Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Ch. 9-10: We earn every letter of NSFW

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Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies! This episode, we discuss: obsession with surnames; why witches fly on brooms; why ONLY witches fly on brooms; lady ointment and phallic symbols; sanitizing and co-opting feminist history; What the Fuck, Hogwarts?; Oliver Wood is a hottie; Star Wars and toxic masculinity; what your Quidditch position says about YOU; why Hermione kicks all the ass; and why public bathrooms shouldn’t lock from the outside.

Chapter 9: The Midnight Duel

S: We start to flesh out Harry’s interactions with Draco, who is described thus: “Harry had never believed he would meet a boy he hated more than Dudley. But that was before he met Draco Malfoy.” And this is the chapter with the first flying lesson.

C: You know what I think is interesting about Malfoy? Everybody calls him “Malfoy.”

S: Yeah, first name use is inconsistent. Malfoy and Harry use last names, but even his friends call him Malfoy.

C: Later on when we get to the Christmas chapters there’s one point where Hagrid comes in with a Christmas tree, and Draco’s starting shit with Harry and Ron, and Snape comes along to take points, and Hagrid says, “Oh, no, Professor, he was antagonized by Malfoy.”

S: I think maybe later in the series we see Pansy Parkinson call him Draco, when it seems like they’re sort of dating, and obviously Draco’s father calls him Draco, but not many do. I don’t know if that speaks to being intimidated by the Malfoys in general… He definitely loves the last name option. Even for Crabbe and Goyle. Maybe that speaks more to the Malfoy obsession with lineage – that Draco’s been raised with this notion that your family name is the most important thing about you. That’s one of the first things he asks Harry in Madam Malkin’s: “What’s your surname?” So maybe that’s part of the environment that he’s been brought up in and that’s his impulse – to use the last name, because that’s the name that matters.

C: When you have names like Draco and Scorpius, one hopes you have another, better name.

S: What the fuck else are you going to do? Although Malfoy’s not much better.

C: It rolls off the tongue better than Scorpius, though.

S: Nominative determinism, people. Learn the definition, make some changes. Have we ever talked about the nominative determinism of Harry Potter’s name?

C: No.

S: First of all, everything all Biblical, there are many scriptures that describe God as a potter that molds people, talks about being clay in the hands of a potter, the Great Potter. That’s a very Biblical image. So there’s that. And Harry is a good strong English name, but it makes me think of Henry IV and V, in which Hal goes by Harry quite a bit, and is this epic symbol of English rulership and salvation. We get that great “Once more unto the breach, dear friends!” speech.

C: “Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war, for God, Harry and King George!”

S: So Quidditch. We’re about to SERIOUSLY segue here. I hope you’re prepared.

C: Segues is why we have literally tens of fans.

S: Our tens of fans are amazing! We have such badass fans.

C: We do. I agree completely. I appreciate everyone.

S: Quidditch and flying. When I first read this, I thought it was so clever the way Rowling takes the historical trappings of witchcraft and magic and turns them into something much more benign and practical. Witches on brooms is a cultural image stamped into our consciousness. A witch rides a broom, from The Wizard of Oz and back. She takes that, neutralizes it, and turns it into a sport. So it’s transportation, but also the sport that everyone is obsessed with. You can’t make that more benign.

But can we segue to talk about WHY people associate witches with brooms? I did research.

C: Go for it. Is it because everyone hates housework?

S: No. It’s actually much more interesting than that.

C: Damn. Go on.

S: In the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, people largely used rye to make bread. Rye, and plants in that family, can produce a fungus called ergot, and when you consume it in high doses, it’s lethal – but in small doses, it’s a powerful hallucinogen. There are references to this from the 14th to 17th century, of people dancing through the streets, speaking nonsense, experiencing wild visions. I found an article talking about how the psychedelic effects of LSD were discovered by someone studying this fungus.

So people, as people do, when they discover something that can jack you up, people ask, “How do I distill and use this for pleasure?” People started experimenting. And there are also hallucinogenic chemicals in things like belladonna (nightshade), henbane, mandrake, jimsonweed, and interestingly, aconite.

