and students held him. He finished his career with only one arm and half a leg. Albus Dumbledore presented him with a full set of enchanted wooden limbs on his retirement, a gift that had to be replaced regularly since, because Kettleburn’s habit of visiting dragon sanctuaries in his spare time meant that his prosthetics were frequently set on fire.

Sounds a lot like Hagrid, doesn’t he? Kettleburn had been in Hufflepuff House as a student and had no wife and children.

Image via Harry Potter Wiki.

Re-Reading Harry Potter: The Heir of Slytherin

Image via Rowan Fairgrove on Flickr

I went ahead and finished the rest of [amazon_link id=”0439064872″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets[/amazon_link], so this post will cover chapters 11-18. I didn’t stop after chapter 15 this time. The end of that book is serious! You want to keep reading, you know?

Chapter 11, “The Duelling Club,” is the chapter in which Harry learns the most important spell he will ever learn, at least in terms of defeating Voldemort: “Expelliarmus.” And he learns it from Snape. If you read very carefully, you will notice that it is Snape who teaches Harry pretty much everything he really needs to know in order to defeat Voldemort. In many ways, Harry learns more from Snape than he does any other teacher. I always thought it was interesting that Harry’s signature charm involved disarming—simply taking away an attacking wizard’s power in order to prevent violence. It’s an incredibly effective charm. Because Snape is a bully in the classroom, however, it is very hard for his students to learn from him. They’re afraid of him. What an effective teacher he might have been had he not been so nasty! He is still my favorite character.

We also learn in that chapter that Harry’s ability to talk to snakes is rare and is a sign of being a Dark Wizard. Herpo the Foul, an ancient Greek wizard who probably invented the horcrux and hatched the first basilisk, was also a Parselmouth. No wonder Parselmouths have such a bad rep. Also, since I’m thinking about it, I need to take a minute to make a correction. I’ve seen a quote attributed to J.K. Rowling going around the Internet, mostly on Pinterest via Tumblr, in which she purportedly says that Nagini was that boa constrictor that Harry set free at the zoo on Dudley’s birthday. Not true. Nagini was not a boa constrictor. Actually, her species is never named. However, she was made a horcrux in Albania after Voldemort killed Bertha Jorkins. This rumor has apparently caused such a kerfuffle on the Harry Potter Wiki that the Nagini page has been locked.

Another thing you notice when you read the books is that Harry is a lot funnier and snarkier in the books than in the movies. When Lockhart is trying to coach Harry—”Just do what I did, Harry!”—in the duel with Malfoy, Harry responds, “What, drop my wand?” Snicker.

You do have to wonder why Snape tells Malfoy to cast Serpensortia in the duel. I mean, did he realize Harry was a Parselmouth? Did he hope to out Harry’s ability to speak to snakes? Or was it just a Slytherin thing, and I wouldn’t understand? I do like how the scene plays out, though—Harry doesn’t understand why, but he just yells at the snake to leave Justin alone. I love how Rowling shows us here that a sort of innocent scene in the first book, a case of accidental magic when Harry finds himself talking to a snake, turns out to be much more sinister than we suspected. And interestingly enough, it is the first magic we see Harry perform.

Of course, all of this prompts Harry’s crisis. He starts dwelling on what the Sorting Hat said about his being a good candidate for Slytherin. Also, it’s in this scene, I think, that we first hear the “nasty little voice” in Harry’s head—”Ah… But the Sorting Hat wanted to put you in Slytherin, don’t you remember?” He will hear this voice again. Is it Voldemort’s horcrux, talking to him? I know we all have that voice inside our heads that puts us down, makes us pay more attention to the negative instead of the positive. Still, you have to wonder if in Harry’s case, it’s a little more than that.

Then the whole school is buzzing that Harry is the Heir of Slytherin, and Harry overhears the Hufflepuffs talking about how he must have defeated Voldemort because he’s an even more powerful Dark Wizard. Interesting to note: you might recall Hufflepuff has produced fewer Dark Wizards than any other house. They get along with most folks well, but it stands to reason the mere fact that someone is in Gryffindor wouldn’t preclude the possibility that that someone is also evil. And then, right after this confrontation with the Hufflepuffs, Harry finds Justin Finch-Fletchley petrified in the hallway. He is going to have some ‘splainin’ to do.

