This week, we discuss the symbolic value of Harry’s blood sacrifice as presented to Dumbledore; prefects’ special visitation privileges; a distressing look at Hogwarts security loopholes; what the adults in this book have in common with Charlie Swan; Dumbledore’s forgiveness of Ginny’s sins by virtue of Harry’s noble sacrifice (oh come on, you know we were going there); more proof that Cursed Child is an abomination; useful tips for characters in horror movies; resurrecting the Petrified and a multitude of Lazari; McGonagall’s unreasonable expectations of discipline at this school; Lockhart’s epic schadenfreude; the troubling moral ambivalence of loyalty; Jesus, Neil Gaiman and Milton; badly phrased Horcrux explanations; what a true member of each house might pull out of the Sorting Hat; aspiring to Dumbledore and Julia Sugarbaker; sashaying and male wizarding privilege; the ignominy and pride of socks; the power of clothes and why we police them; Dobby is the bomb; why pajama parties trump polite feasts every time; the hats were never going to happen; and one more fuck you, Cursed Child for the road!
Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies! We are on the last chapter of Chamber of Secrets – and we didn’t die!
S: By the grace of Ottaline Gambol, we have made it this far.
C: Damn straight.
S: I know last week went kind of heavy on the religion stuff, and I was thinking to myself as I got to this chapter, “Okay, that part’s done.” Yeah, I lied. Because I was re-reading this chapter and I was like, “OMG THERE’S MORE.” I’ll try not to come down too heavy on it but, seriously, ya’ll. This is the most Biblical book in the series. I can’t not comment on it.
C: My goal for this episode is to not knock over as much shit on my desk as I did last time.
S: That’s a great goal, I think. I completely understand. You don’t understand, until you’ve done this, how hard it is not to knock shit over and be quiet while recording your lovely radio voice.
C: Yes, my dulcet tones.
Chapter 18: Dobby’s Reward
S: We have gone through the descent to the underworld, Harry has battled the King of Serpents / our Satan proxy, King Arthur has pulled the sword from the hat and rescued the girl, he has come off victorious!
C: The Weasel of God has killed the snake!
S: And no one died! Moaning Myrtle loses out a bit there, but no one died aside from the diary, so it’s a win. May the grace of the Weasel of God always extend to us.
C: May he never become a rich woman’s stole.
S: That too! I like how J.K. seems to do this more in this book – a lot of time when the chapter ends some time has necessarily elapsed between the last chapter and the opening of the next, even if it’s just a day. But several times in this book she has ended a chapter on one breath-taking moment, and then opened the next immediately following that moment. That’s the case here. We have Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Lockhart, covered in muck and slime and in Harry’s case, blood. I’m already getting Biblical on ya’ll.
C: He wasn’t wounded in the side!
S: I know, but he’s the only one covered in blood, and there’s something very reminiscent of this idea of Jesus being put to death, then is resurrected to heaven, and the whole idea is that he presents the value of his blood sacrifice to god to provide for the salvation of humanity. So of course, he’s the only one covered in blood – why wouldn’t he be? He’s Harry Fucking Potter, and he’s going to present what he has done to Dumbledore, who I think we can all see as the God figure. If there is a God I wouldn’t mind if he were like Dumbledore, too. I would hope he would like words like oddment, blubber and tweak.
C: And wear a pink flowered bonnet.
S: This is the god that could unite the world.
C: Well, if you’re going to be infinite and omniscient and omnipotent, I hope you have a sense of humor.
S: The Weasleys prove once again to be the exceptional family in this world, because not only did Hogwarts deign to inform them about the predicament in which their daughter was caught, but also allows them to come up to the school.
S: They get special visitation privileges. Maybe it’s because Percy is a prefect.
C: I’m sure that’s it. He’s very important.
S: Molly and Arthur fling themselves on Ginny. Harry turns to Dumbledore, who is standing there beaming. There’s also McGonagall, who looks like she’s about to have a heart attack. And there’s Fawkes, hanging out. Ron’s being hugged, McGonagall wants to know what happened.
Harry puts the Sorting Hat, sword and diary on the desk, and then starts talking. It says,
“for nearly a quarter of an hour he spoke into the rapt silence.”
I read this and thought this must have been a very illuminating 15 minutes in which McGonagall and Dumbledore got to see exactly how bad school security is. Think about what Harry is telling them! He’s telling them about hearing a voice he didn’t tell Dumbledore about, how Hermione realized it was a basilisk after sneaking off the library when she wasn’t supposed to be there, and ripping pages out of a book, how he and Ron followed spiders into the Forbidden Forest, where they’re not supposed to go, after hours, when they’re supposed to be locked in dormitories. They find Aragog! They talk to Moaning Myrtle! They go into the Chamber of Secrets, holding a teacher hostage!
All the things they are telling them right now have got to make the adults pause and think, you know, there are some holes in our security.