Thus in the 16th century, people were making this ointment with all these herbs and using it to get high. The thing was, they needed a distribution method, because if you just consumed this stuff, you’d get nausea and vomiting, and people realized that if you absorbed them through the skin you could get the hallucinations without the nasty side effects. The best places to do that were, apparently, the armpits and the genitals. Because in the armpits you have lymph nodes and sweat glands, and in your genitals you have a very absorbent mucous membrane.

So I’m not making this shit up: people started using broom handles as a delivery system, and I’ll leave it at that.

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C: I already don’t like where this is going. If you have to use a broom handle, you are delivering it too far up.

S: Well, there’s no explicit statement of insertion of a broom handle. It’s more like straddling the broom handle and grinding on it to get it in there.

C: SO MANY SPLINTERS!!!

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She doesn’t seem to mind…

S: So now – you have this very odd use of a broom associated with a potion, associated with people behaving weirdly and hallucinating.

C: Hell, you behaved weirdly before you started to hallucinate, because you’re humping a fucking broom.

S: And apparently the primary hallucination was…flying. The sensation of flying. So literally, that is how this concept started. PEOPLE STICKING BROOM HANDLES IN THEIR JUNK TO GET HIGH. Can we pause for a moment and appreciate how amazing humanity is?

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“The Witches’ Sabbath” by Luis Falero

C: You know, people used to do that and the worse that would happen was…somebody would think you were a witch and maybe you’d get burned for it. Now we throw millions of people in jail for it.

S: Yes.

C: Just let people get high, dammit. As long as they’re not watching children or driving or some shit, let them do what they want, enjoy their weird-ass trips, then be done with it. Make it legal, tax the ever-loving shit out of it. Boom.

S: We can’t do that. Now there’s also some interesting feminist implications to the brooms.

Brooms have even been incorporated in marriage ceremonies. You have a broom handle (phallic symbol) coupled with the base itself, which is –

C: What, like a bush?

S: Yeah, either a bush or a symbol of domesticity, so you unite the two.

C: Oh, God.

S: People think about these things WAY TOO MUCH. I don’t know who looked at their broom and said, “Lo! Before me I see an enduring symbol of the unification of the male and female genitalia, that we shall incorporate into our marriage rituals!”

It ties into pagan fertility rituals, where phallic objects (shovels, pitchforks, brooms) were piloted through fields with people jumping as high as they could to entice crops to grow. So you’ve also got this connection with brooms and people leaping.

We’ve got this weird brew of paganism, brooms, fertility symbols, and flying. Mix that with hallucinogenic broom humping and you’ve got an interesting recipe.

Now let’s stir in a historical male fear of female sexuality, and the notion that there are a bunch of women having a lot of fun using broom handles to get their jollies.

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SO. MANY. JOLLIES.

C: We can’t have that, can we?

S: There’s this convenient mishmash of things combined in a fear of witches, who were often portrayed as overly sexual, dangerous due to sexuality, having unnatural congress with the devil and demons. Sex is baked in the pie when you talk about people’s notion of witches. And a lot of the illustrations of witches from that period are all naked women. In fact, witches were portrayed as naked women for centuries. And there are lots of paintings of naked women on brooms. Just sayin.

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Here, have another! (Depart Pour Le Sabbat by Albert Penot)

C: You know, I would like to come out and say on this podcast: that I have never humped a broomstick, but I would rather hump a broomstick than fuck any guys like that. Just leave me and my broomstick to ourselves.

S: There’s a great article on Atlas Obscura, and there is a paragraph that just nailed it:

From the viewpoint of our modern times, such drug use and self pleasure are not such shocking acts, but are liberating. But at the time, a woman choosing to do what she wished with her own body or mind was so unthinkable as to be synonymous with the Devil himself. Many women were tortured and killed because they dared to explore such personal liberties.

Some of these paintings, like this 16th century drawing of witches “mid-flight” basically just looks like a big lady orgy, getting each other off.

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And some are more… interesting. Seriously, this is a sexy, sexy rabbit hole

C: Good for them! You do you, girl.

