Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ch. 11-12: Ten points to House Hufflepun!

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This week, we discuss: poor misdirected Ginny; magical hucksters; new and improved criminal Hermione; bad swelling puns; What the Fuck, Hogwarts?; Dueling Clubs are useless; no one in this school did any student teaching; pointless spell fights; Snape is a dick; Lockhart’s overexcited wand; even more bad penis puns; the etymology of Parseltongue; the return of anti-snake stigma; Ernie Macmillan is an ass; Harry Potter, OG Dark Wizard; stop with the fucking puns already; bad choices in colloquialisms; Harry has no manner of luck at all; GRYFFINDOR PUNS; Dumbledore’s office; flaming turkeys; the history and symbolism of phoenixes; the truth behind the Nimbus; X-Men and Dark Phoenix; who knew Chinese and Christian virtues aligned so closely; sticky virginity things; OH MY GOD TWILIGHT EXPLAINS WHY CURSED CHILD IS SO SHITTY; Polyjuice Potion; expel Slytherin; lonely Draco and Malfoy family jokes; the politics of uppity; sad attempts to redeem Draco; and why Dramione just perpetuates misogyny.

Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies! I am Professor Seraphine and I am so excited to welcome back Professor Creed, who recently abandoned me on a much-deserved vacation and got to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

C: Butterbeer is delicious.

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GIMME

S: What does it taste like?

C: Butterscotch.

S: Oh…it’s not too sweet?

C: Well, I love butterscotch, so no. But also, besides that, just no in general.

S: Well, I am glad you’re back and that you had fun. Hopefully one day I’ll get to go and report back, but until then we are back in the book!

Chapter 11: The Dueling Club

S: At least Harry’s bones are back. “His arm was reboned.”

C: No word about his boner. OHHHHHHHHHHH!

S: “Reboned, but very stiff.”

C: OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

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S: There’s so much in these chapters. But yes, Harry ‘s arm has healed, and Pomfrey lets him go. Harry takes off to find Ron and Hermione, because he wants to tell them about the latest: Colin Creevey petrified, Dobby crazy. That’s not really new but it bears discussing. He runs into Percy and Harry asks for Ron and Hermione. Percy:

“I hope Ron‘s not in another girls’ toilet.”

Harry watches Percy leave, turns around and goes straight for the girls’ toilet, because he knows that’s exactly where they are.

Poor Percy. He must be so disappointed on so many levels, on any given day.

Harry goes to Moaning Myrtle‘s bathroom. I see why they filmed it differently, because I can’t imagine trying to squeeze the kids into one little stall. Hermione has the fire going in the toilet bowl and she’s brewing the cauldron on top of it.

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“NO, Ron, you can come out of that stall when you promise not to spill our entire stock of potion into the toilet again.”

C: How do they not knock the cauldron off? That’s what I want to know.

S: The fact that they can squeeze in there and not set anything on fire is an accomplishment that should win them five points for Gryffindor .

Ron and Hermione were going to go see Harry, but this is another instance where Ron and Hermione are doing their own thing and trusting Harry to catch up. Which they do less in the movie, but I like in the book. Like the first book, when they teamed up to attack teachers without telling Harry. They already know, anyway, about what happened with Colin. It seems to have lit a fire under them, no pun intended. Ron:

“The sooner we get a confession out of Malfoy the better.”

Harry fills them in on what Dobby came to tell them. For Ron that cements his belief that this comes down to the Malfoys – Lucius must have opened it when he was in school, he taught Malfoy to do it. Hermione is still puzzling over what the monster might be. I like that they have these conversations, because it forces the reader to try to solve this in our head. Rowling is great about that because she likes to sow misdirection by doing that. So she has Hermione thinking about invisibility, disguise –

“I’ve read about Chameleon Ghouls!”

Ron, there is no such thing as reading too much. I also like this line from Ron:

“So Dobby stopped us from getting on the train, and broke your arm. You know what, Harry? If he doesn’t stop trying to save your life, he’s going to kill you.”

C: Yep.

S: Now everyone knows about Colin and everyone is starting to freak out. First years are traveling in groups, Ginny is distraught. Another great example of a little reason why Ginny might be distraught, that is perfectly viable. With Mrs. Norris, well, she loved cats. This time, she sits next to Colin in Charms.

But poor Ginny! I give Fred and George points for trying to cheer her up, but covering themselves in fur and boils and jumping out at her from behind statues is not a good move.

C: No.

S: Their hearts are in the right place, but oh my god poor Ginny. How is she keeping it together?

C: It’s one thing to cover yourself in fur, but to purposely put boils all over your body?

S: I’m going to assume they’re purely cosmetic. Although, given what the twins do later on it’s not necessarily the case. Meanwhile, a black market of charms and talismans has sprung up. I’ve always like that Rowling, as much as she embraced trappings of magic, she does a lot of poking fun at the ridiculousness of some of it. For example, in Book 3, fortunetelling and seeing the future. You spend most of the book seeing how ludicrous it is. Which is funny, because people in our world claim to be able to read your palm or crystal ball, and it’s a sham. I like that in this world, it can be too.

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Just because there’s magic doesn’t mean people don’t try to bilk you. The stuff these kids are selling, you have to think must be useless. A pointed purple crystal? What’s that going to do? A rotting newt tail? Come on, Neville.

C: A pointed purple crystal, if put in the right focusing beam, can turn into a purple light saber.

S: All right, I’ll give you that. Worked for Mace Windu.

C: Obviously.

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“My muthafuckin lightsaber never needs reboning, muthafucka!”

S: Poor Neville says he’s almost a Squib. No, Neville, that’s not true!

C: Just wait until you’re hot, Neville!

S: When your abs come in it will be great.

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Abs…among other things…

So Christmas is coming, and Harry, Ron and Hermione all decide to stay, mainly because they heard Malfoy is staying. But the potion isn’t done, and they need ingredients. The only place to get them is, of course, Snape’s private stores.

C: How do they even know what’s in Snape’s private stores?

S: I don’t know. Does he have some kind of inventory? Has he brought in these kinds of ingredients before to be used in class? Are they just assuming things?