C: He probably did not mention that the Invisibility Cloak is how he managed to sneak out into the forest.
S: I’m sure he didn’t.
C: That being the case, how the hell did they get past all those prefects and teachers patrolling the hallways?
S: I feel like this is another CONVENIENTLY moment where you don’t ask too many questions. “So, Ron and I went to the Forbidden Forest!” No one asks – how did you do that, with teachers patrolling? How did you not get seen? It feels like a case where the adults are like, “Don’t ask, you don’t want to know, we just want results.”
We saw something similar before with Dippet, who just accepted the story about Hagrid and said, “I’m not going to look too close or ask too many questions because I like the outcome.” This feels like a slightly more benign version. Maybe it’s a situation where adults realize how much they actually don’t want to know.
It makes me think of the one good character in the Twilight movies, Bella’s dad Charlie. In Breaking Dawn, he comes to visit and Bella and Edward are there with a months-old toddler after only being married a couple of weeks, and he looks around at everything and asks, “Do I need to know?” Bella: “Nah.” Charlie: “Kay. I’m good.”
C: That is a little incorrect of you, though. because Anna Kendrick’s character was also good. She did not have enough screen time.
S: Yeah, she got the shaft in the movies! She was kind of annoying in the books, but Anna Kendrick made her good.
C: Everyone was annoying in the books.
S: Except Charlie, who says, “This is stupid and weird, but you seem fine so I’m going fishing.”
C: Imagine having a daughter that dumb.
S: I just think of Aladdin, where Jasmine’s dad is talking to the tiger. “Allah forbid you should have any daughters!”
So, McGonagall is like, well, you found the entrance, breaking all of the rules ever. How did you make it out alive?
Now Harry tells about what happened in the Chamber of Secrets, the Sorting Hat – but rather impressively, Harry has managed to tell this entire story without once mentioning Tom Riddle’s diary or Ginny.
He’s thinking, okay, how do I protect her? because it’s not her fault. Again, my brain – omg this is totally like redeeming sinners who have fallen into sin against their own will! I am going to hammer this nail until it’s buried.
C: Until it has gone all the way through Our Lord’s feet and hands.
S: That was particularly heretical. Sacrilegious, that’s what I meant to say. I’m going crazy over the top on the religion, so I count on you to go crazy over the top on the sacrilege.
C: That’s what I’m here for.
S: Listeners, if you’ve ever wondered how we managed to stay friends this long? This is how, right here.
C: We’re the yin and the yang.
S: We’re the Ravenclaw and the Weasel of God!
Fortunately, Harry doesn’t have to say it because Dumbledore is all wise, and knows perfectly well this isn’t Ginny’s fault. So, he generously extends forgiveness to her COUGH COUGH.
“What is interesting to me is how Lord Voldemort managed to enchant Ginny, when my sources tell me he is currently hiding in the forests of Albania.”
Which is very generous of him, not making her explain.
“Warm, sweeping, glorious relief swept over Harry.”
He hands over the diary, and Dumbledore gets a good look at it, noting that it is brilliant. Then he said a line that made me roll my eyes really hard.
“Very few people know that Lord Voldemort was once called Tom Riddle.”
Very few people know. VERY FEW PEOPLE. HEAR THAT, CURSED CHILD.
C: But Harry has obviously taken Lockhart’s advice to heart and written a tell-all memoir about his battles and triumph over Voldemort and how he saved the entire wizarding world. That’s how everybody knows.
S: Seriously. because this chapter alone – did the people who wrote Cursed Child not even read this book? You’ve heard us ask this question over and over – how many people knew Tom Riddle was Voldemort? VERY FEW. Now we’ve added Arthur, Molly and Ginny. I sincerely doubt that they in turn go around and prattle that information to everyone else.
We have our answer, for the record.
C: I wonder if McGonagall knew before this.
S: I would suspect she might. I can’t think of many reasons why she wouldn’t. I don’t know much about McGonagall’s history, and so much of it is retroactively established. It’s not explained in the canon, so her history is just whatever J.K. Rowling says it is after the fact. But if she didn’t know, she doesn’t seem very surprised.
At least we get the abridged version of what we’ll learn when this particular section of the story comes full circle in Book 6. Dumbledore explains briefly how he became Voldemort.
They realize this happened because of Ginny writing in the diary. Arthur:
“What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain!”
C: It’s good advice. I wish more people kept it in mind in the voting booth.
S: It’s a great bit of wisdom. To be fair I think half the horror movies and stories that exist wouldn’t exist if we followed this.
C: Fewer people would be dead. Never go in the basement, never split up…
S: That dark mysterious object that keeps doing weird things? Get rid of it. Or move.
Ginny does have a useful bit of information:
“I found it inside one of the books Mum got me. I thought someone had just left it there and forgotten it.”