S: So the fear of witches – if you know anything about accusations, it was deeply tied into fears of women’s sexuality. I found an interesting assertion that this goes as far back as people not understanding the connection between sex and giving birth, because the two things would happen so far apart. We’re talking a very primitive stage here, but people having sex and all of a sudden this woman’s body changes, and then there’s a baby out of nowhere! How did that happen? And then women’s bodies mysteriously bleeding every day, when we know that bleeding is bad and yet somehow they’re fine! And to men, this appeared dangerous, magical, and uncontrollable. They couldn’t understand it, didn’t know what caused it, and nothing they did changed it.

C: So this is an era of civilization where we have not evolved all that much.

S: We really haven’t. This notion that women are magical has very deep roots. We don’t have time to talk about it all. But this notion of women on brooms is tied into that fear of women, their sexuality, women with phallic objects pleasuring themselves without a man.

So back to J.K. Rowling. This is the history of why we picture witches on brooms. And let me ask you – before Harry Potter, do you recall ever seeing an image of a wizard flying on a broom?

C: No. The only wizard I can think of would be Merlin.

S: But we never saw him on a broom. He’d just disappear and reappear somewhere. Male wizards kept their feet pretty firmly on the ground.

C: I wasn’t reading fantasy novels at the time, so I’m pretty sure that literally the only wizard I could have named would be Merlin, and the picture in my head of him is from The Sword in the Stone, that animated Disney movie. I can’t think of any other wizards or warlocks or whatever – it’s always witches on brooms.

S: It’s always women. Even Halloween costumes! I’ve never seen a Halloween costume pre-Harry Potter that put a man on a broom.

C: No, because he’s already got his broom – between his legs.

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S: Precisely. I imagine Freud and his penis envy could make a lot out of that. So J.K. Rowling has taken a concept that is deeply steeped in feminist issues, patriarchy, sexism, and she’s turned it into a recreational sport. On one hand, I think that’s kind of awesome, because you’ve taken something with so many negative societal implications and completely sanitized it for what is a children’s story. You’ve removed sexual implications completely. But part of me also finds it interesting that she’s the first person to co-opt this notion and put it in the hands of boys.

She’s put it in a sport that some girls don’t care about, but that some like Ginny and Angelina Johnson seriously do, and she’s sanitized it and turned it into a vehicle for male excellence or team excellence in our male hero, who is excellent on a broom.

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I don’t really know how I feel about this or where I’m going with it, because I don’t actually think it’s a bad thing entirely, at least in this context – she’s made this gender-neutral, accessible, fun thing.

But it’s still co-opting a part of feminist history.

C: We know that there are always girls on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. I don’t recall girls on the other teams.

S: There are a couple. Cho Chang is a Ravenclaw Seeker, and there are girls on the other teams. Although I will say, the few times I recall them mentioning girls on the Slytherin team, they’re ugly.

C: Ah!

S: Seriously! Either ugly or really hefty.

C: Well, that kind of torpedoes my point. I was going to say that there are girls on the teams that are supposed to be “good.” I think even the Irish team in Goblet of Fire has women, but I don’t recall if Bulgaria does.

S: The Bulgarian team has a few. I think the Irish team does have a more equal balance, you’re right. Gryffindor too does seem to have an almost equal split, 50/50. When I think about the Slytherin team, particularly as they’re portrayed in the movie, it’s mostly dudes.

Maybe there’s something there, maybe she signals good and bad through the distribution of gender equality. Now whether her treatment of women in this series actually signals gender equality is a WHOLE OTHER topic. But I think you have a point with the fact of the Gryffindor team embracing boy and girl players, and gender not even being a consideration. It’s accepted as an all-access sport. Either you’re good, or you’re not.

I don’t know if I have a point, like I said. Maybe our tens of fans will have a thought, which I would love to hear.

C: Also consider that you’re sitting on a broom, and some of it I’m sure is how good your reaction time is, or knowing when to pass, or get your shot in, but your ass is a broom and your broom is doing most of the work. That’s not the case in normal human sport.

S: In this world, brooms are treated more like we treat our cars, the way people identify with the model and speed and style. There’s a lot of echoes of the way people view vehicles.

