This week we discuss: inappropriate Weasleys; Hermione & Ginny 4LYFE; the fact that Hermione clearly has WAY more friends than either of the boys; putting up with bad male behavior; mansplaining with Percy Weasley; Arthur Weasley, Ministry rebel; real live adult supervision; Hermione-Sherlock fanfic; misdirection with Sneakoscopes and Scabbers; R.J. Lupin; Crookshanks knows what’s up; the fictional “driver”; weak Malfoy burns; no one in this book remembers they have magic; Dungeonmaster Lupin; Lupin and Tonks; stop forgetting Neville and Ginny; why Ginny and Harry fit each other; why Harmony shippers are entirely misguided; the pitfalls of author apologies; why J.J. Abrams doesn’t seem to understand his own film; the beauty of NO LOVE TRIANGLE; the Great Chocolate Wars of 2017; pay no attention to those carriages until Book 5; McGonagall and Pomfrey unite; subtle Dumbledore pronouncements; wizard publishers are trolling us; why is there no magical continuing education?; what about Hagrid’s wand?; dementors and lethifolds; WE SOLVE THE LOST SMOKE MONSTER; the horrific history of the Ministry and dementors; questioning Ministry choices; NIMBY afflicts wizards too; Hydra, the Dark Side, and Guantanamo Bay; dementors, depression, and death; the power of fearmongering; and our latest project!
S: It’s the day of the train departure, and everyone’s annoyed at each other, because that’s what it’s like when you have a bunch of people trying to get ready to go on a trip. Percy Weasley is accusing Ron of dripping tea on his photo of Penelope Clearwater.
C: Can you not just hit it with an Evanesco charm? Come the fuck on, people! It’s like in Sorcerer’s Stone – are you a witch or not?
S: Do an Evanesco and a Reparo! Get your parents to do it! You’re a prefect, Percy Weasley, you know these things.
It’s funny that Fred and George stop in to congratulate Ron for pissing Percy off again, though. Also, Mrs. Weasley, we need to talk about your bad example here, talking to Hermione and Ginny about a love potion she made as a young girl. No, Mrs. Weasley! Love potions are bad news and you should not encourage it.
C: Again, though, it’s one of those things where she’s writing them at the ages they are. At this point you start to get crushes on people.
S: So of course, she’s giggling with the girls over boys and love potions. It’s awesome.
I think you and I – we didn’t talk at length about it, but there was an article about how if Hermione had proper female friends, she wouldn’t have put up with Harry and Ron and all of their nonsense. But she did. We didn’t get to see as much of it, true. Rowling doesn’t spend much time on it. But you forget how many times in the background Hermione and Ginny are hanging out and getting up to stuff together.
C: I actually do forget that, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for that going forward.
S: It’s easy to forget because Rowling doesn’t spend a lot of time on it, and it’s unfortunate because I think we’d all like to see more interaction. But at this point she’s limited herself to where everything we see, we see through Harry ‘s eyes. So, of necessity we’re limited on that. We can’t see all the stuff they get up to on their own. By Book 4, when Ron is pissed with Hermione, Hermione spends almost all her time hanging with Ginny. I think in Book 5 when Ginny tries out for the Quidditch team and Ron is wondering how she learned to fly so well, Hermione says “Oh, she’s been stealing your brooms whenever you won’t home.” She knows this stuff because she and Ginny are friends. They’re background friends, but it is there.
C: I know they’re not best friends, especially in Book 6, but I doubt that she and Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil – they’ve got to get along to some degree, because they sleep in the same bedroom for years!
S: Yeah, and as much as the Patil girls and others gossip, you also see them side with her and back her up. We just don’t get to see as much because of the necessities of the narration.
C: Also flash forward to Book 5, where Hermione basically forms Dumbledore ‘s army. Yeah, they learn from Harry, but they know Hermione enough to trust her and come join this bad guy-fighting club they’ve started.
Although, in defense of that article, there are definitely times when Ron especially, and Harry, are dicks to Hermione way more often than she is a bitch to them.
S: Agreed. There are a lot of times where she puts up with their nonsense and maybe shouldn’t. To be fair to her, a lot of times she just refuses to deal with them until they get their act together, but she keeps going back to them as friends. We’ll have to keep an eye on that dynamic.
C: Hermione is as loyal as a Hufflepuff.
S: Yeah, and she has no problem telling them that they’re idiots sometimes when they’re being stupid. It’s not like she just puts up with their bad behavior and says nothing. That happens multiple times, and Harry has to come around and apologize for CAPS-LOCK HARRY.
Everyone is getting ready go to – Hermes, Percy Weasley’s owl, Crookshanks, poor Scabbers…
C: I have one more question. Do you think Percy Weasley calls his owl Hermes, or does he try to pronounce it Hermés because that’s fancier?
S: OH THAT’S BEAUTIFUL. Can’t you see him being the only person who insists on Hermés? You know he’d be the only one who insists that “Actually, it’s Vol-de-mor.”
C: That’s hilarious!
S: You know he goes around mansplaining quite a bit.
C: Oh, you brought tears to my eyes. Say it again.
S: “Actually, it’s pronounced Vol-de-mor.”
C: Oh, god, it makes me so happy.
S: That’s sticking. We will continue with the imagined interpretations of Percyisms as we continue with all of these books, because that made life so much better.
So yes, I’m on board with “It’s pronounced Hermés, but you can’t expect people to pronounce it properly here.”
They’re on their way to the cars. Mr. Weasley marches Harry into the car. They make it to King’s Cross about 20 minutes ahead, because those magical cars are great and jump to the head of unmoving traffic lines. And they go through in pairs, because Arthur is being very serious about all of this.
