Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Ch. 16-17: Abandon hope, all ye who prefer checkers

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This week we discuss: Ginger Rogers tap-dancing pineapples; Hagrid’s big mouth; the best way to talk bad about people; Fluffy’s Inferno; ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?; trio teamwork vs. special skills; why is chess an essential skill in this world when physics is not?; Quantum of Quirrell; the Hatfields and McCoys of the Wizarding World; is Quirrell full Dark Side?; echoes of Janus and Batman; Harry’s priorities; the Ultimate Boon; what made Lily Potter so special (or not); thank Merlin we stopped Slytherin from numeric determinism; and our eternal hopes for fun with Hot Neville in the Restricted Section.

Chapter 16: Through the Trapdoor

S: They have the most awesome exams! Flitwick’s exam is making a pineapple tap dance across his desk!

C: That’s my favorite.

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You didn’t think I’d find this, did you?

S: For Transfiguration, they turn a mouse into a snuffbox. And this line makes me laugh every time: “Snape made them all nervous, breathing down their necks while they tried to remember how to make a Forgetfulness potion.” PUN!

Harry’s scar is hurting a lot, he keeps having bad dreams. They get through their exams, Harry’s frustrated and keeps feeling something nagging at him, something he can’t connect. It clicks when he thinks of Hagrid. ‘Hagrid would never tell anyone how to get past Fluffy EXCEPT HAGRID HAS THE BIGGEST MOUTH OF ANYONE I’VE EVER MET AND MAYBE HE WOULD!”

I don’t think Harry gets enough credit for being a really smart character. Not school smart, but when it comes to connecting dots, he’s smart.

C: Except in Book 5.

S: Yeah, but in Book 5 he’s angsty and hormonal. In this case, he decides that it’s too much of a coincidence that someone would turn up with a dragon egg just for Hagrid when they’re illegal. He questions Hagrid, and no, the guy kept buying me drinks, almost like he was trying to get you drunk, Hagrid? And no, I didn’t see his face, in fact! Then he offered to play cards for the dragon egg, and we talked about monsters and I told him about Fluffy – “play him a bit of music and he falls off straight to sleep! …. I should not have said that…”

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Let us all take a moment…
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To appreciate…
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The gaping maw…
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Of Hagrid’s big, fat mouth

S: So what are we going to do? Harry wants to go to Dumbledore, but they’re intercepted by McGonagall, who tells them Dumbledore left 10 minutes ago, and they should go outside. Finally Harry decides, screw it – “It’s about the stone!” McGonagall: “Youuuu aren’t supposed to know about that. Out.”

Harry realizes, this is happening to night, Snape’s going for it… and then we have that great ‘He’s right behind you!’ moment.

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“Pray, do continue, Potter. I haven’t given anyone detention for five whole minutes.”

C: Has that ever happened to you in your life?

S: Where you talk bad about someone who is right behind you? No, I’ve never spent much time talking bad about people outside of the privacy of my own home.

C: You’re so wise.

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::checks to make sure the coast is clear::   ::whispers:: “I said, biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch!”

S: They’re trying to figure out how to keep an eye on Snape but McGonagall is on to them. Finally, Harry decides that’s it. He’s got to try to get the Stone. And he has this awesome speech. Hermione: “You’ll be expelled!” Harry: “SO WHAT?” Even 11-year-old Harry has perspective! “The most evil wizard of all time is coming back to take over! Nothing matters beyond that. If I die, guess what, he was going to try to kill me anyway! Which sucks, but I’m not going to let this happen!” Which is another reason why fucking Albus pisses me off so much.

C: He’s the worst!

S: At age 11, Harry knows it’s not about him or his feelz, it’s about the big picture. Meanwhile, Albus: “I hate my dad I don’t care if Voldemort comes back my emmmooooooootionnnnnsss.”

C: You know, I bet if Harry pulled his memories out and put them in a Pensieve, and Albus watched them, he’d still think Harry was lying somehow to make himself feel better.

S: Probably.

C: God, I hate that character.

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S: Hermione and Ron are amazing. Harry: “I’m using the Cloak.” Ron: “But will it cover all three of us?” Harry: “But if we get caught you two will be expelled too!” Hermione: “Not if I can help it. Flitwick told me in secret that I got 112 percent on his exam. They’re not throwing me out after that.”