A lot of it is down to the skills of the person. Fred and George are great Beaters because they’re fearless. Harry’s a great Seeker because he’s fast and has great reflexes.

But you’re right – Harry hears Fred and George complaining about the school brooms vibrating or flying slightly to the left.

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Not mine, of course.

So that was my feminist segue. I hope we get interesting comments on that.

C: How could you listen to a lecture about people humping broomsticks and not leave a comment? Come on. Not even just a broomstick – humping a broomstick slathered with hallucinogenic ointment.

S:  And then getting busy with a bunch of naked women hopped up on hallucinogenic vagina ointment.

C: It sounds like a party.

S: Judging by the paintings, it really was.

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Need I say more? (Francisco Goya, “Witches Flight”)

Let’s go back to the sanitized version of the first flying lesson, where we find out that Malfoy has been gripping his broom wrong for years. Do with that what you will.

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C: It’s too easy.

S: Harry’s broom leaps into his hand instantly, Hermione’s rolls over, Neville’s doesn’t move at all. Seems like confidence has a lot to do with this. Neville’s eventually takes off with him, and he falls off with it.

C: I’m sorry, I have this mental image of Hermione’s broom just rolling over and muttering, “Whatever.” And it’s just cracking me up! Don’t even know why it’s so funny. It just flops over lazily. “Whatever.”

S: I wish someone would gif that moment from the movie and put a little thought bubble on the broom: “Ugh, whatever.”

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THERE IS A GOD

Poor Neville. He breaks his wrist and Madam Hooch takes him to the hospital wing, which brings me to the first installment of our recurring segment, What The Fuck, Hogwarts?!

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C: Not enough adult supervision for these children.

S: Teachers aren’t supposed to leave their classes! That’s cardinal rule number 1. If you leave your class you can get fired. You don’t leave a class unsupervised, especially not a bunch of 11-year olds when you’ve just given them flying objects on a beautiful day, and trust them not to abuse that! And you just leave them with no supervision! Neville can get his own ass to the hospital. Another student can accompany him. WHAT THE FUCK.

C: I’m sure you could raise up that wand you’ve got in your robes and send out a shower of sparks, and someone will notice and say, hey, what’s up?

S: The teachers should have some kind of instant messaging system. We really need this. Poor Madam Pomfrey is overworked sometimes, and a little advance warning would be nice.

C: One would think. Prepare a bed and make sure you have Skele-Gro ready, because Harry has lost all the bones in his arm, for example.

S: This concludes today’s segment of: What The Fuck, Hogwarts?!

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FIN

Malfoy finds Neville’s Remembrall and is goofing off with it, and Harry steps up and says give it back, that’s not yours. Malfoy takes the opportunity to play magic keep-away, flies up all “Hahahah you can’t get me up here!”

I know I say this too much – “I love this line!” – but I love this paragraph every time I read it, when Harry flies for the first time: “And in a rush of fierce joy, he realized he’d found something he could do without being taught. This was easy. This was wonderful.”

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Of course our hero is a good athlete! He’s not super exceptional – he handles himself well, but he’s no Hermione. Malfoy throws, Harry goes to catch it in a deep dive, topples onto the grass from a foot off the ground, and Professor McGonagall ROARS from behind. Because now we have adult supervision before any deaths.

McGonagall is angry…sputtering..shocked…and takes Harry into the castle…leaving the rest of the class…again…WITH NO SUPERVISION… and not telling any other teachers.

C: I would like to point out before we move on, for the sake of pointing it out, that the first person to tell Malfoy to shut up is Parvati Patil. Later on when McGonagall gets there and everyone thinks Harry’s in trouble, she pipes up and says it wasn’t his fault. And we know it’s her, because McGonagall says, “Be quiet, Miss Patil!”

S: Good point!

C: So you go, Parvati. That is your Gryffindor, and I approve.

S: Damn straight.

Harry’s being marched upstairs, terrified he’ll be expelled. But he shouldn’t worry, really. It’s impossible to get expelled from Hogwarts unless you’re a minority.

C: We’ve learned that all too well.

S: Professor McGonagall goes to fetch Oliver Wood – a hottie – from Professor Flitwick.