C: I don’t think Hermione assumes too often, so I’m going to guess he’s used them in other potions. Or, Hermione being Hermione, she is aware of what comes up in curriculum for older students and knows he has to have some for advanced potions classes.

S: That’s way more logical. She’s very brisk about this – they need a diversion so one of them can sneak into Snape‘s office. Hermione has devolved into a total criminal.

“I think I’d better do the actual stealing. You two will be expelled if you get into any more trouble, and I’ve got a clean record.”

C: I love it.

S: She’s devious, but she’s right, even though Harry and Ron are like, “Oh shit, you want us to start a diversion in Snape’s class? He’ll kill us…” There’s no safe way to do this. Either way you get angry Snape.

It’s the last lesson, and I just made this connection, which is so dumb – they’re making Swelling Solution, and it says Malfoy keeps flicking pufferfish eyes at Ron and Harry. They’re an ingredient in Swelling Solution, because pufferfish swell!

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It’s awesome! And the fact that this amuses me is sad!

So, firework in the freaking cauldron, which splashes everyone with this Swelling Solution. This is awful. Granted, it’s kind of funny picturing Malfoy with a nose the size of a balloon—

C: But Goyle blundering around “with his hands over his eyes, which had expanded to the size of a dinner plate” – that sounds horrifying.

S: Before, not reading the sentence carefully, I thought it was his hands swelling, but reading it again, no it’s his eyes, and that’s terrifying!

C: Mm-hmmm!

S: This is pretty serious. Fortunately Snape has a Deflating Draught, because Snape will always deflate you.

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Razor-sharp side-eye, Snape

And Hermione makes it back with everything she needed, and of course, Snape sees the remains of the firework. Which, come on! You had a chance to get rid of the evidence when everyone was trooping up to the desk to get deflated! Snape:

“If I ever find out who threw this, I will ensure that person is expelled.”

NO SHIT!

C: Eh, come on, not that big of a deal.

S: They endangered people! And swelled up their eyes! That’s bad!

C: That’s Hogwarts!

S: And we’re back to our recurring segment: What the Fuck, Hogwarts?

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Hermione should not have been able to get into Snape ‘s private stores. He should have locked his door. Did he just leave it open? Or did she just Alohomora that shit? This is a problem. Snape, did it never occur to you that a kid might try to sneak something out of your stores? You probably have hallucinogenics in there. Surely some kids have tried.

C: I don’t know. Snape is kind of scary.

S: Maybe he counts on the fact that knowing trying it will get you murdered in a cruel and painful way will keep people out? It made Harry and Ron hesitate, so good point. Ron:

“Snape can’t prove it was you. What can he do?”

Harry:

“Knowing Snape, something foul.”

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Second best Snape gif

Now we reach the point in the chapter where I start shaking my head and asking, what the fuck is this? A week later in the entrance hall they see a sign announcing a Dueling Club, giving dueling lessons.

C: They’re not very good at the lesson part.

S: What the fuck is the point of this Dueling Club? If there is a monster roaming the castle attacking people – I guess when I picture dueling, I think of people turning after 10 paces to fire, or facing your opponent and raising your wand.

C: Which is exactly what they do! It even says in the book – I noticed this for the first time – when they take their places, they raise their wands over their heads. So yeah, they count off their paces, turn to face each other, get in their pose and go. It’s ridiculous.

S: So is the monster going to challenge them to a duel?

C: Well, it’s just like when you carry a concealed handgun, and someone comes up to you and points their own gun at you, and says, ‘Hands up, I’m going to take your wallet,’ and you say, ‘Oh, hang on, time out, let me get mine out of my purse and then we’ll go again.’ It doesn’t work that way.

S: I get that it’s a proxy for some kind of self-defense class, and if you’ve got a wand you need to know how to defend, since wands are great for attacking people with. It’s just that the setup of this feels remarkably inappropriate to the actual situation.

C: If they were actually teaching them things, as opposed to, ‘Oh, here’s an example of Snape and Lockhart doing something!’ Which, one of them does horribly. And then just turn them loose? They should be lined up in rows, show them how to hold their wands, this is the word, this is how you pronounce it, this is the movement you make – there’s none of that!

S: No. But there is Lockhart, in robes of deep plum, resplendent, and accompanied by Snape. How the hell did he get Severus Snape to do this with him?

C: Because Snape knew this was going to be an absolute fucking disaster and he plans to laugh his ass off behind his curtain of greasy hair.

S: He’s thinking, I’m not going to miss this for the world, because this guy is a complete fuckwit.

C: Basically.

S: Dumbledore gave Lockhart permission to start this, which – I would have loved to see that conversation. But yes, and Snape is his “assistant.”

“Snape ‘s upper lip was curling. Harry wondered why Lockhart was still smiling. If Snape had been looking at him like that, he’d have been running as fast as he could in the opposite direction.”

Because Snape is terrifying, totally planning to humiliate this man, and Harry knows it IMMEDIATELY.

C: He’s just such a dumbass.

S: This is a great scene in the movie – Alan Rickman and Kenneth Branagh facing off, Snape very economical in his movements, whereas Lockhart is busy tossing his hair and making himself look good.

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They raise their wands and Snape uses Expelliarmus. That must have been one hell of an enthusiastic Expelliarmus, because that shouldn’t have done what it did – it blasts him off his feet. So behind that Expelliarmus was every annoyance Snape has had from Lockhart, and he’s been waiting for this moment.

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C: Either that, or Lockhart was doing his own spell, and just spelled himself instead of Snape.

S: That’s possible too!

“Malfoy and some of the other students laughed. Hermione was dancing on her tiptoes. ‘Do you think he’s all right?’”

Harry and Ron together: “Who cares?!”

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LET’S RELIVE IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN

Of course, Lockhart is backpedaling as fast as he can. He’s being very Presidential in this moment.

“If you don’t mind my saying so, it was very obvious what you were about to do, and if I had wanted to stop you it would have been only too easy.”

“Snape was looking murderous.”