C: I imagine that, not only did she make her pineapple tap-dance across the desk – she conjured an outfit, with a little top hat and cane, and it did a full choreographed routine.

S: I bet it went full Ginger Rogers / Fred Astaire!

C: Yes. Hermione is the greatest.

S: She is. But here comes a close second. They’re getting ready to go, Harry grabs the Cloak and the Flute of Convenience and there is Neville Longbottom the Badass (clutching his toad).

C: Awww, Neville!

S: I love the way this is written. “You can’t go out. You’ll be caught again and Gryffindor will be in even more trouble!” Harry: “You don’t understand. This is important.” But Neville was clearly steeling himself to do something desperate. The desperate thing is to go stand in front of the portrait hole and threaten to fight his friends. Neville Longbottom took on Crabbe and Goyle singlehandedly. Now he is proposing to take on 3 of his friends. Single handedly.

C: He’s a brave soul! He belongs in Gryffindor.

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This House can’t even handle me right now!

S: Damn straight he does! “Try and hit me! I’m ready!” Hermione: “I’m really sorry about this.” And she does the spell they should have been doing for all of Cursed Child: Petrificus Totalus!

C: Poor Neville.

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“Was…was he supposed to hit the ground face first like that?”

S: That’s got to suck. They almost get caught by Peeves, but dodge. At the 3rd floor, the door is already open. They see a harp on the floor. Harry uses Hagrid’s flute to play a couple of notes, Fluffy falls asleep, and down they go.

I did brief research on Cerberus, and I found it interesting that in Dante’s Inferno Cerberus is placed in the 3rd circle of hell because he symbolizes greed. He’s described as ravenous and came to symbolize avarice. Appropriate symbol is appropriate.

And down they go.

C: And this is one of my favorite parts of this or any of the books.

S: Please!

C: Hermione figures out that it’s Devil’s Snare, and is trying to figure out what to do to get it off the boys. And she says, “Devil’s Snare, Devil’s Snare, what did Professor Sprout say? It likes the dark and the damp –“ Harry: “So light a fire!” Hermione: “Yes – of course – but there’s no wood!” Ron: “HAVE YOU GONE MAD? ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?” And then she uses her magic witchy powers to do her bluebell flames and get them out.

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How it should have gone down

S: Yes!

C: “Lucky you pay attention in Herbology, Hermione!” Ron: “Yeah, and lucky Harry doesn’t lose his head in a crisis. ‘There’s no wood.’ Honestly.” I love it.

S: Love that that comes full circle in Book 7 too. Keep in mind, since we’re paralleling the Perseus story: in the Greek stories, Cerberus would guard the underworld to keep the dead from getting out. Our three heroes are now descending past Cerberus. It’s a very Greek image, descending into the underworld.

Next is Flitwick’s, a small chamber full of “fluttering, jewel-bright birds.” There’s a door that is locked. And I would like to point out that in the movie, at least, Ron tries to open the door with Alohomora – here, Hermione tries it – and it doesn’t work!

C: Gee, Cursed Child Hermione, is there any way you could have known of another way to lock your office door?

S: I will never let this go. It will never cease to be a point of contention.

C: Forever bitter.

S: They realize the birds are winged keys, and there are broomsticks. They have to catch the key.

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Major differences between book and movie – in the movie, they tried to give each character one obstacle. So Hermione beats Devil’s Snare, and then they go to this one. Harry’s a Seeker, so he’s the only one who gets on the broom and catches the key. In the chess game, Ron beats that. In this case, it’s different. Everyone gets on a broom.

C: And it takes cooperation for Harry to catch it, even though he does catch it. It would be much harder without having them help him box it in.

S: Exactly. I get why they do it that way in the movie because it makes sense for the format, but I like this too because it shows more teamwork.

C: I don’t like the way they did it in the movie, but the one thing I will say for it is that movie is so fucking long, by that point I was just like, get it over with. Come on.

S: Next is in my opinion one of the better scenes in the movie – the chess game. Seeing those chess players come to life still gives me chills, even as an adult.