C: He’s a babe.

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S: With a name like Oliver Wood…..mmmm-hmmmmm. With his lovely accent! And he is a babe. It is unfortunate that he didn’t get more screen time, because I love as the Quidditch season gets more intense in later books, Oliver Wood gets more and more deranged. I would have loved to see him play that.

C: I would have loved to see him do literally anything, because he was that attractive.

S: He was super cute. But in the book, he’s burly, not trim Scottish adorableness. McGonagall demonstrates that adults have rules, but set them aside immediately to get one over on someone else.

C: Just like football in real life!

S: Yes. So McGongagall is all, You are taking this kid on, he is your Seeker, we need to kick Slytherin’s ass, don’t screw it up. I love that McGonagall and Snape have this rivalry – “I couldn’t look Severus Snape in the face for weeks!”

C: I love that.

S: I know! You haven’t seen the last movie, which kills me, but that will make finally watching it epic. But there is a moment in the last movie that plays out differently in the book, where Snape raises his wand against Harry and McGonagall steps in front of Harry, and now Snape is facing her down – and Snape hesitates. It’s a great moment from Alan Rickman. You see that he doesn’t want to attack her. Not that he’s afraid of her, at least not the way Rickman plays it in the film, but you get in that moment the impression that as much as these two were rivals, they worked together for years and there was a lot of respect there.

C: Was she his professor when he was in school?

S: I’d have to look it up on Pottermore. If you know, one of our tens of fans, please tell us. That’s an amazing wordless moment, and I like that they are rivals and respected colleagues.

And we get validation, because Harry’s dad was an excellent Quidditch player. “My father was a Jedi?!” “Yep. Here, have his phallic symbol.”

C: That doesn’t work anymore, because Rey has Anakin’s light saber!

S: Yeah, and how did she get it?

C: From another woman. Oh, how about that?

S: Yeah, but I was referring to the scene where Kylo Ren – which, I read an amaaaazing theory online (I think it was the Mary Sue) about Kylo Ren as representative of toxic masculinity – assumes that Anakin’s light saber is his by rights, but is completely flummoxed when it is not and it instead goes to Rey.

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“What, bitch?!”

C: Oh, totally. “That light saber belongs to me!”

S: Basically, Rey’s got your nuts in a sack. Suck on that, toxic masculinity. We’re back to our dirty selves. I feel so much better.

C: Every podcast is better when we talk about orgasms and curse.

S: Harry gets to be the first first-year seeker in a century, and Fred and George are all excited for him, and congratulatory.

C: Can we just say, too, that if we’re going with this idea of broomsticks as phallic symbols? Fred and George are Beaters.

S: That’s going to stick around.

C: Mmmm-hmmm. That should be the title of this episode. Just, “Mmmmm-hmmmm.”

S: And then Malfoy comes up and challenges Harry to a penis measuring contest! A ‘wizard’s duel,’ which is ridiculous. I see why they didn’t include it in the movie, because really the only reason this exists is to get Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville – and it is a travesty that Neville is not included in the movie at this point – to get them stuck outside the common room so they can go adventuring.

Harry and Ron go to sneak out, and their conscience is waiting: Hermione in a pink bathrobe and a frown, hissing at them like an angry goose.

She follows them out, yelling at them about getting in trouble, but the Fat Lady has left her frame and they are locked out with Hermione and Neville, who’s been camped out on the stairs since he forgot the password.

So all four go to the wizard’s duel, which was never going to happen and was set up to get them caught by Filch. So they must flee. Then they encounter Peeves, which makes it worse, because you can’t tell Peeves not to tell on you, because he will then do exactly that. They run, get to a locked door at the end of a corridor, and then Hermione single-handedly demonstrates that this school should not be allowed to function by opening a locked door containing a dangerous thing behind it with Alohomora.

C: This proves that she should have know better 20, 30 years down the road or whatever in Cursed Child and not just locked her door in the Ministry with Alohomora.

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“Oh, move OVER!”

S: Damn straight she knew better! She unlocked a door with that her first year! And Dumbledore – Grindelwald knew better; why don’t you?