They proceed to give the most inept lesson ever. Because, like you said, maybe teaching to disarm would be a good idea? No. No, no, no. We’re just going to match the kids up in partners and tell them, face your partners, wands at the ready, cast your charm to Disarm. What if they don’t know that particular spell? You don’t trust a bunch of kids to – just no. Of course, Malfoy doesn’t wait for the count, he goes ahead and hits Harry. This turns into a duel reminiscent of the completely useless kitchen duel in Cursed Child, where Harry and Malfoy shoot useless spells at each other. Rictusempra, Tarantellegra. When the smoke clears, this is bad. Neville and Justin are on the floor, whatever happened to Seamus, and Millicent has Hermione in a headlock. Fuck dueling.

C: I wonder what prompted Millicent to put Hermione in a headlock. Did she go straight for that, or Hermione being Hermione did she successfully disarm her and then Millicent decided to tackle her?

S: I’m willing to bet on the second one. Hermione probably very neatly and efficiently disarmed her, to which Millicent replied, “Okay, you die now.”

Some of this dialogue:

“Up you go, MacMillan…careful there, Miss Fawcett… pinch it hard, it’ll stop bleeding in a second, Boot…”

It’s just now occurring to Lockhart to teach blocking spells. So he picks Justin and Neville, and Snape intervenes saying, no, Neville sucks, let’s do Malfoy and Potter. In the movie, this made more sense because Lockhart picked Ron and Harry, and Snape intervenes, pointing out that Ron ‘s wand is broken and causes devastation. Which is true. So it made Snape slightly less of a dick in the movie. Whereas here, he’s just being a total dick.

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LADIES AND GENTS WE HAVE A NEW CONTENDER FOR TOP SNAPE GIF

Also, I would like to pause and appreciate that Lockhart tries to show Harry what to do, drops his wand, and gets the line, “Whoops! My wand is a little overexcited.” Sounds like a personal problem there, Lockhart.

Premature incantation?

C: Oh. OH.

S: Too much?

C: OHHHHHH.

S: Now Snape whispers something in Malfoy‘s ear. Do you think he gave him the idea to use Serpentsortia? Or was he just talking trash?

C: I don’t know, because I just got distracted thinking, what if you could do Petrificus Totalus, but only on your penis?

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S: If you could use that Swelling Solution for targeted application, I mean.

C: What if it lasts longer than 4 hours?

S: Then to St. Mungo’s you shall go, and have fun explaining that one. Why would you?

C: If you could Petrificus Totalus your penis though…could you ejaculate?

S: …… I don’t know…..

C: These are the hard-hitting questions that I have!

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S: Come on, now. You and I have witnessed the incredible ingenuity that people without magic have when it comes to creating sex toys and sexual experimentation. Just imagine what people who have magic might do.

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Professor Seraphine, after giving it 30 seconds of thought

C: They have something better than Viagra, for sure.

S: Definitely.

C: I bet they have excellent birth control, as well.

S: But no paternity tests! Harry is starting to feel nervous – Malfoy is smirking, Snape seems very pleased, and Lockhart is an idiot who hasn’t shown him how to block anything.

“Lockhart cuffed Harry merrily on the shoulder. ‘Just do what I did, Harry!’ ‘What, drop my wand?’”

Malfoy immediately goes for Serpensortia, which Conjures a snake.

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I hope it wasn’t Snape‘s idea, but it seems like it was. He doesn’t react, very lazily.

“Don’t move, I’ll get rid of it.”

If that was what he whispered to Malfoy, dick move.

I’m sure he thought it would be fine, make Harry freak out and embarrass him. He didn’t count on Lockhart being an idiot. “I’ll take care of it!” He shoots the snake up 10 feet in the air and drops it back down in front of innocent students.

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At which point it is pissed off and looking for something to bite.

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C: Every time I read this part I think of those fireworks that are little charcoal discs, and when you light them on fire these little puffy snakes of ash come out. That’s always what I think of when I read this.

S: I don’t think I’ve ever seen that!

C: I’ll Google it.

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My world view is immediately changed

S: Harry doesn’t know why he does this. All he sees is that the snake is in front of Justin, about to strike, and he freaks out.

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Amusingly, someone labeled this as Cedric Diggory. I bet HE was never down for Eton.

So he runs forward and yells at the snake to leave him alone, which even he knows is stupid.

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And yet, it’s fine. The snake stops. And Harry knew that it wouldn’t attack anyone now,

“although how he knew it he couldn’t really have explained.”

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But everyone is looking at him like he just murdered his grandmother! Justin is pissed, turns and runs, and Snape is giving him an interesting look. If you’re Snape, what must you be thinking right now?

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C: Depends on how much he knows about Harry and the Horcruxes and all that.

S: He doesn’t know that much. He certainly knows that as far as Parselmouths go, it’s pretty much just Voldemort. Now seeing Harry do that, he’s not stupid – he’s got to be thinking.

I remember the first time I read this, when I read the term for this – Ron and Hermione drag Harry out of the Great Hall to the Common Room, and they tell him he’s a Parselmouth. I remember the first time I read this thinking that the etymology of that – “Parsel” – had something to do with snakes. For the life of me I can’t find it. Maybe I made the association myself, but it felt like something I had read before, it rang a dusty little bell in the back of my head, but I couldn’t place it.

According to Rowling, it’s a term for someone with a speech impediment or harelip. They’ve looked at possible etymologies for this from Middle English. There was a word for “parsnip,” describing the shape, and it meant like a two-pronged fork. Then you’ve got “parcel,” to divide into pieces, a portion of something. There’s enough connection there to make it work with snake language.

But that’s what a Parselmouth is – they talk to snakes. Harry: “I know. I set a boa constrictor on my cousin Dudley once. Long story.” Ron, faintly:

“A boa constrictor told you it had never seen Brazil?”

Poor Harry. Everyone is acting like he has AIDS or something. This is bad, because Parseltongues are extremely rare, and the most famous of all of them were in Slytherin. The symbol of the house is a gigantic bloody snake.

C: I know when things happen quickly, it messes with your perception and memory, but here’s this snake that gets pissed off because of dumbass Lockhart, goes in the air, falls, hits the ground, then starts slithering toward Justin. That all happens before Harry says anything to it. Once he does, it stops. And yet, Justin’s first reaction is, OMG this is Harry‘s fault, sic’ing this snake on me.