“Ah, there’s Penelope!” said Percy, smoothing his hair and going pink again.
Ginny caught Harry’s eye, and they both turned away to hide their laughter as Percy strode over to a girl with long, curly hair, walking with his chest thrown out so that she couldn’t miss his shiny badge.
C: Does Penelope Clearwater ever come to her senses?
S: One can only imagine what kind of person she is.
C: Maybe she’s Head Girl.
S: Maybe that’s what they have in common.
Poor Mrs. Weasley is getting teary eyed, but Arthur isolates Harry and pulls him aside to tell him what he needs to know. Apparently, Arthur has decided to hell with the rules, I’m telling him anyway.
Which must make it odd to him that Harry is like, yeah, I already know, it’s okay, you don’t have to break your promise since you didn’t actually tell me.
I feel bad for poor Mr. Weasley.
“That’s not the way I’d have chosen for you to find out.”
C: “I would have preferred for you not to overhear me arguing with my wife, Harry.”
S: At the same time, he seems concerned. He wants to tell Harry the truth, but he also seems worried that Harry might be disconcerted because he didn’t break the news properly. Arthur is a really good dad.
C: There’s no way to break to someone, “Hi, you’re being stalked by a murderer.” It doesn’t matter how. You could give it to them in a greeting card, you could send a singing telegram, but there’s nothing that’s going to make that okay.
S: Hallmark needs a line of greeting cards that deal with being stalked by murderers. These everyday things that there just aren’t cards for! But Harry tries to tell him, it’s okay, I’m not that freaked out by this. But Arthur seems even more fervently set on making Harry promise that whatever he does, he won’t go looking for Sirius Black. He wants him to swear
“Harry, swear to me you won’t go looking for Black.”
But by that time the train is taking off and they have to go.
They get on the train.
“I need to talk to you in private,” Harry muttered to Ron and Hermione as the train picked up speed.
“Go away, Ginny,” said Ron.
“Oh, that’s nice,” said Ginny huffily, and she stalked off.
C: Poor Ginny.
S: Screw you, Ron. They get into a compartment that already has someone in it – an adult this time! OMG, adult supervision on the train??
C: It’s all so shocking!
“The stranger was wearing an extremely shabby set of wizard’s robes that had been darned in several places. He looked ill and exhausted. Though quite young, his light brown hair was flecked with gray.”
S: And it is Professor R.J. Lupin, because it’s on his case.
C: Hermione’s powers of observations rival those of Sherlock Holmes.
S: Indeed, they do. I defy even Sherlock Holmes to come to the conclusion that R.J. Lupin is who he is based on observation alone. And Hermione deduces that he’s here to teach Defense Against The Dark Arts, because that’s the only vacancy. Already, they’re quite dubious about people’s ability to do that job.
“Well, I hope he’s up to it,” said Ron doubtfully. “He looks like one good hex would finish him off, doesn’t he?”
Harry catches Hermione and Ron up to this news, which is actually freaking Harry out more. And then we have a nice moment of misdirection.
C: I LOVE THIS. The entire time the Sneakoscope is working and it’s correct, but because Bill said it was cheap crap and probably didn’t, and because they have no way of knowing that Pettigrew is an Animagus or anything, it’s right under their nose the entire time and they miss it. And I love it.
S: I Love that the Sneakoscope is probably going constantly. Harry has buried the Sneakoscope in the robes, and it’s only because they’re in a quiet place that they’re hearing it now. It’s spinning very fast and glowing, and Rowling sows in little moments of misdirection about whether or not the thing actually works.
“Yeah…mind you, it’s a very cheap one,” Ron said. “It went haywire just as I was tying it to Errol’s leg to send it to Harry.”
“Were you doing anything untrustworthy at the time?” said Hermione shrewdly.
“No! Well…I wasn’t supposed to be using Errol. You know he’s not really up to long journeys…but how else was I supposed to get Harry’s present to him?”
But because she also wants to build up our suspicions against Lupin, it’s incredibly convenient that the first time we see it working, the only thing that has changed is this new person in the compartment. So, you immediately assume that maybe the Sneakoscope is going off because of this R.J. Lupin person.
So, they stuff the Sneakoscope into a pair of Uncle Vernon’s old socks that Harry still has for some reason, and then bury it in the trunk. So, it’s probably going off all the time through the year, but you can’t hear it because it’s muffled in Uncle Vernon’s terrible socks.
C: I hope that at some point, maybe as they exchange letters over the summer, Ron apologizes to Hermione because actually her cat was a genius this entire time, and if they’d paid attention to the cat and the Sneakoscope more, maybe they would have taken the time to say, is someone around us doing something? What’s going on? Not that they could ever come to the conclusion that Scabbers the rat is Peter Pettigrew in disguise, because it’s so far out there, but!
S: I do like to think that once Ron got past his issues he apologized for a lot of things.
They talk about Hogsmeade, which allows us to work in some exposition about what is in Hogsmeade – a bunch of cool shops, it’s an entirely non-Muggle settlement. And there are these wonderful descriptions of Honeydukes Sweet Shop, which really needs to exist.
C: It does exist. I’ve been there.
S: I bet it’s not as good in real life.
C: I walked through it and back out. I didn’t even buy anything.
S: If it doesn’t have
massive sherbet balls that levitate you a few inches off the ground while you’re sucking them,
it hardly seems worth it.
But also, a good way to lay groundwork for mentions about the Shrieking Shack, the most haunted building in Britain. And of course, now Harry has to tell them that he can’t go to Hogsmeade because nobody signed his permission form. And then, of course, Crookshanks gets out again.