They get through the door and think they’re in the clear until they turn around and are looking straight into the eyes of a monstrous three headed dog – Cerberus, aka Fluffy!

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C: Leave it to Hagrid to name something like that “Fluffy.”

S: I like that in the book, and I don’t know why they changed it – in the movie Hagrid says he bought Fluffy from some Irish chap, but in the book, he says it was from a Greek person. Anyway, they get back to the common room, Hermione gets her temper back and points out how stupid they all are – there was a trap door under Fluffy, who is guarding something. She then storms off, because you are all too stupid for her.

Harry is now thinking – Gringotts is the safest place, except for Hogwarts. Again, screw you, J.K., since this comes full circle 7 years later.

Harry is now convinced that that’s where the little package from 713 is.

Chapter 10: Halloween

S: They’re trying to figure out what the object could be, but Neville doesn’t care and Hermione isn’t talking to them. Meanwhile Harry gets his new Nimbus 2000 and has his first Quidditch lesson.

C: “Is that your racing broom, Harry? Or is that your humping broom?”

S: Is that a new broom, Harry, or are you happy to see me?

C: Depends. Do you have the hallucinogenic ointment?

S: And are you Oliver Wood?

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“That’s Sean Biggerstaff, to you.” (SERIOUSLY, NO JOKE, IT IS)

C: Ooooh.

S: Malfoy sees the broom and thinks he can get Harry in trouble, until Flitwick shows up all, “Harry, congrats on your broom and your special circumstances and how we’re all willing to bend the rules for you, ha ha!” and walks off.

Now Hermione is even more pissed, since it’s a reward for breaking rules. And Ron has some good come backs. Harry: “I thought you weren’t speaking to us?” Ron: “Yes, don’t stop now, it’s doing us so much good.” Sassy Ron! A little dickish, but still.

He opens the Nimbus, he’s over the moon about it, and it’s like a car. They go to the Quidditch field to try it out, and Wood shows up to explain the rules. Seven players (7!) per side, 3 Chasers – which was Newt’s position – 2 beaters, a Keeper and a Seeker. Chasers are trying to score in 3 hoops, Beaters are keeping bludgers away, and the Seeker is Harry, who must catch the Snitch.

C: Okay, so you said that you had some thoughts about how characters’ Quidditch positions relate to them as characters. I want to hear it.

S: Absolutely. The Seeker is an archetype, the character that seeks truth, uncovers mysteries, gains knowledge, and they’re always trying to solve or discover. Harry is a Seeker for each book’s mystery, the objects he needs to defeat Voldemort, the truth about himself, and the things which allow him to live. That imagery of circles is constantly used in relation to Harry. Dumbledore leaves him a Snitch. He and circles and Seeking – even down to his perfectly round glasses – are constantly associated. So it’s fitting that his job is to Seek, and catch, the Snitch.

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By catching it, he ends the game. So he is the deciding factor in this whole story. But there’s a strategy to ending it. You’ve got to count on your team, who are scoring in the meantime. If you end the game at the wrong time, you could lose. That foreshadows Book 7, where Harry has to make a decision, time it, and delegate things to happen afterward so the game can be won. He counts on his team, which is doing so much to win this. But he is ultimately the deciding factor.

Fred and George are Beaters. And aside from the obvious jokes, they’re blunt objects. They hurtle through life, and they will defend you. If someone comes after you Fred and George will make their life hell. They’re a force to be reckoned with.

Ron ends up a Keeper, and it takes him a while to get there. He does finally find the confidence to be a protector, guard the goalposts, control certain outcomes – but it takes time for him to gain that confidence.

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He just needed practice using his broomstick

Ginny also plays Seeker in Harry’s place for a while, but she’s normally a Chaser. She and Harry have a lot in common, which is why she can go interchangeably in the roles.

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Malfoy is a Seeker, since he mirrors Harry, but he’s not as good. We see that on the pitch and off. Cedric was also a Seeker.

The characters’ role on the pitch tells you a lot about who they are and the role they play. (Side note – aside from Fleur, all three boys in the TriWizard Tournament play the Seeker position in Quidditch.)

C: I like it.