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They come to the edge of a huge chessboard and realize they have to play across the room. Ron, being the best chess player, takes charge and gets to be a knight.

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WEASLEY IS OUR KING

He puts Harry in place of the bishop, Hermione in the castle space, and they play, which is very dangerous. Of all the things you’ve got to beat this one is challenging. What if you get this far and you don’t know how to play chess?

C: That would be a problem.

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S: At a certain point Ron realizes he has to get taken off the board to win, so he lets the queen take him. In the movie it just attacks the horse he’s on. In this, she smacks him upside the head! Poor Ron.

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C: Concussion City.

S: All the kids in the chess club thought it would be safer than football. IT WAS A LIE.

C: Little did they know!

S: Now we’re past Sprout, Flitwick and McGonagall.

C: And I love that in the book, as opposed to in the movie, they just leave Ron there.

S: Yeah, because in the movie they have to have that “You have to go on alone, Harry, you’re the hero!” Which – no. Another thing I’ve always appreciated about these books is that they didn’t fall into the “leave me, go on alone!” nonsense. No! You’re useless alone!

Quirrell’s level really doesn’t register much except to give you a hint as to who you’re going to see at the end. It’s a troll, larger than the one the kids fought, and it’s knocked out cold and they don’t have to do anything.

Finally they come to Snape’s obstacle. I always liked this one.

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C: It is very Snape-like.

S: It’s very typical of him to force a person to be resourceful. They can’t use magic to get past this, they have to figure it out themselves.

C: I have to say that I really love this line of Hermione’s, and it lines up with a lot of things you and I have pointed out about Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts in particular. “A lot of the greatest wizards haven’t got an ounce of logic. They’d be stuck in here forever.” Good god, is that true.

S: It’s terrifyingly true. They can’t even lock doors. Jacob Kowalski is the only reason they manage to get Newt’s case from Grindelgraves’ office!

C: Because he kicked down the damn door!

S: It speaks to Snape’s character – someone who is resourceful and often has to rely on his wits alone to get through.

C: Think of how many times he had to think on his feet to get around having suspicion thrown on him by Death Eaters, and to keep his lies all straight, all that stuff.

S: But Hermione figures it out! The first time I read this I stopped and made myself solve it.

C: Of course you did.

S: I know! Ravenclaw.

C: Meanwhile, what I did was read two lines, blah blah blah, let’s go on.

S: They find the bottle that will take you back and the one that will take you forward. Harry tells Hermione to go back, and unlike the movie, it’s not “stay with Ron to make sure he’s okay,” it’s “go get Ron, get those brooms, get out the trapdoor, go find somebody!” There’s a lot that needs to get done now. A lot depends on them, while Harry goes forward.

“There was already someone in there, but it wasn’t Snape. It wasn’t even Voldemort.” Little do you know!

C: “You!”

Chapter 17: The Man With Two Faces

S: Our Medusa chapter! And our first sentence: “It was Quirrell.” He’s changed, not stammering or quivering. He explains rather quickly that he tried to kill Harry, not Snape. He ties Harry up with ropes. “You’re too nosy to live, Potter.” It’s such a Scooby-Doo line.

C: So was this Brachiobendo? What is the point of that curse even existing?

S: I can’t decide and the context I remember isn’t clear. I couldn’t decide if Brachiobendo summoned ropes and put them around you or just locked your arms at your sides, like a half body bind. Which is even more useless, because why would you do that? They can still walk. They made it, and they’re dumb and wrong, and shouldn’t be allowed out without supervision.

Quirrell explains he let the troll in, etc. And we get the reveal of the Mirror of Erised, which is the key to finding the stone. Quirrell: “Trust Dumbledore to come up with something like this.” He is rather infuriating that way, yes.

Harry tries to stall him, with “but this! And that!”

C: It’s a very Bond movie move.

S: “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Potter. I expect you to die.”

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Quirrell’s problem is that in the mirror, he sees himself giving the Stone to his master but he can’t see where it is, which speaks to the fact that his motives are completely wrong. He sees himself getting glory.

I like that Quirrell mentioned Snape hating him. “Oh he does. Heavens, yes. He was at Hogwarts with your father, didn’t you know? They loathed each other. But he never wanted you dead.” Everyone knows about Snape and James Potter! They’re famous frenemies!