Dumbledore interrupts with his wonderful, magnanimous forgiveness – there will be no punishment, and Ginny should go to the hospital wing.
“Older and wiser wizards than she have been hoodwinked by Lord Voldemort.”
S: It’s a lovely lesson in forgiveness and compassion. You see how Dumbledore cares for his students and understands the difference between when punishment is and isn’t appropriate. Which is something a lot of adults and educators could stand to learn.
C: But it’s so much easier to have your school’s resource officer come in and body slam a six-year-old, cuff em and take them away.
S: I didn’t realize until I started teaching how much of my worldview as a teacher had been informed by these books. I remember once I started, I was watching Prisoner of Azkaban, and it struck me how much of how I deal with students came from Lupin. I feel like I absorbed a lot from him and Dumbledore.
C: Lupin is great. I feel like the real-life analogue of Lupin would be some parent or group of parents freaking out over some teacher being gay or a Muslim or somehow ill, and we can’t have them teach our kids.
S: We’re going to have fun with Lupin. I have multiple theories on him, and as the series go on J.K. has so much to say about education in general.
But Dumbledore has the answers – hot chocolate, and the phase where everyone gets resurrected now that evil has been defeated. We’re in resurrection mode, where all those struck down are restored! This book is so fucking Biblical.
C: I guess all of these people – if we’re running with this analogy — comprise a multitude of Lazaruses? Lazari?
S: Lazarus was an object lesson – resurrected to show that God had the power to restore the dead to life. Jesus said that in the future there would be a time when all those in the memorial tombs would be restored to life and come out. Christianity has historically been split along – I think Calvinism, for one – whether or not that means people go to heaven, or if there’s a resurrection. The two generally don’t go together. Unless you’re trying to say that you’re being resurrected to life in heaven, although that to me nullifies the idea of resurrection altogether. But there are multiple instances in the Bible where it talks about people who had died and had sins forgiven being resurrected through the auspices of the ransom sacrifice.
C: It’s just a shame that so many of them are nothing but skeletons. Think how awesome it would be to be resurrected, wake up in a coffin six feet underground, and then die again because of lack of oxygen.
S: I hope God has thought out the logistics of this one, because otherwise this gets very complicated, very fast. We’re going to have a feast! because all books should end with a good feast. McGonagall is the only one with her priorities still in order. She goes off to alert the kitchens and says,
“Right. I’ll leave you to deal with Potter and Weasley, shall I?”
At least she still expects them to be dealt with.
Of course, Dumbledore is like, “I’ll deal with them.”
I seem to remember telling you both that I would have to expel you if you broke any more school rules. Which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words.
C: I love it!
S: You will both receive Special Awards for Services to the School, and 200 points apiece for Gryffindor.
C: I would whistle if I knew how.
S: But may I just make a point that, no offense, those Special Awards for Services to the School clearly aren’t worth the metal they’re stamped on.
C: Well, they weren’t when Armando Dippet was handing them out, but this is Albus Fucking Dumbledore! Come on.
S: That is true. You take it, you smile and you say thank you.
C: Damn straight.
S: Now, one of my favorite moments in this chapter. Dumbledore:
“But one of us has been keeping mightily quiet about his part in this adventure. Why so modest, Gilderoy?”
C: HA. I do have one question. Are we to assume that Lockhart ‘s memory is continually not working? because otherwise they just revealed to him that Tom Riddle is Voldemort.
S: Yeah, but he doesn’t have any context for that information so I would think he’s just ignored it. He seems like he’s been standing there, smiling vaguely, and everything they’re talking about probably doesn’t register. It seems like he did some serious damage to himself with that wand.
C: He deserves it, frankly.
S: HE does. It’s so apropos. The schadenfreude is complete.
C: It’s like the new Imperial in Rogue One when he’s killed by the Death Star on Scarif.
C: High-five! Yes.
S: It’s almost Dantean in its appropriateness to his crime. The man who went around wiping other people’s memories now cannot remember who he is or the world he inhabits. “Am I a professor? Goodness, I expect I was hopeless, was I?” Lockhart is much more charming now that his memory has been erased. He’s somewhat self-effacing and decent.
Now one of my all-time favorite book lines that I wish had made the movie.
“Dear me! Impaled on your own sword, Gilderoy!”
“Sword? Haven’t got a sword. That boy has, though. He’ll lend you one.”
Lockhart trying to be helpful will always be the best. He’s off to the infirmary too. Now it’s just Dumbledore and Harry. And the first thing Dumbledore does is thank Harry.
“You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that could have called Fawkes to you.”
BIBLICAL SEGUE! So, this reminds me of what the whole point of sacrificing himself for humanity was supposed to be about – proving that it could be done. That a perfect human being could remain faithful and loyal to God no matter what temptations or trials were put in their way.
C: Well it’s easy to do when you’re perfect!