S: Woohoo!  We get the rules of Quididtch. Paying attention to how these games play out will be a lot of fun. Harry practices, Wood is over the moon, and we get to Halloween morning. Professor Flitwick is teaching them how to make objects fly. We get the infamous, “You’re saying it wrong, it’s Le-vi-O-sa, not Le-vi-o-SA” line.

C: I love that in the movie.

S: This is also the first time where there’s a spell like Wingardium Leviosa, which is cumbersome and two words. After this she abandons that model and spells are shorter and one word. Except for Petrificus Totalus and Avada Kedavra. Can you remember others?

C: Oh hell no. If you can’t think of it, I can’t think of it.

S: Ron’s pride is hurt, Hermione shows him up, and he calls her a nightmare, which she overhears and storms off, crying.

Can we talk about Hermione? Where do we start with her?

C: Yes, let’s! She’s my favorite person. She’s amazing.

S: She’s brainy, so much smarter than anyone around her. She’s a bookworm, incredibly capable but finds it hard to make friends because that puts people off. For obvious reasons, if you listened last week, we both identify with her at a deep level. And I think of Hermione in contrast with other YA female heroes who tend to be Mary Sues. Forgive me for going there, but like Bella Swan. She likes to read, but lacks a personality or a brain.

C: Oh, good lord. She’s also an empty cypher who immediately becomes so entranced with a boy that in New Moon, after he leaves, she describes it like she is a planet that has lost its sun and doesn’t have anything to orbit around. OH MY GOD.

S: Yeah, the fury that stoked in me was unbelievable.

C: And that is never Hermione. Even when she is heartsick over Lavender and Ron – and we talked about this in Cursed Child’s alternate reality – she would have been fine. She would have gone on with her life, maybe married somebody else, maybe not. Sure she might always have loved him or had some regret, but she would have been fine and amazing.

S: I enjoy that Jo really created a heroine so many girls can identify with, in a way girls aren’t generally encouraged to. She’s unlikeable at first, and that’s gutsy, because women have to be likeable for some reason. People fall all over Bella Swan. I also like Katniss Everdeen, who is unlikeable even more so in the books than the movie, and she has concrete reasons for her actions, which is a good model. And I think it’s been influenced by this precedent of a character like Hermione, who earns people’s respect. She speaks to all those girls who were just like her. We were! Bookworms, lived in the library, academic high achievers, constantly being denigrated by it, often by boys, sidelined for not being the ‘pretty girl.’ Ron literally says to Hermione in Book 4, ‘Oh, hey, you’re a girl!” There are so many of us who have been in that role. It’s like being intelligent and capable and female are incongruous.

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C: It’s like you have to pick a box. You can either be pretty, if you hit the genetic lottery or put a lot of time into making yourself pretty, or you can be smart, but you’re not supposed to be both at the same time.

S: And Hermione is everything. She isn’t described as particularly pretty, with her funny teeth and bushy hair. But in the movie she’s Emma Watson, who is gorgeous. Her looks are so secondary, though – who fucking cares what she looks like? She is one of the best characters in the series!

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C: Her whole thing with Ron that she has, that’s something that people talk about a lot, and when the books were still coming out the shipper wars were on, all that crap. But in the books themselves, not that that’s not important, but the romantic relationship is always secondary to the characters themselves and their friendship.

S: And their friendship is the basis for the romance, and it makes sense in the books (although less in the movies because they undercut Ron). I am so eternally grateful that this was not a love triangle, not all about romance, and for creating Hermione, the woman everyone who reads this wants to be. And you don’t ever feel that she should apologize for being brilliant, or that she should hold herself back for the boys, any of that shit.

C: And she never hides her light under a bushel. She is who she is, take it or leave it.

S: She gets appreciated for it by the time Viktor Krum comes around, which disconcerts Ron to no end, which is also important.

So Hermione’s upset, because people she thought might be her friends say mean things about her. At the Halloween feast Harry and Ron overhear Parvati tell Lavender that she’s crying in the girls’ bathroom and wants to be left alone. Then in stumbles Quirrell, turban askew, terror on his face. “Troll in the dungeon! Thought you ought to know.” And then collapses into a puddle of uselessness.