C: Yeah, now that you say that, Quirrell is supposed to be young. It’s not like he would have been at school with them.

S: Even he knows! I guess gossip gets around the staffroom. “I know that, and I’m not even important in this story!”

C: So basically James and Snape are the Hatfields and McCoys of the wizarding world.

S: The Malfoys and the Weasleys, too. Now we realize something is wrong, he mentions Voldemort being with him always, that he met him when he was traveling and young, “full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

C: So we have talked about this before in some of our previous episodes. Quirrell: Has he turned to the Dark Side? Or has he been forced to the Dark Side?

S: I believe he’s been forced to the Dark Side. I don’t believe he’s in control of himself any more. The way that he talks sounds like Voldemort. I don’t believe he was convinced or grew to believe in Voldemort. He didn’t have a choice.

C: I agree with that. His will was overpowered, and then his body was seized.

S: Harry thinks, “What I want more than anything else in the world in this moment is to find the Stone, so if I look in the mirror I should see myself finding it.” He’s trying to edge over to the mirror, but Voldemort’s one step ahead and tells Quirrell to use Harry. “Tell me what you see!” Quirrell is close, smelling of Dark Magic Moves. Then he sees his reflection, “pale and scared looking at first. But a moment later his reflection smiled at him. It put its hand into its pocket and pulled out a blood-red stone. A moment later it winked and put the stone back in its pocket, and as it did so Harry felt something heavy drop into his real pocket. Somehow, incredibly, he’d gotten the Stone.” IT’S BRILLIANT!

He tries to lie about what he sees but Voldemort knows. “The time has come for a personal tete-a-tete!” The turban comes off. That’s never a good sign.

And there’s Voldemort in the back of Quirrell’s head.

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C: Is there anything in Greek mythology about heads with two faces?

S: I’m glad you brought this up, I meant to bring this up before. Aside from the implications of the two-faced nature of Medusa, from last week, the god with two faces is Janus, from Roman mythology.

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Two faces of Janus, stamped on a Roman coin

It’s exactly like you see with Quirrell. The idea is that Janus looks to future and past, presided over beginning and end of conflicts, war and peace. But over time the idea of Janus being two-faced in literature came to refer more to people who were liars. I think the idea of Janus, which seems pretty neutral originally, evolved in popular cultural use so that it’s more indicative of someone untrustworthy.

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Also great inspiration for Gotham Rogues’ Galleries

Harry faces Voldemort for the first time. He already knows about the Stone in his pocket, dammit!

He tries to talk him out of it, all “Join me, and together we will rule the Empire and bring order to the galaxy!” The nice thing is that Voldemort does, in this interaction and in Book 2, lets out little drips of useful information. Here he mentions that he killed James first, who put up a courageous fight, but that his mother “needn’t have died, she was trying to protect you.” Useful detail later!

Harry: “Screw you!”

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Now Quirrellmort tries to stop him by grabbing him. It pains Harry’s scar, but everywhere Quirrell touches Harry his skin blisters and burns. Harry’s in agony, but it’s even worse for Quirrell. He goes for his wand, but Harry is smart and jumps up and grabs him in the face.

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This is pretty rough for Harry! There’s no defining moment where Harry turns the tide. It’s  a brutal fight, Quirrellmort tries to throw Harry off, the pain is building, he can’t even see, all he can hear is Voldemort screaming “Kill him!” and then he passes out.

C: Yeah, I’d be traumatized.

S: I like that we don’t get a heroic, triumphant moment. He goes down fighting in the understanding that he might die doing it, and for all he knows in that moment, he did. Which works very well in parallel to 7!

And when he wakes up he thinks he sees the Snitch! (It’s not the Snitch.) It’s a pair of glasses. Half-moon glasses, on a twice-broken, crooked nose. Harry’s in hospital wing. Dumbledore: “Calm yourself, dear boy, you are a little behind the times.”

“What happened down in the dungeons between Harry and Quirrell is a complete secret. So naturally, the whole school knows.”

And apparently Fred and George tried to send him a toilet seat!