S: Yeah, but Adam and Eve were perfect and they screwed it up. The question then is – Satan is over here like, “Ha, I told you, you don’t deserve to be sovereign, and no one wants to serve you if I make it hard.” So, with the question of sovereignty at stake, God is like, fine. If we’re going to balance the scales we have to see if it’s possible. So, Jesus comes to earth, manages to remain loyal through his entire lifespan, and dies faithful despite dying a terrible death. So, the point is proven – yeah, Adam and Eve fucked up but that doesn’t mean everyone would.
But I like that notion, that maintaining that loyalty to the end is what brought help to Harry.
Getting off my Biblical high horse, I like the idea in general. When people are afraid or in trouble or face a difficult choice, things like loyalty can give you the strength to do what you need to do – whether it’s loyalty to family, friends, what you know to be right – even in bad circumstances loyalty can carry you through.
C: Well, and it’s interesting, because it sounds great, and then you think of all the stupid hateful shit people subscribe to. And you realize that oh no, that could actually be a huge problem as well.
S: And that gets you in a whole other conversation about whether loyalty is itself positive, or if it’s morally ambivalent, and is that always loyalty, or is it slavish devotion to an ideology? Are they the same thing?
C: That’s for another episode.
S: it does raise interesting moral questions. And I agree with you.
C: Our new podcast: Moralizing, with Seraphine and Creed.
S: Seriously – on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got Bellatrix Lestrange, who is terrifyingly loyal.
C: That too, but in a real-world sense – who was it, Ted Cruz who during the election before he came to speak at a rally, there was some preacher talking to the crowd beforehand who literally came out and said gay people should be put to death. So, is that being faithful and loyal to the Bible? Or is that hateful ideology and faith gone awry? Depending on who you ask, I mean. Oh shit, I knocked something over.
S: Well, listeners, if you haven’t pondered your allotment of philosophy this week, we’ve got you covered.
But let’s move on to the fun stuff of Tom Riddle and my Bible high horse.
C: Your Bible unicorn!
S: I meant to hit this last week but I forgot because I got lost in my own ramblings. We love these kinds of narratives with the god figure (Dumbledore).
And then the Jesus and Satan figure, both of whom are angels but who make different choices. This is the structure Milton uses for Paradise Lost, his epic retelling of the creation story and the fall of the Devil. I thought of Paradise Lost because of the fact that many have noticed that Milton’s Devil character is way more interesting than anyone else in the work.
That made me think of Tom Riddle and this fascination we have with this type of character.
C: That makes sense, though. If you’re taking stuff in the Bible literally or semi-literally, Satan was an angel and set himself to be as great as God and didn’t like others worshipping God. You’re an interesting spiritual thing or deity if that’s what you do. You have this infinite omnipotent force. And that gets you into other questions – if god is infinite and all-knowing and all wise, then surely, he would have known that one of these angels he created would do this, right?
S: Which gets you into sticky questions of predestination and whether you subscribe to straight-up Calvinist predetermination or a more nuanced belief. There’s been great explorations of that in fiction. Neil Gaiman did a great one called “Murder Mysteries.” It’s a short story that reimagines this told from the perspective of a fallen angel that lives on earth as a homeless man.
We love stories like this – not just because they fit the Biblical pattern and so many of our works in the Western canon are influenced by that structure – but because it’s a fascinating concept. Two sons of the same father, once chooses one thing, the other chooses another. People want to understand what causes that one to fall, to turn. You have the same narrative in Star Wars, Obi-Wan and Anakin fighting the good fight together until one does something the other one won’t.
Hell, even Captain America with Cap and Red Skull.
There’s tons of these.
And Rowling hammers down on this – they look alike. They share abilities. The Sorting Hat thought Harry would do well in Slytherin. They have no parents.
But as Dumbledore says, it comes down to what you choose. Not your abilities.
This is the first time we start getting hints of Horcruxes. This is the first time we’ve seen a Horcrux, although we won’t know what it is until we get to the mirror of Book 6, but come on. Dumbledore tells Harry:
“Unless I’m much mistaken, he transferred some of his powers to you the night he gave you that scar.”
“Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?” Harry said, thunderstruck.
First of all, phrasing.
C: Bow BOW BOW.
S: Voldemort’s like, “Yes Harry, come over so I can put a bit of myself…in you.”
C: GAHHHHHH! You made it sound so much worse.
S: I did! I’m proud. But she’s straight up telling us here – hey, look! In the movie, they change the line. Harry says, “Voldemort transferred powers to me?” Whereas here, he straight up says it. Even though we won’t understand implications until much later.
C: Then we’ll forget that we understood that, so that Harry can understand Parseltongue in Cursed Child.
S: No, we won’t! because Harry is not a fucking Horcrux anymore! I will sing it from the rooftops!