Dumbledore takes charge, prefects take kids to the houses, and Harry realizes, “Oh shit, Hermione. She doesn’t know.” So they try to go do something. But while they’re hiding so Percy doesn’t see them they spot Snape going up the 3rd floor corridor, which is suspicious. But we’re distracted very quickly by the public toilet, dirty socks smelling troll.

C: It must smell even worse than Quirrell’s turban.

S: Nasty. They think they’re being smart – the troll makes its way into a room, and they lock it in, and then – oh shit! We just locked it in with Hermione!

C: So here’s my question. Never – and granted, it’s Hogwarts, it’s weird – has any bathroom in any public building had a lock on the outer door. It’s absurd.

S: My question is why is there a key in the door of the bathroom? Do you need keys to get into the bathrooms? I don’t think so. Continuity error. It could have been solved by them magically locking the door, but either way, they don’t realize she’s in there and so have to dash in and fix their stupid mistake in the manner that sums up the entire series: “Harry then did something that was both very brave and very stupid.”

Series, summarized.

The boys attack the troll. I like the scene in the movie –

C: Oh, I don’t.

S: Despite the bad CGI.

C: TERRIBLE CGI. It was bad when the movie came out.

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S: It’s worse now. I like seeing them work together though. And in the movie, Hermione has to tell Ron, but I like that here he doesn’t even know what he’s going to do, just uses the first spell that comes to mind, and it works – he levitates the troll’s club. That speaks to Ron’s personality.

C: And he does it correctly, thanks to Hermione.

S: It’s a signal that he’s quite capable, just often doesn’t know what he’s going to do until he does. So they club the troll out, and get boogers everywhere, and the teachers rush in – McGonagall, Snape, and Quirrell – and McGonagall is about to blow a gasket and kill these morons until Hermione saves them by saying that it’s her fault, she went looking for the troll thinking she could handle it, and Harry and Ron saved her. Harry and Ron try to look as if this story isn’t news.

C: So we think that she would have done this had she realized they actually locked it in with her?

S: Probably not.

C: When in their friendship do they come clean with her about what happened?

S: Never. NEVER. NEVER. Later in the chapter they’re headed back and Ron’s griping that they should have got more points. Ron: “Mind you, we did save her.” Harry: “Mind you, she might not have needed saving if we hadn’t locked the thing in with her.” But Hermione’s not with them for this. So they NEVER TELL HER. Unless it comes up in an argument later in their married life.

And we get this wonderful moment where they all look at each other, say thanks, and hurry off. “But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a 12-foot mountain troll is one of them.”

C: I like it.

S: It’s marvelous.

C: And I like that Hermione is Hermione, she stays essentially the same, fusses at them and frets about what they do, but now she’s with them. She’s all in from this moment on.

S: Yes, and they realize that she’s a good person, willing to be a good friend, and they stop being threatened and intimidated by her awesomeness. It’s also Ron and Harry realizing that acceptance is better, and Hermione’s strengths far outweigh her flaws, and their own flaws are certainly equal to or greater than hers – for instance, flaws which lead them to lcok her in a bathroom with a gigantic troll. That’s Gryffindor: “We’re brave! (And we’re stupid.)”

Present company excepted.

C: I’m totally stupid too.

S: A great 5 chapters! So next time we have Quidditch, The Mirror of Erised, Nicolas Flamel, Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback, and the Forbidden Forest.

C: We’ve got 7 left, so we could do 4 and 3 or vice versa.

S: Might be better. I forget how short this book is! We’ve got to parse the Quidditch game, and the mirror – it’s too much!

C: The Forbidden Forest is where things really kick off to the ending, so we’ll see. We’ll figure it out.

S: We shall indeed! Until next time, which will likely have fewer gynecological jokes but hopefully some of your comments to share – I know some of you are feminists –

C: Broom humping! What else can you say? This is why we are the NSFW Harry Potter Podcast.

S: Where else indeed can you hear a Harry Potter podcast talk about broomfucking? You can’t. Until next time, I am Professor Seraphine –

C: I am Professor Creed –

S: And we’ll see you next time on Advanced Muggle Studies!

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