He jumps right on Ron’s knees.
The lump in Ron’s pocket trembled and he shoved Crookshanks angrily away.
Crookshanks is very determined.
Crookshanks had now settled in an empty seat, his squashed face turned towards Ron, his yellow eyes on Ron’s top pocket.
C: CROOKSHANKS KNOWS WHAT’S UP.
S: He is the smartest cat to ever cat. HEY LOOK IT’S THE TROLLEY WITCH! She’s come around with food, and says if Lupin wants something when he wakes up, she’ll be up front with the driver.
C: Is the driver Ottaline Gambol?
S: I’m wondering if this “driver” really exists, or if it’s a fiction we’ve made up. Or else it is Ottaline Gambol in one of her many forms.
Fortunately having Lupin in the compartment means slightly less flirting from Draco, when he shows up to show off his new and improved witty insults: “Potty and the Weasel.”
C: He has the WORST insults! And that’s why he hangs around dumbasses like Crabbe and Goyle, because nobody else would fake laughing at that stupid shit
S: The next line is pretty harsh.
“I heard your father finally got his hands on some gold this summer, Weasley,” said Malfoy. “Did your mother die of shock?”
C: I notice he doesn’t bother calling Hermione a Mudblood.
S: He’ll get to her eventually, but right now he’s on Harry and Ron.
C: Best thing ever is when Hermione smacks the shit out of him.
S: SO looking forward to that. They get good mileage out of, “There’s a teacher in our compartment, so what were you saying?” Draco‘s a coward, so of course he’s like oh, picking a fight in front of a teacher might actually have consequences so I’m leaving now.
Ron is so hopeful.
“I’m not going to take any crap from Malfoy this year,” he said angrily. “I mean it. If he makes one more crack about my family, I’m going to get hold of his head and –”
C: Well, this year I have a wand that works!
S: No more slugs! That’s something. Lupin is out this entire trip. They’re coming up to Hogwarts, it seems like they’re getting closer because the train is slowing down, but they can’t be there just yet. And then the lights go out. This scene is done really well in the movie, although I like the chaos of the book where Neville and Ginny stumble into their compartments.
C: I like that they can’t figure out who each other is by the sound of their voice immediately. And don’t you all have your wands with you? Freaking Lumos! Nobody in this book remembers that they have magic!
S: When Ginny comes in, it takes a while to figure out who is who, but when Neville comes in, Harry knows it’s him immediately!
S: “Hullo, Neville!” Everyone is stumbling all over themselves, and oh look, Lupin is awake and has a handful of flames, which is an awesome intro to this character.
C: It’s like he’s a wizard from a D&D campaign.
S: Lupin is headed to the door with his hand of fire, but
Standing in the doorway, illuminated by the shivering flames in Lupin’s hand, was a cloaked figure that towered to the ceiling. Its face was completely hidden beneath its hood. Harry’s eyes darted downward, and what he saw made his stomach contract. There was a hand protruding from the cloak and it was glistening, grayish, slimy-looking, and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water…
C: That is such a great and disgusting description.
And then the thing beneath the hood, whatever it was, drew a long, slow, rattling breath, as though it were trying to suck something more than air from its surroundings.
S: That was quite good.
C: Thank you. Comes from being a lifelong asthmatic.
S: Intense cold rushes over everyone. Harry is passing out, feels like he’s drowning and being dragged down, and hears
screaming, terrible, terrified, pleading screams.
When he wakes up the train is moving again, there’s Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Lupin. And I appreciate at a deep, sincere level that the remedy for this is chocolate. The only thing that might make it better would be if it were beer. But you know, when you are feeling down and depressed – chocolate is a good remedy.
Lupin is now the first person to say the word “dementor,” and to explain that this was one of the Dementors of Azkaban.
And now Lupin needs to go have a word with the fictional “driver.” I’m telling you, there is no driver on this train. I’m starting to think “going to have a word with the driver” is the adult excuse for slipping out to hit your flask or have a smoke.
C: It’s very possible!
S: This scene is handled wonderfully in the movie. And Lupin handled this situation very well too. He walked straight up to the Dementor, pulled out his wand, and said,
“None of us is hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks. Go.” But the dementor didn’t move, so Lupin muttered something, and a silvery thing shot out of his wand at it, and it turned around and sort of glided away.
Can we pause and appreciate that Lupin walked straight up to a Dementor and told it to get lost?
C: I love Lupin, he is my favorite, and he and Tonks are my most lamented losses in Book 7. More than whichever twin it is dies. It’s those two dying that really hits me in the feels.
S: You and I are going to have a LOT to say about Lupin and Tonks.
C: I remember reading Order of The Phoenix for the first time, and when she shows up and there’s a couple of chapters of interaction, thinking “OMG Lupin and Tonks are going to get together.” It’s nothing super overt, and yet I knew immediately that that’s what that would be.
S: Because you are the OG shipper!
C: I am.
S: I never saw Lupin and Tonks coming. It surprised me when I got there. I loved it, though. And we can’t talk about it now because we’ll never finish.
C: I just have so many feelings!
S: I know, because Lupin is great and very complex!
Yet again another moment where Ginny and Neville are present, where in the movies they aren’t. I like to mark those moments, because the supporting characters get ignored a lot in the movies, but in the books, they’re there for a lot of what happens. Including Neville! He’s not just around for comic relief at random times.
C: He’s their friend!
S: And Ginny too. It kills me that this moment didn’t make it in the movie, and doesn’t get much of a nod ever again. They’re all talking about how horrible the Dementor was. And then we see that
Ginny, who was huddled in her corner looking nearly as bad as Harry felt, gave a small sob; Hermione went over and put a comforting arm around her.