In chapter 12, “The Polyjuice Potion,” Harry is taken off to Dumbledore’s office, a very cool place with a “decrepit-looking bird which resembled a half-plucked turkey.” Harry looks at the bird and “was just thinking all he needed was for Dumbledore’s pet bird to die while he was alone in the office with it, when the bird burst into flames.” OK, that is dark, for sure, but it’s funny. And in a tidy piece of exposition, we learn that the bird in question is a phoenix—they can carry heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and they are highly faithful pets. All of which makes Fawkes the perfect deus ex machina. As a matter of fact, when I teach that literary device in my English classes, Fawkes is my example. As Dumbledore questions Harry about whether there is anything else Harry wants to tell him, and Harry doesn’t feel like he should share what he knows, once again, the description makes it appear as though Dumbledore is using legilimency on Harry. Harry is so frustrating in these early books in his refusal to seek help from people.

Another joke later in this chapter—George makes a crack that Harry is “nipping off to the Chamber of Secrets for a cup of tea with his fanged servant.” And, actually, it is fanged.

Of course, this is the chapter in which the trio takes Polyjuice Potion. This potion completely transforms in the books—even the voice. For some reason, possibly clarity—the movies chose to portray characters who have taken Polyjuice Potion with their natural voices. Question: how would this potion affect Muggles? Would it work? We know that love potions work on Muggles because Merope Gaunt successfully used one on Tom Riddle. But what about a Polyjuice Potion? What do you think? I have a hunch that it wouldn’t work on a Muggle, even if a Muggle could get access to some. Pottermore has some interesting things to say about Polyjuice Potion: “The idea that a witch or wizard might make evil use of parts of the body is an ancient one, and exists in the folklore and superstitions of many cultures.” That is true. Think of the witches’ spell in Macbeth. Pottermore adds, “The fact that Hermione is able to make a competent Polyjuice Potion at the age of twelve is testimony to her outstanding magical ability, because it is a potion that many adult witches and wizards fear to attempt.” True, true. J.K. Rowling shares some interesting insights into the potion on Pottermore as well:

I remember creating the full list of ingredients for the Polyjuice Potion. Each one was carefully selected. Lacewing flies (the first part of the name suggested an intertwining or binding together of two identities); leeches (to suck the essence out of one and into the other); horn of a Bicorn (the idea of duality); knotgrass (another hint of being tied to another person); fluxweed (the mutability of the body as it changed into another) and Boomslang skin (a shedded outer body and a new inner).

Also kind of interesting to note: when Harry and Ron (as Crabbe and Goyle) run into Percy, Percy says that because he is a Prefect, “Nothing is about to attack me.” Of course, that’s ridiculous, as Penelope Clearwater later is attacked, but where does he get that idea that Prefects are somehow that special? Tells you a lot about Percy rather early on, doesn’t it?

Harry and Ron learn from Malfoy that Ron’s father was fined over the enchanted Ford Anglia. But Malfoy says something rather interesting: “You know, I’m surprised the Daily Prophet hasn’t reported all these attacks yet.” Yeah. Me too. Why do they keep it quiet? Because of Fudge? I know Malfoy blames Dumbledore for that, but Dumbledore is a little more on the up-and-up than that. He has learned his lessons about secrecy (unless it is necessary). Malfoy also makes a comment that “A decent Headmaster would never’ve let slime like that Creevey in.” Which makes me wonder—have other Headmasters actively blocked the admittance of Muggle-born witches and wizards? Did Phineas Nigellus? Or was that kind of thing more or less outside their control, as long as a child showed magical ability? Hmm.

The last bit of interesting news Harry and Ron learn is that the Chamber of Secrets was opened 50 years ago, and a student died. In the next chapter, “The Very Secret Diary,” Harry and Ron find Tom Riddle’s old diary in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. Interesting note about Ron here. His first compulsion regarding the diary:

Harry stepped forward to pick it up, but Ron suddenly flung out an arm to hold him back.

“What?” said Harry?

“Are you mad?” said Ron. “It could be dangerous.”

Ron is not given to cautiousness as a general rule. But his first response to seeing the diary is to be careful and not to touch it. And he’s right. Ron is given the short shrift in the movies. He is a lot more intuitive than the movies make him out to be. He has good instincts. He also makes a joke about why T.M. Riddle received his special award for services to the school: “Maybe he murdered Myrtle, that would have done everyone a favor.” Yikes. That is exactly what he did. See what I mean? Good instincts. You will often find that when Ron is making a joke, he’s actually dead-on accurate. It’s a little spooky.

Ron tries to convince Harry to get rid of the diary, but “Harry couldn’t explain, even to himself, why he didn’t just throw Riddle’s diary away. The fact was that even though he knew the diary was blank, he kept absent-mindedly picking it up and turning the pages, as though it was a story he wanted to finish.” I think it’s the horcrux connection. He senses some sort of connection between himself and the book, and that is why he can’t bring himself to just toss it.