Harry’s been out for 3 days. We get the great final exposition. This point in the chapter is a combination of two monomyth stages: apostasis and the Ultimate Boon. In this case, they’re slightly reversed. The Ultimate Boon is the achievement of the quest the hero set out to accomplish. All steps served  to prepare and purify the person for this step. Harry obtains the Stone and stops Quirrell. Apostasis: someone dies a physical death, moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a stage of love, divine knowledge, and bliss. Having united opposites, Harry can now learn everything he needs to know.

Dumbledore figured out that he needed to be at Hogwarts. “I feared I might be too late.” Harry: “You nearly were! I couldn’t have kept him off the Stone much longer!” Dumbledore: “Not the Stone, boy, you! The effort involved nearly killed you!”

C: Harry’s got his priorities in order.

S: So does Nicolas Flamel, now. Nicolas and Dumbledore have had a chat and the Flamels have decided to destroy the Stone, and they will die. “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is merely the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all. The trouble is, humans do have a knack for choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”

C: It’s true. I would probably choose a lot of candy.

S: And beer! We get a lot of important precedents set for the rest of the series in this section alone. Discussion about death as the next great adventure, and Harry learning that he needs to call Voldemort by his proper name. Dumbledore is quite clear that Voldemort is not gone.

Why in Cursed Child did Ginny find this line problematic? “A great and terrible thing.” Of course, the first question Harry asks, Dumbledore can’t answer. Got to get through a number of books before we can answer that. We do learn that Quirrell couldn’t touch Harry because of the powerful protection of love in Harry’s skin from his mother’s sacrifice.

C: So here’s my question. Out of all the people that Voldemort killed, the only time there was ever any time of magical motherly love protection that came in was with Lily and Harry?

S: No. I think there could have been similar circumstances before. What made the difference was that at that point Voldemort had ripped his soul into so man pieces as to be completely unstable. It’s a very loaded act he tries to perform, and it is possible he had intended to make another Horcrux off of Harry’s murder. We don’t know. But the fact that he unintentionally makes one is suggestive. At this point his soul is so damaged that when he tries to murder an innocent child based on a prophecy that might not even be about him or even be true, and then choosing to murder a woman he’d promised not to murder just because she’s in his way trying to protect her child. That’s a lot of evil for the body to take. After a while you get evil heartburn.

But that’s the difference – he was already so damaged that he hit a limit. I am certain there were those who fought and died for their loved ones, but he’s not at the point then as he is when he goes after the Potters.

C: That’s an acceptable explanation, I’ll take it.

S: It’s unfair, but it doesn’t try to claim that Lily is the only woman who ever loved her kid. Harry learns about the Cloak, and that James used to use it to steal food.

C: 100% what I would do with it!

S: Dumbledore continually corrects Harry: “Professor Snape,” and sets us up for Book 3 with saying James saved Snape’s life. And that Snape worked to help Harry “so he could go back to hating your father’s memory in peace.”

C: What a happy life Snape lives.

S: Finally, he wants to know how he got the Stone. Dumbledore is glad he asked, as it was one of his more brilliant ideas! Only someone who wanted to find, not use, could find it. And then the Bertie Botts beans – “Alas! Ear Wax!”

C: I love that.

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S: Harry bullies Madam Pomfrey into letting Ron and Hermione in, and fills them in on what really happened, and they fill him in on how they got back and met Dumbledore. And Harry answers your earlier question about why Dumbledore would give him the cloak. “It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could.”

C: If, you know, you didn’t it it wrong in Snape’s task and drink some poison and kill yourself, sure!

S: Yes, let’s hope you got through all the potentially deadly obstacles on the way.

Of course, Gryffindor lost in the end. They’re headed to the Great Hall but run into crying Hagrid. “It’s all my fault!”

C: Well, he should feel bad.

S: He did cause problems. Hagrid: “Yeh could’ve died! An’ don’t say the name!” Harry’s response is to just shout it: “VOLDEMORT!” Then Hagrid gives Harry a present – a leather photo album full of photos of his parents, which he solicited from all of Harry’s parents old friends.

C: That’s pretty nice.

S: So off to the feast! Slytherin won the House Cup the 7th year in a row!