Harry asks, did anyone fall off their seats?
“No,” said Ron, looking anxiously at Harry again. “Ginny was shaking like mad, though…”
And coming off of Chamber of Secrets, we know exactly what Ginny was going through when the Dementor showed up.
S: If anyone in there had as bad a time as Harry did, it was Ginny. And I hate that it gets passed over. But it’s another reason why I never had patience with Harmony shippers, because of anyone in this series Ginny is the only one who shares certain key experiences with Harry, and understands what it’s like. They get each other on another level.
C: Um. Harmony shippers?
C: Oh. I didn’t know that’s what their name was.
S: Yeah, it’s a bad portmanteau.
C: I just remember seeing it written as R/H or H/Hr.
S: Yeah, well, Brangelina warped the shipping world, and after that everyone needed a portmanteau.
C: So, do you remember reading this for the first time – who you thought would end up with whom, and when you started to come to these conclusions?
S: Yeah, I never thought Harry and Hermione would end up together. I think right about this book I started thinking it would be Ron and Hermione. I don’t know why, but I never thought Harry and Hermione should be together, and she clearly wasn’t cuing it.
C: That’s very interesting, because I subconsciously thought Harry and Hermione would end up together, and then I read this book and realized it was Ron and Hermione, and I was pissed about it for a while.
S: Yeah, I remember.
C: I legitimately didn’t like it. He’s an ass to her, and continues to be one from time to time. The biggest thing that bothers me about Ron is that they fight, they get over it about the same time, and it never requires him to apologize. It’s like, okay, we’re past it, she’s over it. I want him to apologize for being a dick and you never see it.
S: Let’s pay attention to that going forward. I feel like a lot of people like you expected Harry and Hermione to wind up together, and probably because of tropes we’re used to. Harry is obviously the hero, Hermione is obviously the most capable young woman ever, and is awesome to boot. So, you feel inclined to think they are the two awesomest people here, and they’re good friends, so you think they’ll be together.
But always in the back of my head I wondered who it would be for Harry. I was kind of bummed in Chamber of Secrets that Ginny had a crush on Harry, because that meant they’d never get together. But it worked out just fine.
Do you remember seeing when Rowling came out fairly recently and said that in retrospect she thought she should have put Hermione and Harry together?
C: Yeah, it reminded me of after The Force Awakens came out. There’s the scene after the battle on Starkiller Base, they get back to the Resistance base, and Finn is hurt, and they rush him off, and Rey gets off the Falcon, and Leia comes to her and they embrace. They’ve never met, but they have this instinctual kinship, probably through the Force, and they hug because of everything they’ve been through and because of Han’s death.
In that moment, if you look left of the scene, Leia and Chewbacca walk right past each other. And people were like, “OMG, Chewbacca and Leia should have hugged, Han just died!” And J.J. Abrams came out and said, “My bad, that was a mistake.”
NO! DON’T ADMIT STUFF LIKE THAT. Just don’t. let people think what they want but don’t say you made a misstep, because it makes that outcry even louder.
S: Doing that devalues the choice you made in the first place, and the impact it had. Like Leia and Chewie hugging – yeah, that would have been a great throwback moment to the first series, because that would have been a moment of unity for two characters who have known Han the longest and are grieving. But the whole point of having Leia and Rey hug there is to unite the two storylines over the loss of Han. It’s bringing the older and newer generation together in a moment of grief, and Leia and Rey recognize each other’s connection to Han and grieve together. There’s a lot in that movie that’s symbolic not just of what’s happening in the story, but uniting the older fan generation with this new thing going forward. There’s a lot of feather smoothing where Abrams smoothed the transition.
So, apologizing for that moment is terrible, because that was important in what you’re trying to accomplish overall.
C: I agree 100%.
S: Rowling apologizing for Ron and Hermione, to me, was a terrible decision. Particularly because Ron and Hermione getting together has meant so much to so many people, because it was unexpected – because the trope suggested that Hermione and Harry might get together, and THEY DIDN’T. That someone as wonderful as Hermione didn’t immediately end up with the de facto hero, but instead with someone flawed, who has character issues. And also, because there are so many people who loved that she didn’t make it a love triangle, and showed that boys and girls can truly just be friends, have a powerful bond without it having to be romantic.
Having that without messing with it is powerful, and unusual in YA fiction.
C: Taking it back to Star Wars, imagine in the original trilogy if Luke and Leia hadn’t been last minute twins. If Luke and Leia wind up together, why the hell is Han there?
S: Luke is clearly the Good Guy and Han has serious character flaws, and we’re okay with Leia ending up with him, even though she is clearly his moral superior.
Now, to be fair, that goes into another discussion about the use of women in stories to make a man better, to improve him as a person. That issue aside —and we’ll have to have that discussion at some point – I personally deeply appreciated their romance-free friendship, that there wasn’t a love triangle, and they were close and cared for each other. So, stop apologizing. Please.
C: I really don’t care what her opinion is now. The books are the books, and that’s not changing. It doesn’t matter if you regret it and wish you could do it differently. You can’t. The books are there, they are what they are, and it accomplishes nothing but sow division to say things like that.
S: It does. I guess we all just need some chocolate. It seemed to help Harry – the chocolate spread
warmth spread suddenly to the tips of his fingers and toes.
Good chocolate. Must have been Godiva.
C: Ugh, no! I don’t like fancy chocolate. I like cheap American chocolate.
S: OMG. How are we friends?
C: You know what? Percy likes Godiva. How about that?