Oh. My. Gosh. That Valentine’s Day scene in the book is priceless. It’s too bad it was cut from the films. I love it. But when ink spills all over the diary, Harry gets a hunch and tries writing in it, which is how he discovers the diary talks back. And it tells Harry that “The monster [in the Chamber of Secrets] lived on, and the one who had the power to release it was not imprisoned.” Well, that is too true, isn’t it? The way Harry is pitched into the past through the diary reminds me very much of the Pensieve. In fact, because it is also Tom Riddle’s memory, in addition to a piece of his soul, it probably works much the same as the Pensieve.

Harry begins noticing odd similarities between Tom Riddle and himself—something that Riddle will also point out later on.

In chapter 14, “Cornelius Fudge,” the diary is stolen from Harry, and Hermione figures out that the monster in the chamber is a basilisk and goes to the library to confirm her hunch. She is petrified right afterward. Harry and Ron sneak out to talk to Hagrid using Harry’s cloak, and they learn that Dumbledore is suspended. Right before he leaves, he says, somehow knowing Harry and Ron are in Hagrid’s hut, that “help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

In chapter 15, “Aragog,” Harry and Ron follow Hagrid’s suggestion to “follow the spiders.” Yech! Is that a horrific scene or what? The one thing that Harry dwells on after they escape from the acromantulas is that even they are afraid of the monster in the Chamber of Secrets: “The creature that was lurking somewhere in the castle, he thought, sounded like a sort of monster Voldemort—even other monsters didn’t want to name it.” The twinning of the basilisk with Voldemort is obvious to the reader here, but it doesn’t occur to Harry that the Heir of Slytherin could be Voldemort because he believes Voldemort to be roaming, bodiless and unable to inflict harm.

In chapter 16, “The Chamber of Secrets,” the boys find the piece of paper crumpled in Hermione’s hand and realize the monster is a basilisk, and finally Harry understands why he alone seems to hear the monster. Everything else comes together as they realize the student who died 50 years ago was, indeed, Moaning Myrtle. And then Ginny is taken into the Chamber.

How crazy are those two for thinking they can fight off a basilisk? Why don’t they ever tell anyone anything? Well, they do decide, for some crazy reason, to tell Lockhart, of all people. And they learn he’s a great big fraud, which they already suspected. But they manage to disarm him and force him to accompany him to the Chamber of Secrets.

On Pottermore, we learn that the other three founders had no idea about Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets, and none of them created “grandiose statues” of themselves. He is also the only one of the founders to create his own room for the express purpose of keeping everyone but a select few out: “Perhaps, when he first constructed the Chamber, Slytherin wanted no more than a place in which to instruct his students in spells of which the other three founders may have disapproved (disagreements sprung up early around the teaching of the Dark Arts).”

Also, this is interesting:

There is clear evidence that the Chamber was opened more than once between the death of Slytherin and the entrance of Tom Riddle in the twentieth century. When first created, the Chamber was accessed through a concealed trapdoor and a series of magical tunnels. However, when Hogwarts’ plumbing became more elaborate in the eighteenth century (this was a rare instance of wizards copying Muggles, because hitherto they simply relieved themselves wherever they stood, and vanished the evidence), the entrance to the Chamber was threatened, being located on the site of a proposed bathroom. The presence in school at the time of a student called Corvinus Gaunt—direct descendant of Slytherin, and antecedent of Tom Riddle—explains how the simple trapdoor was secretly protected, so that those who knew how could still access the entrance to the Chamber even after newfangled plumbing had been placed on top of it.

Whispers that a monster lived in the depths of the castle were also prevalent for centuries. Again, this is because those who could hear and speak to it were not always as discreet as they might have been: the Gaunt family could not resist boasting of their knowledge. As nobody else could hear the creature sliding beneath floorboards or, latterly, through the plumbing, they did not have many believers, and none, until Riddle, dared unleash the monster on the castle.

Successive headmasters and mistresses, not to mention a number of historians, searched the castle thoroughly many times over the centuries, each time concluding that the chamber was a myth. The reason for their failure was simple: none of them was a Parselmouth.

In chapter 17, “The Heir of Slytherin,” Harry comes face to face with Voldemort again, this time as the 16-year-old memory/horcrux preserved in the diary. Question: Can a wizard regenerate from a horcrux alone? How does that work? Does it just keep a wizard from dying, or is there a way to create a new body from one? Inquiring minds want to know!

Another thing I want to know is why Harry stupidly flings his wand aside. It’s not like he needed to drop it to free his hands. What the heck was he thinking?