Then we get the line that echoes beautifully in Book 7. Dumbledore tells Harry, if you really need proof of where you belong, look what you pulled out of the Hat. Harry looks at the sword, and sees the name engraved just below the hilt: Godric Gryffindor.
“Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat, Harry.”
C: I have a question for you. A quiz. A theoretical probing. What would true Slytherins, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs pull out of the hat?
S: Oooh this is an excellent question. Slytherins first….
C: Russian spies?
S: I like it. Something evil for sure. I want to say a snake, but that feels too obvious.
Maybe a copy of Mein Kampf.
C: A copy of Moste Potente Potions!
S: Or Muggles, and the Threats They Pose to a Pureblood Society.
Okay, a Hufflepuff? Obviously a Hufflepuff would pull a badger. If you’ve never seen a badger, go online and watch videos about honey badgers, because those things are fucking badass and terrifying. They’re little packaged predators. Do not fuck with them. In a fight, I’d put my money on a badger. I’ve seen videos of them scaring off lions.
C: Oh, wow.
S: You wouldn’t think so! But there are some badgers that are ranked way up there as predators simply because they can fight off pretty much anyone, even animals 2, 3 times their size. Damn straight if I’m a Hufflepuff I want a badger, so I can throw it at whoever I’m fighting.
C: Not a bad strategy.
S: What about Ravenclaws?
C: A book! Hogwarts a History.
S: And of course, Gryffindors get swords.
Anyway, Dumbledore is like, okay, paperwork time! We need food, I need my gamekeeper back from Azkaban, we’ll need to advertise for a new Defense teacher, since we go through them like mad. Just as Harry is about to leave – a fabulous storm approaches.
And the door flies open fabulously! And in walks the fabulous Lucius Malfoy. With Dobby!
C: Aw, Dobby.
S: Heavily wrapped in bandages?! What are you people doing to him? I don’t know if I’ve ever said this, but I aspire to deal with people I dislike, my enemies, the way Dumbledore does.
He always enters any given interaction being incredibly pleasant and polite. He’s not disingenuously sucking up, he just believes in manners. The Dumbledore line that will stick with me forever is in Book 6, on the Tower, when he’s talking to people, and they accuse him of making fun, and his response is “No, no, these are manners.”
He doesn’t bullshit you, or pretend to trust people he doesn’t, but he’s so dignified. I aspire to handle people that way. Someone like Malfoy, who got you kicked out of your job a couple of days ago. Now he’s storming in, like he owns the place, and you’re pretty sure he’s behind all the shit that’s endangered lives around here – to be able to say pleasantly, “Good evening, Lucius.” I wish I could do that.
C: Two examples I can think of that are similar are Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. And the mob is there and he’s talking to them pleasantly, doesn’t show fear or anger, just addresses them as the people he recognizes them to be. He appeals to their humanity beneath the anger and overwhelming racism.
The other one would be my mother, who is a badass, who can deal with horrible parents and stick them with these perfectly placed daggers to the heart, hamstring them, cut their Achilles tendon, and knock their feet out from under them, and do it so pleasantly and it’s the bomb.
Whereas I will go one of two ways – I will blow up and start cursing, or burst into tears. There’s no in-between.
S: Dumbledore is aspirational to me in this way – dignified, polite, yet strong and not giving up ground.
C: My role model for something like this is not Dumbledore. When I grow up I want to be Julia Sugarbaker.
S: Who is that?
C: OH MY GOD. WHAT?
S: Are we still friends?
C: From Designing Women! Have you never seen Designing Women?
S: I have, but a long time ago.
C: OH MY GOD. I am shocked and appalled. I don’t know if I can continue this conversation with you. I don’t know if I can continue this podcast with you. This is a betrayal of the highest order!
S: HEY! This is the forgiveness chapter! You need to forgive me! Harry Potter died for my sins!
C: I am going to send you a YouTube clip of one of her greatest moments, and hopefully you will embed it because Julia Sugarbaker is the epitome of a classy, smart Southern woman who can verbally annihilate you.
S: Well, Malfoy has arrived with disheveled hair and half-polished shoes, so it must be serious. He’s pissed that Dumbledore is back at Hogwarts even though governors suspended him. I love Dumbledore’s answer.
“The other 11 governors contacted me today. It was something like being caught in a hailstorm of owls, to tell you the truth.”
A HAILSTORM OF OTTALINE GAMBOLS!
S: The Ottaline Gambols caught on to Lucius’s trickery!
“They heard that Arthur Weasley’s daughter had been killed and wanted me back here at once. They seemed to think I was the best man for the job after all. Very strange tales they told me, too. Several of them seemed to think that you would curse their families if they didn’t agree to suspend me in the first place.”
SEE? That’s beautiful. That’s not him saying, “You threatened to curse people to get me out of my job.” He’s just like, “this is what they said. Wherever would they get that idea?”