S: No, he doesn’t! there’s this brand of imported Swiss chocolate, Guylian, that’s popular here. It’s really expensive, and tourists here love to buy it – but it’s terrible. I tasted it the other day and it’s awful.
Percy likes Guylian. It’s fancy, imported, it has a French name, and it’s Belgian, so of course it’s the best. Even though it sucks.
C: Hershey’s and Reese’s all the way.
S: There is a time and a place for Hershey’s Kisses, and when I want them, nothing else will do. But when I want chocolate chocolate I want Godiva, with high cocoa content and smooth texture.
S: Whatever side you take in the Great Chocolate War, I think we can all agree that chocolate is the answer.
C: Except for white chocolate, which is disgusting!
S: White chocolate is an aberration.
C: I think you mean abomination.
S: Percy likes white chocolate.
S: It’s not even chocolate! it’s just sweet cocoa butter.
We finally made it to Hogwarts! Neville even has his toad! Why does he keep his toad under his hat?
C: Because that’s the only way he can keep track of poor Trevor. If he can feel him on his scalp, he knows where he is. I want to know though why Neville told Draco that Harry fainted.
S: I don’t think he told Draco directly. He was probably talking about it and Draco overheard Neville talking about it.
C: That makes more sense.
S: But these Dementors are everywhere. This is the first time we’ve ever seen non-first years go up to the castle. The students ride carriages up to the school. They’re not pulled by anything, but Harry can only assume it’s some kind of invisible horse.
Because when they climbed inside and shut the door, the coach set off all by itself, bumping and swaying in procession.
C: I have another question about that. Surely there are other children at Hogwarts that have seen the thestrals. How is that not something that gets around the school?
S: I think it probably would get around, to an extent. Obviously, it’s not brought up before now because it’s inconvenient for the plot.
C: Well, yes.
S: She mentions it here, and we have a nice mirror moment when we circle around to it again in the mirror of this book, Book 5. Unless they’re with a group of people actively talking about it, I can see how it would slip through the cracks. I could also see the people who can see them not talking about it much.
C: Because it’s painful. And now that you mention that they didn’t take the Hogwarts Express their second year, I bet that’s the first time Ginny and Hermione really talked and started to bond.
S: Yeah! They had peace and quiet without the crazies. Maybe Neville came along! BECAUSE Ginny and Neville become quite close too.
C: He becomes quite hot later on.
S: And there are moments, even now, when Ginny regrets her decision – when she sees Hot Neville.
As they head up to the castle they see more Dementors guarding the entrance on either side. Draco is happily prattling about Harry fainting. He stops when Lupin mildly asks if there is a problem, but that’s only going to last so long, because Draco is going to figure out that Lupin is poor, and so we can’t listen to him, then!
Then Harry and Hermione are intercepted by woman. A McGonagall woman who wants to see them.
“I just want a word in my office,” she told them. “Move along there, Weasley.”
C: Ron is like, what? I don’t get to come? I don’t get to know?
S: She brings Harry and Hermione up to her office to address the fact that Lupin – because again, Lupin is one of the only capable teachers we’ve ever had at this school – sent an owl to let them know ahead of time that Harry was taken ill on the train, and Madam Pomfrey was ready to deal with it. I love this – two angry, capable women fussing over Harry.
“I suppose you’ve been doing something dangerous again?”
“It was a dementor, Poppy,” said Professor McGonagall.
They exchanged a dark look, and Madam Pomfrey clucked disapprovingly.
You can see the resolve to fix this young man setting in.
C: I love the teachers.
“Terrible things, they are, and the effect they have on people who are already delicate-“
“I’m not delicate!” said Harry crossly.
“Of course you’re not,” said Madam Pomfrey absentmindedly, now taking his pulse.
S: McGonagall is happily ready to sentence Harry to the hospital wing or bed rest. But they’re impressed with Lupin thinking ahead to give him chocolate.
“Are you sure you feel all right, Potter?” Professor McGonagall said sharply.
“Yes,” said Harry.
“Very well. Kindly wait outside while I have a quick word with Miss Granger about her course schedule, then we can go down to the feast together.”
So, is this the moment where McGonagall gives her the Time-Turner?
S: Hermione emerges looking very happy about something, so she must have been approved.
C: She must have known ahead of time that she was approved, because she bought the books. It’s school tomorrow and she gets to take 12 classes! She’s Hermione! She’s pumped!
S: We’re back in the Great Hall, where the hats are still trying to happen.
C: I noticed that too! That it was a sea of pointed black hats, and I was just like, ugh, whatever.
S: The hats are not happening, people. We missed the Sorting, because J.K. Rowling didn’t want to write another Sorting song.
C: For which I don’t blame her in the least.
S: Not at all. Yeah, people whispering, pointing at Harry as per usual. And then we get Dumbledore, wonderful Dumbledore beaming around at the students.
Although unfortunately he has to direct the issue of the Dementors here on Ministry business. And the way he says this,
Harry remembered what Mr. Weasley had said about Dumbledore not being happy with the dementors guarding the school.
C: Can’t imagine why.
S: Surely not. Terrorizing his students every day. Dumbledore is furious.
“They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds,” Dumbledore continued, “and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises … or even Invisibility Cloaks,” he added blandly, and Harry and Ron glanced at each other.
Subtle, Dumbledore! very nice.
“It is not in the nature of a dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you.”
C: Like, they will literally suck your soul out and kill your ass, don’t fuck with them.
S: That’s the abridged version, yes. We introduce the new Professor Lupin, who people mildly applaud, as Snape glowers and stews in loathing. Professor Kettleburn has retired to spend more time with his remaining limbs
C: I love that.