S: The only thing I can think is that this stigma and fear associated with speaking to snakes is so strong that you immediately associate it with evil intent and completely ignore the fact that Harry yelled at it and it stopped. No, he’s clearly evil and trying to kill me! Dumbass.

C: The Hufflepuffs in general don’t come off well in this book.

S: They’re so judgey. This is where – and I mentioned this back in Book 1 – we start to see Rowling explore the other side. She’s taken a Christianized notion of speaking to snakes being evil, and she neutralizes it for a funny, sweet interaction in Book 1. But now she’s exploring the notion of it being evil and dark, so we get to have fun exploring the implications of something like that and the stigma attached to it.

Also, I saw on line where someone did legit lessons on how to speak Parseltongue. Totally seriously, breaking down fricatives and alveolars.

C: What was that based on?

S: I don’t know! But there are even Parseltongue translator apps.

C: Okay.

S: I thought Klingon was a bit much, but this is pushing it. Even if you were going to do like you do with Dothraki, which was actually constructed to be a language. You only hear 4, 5 words in Parseltongue in the movies, which are basically people randomly hissing. It’s not really a language, but someone decided that it needed to be, and put the time and effort into breaking it down. So if you’re interested in learning it, it’s out there. Just saying.

C: SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

S: Things like this make me feel like my hobbies aren’t so bad. Now Harry is going to bed with baggage about everyone thinking he’s related to Salazar Slytherin. He tries saying it again, but it doesn’t work. And now the Sorting Hat’s decision is coming back to haunt him. Harry thinks he can just talk to people and they’ll understand once he explains what happened. So young, so naïve.

C: I do like that Hermione is finally like,

“For heavens’ sake, Harry, go and find Justin if it’s so important to you.”

Stop sitting around whining and bitching to us and go do something.

S: It’s a cold day, last Herbology lesson was cancelled because Prof. Sprout needs to put socks and scarves on the Mandrakes. They’re hanging out in the common room, and Harry is fretting, so Hermione tells him to shut up, stop talking to us and go talk to him.

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So he goes, passes some classrooms, overhears a student who turned his friend into a badger….thinks maybe they’re in the library and of course he comes across the Hufflepuffs, huddled up in their little council of war. And seriously, Ernie Macmillan? You are such an ass.

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TELL ME THIS KID DOESN’T LOOK LIKE AN ASS

They’re all, “Oh, he’s Slytherin’s heir out to get Muggle-borns, and Justin let it slip to Potter that he’s Muggle-born, everyone knows Parselmouth is the mark of a Dark Wizard.”

C: He didn’t let it slip, he bragged about it! “I was down for Eton, you know.”

S: And wtf does Harry care? At least Hannah Abbott has some sense, saying it doesn’t seem like him at all, and besides didn’t he make Voldemort disappear?

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“I get so few lines in this series, the fans need to remember me as nice, dammit!”

Ernie: “NO SEE WHAT HAPPENED WAS it just means Harry was a Dark Wizard and had all these powers.”

C: He was a BABY! You aren’t born a Dark Wizard, dumbass!

S: …. But maybe he WAS!

C: He’s so Dark he was BORN Dark!

S: He’s like the kid from The Omen.

C: He’s so legitimately Dark.

S: Everyone else is a poser. He’s the OG Dark Wizard.

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At least Harry is like, fuck this shit. In the extended version of the movie you get this scene where they’re all in the study hall and he overhears them having this conversation, and he doesn’t say or do anything. I like that Book Harry is like, fuck you, and he steps out.

One of my favorite dumb lines before that, btw, is that

“he was walking toward them when some of what they were saying met his ears, and he paused to listen, hidden in the Invisibility section.”

C: Good place to hide!

S: I love the puns!

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Professor Creed responds to Professor Seraphine’s pun love, in real time

Harry just steps out. “SO.’ This is the greatest opening line. Having overheard everything he’s heard, he’s so gutsy and all fuck you guys: “Hello. I’m looking for Justin Finch-Fletchley.”

“The Hufflepuffs’ worst fears had clearly been confirmed.”

C: I like that Harry is explaining what happened with the snake. “I didn’t chase it at him. It didn’t even touch him.” Ernie: “It was a very near miss!” I can hear him puffing up and speaking those lines, almost like Uncle Vernon. “Here you are confronting me with facts but it was a very near miss!”

S: “I’m going to ignore your logical argument because I like my idea better!” Harry:

“Why would I want to attack Muggle-borns?”

Ernie:

“I hear you hate those Muggles you live with.”

Harry:

“It’s not possible to live with the Dursleys and not hate them. I’d like to see you try it.”

C: Another thing – Ernie says he can trace his family through 9 generations of witches and warlocks. Here we are again with the warlocks!

S: Apparently wizards aren’t good enough! He has to drop that they’re warlocks. OMG Ernie Macmillan, slow your roll with your pompous ass.

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Huffles gonna puff

And way to smooth things over there, Harry. You can’t blame him for storming out because these people are stupid. And he runs into Hagrid, covered in snow, carrying a dead rooster. Again, tiny thing dropped – second rooster killed this term, and he’s going to get permission from Dumbledore to put a charm around the hen coop.

Am I the only one who has always been bugged by this line, where Hagrid says Harry is looking all “hot and bothered”? Does hot and bothered mean something other than what I am used to it meaning?

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Seriously, google it.

C: It must in England.

S: I’ve only ever heard that used in one context, and not the kind of context you want Hagrid to use toward Harry.

C: The kind of context I’m used to hearing it in could involve Petrificus Totalus’ing your penis.

S: Poor Harry. He runs off, and … seriously?

C: This is such bad look. Such a bad coincidence, horrible timing. For Harry to come across this at all, let alone it being Justin Finch-Fletchley, really does strain credulity.

S: AND YET. That is what has happened. He trips over something down the passage – Justin. I hope he tripped over his face.

Justin is petrified. And next to him is Nearly Headless Nick who has been… smoked? He’s floating black and scorched above the floor.

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“He…he suggested I didn’t DESERVE to go to Eton!”

Harry is annoyingly noble. He could run, and no one would know he was there. But he needs to get help!

C: Do something besides stand there.

S: Peeves makes up his mind for him. Dammit, Peeves. He shows up, and decides to go screaming through the corridors about how there’s been another attack, no mortal or ghost is safe, run for your liiiiiiiives! Fuck you Peeves.