C: And now we come to another point where the Muggle world does something better than the Wizarding world. All the Ottaline Gambols need to be recording all their conversations with Lucius to get this shit on tape.
S: Right? Documentation is important. I know Quick-Quotes Quills exist. Granted, Rita Skeeter’s is a bit sensational, but surely, they have these that can take dictation. Come now.
C: You’d think.
S: But we have caught the culprit: Lord Voldemort! He was just acting through the book. Meanwhile, Dobby is doing something very strange in the corner. He keeps pointing at the diary, then at Lucius, then hitting himself hard on the head. If you just picture that on a loop – book! Malfoy! Punch in the face!
Dumbledore is way too smart for his own good. He understands exactly what’s happening here. It seems like all he was missing was what and how things happened with Ginny. He’s perfectly aware of the politics behind the scenes. And as he says, it’s a clever plan.
“If Harry and Ron hadn’t discovered the book, Ginny would have taken all the blame. No one would have ever been able to prove that she hadn’t acted of her own free will. And imagine what might have happened then. The Weasleys are one of our most prominent pureblood families. Imagine the effect on Arthur Weasley and his muggle Protection Act if his own daughter was discovered attacking and killing Muggle-borns.”
He has Lucius’s number. That’s got to be galling. He’s been rubbing his hands together, giggling, “I’ve been so smart, tee-hee!”
C: Malfoy is like one of those gangsters that starts making a lot of money and has a nice car and house, but is still a common thug at the end of the day.
S: Wasn’t he born into money?
C: That doesn’t make a person smart. Look at our president.
S: So, I agree with what you said, and then add in a whopping dose of white male wizard entitlement and privilege, and you’ve got Malfoy. And a killer sense of style, it must be said.
C: I bet during this entire conversation he keeps striking Vogue poses.
S: Have you ever seen the “My life as a Background Slytherin” cartoons?
C: Oh, they’re hilarious.
S: There’s a wonderful one with Lucius sashaying in, posing, and sashaying out. That is how I imagine him.
But finally, Harry gets the message. Dobby has only punched himself in the face 15 times, but Harry finally gets it. He asks Lucius– and by the way, even at this point Harry is still calling him MR. Malfoy. The idea that his son thinks he can go around calling his lover’s father by his first name is ill mannered and terribly inconsistent.
C: Wait, what?
S: Remember in Cursed Child when Albus calls Draco by his first name?
C: Oh, yeah. Well, Albus sucks. Cursed Child is like Star Wars before Disney bought it and started making movies, when they were continuing with the post-ROTJ stories in novels. It’s a good thing they went back to Legends. And I say this as someone who purchased and owns most of those books.
S: Even you have to admit….
C: Oh, don’t get me started. Don’t EVEN get me started.
S: You got yourself started, I would like to say for the record.
C: Don’t encourage me! But yes, to try to make an incredibly long rant short, they had gotten increasingly terrible for the last 10-15 years before Disney bought Lucasfilm. And even as someone who loved them, bought them, read them, loves Star Wars, I’m glad that they don’t count any longer.
S: Fair enough. Harry asks Lucius: Don’t you want to know how Ginny got hold of that diary?
“How should I know how the stupid little girl got hold of it?”
You gave it to her, dumbass! Harry is like, I was there, you put the diary in the Transfiguration book.
Dumbledore is like, yeah, no one can prove it, but probably a good idea to not go around handing out Voldemort ‘s old souvenirs from high school. Pretty sure we’d know where they came from, this time. Lucius is pissed. He wants to grab his wand but he can’t, because he knows he’s been had. So, he storms out instead, with Dobby.
C: I would have loved to see him go for it, though, because you know Dumbledore just would have owned his ass.
S: Wouldn’t even have needed his wand. Finally, it clicks for Harry. He asks Dumbledore if he can give the diary back to Lucius, and I love how Dumbledore asks zero questions. Sure.
C: Well, the diary is just paper now.
S: Yes, but almost any other adult would ask why. They’d have questions. And I love that Dumbledore is just like, sure. Take it. So, Harry runs after Lucius and Dobby, who Lucius is still kicking. Asshole. And Harry pulls off his slimy, filthy sock, stuffs the diary in it, and gives it to Lucius, who of course pulls the sock off, throws it aside, and then gets all pissed that Harry has the gall to give him back the diary he swears isn’t his.
But it’s too late. because Lucius wasn’t thinking. Dobby has a sock.
I love the way he says it.
“Master has given a sock,” Dobby said. “Master gave it to Dobby.”
“What’s that? What did you say?”
“Got a sock,” said Dobby in disbelief. “Master threw it, and Dobby caught it, and Dobby — Dobby is free.“
Reading it this time – this sock is described as so gross, it’s the least dignified article of clothing you can think of short of some ratty briefs or something. The way that Dobby looks at is – “as though it was a priceless treasure.” It made me think of the role clothing plays for people.