C: You know, every time we have a feast scene now, all I can think about is all of the work the house elves are doing.

S: That makes you Hermione, by the way. “Slave labor!” That’s going to be a complicated discussion later.

But this could have been dangerous, if we’d allowed Slytherin to have this the 7th year in a row, knowing how important sevens are. But fortunately we stopped them, and they get stuck at six, because Dumbledore intervenes with last minute points: 50 to Ron for the best played game of chess, 50 to Hermione for the use of logic in the face of fire, 60 to Harry for sheer nerve, and now they’re tied! If only Harry had gotten one more point!

C: I love the line, “Those who could add up while yelling themselves hoarse knew that they were tied.” I could not add. No.

S: No. I would be turning to Percy. But finally, the last 10 points go to Neville Longbottom for being a badass who will save us all later on. Oh wait, that’s not why. For standing up to your friends. But also the badass thing. And to let you know now that you’re going to grow up to be the hottest person in the series. Congrats!

C: OH yeah. And then, Neville, you and me, we’re going to the Restricted Section.

S: It occurs that the Restricted Section is a great place for after-hours. Less risk of people wandering in… if you can abide the dark magic books, you could have some fun!

C: Just look at how much boning you could do in the Restricted Section with the Invisibility Cloak!

S: Especially once they learn Muffliato.

C: Then all you have to do is make sure you don’t rock the shelves too much so the books don’t fall out and start screaming.

S: Some of these charms could be extremely useful for getting it on.

GRYFFINDOR WINS, stopping Slytherin from reaching the magical 7, letting them know they will always come on second and that Voldemort will eventually fail.

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Green doesn’t match the decorating scheme around here, anyway

Grades come back – Ron and Harry passed, Hermione got the best grades, Neville did fine, they find Trevor, everyone packs up, they get reminders about magic over holidays, and they get back on the train. Ron invites Harry and Hermione to stay over the summer. At the station, Ginny is Harry’s single-handed fan club! Then he goes back with the Dursleys.

C: “’Hope you have a good holiday,’ Hermione said, looking uncertainly after Uncle Vernon, shocked that anyone could be so unpleasant.

S: Naïve Hermione! But the movie ends so nobly, with Harry saying, “I’m not going home. Not really.” Book Harry, though: “They don’t know we’re not allowed to use magic at home. I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer.”

C: Much more realistic for a soon-to-be 12-year-old boy.

S: This is the “Crossing the Return Threshold” and “Master of Two Worlds”: achieving a balance between inner and outer worlds, which Harry arguably has done. The very last stage is not something we reach until Book 7. The monomyth cycle generally repeats through the books, but you never reach the final stage until the VERY END OF 7. “Freedom to Live”: mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which is in turn, the freedom to live. So not until Harry becomes Master of Death in 7 do we complete the cycle.

Can I borrow some of J.K. Rowling’s brains?

C: You have enough brains of your own.

S: Hers are so much better!

C: I like your brains!

S: If you say so. That was our unnecessarily dirty discussion of the last 3 chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone!

C: It wasn’t even that dirty though! We spent way more time talking about religion than boning.

S: Dude, we talked about centaur erotica.

C: Oh yeah, we did. “Creamed by the Centaur.” Can that be the title of this episode?

S: NOOOOOOOOO. NO IT CANNOT. Even I draw the line there.

C: Is it terrible, though – and I think that it is – that it doesn’t make me think of ejaculation as much as creamed corn?

S: OHHH GOD WHY??

C: I don’t know why! That’s just where my mind goes.

S: You have problems.

C: I have had more creamed corn in my life than I have other things, so.

S: Well, okay. That would explain … not gonna argue that point. So hopefully within the next week and a half or so we will do our Drunk Potterwatch, which ought to be interesting depending on how drunk we get. Hopefully you can tolerate us drunk and rambling. You tolerate us sober and rambling so hopefully it will work out.

C: I already know what I’m going to do – I’m going to talk only in centaur erotica book titles.

S: Oh god, spare us! Oh god is probably one of them, isn’t it? Ugh. Well, until we get around to the centaur-erotica-Drunk-Potterwatch-disaster that is inevitably to unfold, I am Professor Seraphine –

C: I am Professor Creed!

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

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