S: So, Hagrid has agreed to take on this particular job, which is wonderful and awesome. He never got to finish school, but damn it, he’s good at Magical Creatures.
C: Are there no standards for being Professor? No certification, no training?
S: Nope. No certification required, clearly. Gilderoy Lockhart was a teacher.
C: But he was a five-time winner of Witch Weekly’s Best Smile Award!
S: That is true, and I’m sure he put that on his resume. But if Gilderoy Lockhart can teach at Hogwarts, anyone can. At least Dumbledore knows that Lupin has a modicum of ability.
C: I’m not complaining about Lupin, I’m complaining about Hagrid.
S: He didn’t graduate, but he has the practical experience, and Dumbledore knows he can do the job, so why not? I’m sure this is fine, right? This will be fine.
C: What could possibly go wrong?
S: This is Hogwarts! Things never go wrong!
“We should’ve known!” Ron roared, pounding the table. “Who else would have assigned us a biting book?”
Who else would have found the one idiot who decided a biting book would be a good feature on his latest book, convinced the publisher to do it, and then track that guy down and say, “Yours is the book I want!”
C: Probably the same people who made The Invisible Book of Invisibility, because they made a mint on that, since people kept having to buy the book again, because they could never find it.
S: I’m starting to think that the wizarding publishing companies are trolling the entire community.
They do mention that Harry, Ron and Hermione were eager for the feast to finish so they could talk to Hagrid.
They knew how much being made a teacher would mean to him. Hagrid wasn’t a fully qualified wizard; he had been expelled from Hogwarts in his third year for a crime he had not committed. It had been Harry, Ron and Hermione who had cleared Hagrid’s name last year.
And I guess it’s notable that since Harry, Ron and Hermione cleared his name of suspicion last year, it’s only fitting that new job opportunities are opening up to him. Since, you know, it’s not his fault he couldn’t finish school.
But still, could you at least let us think there’s some continuing education going on here? Something?
C: And that brings me to another thing – they broke his wand. For all they know, except Dumbledore, he doesn’t have a wand. What do they expect him to do if something goes horribly awry in a lesson?
S: Does he get to get another one now that he’s been acquitted?
C: I would hope!
S: I don’t know that he ever does. Now that I think about it, doesn’t he just keep the umbrella?
C: I think so.
C: We ask the hard-hitting questions so you don’t have to.
S: It was nice of Dumbledore –
“came straight down to me hut after Professor Kettleburn said he’d had enough… It’s what I always wanted…”
C: There are times when Hagrid irritates the shit out of me because he is so dumb, but the fact that he is constantly bursting into tears and is so overcome with emotion and so moved – I find that very endearing.
S: We get the new password – Fortuna Major – and a nice setup where Neville is upset about the password because he has a hard time remembering them.
C: I’m sure that can’t possibly come into play later.
S: And they’re back to the dormitory, and home! Huzzah.
So, before we wrap up, do you want to talk about the Dementors?
C: What are they? I mean, I know what they are, but are they beings? Are they beasts? Where do they come from?
S: Let’s see what the Harry Potter Wiki has to say!
C: Brilliant idea.
S: They are described as creatures. They are sentient, relate to … hmm. I’m scrolling through the Harry wiki, and they say Dementors may be related to something called a lethifold. I think they must have gotten this information from the Fantastic Beasts textbook. Which I have now! Hold on. Let’s see if Dementors are listed in here. No, they’re not, because they’re not beasts.
But a lethifold resembles a black cloak roughly ½” thick, which appears slightly thicker if it has recently ingested a victim. It glides along surfaces in an unknown form of locomotion.
C: Oh my god you know what that reminds me of?
S: Your prop services guy?
C: MY FAVORITE VERSION OF VOLDEMORT EVER.
S: It’s also known as the living cloud, and is found solely in tropical climates.
The Patronus repels the Lethifold, it attacks the sleeping, then suffocates and digests its prey. The idea is that it may be related to the Dementors somehow.
So Dementors are creatures employed by the Ministry as the guards at Azkaban.
The Dementors feed upon human happiness, and thus cause depression and despair to anyone near them. They can also consume a person’s soul, leaving their victims in a permanent vegetative state, and thus are often referred to as “soul-sucking fiends”. They are known to leave a person as an ’empty-shell’.
This is interesting.
“Those who entered to investigate refused afterwards to talk of what they had found inside, but the least frightening part of it was that the place was infested with dementors.“—J. K. Rowling on the early history of Azkaban[src]
The history of Dementors in relation to Wizarding society in Britain are inextricably tied up with one location: Azkaban. The island in the North Sea on which the wizard prison is built has never appeared on any map, wizard or Muggle. Perhaps its first resident, or even creator, Ekrizdis, practised the worst kinds of Dark magic and constructed a fortress on the island, luring Muggle sailors there to torture and murder them. After his death, the various concealment charms placed on the island faded, and the Ministry became aware of the mysterious site’s existence.
OH GOOD. SO, AZKABAN WAS JUST A PRIVATE TORTURE PRISON UNTIL THE GUY WHO RAN IT DIED, AND THEN THE MINISTRY FOUND IT AND WERE LIKE, OH, LET’S PUT THIS TO GOOD USE!
C: That’s a terrible plan.
Those who entered the deserted fortress to investigate discovered, among other horrors, an infestation of Dementors. Fearing the reprisal of these dark entities should anyone try to evict them, the Ministry decided to let the sizeable colony remain, unmolested and unchecked.
S: I’m beginning to have serious questions about the Ministry’s choices.
C: JUST NOW?
S: No. But, yes. OH! THIS GETS EVEN WORSE! WONDERFUL!