C: I love Ernie Macmillan.

“Caught in the act!’ Ernie yelled, his face stark white, pointing his finger dramatically at Harry.”

S: Peeves is so happy he’s even making up songs. They fan Nearly Headless Nick up to the hospital wing and they carry Justin. McGonagall is all, “I got nothing. This is not for me to handle.” So she takes him to a large and extremely ugly stone gargoyle, and using the wonderful password, ‘Lemon drop,” which should ring a bell if you’ve paid attention, she opens a staircase that moves like an escalator. They get on, and they arrive – AT THE GRIFFIN DOOR!…….. Oh, come on!

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C: It’s just a door knocker.

S: I know, but it’s in the shape of a Griffin! IT’S A GRIFFIN DOOR!

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C: Ehhhhh…….

S: You are so unenthused at my terrible puns today. I feel so unloved!

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Professor Seraphine, being unappreciated in real time

They are at Dumbledore’s office.

Chapter 12: The Polyjuice Potion

S: McGonagall leaves Harry alone in the office, which given what he’s been accused of, maybe don’t leave him in the headmaster’s office alone? It’s a cool office, though.

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Lots of odd silver instruments, portraits of old headmasters – and the Sorting Hat. Sadly, Dumbledore’s floral bonnet is nowhere to be seen.

C: He probably sleeps in it.

S: Harry thinks that maybe if he puts the Hat on again, maybe…something. Maybe clarity, I don’t know. But he asks the hat if it put him in the right house. Sorting Hat:

“I stand by what I said before… You would have done well in Slytherin—“

Harry freaks out, takes the hat off, and tells it that it’s wrong. Maybe you want to let the hat finish the sentence, Potter? It might have more to say. But no. Harry finds this very disheartening. Then he realizes he’s not alone. He turns around to see “a decrepit, half-plucked turkey on a perch,” making a gagging sound.

“Harry was just thinking that 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.”

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This kid has the worst luck of anyone.

“He looked feverishly around in case there was a glass of water somewhere.”

C: Okay. Sure, that’d help.

“The bird meanwhile had become a fireball.”

S: I love in the movie the way Dan delivers this line, when Dumbledore comes in – he seems so overwhelmed and bewildered – just like, oh, fuck, what is happening?!

Of course, Dumbledore has this totally under control. “Yeah, I’ve been waiting on this bird, he takes too long and I don’t know what his deal is.” Dumbledore ‘s bird is a phoenix named Fawkes. And as most of us know, phoenixes burst into flame when it is time for them to die, and then they are reborn from the ashes.

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So of course, I had to look up phoenixes, because hello, it’s me. Phoenixes are associated with the sun. Some stories say they’d live over 1400 years before being reborn. Dumbledore‘s comment about Fawkes’s Burning Day leads me to believe Fawkes doesn’t go quite so long between burnings. But I thought you would appreciate all the things the phoenix has stood for.

C: Penises.

S: No. Renewal; the sun; consecration; the Empire; Paradise; resurrection; Christ; Mary; virginity; the exceptional man; and Christian life.

C: Virginity, huh?

S: It astonishes me how many things can symbolize both Jesus and Mary at the same time.

C: How does – okay. Virginity? Because I was under the impression that, you know, once you’re no longer a virgin, you can’t undo that.

S: Apparently, they’re trying to tell us that yes, you can. Your hymen magically respawns every 1400 years. The original Greek comes from Mycenaean, but they think the story originally came from Egypt – Heliopolis, which was centered around sun worship. But get this. The phoenix in medieval art is endowed with a nimbus – a luminous cloud or halo surrounding a divine being or saint. That’s called a fucking nimbus. Did you know that?

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From the Aberdeen Bestiary manuscript, 1200, Aberdeen University Library

C: NO, I didn’t know that!

S: Me either! I thought nimbus – clouds – flying. But what the fuck? So in medieval art, whenever Mary – Jesus – phoenixes – who knows, anything – has a halo, that’s called a nimbus.

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C: I had no idea.

S: Going back to some of the oldest images, a phoenix’s nimbus has 7 rays. Because of course it does. Also, in some of the older stories, it’s been compared to a rooster, which is kind of fun, as the basilisk’s enemy is a rooster and you get a little foreshadowing between a showdown between snake and bird. It’s a fun coincidence.

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Encyclopedia Britannica

According to Dante, the phoenix dies every 500 years and dines on tears of incense and amomum, or cardamom. Others say phoenixes don’t really eat, they feed on light.

C: Or virginity.

S: All I could think was, “I feel like I could eat AN ENTIRE GALAXY!” So let’s pause to appreciate Dark Phoenix right now.

C: “Oh, hell.”

S: Listeners, if you have no idea what we’re talking about, don’t worry, the links are here. And if you’re an X-Men fan you’ll appreciate it even more.

So, our modern comic book mythology has Jean Grey/Phoenix, who is constantly dying and popping back up in inconvenient and inappropriate places, trying to eat galaxies. She’ll never die.

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C: Oh god, I’m actually crying laughing over this.

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Must insert nerd quibble: you may not have liked X-Men: Apocalypse (although I did), but this is by far the best Phoenix take in the films so far

S: Well, in Asian mythology, a phoenix is a good sign, that a wise ruler has ascended the throne and a new era has begun.

C: Okay, well, since they don’t exist –

S: There will never be any wise leaders ascending to any thrones, and we will be in the same era forever. We’re fucked for all eternity, congratulations.

Everyone adopts this thing. It’s apparently representative of Chinese virtues, but also of Christian virtues, because Christianity adopted it like they did everything, as an analogy of Christ’s death and resurrection, and it was a popular symbol on early Christian tombstones.

C: And also of Christ’s virginity.

S: Also symbolic of the beginning and end of the world. HOW does it symbolize virginity?

C: I don’t know. I would say the loss of it, maybe, and only if you’re going to be very unimaginative and say, the color red is like blood, and you frequently bleed when you lose your virginity. I don’t know.

S: I feel like we’re straying back into “Much as our Lord died for us” territory. I’m starting to think a bunch of monks got drunk on ale, and took bets on what they could liken to Our Lord. “Oh, look, there’s a rock in the corner! How can we liken that rock to our Lord?”