In human society, clothing is representative of dignity. What you wear indicates status, importance, occupation – and it’s a well-known tactic to, when taking prisoners and trying to break people, take people’s clothes. It’s a basic mechanism. It’s understood – you take people’s clothing away-
C: You make them feel ashamed and vulnerable.
S: Exactly. Whether it’s giving them a prison uniform or making them strip naked, as we’ve heard from every horrible, despotic camp ever. And I thought about the fact that elves are deprived of clothes. They’re not even afforded this basic dignity, because clothes grant you status as a person. When you take their clothes, you take away the sense of being a person on the same level as you. It makes them feel less, humiliated, and more pliable.
And in this case, it’s a nasty, slimy sock – nothing anyone would ever consider dignified. But even that is still Harry according more dignity to Dobby than anyone else has ever been willing to do. To Dobby, this is the most amazing thing. And from this moment out, Dobby’s favorite clothing is socks.
C: I have a question, too. We know he’s wearing a ratty pillowcase. Is there something in the fine print of the contract between house-elves and wizards that it has to be an item of human clothing? Otherwise, how is it that a pillow-case doesn’t count?
S: I think it must be. They’re given these little togas, but that’s not real “clothing.” Much like not allowing elves and goblins to carry wands, which is a wizard privilege.
It made me think about these conversations about standards of dress, or the next inevitable story about a girl being sent home for wearing a spaghetti-strap shirt, or one I saw recently – a shirt barely off her shoulders. Every time we see people’s clothes being policed –
S: Women, or people who are gay or transgender, want to dress accordingly. You always have those people who shout, “It’s just clothes, it’s doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean anything.” But that’s the entire point! We police dress and clothing precisely because it matters! Aside from keeping warm and basic human protection, that’s what clothes are for. If it was purely practical we’d all go around in single-color tunics.
C: You and I went to public school together, and in high school our district started uniforms. The argument I remember for that was “it’ll make everyone the same, level the playing field, help make things more fair and even for kids who are socio-economically disadvantaged!” No, it fucking doesn’t. Everybody knows who has money and who doesn’t. It does nothing but force parents to buy another set of clothes vs. what they wear outside of school.
S: Yeah. And people are willfully disingenuous about this when they want to be. But no, it’s not just clothes, because clothes aren’t “just” anything. They’re an essential, emblematic totem of human society that is one of the core tenants of culture and nonverbal communication, the ways we make statements about ourselves and others.
How many cases can you think of when people are allowed to or restricted from wearing things based on their status? Like the royal colors back in the day.
C: I was just thinking that! People couldn’t wear royal purple.
S: Or ermine, which was restricted to royalty. Or when we looked at phoenixes, and it said that only the wealthy in Chinese society could wear them. It’s never just clothes.
So, Harry is a badass, because through one fell swoop, he wins twice – not only does he get that nasty sock off, which must be a relief, and he fucked Lucius over, and Dobby is a free elf, muthafucka!
S: Lucius is getting pissed off, and Dobby gets awesome out of nowhere and throws Lucius backwards down the stairs, because house elves have their own magic no one understands, which they wield when they feel like it.
Dobby: “You shall go now.”
S: Dobby is free! Harry has literally lifted up the downtrodden and rescued the oppressed. He’s done a lot in one chapter. And of course, he says the line that depresses everyone.
“Least I could do, Dobby,” said Harry, grinning. “Just promise never to try and save my life again.”
Dobby makes zero promises, Harry Potter.
C: Well, now I feel all kinds of melancholy.
S: Harry asks him now – hey, I thought you said all of this had nothing to do with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Dobby:
“Oh no, it was a clue, sir! Was giving you a clue. The Dark Lord, before he changed his name, could be freely named, you see?”
Well, that was obvious.
Also, Dobby knows A LOT.
C: He’s been listening to the Malfoys for long enough!
S: The crap he must know. He’s so earnest – it was a clue! Okay. Hugs for everyone!
Why couldn’t the final feast in the movie have been like this? This is infinitely better. This is the best pajama party in history. Everyone is in their PJs, the feast goes all night, you have a great moment where Hermione is running at Harry, screaming, “You solved it!”
And Justin coming over to shake Harry’s hand, Hagrid turns up at half past three – this is the most amazing feast. I would much have preferred this raucous pajama party ending rather than the random standing ovation at the end of the movie. Wouldn’t you?
C: I’d have preferred almost anything to the movie we got. It’s so dumb.
S: It feels so staged.
C: It’s like when we did our Sorcerer’s Stone Drunkwatch, and you pointed out all these times where Chris Columbus likes to have these moments where someone is in the middle of a circle with everyone cheering. Since you pointed it out, I see it everywhere.