Another weird thing: Riddle accuses Hagrid of raising werewolf cubs under his bed. That’s impossible. Werewolves are people who transform at the full moon into wolves. They do have have cubs. They have children. Sometimes I think Voldemort is stupid. He’s supposed to be very clever, but for someone who is supposed to be clever, he sure forgets a lot of obvious, important things.

He tells Harry that his father abandoned his mother when he found out she was a witch. Sadly, we learn what really happened was she stopped feeding him love potion. I do feel sorry for Merope Gaunt.

Riddle tells Harry there are “strange likenesses between us, Harry Potter.”

  • Both half-bloods. Well, Harry isn’t really. His mother was Muggle-born, but not a Muggle. Tom Riddle’s father was an actual Muggle.
  • Both orphans. Well, the fact that Harry is an orphan is Riddle’s own fault.
  • Both raised by Muggles.
  • Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since Slytherin. Nope, as we learned on Pottermore, the descendants of Slytherin between Slytherin and Tom Riddle could speak to snakes, too.
  • “We even look something alike.”

Creepy. And all of this has to do with the notion that they are essentially two sides of the same coin. They have many of the same problems and opportunities in life, but it is what they each choose to do with that life that makes them different. Voldemort is Harry’s shadow, and I’m not the first person to come up with that theory. Here is another interesting essay about that theory.

Just as things look bleakest for Harry the deus ex machina Fawkes shows up with the Sorting Hat, which is packing the Sword of Gryffindor. Harry uses the sword to kill the basilisk after Fawkes blinds it, rendering it a little less deadly (at least it can no longer murder Harry with its stare; the fangs are still a problem). Isn’t it weird how it just occurs to Harry somehow that he should stab the diary with a basilisk fang? I mean, what prompted that? Would you have thought to do that? I wouldn’t have. And I’d have died right there in the Chamber of Secrets.

In the final chapter, “Dobby’s Reward,” Dumbledore makes an interesting comment about Voldemort:

Very few people know that Voldemort was once called Tom Riddle. I taught him myself, fifty years ago, at Hogwarts. He disappeared after leaving the school… traveled far and wide… sank so deeply into the Dark Arts, consorted with the very worst of our kind, underwent so many dangerous, magical transformations, that when he resurfaced as Lord Voldemort, he was barely recognizable. Hardly anyone connected Lord Voldemort with the clever, handsome boy who was once Head Boy here.

We later learn that it was the process of making horcruxes that twisted Voldemort’s appearance. He was able to obliterate his past, and it always seems to be those wizards whom he has most cause to fear that remind him he was once Tom Riddle and call him by name: Dumbledore and Harry.

If you were wondering at all about the genesis of the argument over Gryffindor’s sword—did Godric Gryffindor steal it from the goblins? Or did they lie about it? Here’s the truth from Pottermore:

The sword was made to Godric Gryffindor’s specifications by Ragnuk the First, finest of the goblin silversmiths, and therefore King (in goblin culture, the ruler does not work less than the others, but more skillfully). When it was finished, Ragnuk coveted it so much that he pretended that Gryffindor had stolen it from him, and sent minions to steal it back. Gryffindor defended himself with his wand, but did not kill his attackers. Instead he sent them back to their king bewitched, to deliver the threat that if he ever tried to steal from Gryffindor again, Gryffindor would unsheathe the sword against them all.

The goblin king took the threat seriously and left Gryffindor in possession of his rightful property, but remained resentful until he died. This was the foundation for the false legend of Gryffindor’s theft that persists, in some sections of the goblin community, to this day.

Just so you know for later, Griphook was in the wrong.

Dumbledore also shares something very important with Harry. If you were an astute reader, you probably remembered it when you learned about horcruxes in [amazon_link id=”0439785960″ target=”_blank” ]Half-Blood Prince[/amazon_link]:

Unless I’m much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I’m sure…”

And you said, OMG! Harry’s a horcrux!

But Dumbledore also said, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” And that is what makes Harry different from Voldemort.

Case in point? Harry is moved to free Dobby from the Malfoy family. Voldemort didn’t care about house elves. To his detriment, later, when he harmed Kreacher and thereby lost the service of Regulus Black.

On the train ride back, Harry and his friends “practiced disarming each other by magic. Harry was getting very good at it.” See, I think Rowling is clever to insert that little sentence because if you are good enough at defending yourself, you don’t need to attack. And it is through defending himself that he will ultimately defeat Voldemort, turning Voldemort’s evil back onto himself and making him responsible for his own destruction.

Whew. These are really long essays. I need to condense.