C: “Much as our Lord suffered on the cross, so shall you suffer with blue balls and virginity.”

S: I don’t understand any of it! Now, with the classical Arabian phoenix, only one was said to exist at a time. Which was interesting, if that’s the model she goes with here, it might explain why the phoenix who gave the feather for Voldemort’s and Harry ‘s wand was the same one. And also, Dumbledore is super special if he has the only phoenix around.

But yeah, it’s king of the birds. It lives on dew. It kills nothing. It crushes nothing it touches. Apparently in Chinese culture, if it was used to decorate a house, it symbolized the loyalty and honesty of the person who lived there.

C: But they don’t exist!

S: Really? If I just carve a phoenix on my house you’ll believe I’m honest and loyal? Every fucking liar in the village is going to carve a phoenix on their houses in that case. There’s no integrity to this system.

In Chinese society, phoenixes could only be used as decoration by people of great importance. And in Chinese lore, a common depiction showed a phoenix attacking a snake with its talons extended and its wings spread.

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The fenghuang and the dragon, lords of the universe

Which is freaking cool!

C: Interesting.

S: Then Mexico came along and said, “We’ll do you one better, we’ve got a bird, a snake AND a cactus.”

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“I got your ‘don’t tread on me’ right here, pendejo!”

Fucking nimbus, though. I’m never getting over that.

C: I’m still stuck on the virginity thing.

S: We’re ALWAYS stuck on virginity things.

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In the midst of Fawkes bursting into flame Harry almost forgot why he was there. He finds out that in this version of things, phoenixes can carry immensely heavy loads, they’re highly faithful pets, and their tears have healing powers.

Then Hagrid bursts in, carrying his dead roosters, shouting about how it wasn’t Harry! I’ll swear it in front of the Ministry! Dumbledore: “Hagrid, I do not believe that Harry attacked anyone.”

Dumbledore has only one question: I must ask you if you have anything to tell me. Anything at all. I know you have things to tell me, Harry. You don’t think I pay attention, but I do.

C: I just feel like, if you can’t trust Dumbledore, who can you trust?

S: That’s the theme of Book 7, in a large part. But Harry has a lot he could tell – illegal Polyjuice, ghostly bathrooms, hearing voices, everyone thinking he’s a Slytherin – even though that will be his son – OH MY GOD.

C: Much as our Lord had to suffer on the cross, so shall you have to suffer via your asshole son Albus!

S: I JUST HAD AN EPIPHANY THAT EXPLAINS CURSED CHILD’S COMPLETE SHITTINESS.

C: What?

S: You remember that complete bullshit plot device in Breaking Dawn where Bella has her stupid growth-enhanced half-vampire baby Renesmee and Jacob no longer has the hots for her, because apparently, what he really wanted to bone was her undeveloped ovum? That turned into a magical vampire baby that he imprinted on?

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“Come on, Nessie, pretend it’s not creepy. Just pretend…”

C: WHICH DOESN’T MAKE ANY! SENSE!

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S: He’s like, “No, think about it! Do you feel crazy attracted to me like you used to?” Bella: “No.” Jacob: “Me neither! It wasn’t you I was into, it was her!”

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“When I close my eyes, all I see is your daughter…”

C: That doesn’t make any sense because she did not exist.

S: Part of me wonders, Jacob, do you understand that Bella had, I don’t know, how many periods between the time you were trying to bone her and the time she finally had a kid? The ovum you were in love with died a long time ago.

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C: SCIENCE IS A THING THAT EXISTS. That does not work scientifically.

S: But let’s go with it. The essence of everything Jacob wanted to bone about Bella is distilled into her infant daughter, right? Everyone thinks Harry is connected to Slytherin, and we know he’s got the Horcrux thing. But everything that was Slytherin within Harry is distilled in his eventual son, who is a complete and utter ass!

HE’S LIKE THE DISTILLED VERSION OF EVERYTHING WRONG WITH A PERSON. And that’s why Cursed Child sucks.

C: So…. Harry ejaculated everything inside him that was Voldemort, in other words.

S: Apparently!

C: That’s HORRIFYING.

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Even I find that horrifying!

S: My brain scares me sometimes.

C: That’s worse than Petrificus Totalus’ing a penis!

S: To be fair, I brought Twilight into it. Of course it was going to be worse.

C: I thought I had already brought us to rock bottom with this episode, and you one-upped me. That’s impressive.

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We’ve gone this far, might as well end with one of the two actually sexy men in the series! (Rami Malek is the other.)

S: I’m very proud of myself right now.

C: So then explain Ginny’s role.

S: Oh, she doesn’t have one. She didn’t get to name any of the kids, she doesn’t count. She’s only there because the guys who wrote the play, who were way more interested in M/M slashfic, had to put her in because they couldn’t get away with conveniently killing off her and Hermione. But we all know what they were REALLY interested in was the Malfoy-Potter love.

C: As they projected through Moaning Myrtle and her inappropriateness.

S: Moaning Myrtle just wanted everyone to have a good time! I don’t know where all this judgement is coming from.

C: She was so horny in the play!

S: I know. So messed up. So yes, Harry is very worried about his eventual sperm, but in the meantime he’s not telling Dumbledore anything.

And now everybody else is panicking. People aren’t so much worried about Justin, but are saying, “Holy crap, if a ghost can get attacked anyone can die!” Which doesn’t so much change the fact that you could have died before, but something about it attacking Nearly Headless Nick made everyone that much more convinced it was a problem.

C: It would be unsettling.

S: So Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle stay for the Holidays. Fred and George are having a field day with this, marching in front of Harry shouting “Make way for the Heir of Slytherin!”

I love them so much. Of course, Percy does not approve, but he never approves of anything. And poor Ginny! Again! And every time they ask Harry who he’s planning to attack next – poor Ginny. Even Malfoy is annoyed by this. Everyone sees things, and they all think they know what it means, and no one is right.

C: Percy, I think, is who Hermione could have been if she’d never become friends with Harry and Ron.

S: You’re absolutely right. She would have dated another well-behaved, straight-laced person.