When Damocles Rowle was elected Minister for Magic in 1718, he insisted on utilising Azkaban’s dark pedigree, seeing the Dementors as a potential asset: putting them to work as guards would save expense, time, and lives. This plan was eventually put into motion and, despite protests, Azkaban remained the prison of the wizarding world right up until the Second Wizarding War, mostly because of its near-zero breakout rate. From that point on, the Dementors served the Ministry of Magic as the guards of Azkaban, as the arrangement allowed them to feed on the emotions of the prisoners within its walls. Somewhere between 1733 and 1747, Minister Eldritch Diggoryvisited Azkaban, and was horrified at the sheer despair and insanity that the Dementors induced within the prisoners. He formed a committee to find alternative solutions, the least of which was to remove the Dementors, which met opposition from those who feared a mainland invasion by the dark creatures if they were deprived of their food source. Diggory died of Dragon Pox while in office, and thus the campaign to find an alternative to Azkaban’s Dementors stalled.
So, the Dementors are in charge of Azkaban because the entire wizarding population suffered from NIMBY? Not In My Back Yard?
Although many in the wizarding world felt they could sleep easy at night in the knowledge that Dementors guarded Azkaban, making it virtually impossible for dangerous criminals to escape, some believed the Dementors to be untrustworthy, fearing their potential change in allegiances should a dark wizard arise who might offer them more promising compensation than the Ministry.
S: DO TELL!
Albus Dumbledore, in particular, thought it was a mistake for the Ministry to ever ally with such creatures, though Alastor Moody thought violent criminals such as Death Eaters deserved such treatment.
So, the Dementors are at Azkaban because the Ministry repurposed a horrific torture prison that they discovered one day after the Dark Magic spells keeping it hidden vanished, found an infestation of Dementors there, and decided, if we mess with them, they might come after us, so instead we’ll just give them our prisoners to keep them happy.
C: It’s pretty dreadful, and also, very short sighted and stupid. You know what that reminds me of?
C: In the new canon version of Star Wars, apparently the Jedi Temple on Coruscant was built unknowingly on top of old Sith ruins, and slowly over millennia the Dark Side energy poisoned the Jedi from within and they never had any idea.
S: If that’s not fucking symbolic, I don’t know what is. I feel like Captain America ripped that off, what with setting up SHIELD and then populating it with HYDRA scientists, because they swore they weren’t Nazis after the war!
Prisoner of Azkaban was published in 1999, which was well before this, but I remember reading this about the time that Guantanamo Bay was really a big thing – I mean, it has bene in the news for a while, but during the Bush years I remember thinking about Azkaban a lot. It felt like an analogue for that.
C: Guantanamo Bay is not my favorite.
S: It has similar feelings with Azkaban. Lock the door, throw away the key, toss people in regardless of innocence, and leave them to rot.
We know the appearance of the Dementors is described in the book. They do not have eyes, but they can sense a presence by sensing emotions. We know that they are sentient enough to taste and sense fear,
being drawn to it and the promise of positive memories that it can feed off of. They are also intelligent enough to be greedy: they obeyed the Ministry of Magic for years because, in guarding Azkaban, they were provided with sustenance of any remaining hope or happiness in the prisoners. They can understand and follow at least simple instructions, which allowed a Dementor to act as a bodyguard to Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge in 1995, and for them to escort prisoners in and out of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission courtroom in 1997.
I know J.K. has said she created Dementors in relation to her own experiences with depression, that this was her way of explaining or dealing with the idea of depression. Which makes a lot of sense – Muggles can’t see Dementors, but they’re affected. They suck away your hope, inspiration, happy memories…
Being blind, Dementors sense and feed on the positive emotions of human beings in order to survive, forcing their victims to relive their worst memories over and over again. The very presence of a Dementor can make the victim’s surrounding atmosphere grow cold and dark, and as the number of Dementors increase, so do the effects. Those that are kept in the company of a Dementor for too long tend to become depressed, and are often driven insane, which was the main source of Azkaban‘s well-deserved horrible reputation when they still guarded its prisoners. After spending only a few months there, Rubeus Hagrid claims he wished he would die in his sleep.
So, the notion that chocolate is the remedy is a nice touch of humor, but this book has lots of interesting thoughts about what depression can do to a person. Lupin says later on that if you’re around a Dementor too long, it can even drain you of your powers. Which could be an effect of massive depression.
I know people have pointed to similarities between the Dementors and the Nazgul of Lord of the Rings.
C: Never read it.
S: I always thought, when I read the description, of the Grim Reaper. When I first read this that’s what I thought of – that typical depiction of Death hovering. I find it interesting that the Dementors aren’t symbols of Death, they’re symbols of fear. It’s all about draining your courage from you. They’re fear, personified.
It’s interesting going forward, even considering their names – they literally make you demented, leaving you with nothing but fear and despair. So that’s a happy, light topic for a kid’s book.
I remember reading this and thinking, God, shit got dark!
C: It does! I mean, to put it succinctly, they’re creepy as fuck. I know that the wizarding world and Hogwarts plays fast and loose with safety, but as a parent? Sirius Black, mass murderer, servant and right-hand man of You-Know-Who – or Dementors? I know that’s not a great choice, but I would feel deeply uncomfortable having a bunch of Dementors around my child’s school.
S: Agreed. As I thought about the Dementors as the personification of fear, what you’re saying is that you have a murderer on the loose, and there’s a lot of history tied up in this particular moment in time, this person and his story, that bears much closer examination. But we don’t have that. We have the rote story of 13 people murdered.