S: I much prefer this version. It’s so Hogwarts. The second movie ends so neatly, and everyone tosses their hats, and bursts into spontaneous applause! No, that’s not Hogwarts. Hogwarts is staying up all night, partying, knocking stuff over, McGonagall canceling exams and people cheering that Lockhart won’t come back. And I love it.
C: The movies were still trying to make the hats happen. And thankfully Cuaron swooped in and said, stop trying to make the hats happen.
S: The end of the term is coming quickly! Defense Against the Dark Arts classes have been cancelled, Lucius has been sacked as a school governor –
C: Failure on all fronts!
S: The Ottaline Gambols had their say.
“On the other hand, Ginny Weasley was perfectly happy again.”
“On the other hand, Ginny Weasley was perfectly happy again.” NOT sulking in the common room waiting for someone to come save her with games of Exploding Snap and de-stigmatization. Because that didn’t happen. Fuck you very much.
C: I think, more than ostracizing her, there would be at least as many people wanting to hear everything. She’d be an object of fascination, not scorn.
S: But as we know, Dumbledore took care not to allow her to be stigmatized, and Ginny was fine, because Dumbledore cares for his students. So fuck you again, Cursed Child, for failing to understand why Dumbledore is awesome. It’s so cathartic, getting to tell this play to fuck itself every episode. It makes me happy.
C: It’s just so dreadful in so many ways.
S: Everyone’s back on the train, playing Exploding Snap, setting off fireworks, Disarming each other – and we get an answer to what Ginny saw Percy doing, and it was thankfully NOT wanking off. Percy was making out with his giiiiiiiiiiirlfriend, Penelope Clearwater. Prefect PENELEOPE. K-I-S-S-I-N-G!
“You won’t tease him, will you?” she added anxiously.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” said Fred, who was looking like his birthday had come early.
“Definitely not,” said George, sniggering.
We come to the end of the train, everyone gets out, and Harry gives Ron and Hermione his telephone number.
“I told your dad how to use a telephone last summer — he’ll know.”
C: That’s optimistic.
S: You think that telling Arthur Weasley one time how to use a telephone one summer ago will be sufficient? That’s terribly naïve.
C: Doesn’t Ron call it a fellytone in the next book?
S: Yes! The moment in the next book where Ron calls Harry is one of my favorites.
“Your aunt and uncle will be proud, though, won’t they?” said Hermione as they got off the train and joined the crowd thronging toward the enchanted barrier. “When they hear what you did this year?”
“Proud?” said Harry. “Are you crazy? All those times I could’ve died, and I didn’t manage it? They’ll be furious…”
And together they walked back through the gateway to the Muggle world.
C: It’s a good ending to this book.
S: These books end on so much more of a quirky, personality-laden note. The movies always end so bland, as they try to gloss over things to manufacture this happy ending.
C: To be fair, the movies themselves are fairly bland.
S: For the greater good, I guess. And the heroic cycle is complete once more!
C: Applause, applause!
S: Another one down! I feel so accomplished.
C: It’s going to get harder from here on out.
S: I know, we’ve handled the two shortest books, and then shit will get real. But it has been a blast doing Chamber of Secrets. Next up is our Drunk Potterwatch! Be prepared ahead of time, if you watch along with us we’ll be watching the extended version. Just FYI on that. We’ll try to do that in the next week or so. Hopefully we’ll both be drunk, because we’re funnier then.
C: I think you’re funny.
S: I think you’re funny, too. I think you’re fucking hilarious when you’re drunk.
C: It’s always good to be a fan of your own work.
S: Speaking of that, I know that we’ve bene getting a few more readers joining our tens of followers – we might even have teens of followers! I know people have said they’d like to comment but they don’t want to go through the whole rigmarole. So just a reminder – if you want to drop us a line, comment, yell at us about our voices –
C: Criticize our vocal fry –
S: Tell us that you like us, but we just don’t sound professional enough – or just if you want to talk about how fabulous Lucius is! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find the link on our site. We’re also on Twitter, @admugglestudies.
Please reach out to us, bug us, annoy us, don’t stalk us, be cool.
C: Rap with us!
S: And join our legion of teens of followers! We are taking over the internet.
C: As Palpatine would say: “DO IT.”
S: Well, that’s it for Chamber of Secrets the book! Until the Chamber of Secrets Drunk Potterwatch, I am Professor Seraphine –
C: I am Covfefe –
S: –and we’ll see you next time on Advanced Muggle Studies!
Intro music: “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, performed by Kevin McLeod
Bailey, Sue. “Switch to jail uniforms takes away pride and dignity, inmate says.” CBC News. 1 May 2016.
Gaiman, Neil. “Murder Mysteries.”
Milton, John. “Paradise Lost.” The John Milton Reading Room, Dartmouth University.
Perry, Tod. “Graduating Senior Pokes Fun At Her School’s Hypocritical Dress Code Policy.” Good Education. 19 June 2017.