C: I wonder if she’d have wanted a power marriage. Or not marry at all.

S: She’d have high standards, regardless. Over Christmas, all the Weasleys are hanging out in the Common Room, except for Percy who doesn’t approve of their childish behavior. No. We all know why Percy stayed, and why he’s not in the common room. Percy stayed because he wanted some make out time with Penelope Clearwater over the holidays.

C: I can’t blame you, Percy.

S: This is a nice moment you think nothing of until later, where Rowling is setting up some dominoes – when Harry and Ron wake up on Christmas, Hermione is in their dorm.

C: I love that.

S: Ron is scandalized.

“You’re not supposed to be in here!”

Well apparently, she can be here, and we find out later that it doesn’t work both ways.

Christmas present time! The Dursleys sent Harry a toothpick. Hagrid sent treacle toffee, which sounds awful. Ron gave him a book about the Chudley Cannons, and Hermione bought him a quill – both important tools. And Molly sent him a plum cake and a sweater.

C: Plums, ugh.

S: Molly made it so I’m sure it’s delicious. And it’s cake! So they go down to dinner in the Great Hall, Dumbledore is singing carols, Hagrid is getting drunk on eggnog, we have Pinhead Percy… and now Hermione sends them to get a bit of Crabbe and Goyle. Hermione is scary. Can we appreciate that her plan rests on drugging, imprisoning, and tying people up in broom closets?

C: She’s pretty scary.

S: If she wanted to be a serial killer she’d be successful.

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AU Hermione

C: We’ve talked about it before – Hermione is awesome, but the Hermione that was never friends with Harry and Ron, becoming like Percy with a one-track mind, powerful and political, that goes down the dark path – there are so many ways you could take her character.

S: Hermione already has her hair from when Millicent put her in a headlock, which displays impressive presence of mind. ‘Oh, this girl tried to kill me, but she left one of her hairs behind, I’ll keep it!”

I like this line from Ron:

“Have you ever heard of a plan where so many things could go wrong?”

NOT YET, Ron, but give it time. You guys will definitely come up with worse ones.

This is also a really good mirror of Book 6, because so much of this plan relies on them being VERY lucky. So many things could go very wrong, and they’re lucky that things fall into place so they can get the information they need – which is what Harry does in Book 6, times 10.

Crabbe and Goyle see floating cakes and think nothing of eating them.

C: So dumb.

S: They pass out. The boys hide them in the broom closet and take their shoes, which is smart. Imagine Goyle trying to walk in tiny Harry Potter shoes.

The potion is ready, the robes are ready, they put the hairs in their glasses, and it looks disgusting. Apparently if you’re not a nice person your Polyjuice is not pleasant looking or tasting. Sick yellow, the color of a booger, and dark murky brown.

“Ugh! Essence of Millicent Bulstrode!”

S: As opposed to Harry‘s later in Book 7, which just turns clear. Because Harry is so nice, and these people are just nasty.

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They drink the potion and it starts working. The way it’s described –

“a horrible melting feeling like hot wax.”

C: It’s pretty gross.

S: But it works! I love this line. Ron’s gazing at Harry:

“You don’t know how bizarre it is to see Goyle thinking.”

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But Hermione isn’t going. Nope, nope, she’s good, you guys go, no reason, see you later.

They realize they don’t know where the Slytherin common room is and they try to follow someone, and they unwittingly stumble across a girl with long curly hair, and they don’t know where she came from, and then they meet Percy! What were you doing, Percy? What have you been up to?

C: Mmmmmm-hmmmmm.

S: Ron has to remember he can’t interact with Percy the normal way. Fortunately for them Malfoy strolls through looking enormously pleased with himself, and they go off with him. Draco: “That Peter Weasley. I’ve noticed him sneaking around a lot lately.” YEAH YOU HAVE.

We go to the Slytherin common room, and the password is “pure-blood.” What the fuck is up with this password? Who determines the passwords? Is it the portraits? Who does it?

C: I always assumed it was the heads of House.

S: In which case, what the fuck is this? Yeah, let’s keep perpetuating this blood purity nonsense. Fuck you! If that was Snape’s idea he can go screw himself.

C: Even if it wasn’t his idea, he’s got to know, right?

S: Yeah, it’s awful! I get that she does it to let you know that you’re about to enter a very different mindset and group of people, and the fact that it’s so casual and accepted – but that’s a problem! This is why we don’t need Slytherin house.

But we get to see the inside of the common room –

“a low-ceilinged, underground room with rough stone walls, round greenish lamps hanging on chains, a fire under an elaborately carved mantelpiece, and high-backed chairs.”

I picture a posh college library reading room.

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C: It made me think of a bank.

S: Malfoy has something to show off from his dad, and he comes back with a newspaper clipping from the Daily Prophet about an inquiry at the Ministry – Arthur was fined 50 Galleons for bewitching the car, and Lucius called for Arthur’s resignation, and of course is using it to leverage scrapping the Muggle Protection Act. Arthur was unavailable for comment, although his wife told reporters to clear off or she’d set the family ghoul on them. Good for you, Molly.

But this is a weird thing to send your son, unless you know he will appreciate it. Which means this is all an inside joke with the family at this point. He’s not just showing off that he’s in the paper. He sent this to Malfoy because his son will appreciate seeing Arthur fined and in trouble, and that the Muggle Protection Act is in jeopardy. This is something maybe he could expect other adults to appreciate, but he sent this to his kid. I feel like this is further evidence of a sort of indoctrination and constant reinforcement of the disparity in status, the constant reminding that Draco is better than everyone based on who he is.

C: That, and encouraging your kid basically to mock, bully and belittle someone else.

S: The stuff Malfoy spouts is the stuff he hears at home, because you know he doesn’t come up with this on his own.

“Arthur Weasley loves Muggles so much he should snap his wand in half and go join them.”

“You’d never know the Weasleys are pureblood the way they behave.”

Malfoy is surprised the Daily Prophet hasn’t reported on the attacks, but he thinks Dumbledore might be sacked if the attacks don’t stop soon. We find out that Dumbledore is very pro-Muggleborns, and Malfoy is jealous of the attention Harry pays Colin Creevey, because again he is weirdly obsessed with Harry.