So the Dementors are brought out to defend. They surround the school, creating an enviRonment of fear. And Dumbledore is the one person who objects to this. He doesn’t think that is useful or a good idea, and he doesn’t think it will solve the problem. And it made me think of fearmongering, in the climate of real life, and how in some situations, some people immediately turn to fearmongering because they think that will motivate people to make the “right” decisions.
And on the other hand, you have Dumbledore, saying no, even in a world where there are scary things happening, fearmongering and shrouding my students in fear is not the way to go. It won’t help anyone, particularly long-term.
It made me think of all the fear mongering that, ever since I’ve read these books, I notice in the news, politics, the world – the way they increasingly bang on the panic drum when they want to scare someone to do something.
C: We’ve been subsumed in that culture since 9/11.
S: And right around that time was when I was into Harry for the first time. It was only a couple of years after this was published that 9/11 happened.
C: Call me crazy, or privileged from never having experienced any real type of personal violence – I’ve felt threatened quite a few times but never had anything come of it – my first reaction when shit happens is not “oh my god, we have to become a totalitarian state.” Maybe I’m just the weirdo.
S: Especially now that I’m seeing this backstory for how the ministry got involved with Dementors in the first place and how they ended up with Azkaban – I wish that had been in the books at some point. I feel like Rowling is making a statement about the kinds of governments that weaponize fear and use it as a political tool against the populace – in this case, in a literal sense by using Dementors. Whether you’re using it against an imprisoned populace or a populace at large, what you’re doing is the same thing. You’re trying to wield fear to achieve a result. And Dumbledore, as the voice of Rowling and reason, is over here saying that is a shitty idea and it will bite you in the ass. Which, of course, it does.
C: Like this stupid travel ban. My father has been in the hospital for the better part of a month. Four out of the five specialists that have basically saved his life were all very obviously first-generation immigrants.
But sure, we don’t want immigrants here.
S: Well, you know, that all-female Afghani robotics team – we made America great by keeping them out.
C: I can only assume they’re great, intelligent people. But shit like that, and when we bomb places and are like, oh, it was only a few civilians, no big deal – that creates our problem. And it’s never brought up.
S: I’m sure my thoughts on this will keep evolving. I just feel like the commentary on fearmongering really starts here, and just expands. By the time we hit Book 5, it’s gotten very expansive.
Dementors are fascinating, and I think the way she’s written about them in fiction has helped a lot of people who cope with depression. I’ve seen comments from people online who said this book helped them and gave them a way to think about their depression, gave them a fictional analogue that helped them believe they could beat it.
There are multiple levels of critique in the use of Dementors. So, we will definitely look at that as we go forward.
But that brings us to the end of Chapter 5. So, next week we will do “Talons and Tea Leaves,” oh, dear God.
C: Oh, Professor Trelawney.
S: Tune in to join us next time, if we haven’t bored you to death so far. As always, reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Twitter @admugglestudies. Tweet at us! Bug us!
C: And we have something exciting that will come up around the end of July. You and I have discussed for months doing a Star Wars podcast, because Star Wars is my obsession–
S: As Harry Potter is mine.
C: We talked about it but it never really went anywhere, mainly because I’m lazy. But we’ve hit on what I think is an interesting idea – a way to do it that would be fun, and also not like the tens of thousands of other podcasts out there. As we know, from the sequel trilogy, Han and Leia’s son Ben turns to the Dark Side and becomes Kylo Ren. They have 2 more movies to go so we don’t know much backstory, but that’s where we are. In the old version of Canon, what is now called Legends, Han and Leia had a son who turned to the Dark Side and became a Sith. So, what my esteemed colleague Seraphine and I will do is read through the books charting their son’s journey from hero to Sith Lord, and all of the consequences of that. So, it’s basically another book club podcast!
We will start with the first book of the New Jedi Order series, called Vector Prime, by R.A. Salvatore. So, if you’re interested, pick it up and read along. Unlike Harry, we will read one book a month and discuss it all at once.
S: We may publish these episodes on our current site or link to another site, so if you come to Muggle-studies.com and you see a section labeled “Droid Please,” that is us talking Star Wars. I mean, if you enjoy our rambling on Harry Potter, you’ll surely enjoy our ramblings on Star Wars. And fun fact, Professor Creed talks much more when it’s about Star Wars, so we’ll get a little role reversal, too. Less of me, and more of her.
C: It’ll be a good time!
S: It’ll be fun doing a book club where I’m not the one expert in the subject matter!
C: Being the blatherer about this stuff, I’ve vomited information at you before, but it seems that you didn’t retain a lot of detail.
S: I remember some of it, but not a lot.
C: So, in many respects, it will be new to you and a good role reversal. I’ll know plot points and character beats, and when we get there, we’ll get your honest, unvarnished opinion.
S: I don’t know how you’ve all lived without my honest, unvarnished opinions up till now. This will improve your life in a multitude of ways.
Keep an eye out for that! And of course we’ll be back to discuss more Prisoner of Azkaban!
Until next time, I am Professor Seraphine–
C: I am Professor Creed–
S: And we will see you next time on Advanced Muggle Studies!
Intro music: “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, performed by Kevin McLeod
“Dementor.” Harry Potter Wiki.
Derbyshire, Victoria. “Shaker Aamer: In His Own Words.” 14 December 2015. BBC News.
West, Kelly. “What J.K. Rowling Actually Said About Hermione’s Relationships With Ron And Harry.” CinemaBlend.
Sciretta, Peter. “Exclusive: J.J. Abrams Explains Why Leia’s Hug in ‘The Force Awakens’ Was Probably a “Mistake”.” 8 March 2016. SlashFilm.com.