C: It is exceptionally lonely, being Draco Malfoy.

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Cue the soulful eyes

S: Be my light in the darkness, Potter! Harry and Ron aren’t laughing until Malfoy notices, at which point they force a laugh, which satisfies him.

“Perhaps Crabbe and Goyle were always slow on the uptake.”

C: I’m going with yes.

S: There was a phrase in here that rang a bell with me – Malfoy talks about Hermione and calls her a “jumped-up Granger Mudblood.” It made me think of “uppity,” and I wondered if there was a similar connotation with “Jumped-up” as there is with “uppity” in America, because “uppity” is SUPER loaded and pretty racist. I’m sure the Fox News cadre would be up in arms about me suggesting that a word is racist –

C: You’re being so politically correct!

S: It totally exists in a vacuum! Except, no, it fucking doesn’t. Uppity is super racist, because of its history and the way it was exclusively used against black people who dared do things like breathe, exist, have opinions, make money giving speeches, run for President. It’s a loaded term.

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But we all understand, don’t we?

Jumped-up seems mostly British, and a reference to someone jumping up above their station. It doesn’t seem to have the same connotations as uppity.

C: I just kind of equated the two.

S: They feel very similar. We find out, at least, that Malfoy doesn’t know who opened the Chamber, or who Slytherin’s heir is. His dad won’t tell him. It happened before Lucius’ time, 50 years ago, and Lucius says he knows about it but he doesn’t want Malfoy knowing too much or it will seem suspicious. He did tell him that the last time it was opened a Mudblood died, and Malfoy has his bets on it being Hermione this time.

You honestly think of anyone, the one person who will get killed by this monster and not figure out how to defeat it will be Hermione? It’s not. She’s got this.

C: This whole part is not a good look for Malfoy, and it really perplexes me why so many people were determined to turn him into a good guy or an ally or a romantic hero.

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S: You know what really bothers me about that? The Dramione shippers, who ship Draco and Hermione and who believe that Draco’s “obsession” with Hermione, especially his jealousy and negativity toward her in this book – what disturbs me are people who say, “Oh, that just shows that he liked her but he couldn’t admit it to himself, he was struggling with his feelings!”

Okay, that’s great. Let’s continue to reinforce that sexist bullshit where, when a man likes a woman, he treats her like utter shit and wishes violence upon her.

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C: I can’t tell you how many times I have wished death upon the people I wanted to bang. The two go hand in hand.

S: “It’s okay, honey, he just hit you / hates you / called you a racial slur / hopes you’ll die because he likes you!”

C: It’s just hard for men! You know, with their feelings! This is how they let you know that they’re interested!

S: Or, you know, there are zero consequences for being violent or abusive or a jackass, and so they do it because they can. And because you just jumped through a bushel of mental hoops to excuse that behavior, so it will keep going!

Yeah, that leap to justify and sanitize Draco – “He had different motives! He changed! He didn’t have a choice!” – it’s all bullshit. I understand to an extent the impulse, but if you’re doing that you’re just focusing on the fact that you thought Tom Felton was sexy and you’re not focusing on the author’s clear message.

C: We agree he’s not an evil character, and he gets better – or at least less bad – as the series progresses, the point where at the end he kind of sees the light to an extent. Still not a good guy. Still not their friend, not a hero. Still not great.

S: We get a nice setup mention of Azkaban, the first time we’ve heard this word. Malfoy says whoever opened the Chamber last time was expelled and is probably in Azkaban. But we do find out that the Ministry raided Malfoy Manor next week. Nice! “Luckily they didn’t find much. Father’s got some very valuable Dark Arts stuff. But luckily we’ve got our own secret chamber hidden under the drawing room floor.” That my dad won’t let me into, because he says it’s his ‘special’ chamber.

C: That’s his playroom!

S: Haha, Malfoys got raided! And Ron gets a nice bit of info to pass on to Arthur. But they gotta go, because Ron ‘s turning into a redhead again. They bolt, and hope that Malfoy won’t notice how weird they’re being. Past the closet, they hear pounding, so clearly Crabbe and Goyle are awake. They leave their shoes and make it to the bathroom.

“Hermione, we’ve got loads to tell you!”

Moaning Myrtle is so happy – it must be awful. It wasn’t Millicent Bulstrode’s hair – it was cat hair. And Polyjuice Potion isn’t meant for animals – so Hermione has turned into a cat…. person. That sucks.

C: It’s pretty disturbing.

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S: Harry: “We’ll take you up to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey never asks too many questions.” That would have to be part of the job description if you’re going to be the nurse at this school. You can’t ask too many questions. How many insane things do you think she’s seen? After a while you just don’t ask.

C: She shakes her head. “Another petrified penis, I see.”

S: “How many hours this time? 10? At least it didn’t explode.”

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IT CAN DO THAT??

Well, that’s the end of Chapter 12! I really want to do 13 but we should leave it to next week. For me this is where the story really starts. So I’m super excited for that. But I feel like we accomplished a lot – Petrified penises, the riddle of Phoenixes and virginity – someone solve that for us, please!

Next week we will do Chapter 13: The Very Secret Diary, and Chapter 14: Cornelius Fudge.

So that’s it for us this week! Come hang out next week when we talk about Tom Riddle. I shouldn’t be this excited about a teen serial killer.

C: It just means that he likes you, and he doesn’t know how to say it.

S: Someone should explain that to Moaning Myrtle! “It’s okay that your dead – he liked you, he just didn’t know how to say it, so he attacked you with a monster!” It makes everything okay. She’d be much happier.

C: Did he actually kill her on purpose?

S: We’ll have to talk about it when we get there. To me it seemed like wrong place, wrong time, but we shall have to think about it. Until next time, I am Professor Seraphine –

C: I am Professor Creed –

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

Show Notes

Intro music: “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, performed by Kevin McLeod

Primary Sources

“Phoenix (mythology).” New World Encyclopedia http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Phoenix_(mythology)

“X-Men: Death Becomes Them” and “X-Men: Dark Phoenix Rising.” Floating Hands Studios. YouTube 2008.

Reeve, Elspeth. “Yep, Uppity Is Racist.” The Atlantic 22 Nov. 2011.

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