Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Ch. 7: Ottaline Gambol is the boggart’s boggart

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This week, we discuss: Malfoy’s glittering future soccer career; tiny boners and skinned shrivelfigs; dreary shipping; HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE WE FOUND OTTALINE GAMBOL; who needs academic excellence?; arguing pedagogy with Snape and Lupin; foreshadowing Umbridge; the utter uselessness of waddiwasi; nobody wants to sit with Snape; pookas, boggarts, and tiny moist hands; the lasting power of nebulous fear; the perfect explanation for why you’re scared of the monster under your bed; the challenge boggarts present to knowing your fears; Slytherin scheduling woes; and assorted rants about Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean plot holes, and upcoming projects.

Professors’ note: Thank you, dear students, for bearing with us as we have been absent lo these many weeks! We have been dealing with some heavy shit, to be quite honest. But we’re all okay, and we’re back, and hopefully we won’t have to leave you again without your Advanced Muggle Studies lesson for quite so long.

Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies! I am Professor Seraphine, and my wonderful esteemed colleague Professor Creed and I are going to consider Chapter 7, ”The Boggart in the Wardrobe,” from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I like this chapter a lot.

C: What’s not to like?

S: Well, given that the first word of the chapter is “Malfoy…”

C: True.

S: He is swaggering. 

He swaggered into the dungeon, his right arm covered in bandages and bound up in a sling, acting, in Harry’s opinion, as though he were the heroic survivor of some dreadful battle.

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Malfoy Swagger: (n.) making up ludicrous stories to make everyone think you’re not a quivering pile of jell-o

Which, in case you’ve forgotten — he got slashed by a hippogriff after he insulted it like a dumbass. Yes, very heroic. I’m sure your ancestors are overly proud of you.

C: He’d make an excellent soccer player.

S: I’ve seen some of those gifs where they aren’t even hit but they roll to the ground and start acting dramatically, like they’re in pain. Is that so they can benefit from a foul?

C: Yeah. You hope the ref was at an angle where it looked like you got hit, but couldn’t tell that you weren’t hit, so you draw the foul even though there was no foul.

S: But what happens if the ref can tell that you didn’t get hit?

C: Nothing. You roll around like a fool for a few seconds, throw your arms up into the air as if you’re outraged that you didn’t get the call, then hop back up and sprint back to the ball because there is clearly nothing wrong with you after all. But ONLY if you didn’t get the call. if you hear the whistle you have to roll around dramatically on the grass for a while longer, usually holding your ankle or shin, as though someone has just hacked it with an ax. Then you heroically get to your feet, grimace, and then take the free kick or penalty you’ve been awarded.

S: That is very heroic. I see now why soccer is such a dramatic sport.

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When Draco crashes and burns as a Quidditch player, he’s got a great career in Muggle football ahead of him

C: Yeah, because men are babies. Women rarely do that.

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True fax: when googling this, only saw 1 woman in the first 50 or so results

S: Well, Draco is milking it for all it’s worth. His pug-faced girlfriend Pansy is simpering over him, going on about how brave he is.

And we’re in Potions! You said what’s not to like about this chapter? We’ve got Draco, Pansy Parkinson, and we’re in Potions with the Slytherins. THE WORST. But we do have another solution to Petrificus Totalusing your penis — Shrinking Solution!

C: But that wouldn’t solve the problem of your penis being hard. It would just make it small.

S: True, just miniaturize it.

C: You’d have a tiny boner.

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And then you’d run for President!

S: Fair enough. Snape is being a dick today, and Draco needs help cutting up his daisy roots “because of his arm.” Ron does it for him, and doesn’t take a whole lot of time to do it, and Draco milks THAT, because his roots are cut much more nicely than the ones he cut up for Draco. Oh, lord. And Draco needs his shrivelfig skinned.

C: That sounds like a euphemism.

S: We’re speaking in code now.

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“Potter, you can skin Malfoy’s shrivelfig,” said Snape, giving Harry the look of loathing he always reserved just for him.

I feel like this is exactly what Draco wanted — for Potter to skin his shrivelfig.

C: Thus, the Good Ship Harry/Draco was christened and sailed off from the dock.

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Oh, just make out already

Wait, what’s the portmanteau of them? I feel like we’ve discussed this before.

S: Drarry.

C: Drarry! I can’t believe that didn’t just spring effortlessly to my lips.

S: That’s because you like Motter.

C: That’s right! Motter is much better.

S: Drarry is hard to say.

C: It sounds like “dreary.”

S: The Draco/Harry ship is dreary!

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Professor Seraphine, as she contemplates The Good Ship Drarry

C: And if you go with Motter — what comes to your mind when I say that?

S: I think of Peeves singing “Oh Potter, you rotter.”

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C: I think of modern otters. So, otters with iPhones and stuff.

S: I like that! The portmanteaus, after a while — when the Harry books were young, like us, and we were all reading them as they came out and people talked about them at length on the internet — for a long time people were just using the slash codes, like H/Hr, R/Hr. We got used to that. Then Tumblr came along, and everyone started portmanteauing everything. There’s Drarry, Dramione —

C: That’s not even worth it! It’s too long!

S: There’s Romione —

C: No! Again, no.

S: Harmony, which is Harry and Hermione —

C: That’s not even how that’s spelled! I object to ALL of this.

S: Draco is smack talking like a douche. He’s picking on Hagrid.

“I’m afraid he won’t be a teacher much longer,” said Malfoy in a tone of mock sorrow. “Father’s not very happy about my injury –” (…)

“–he’s complained to the school governors. And to the Ministry of Magic.”

You know, the school governors have got to be sick of your shit, Draco. They got threatened by your dad last book, and now he’s complaining about Hagrid this book? The governors have got to be like, OMG, fuck Malfoy.

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C: There was a 2-3 month break between last book and this now, so we’ve gone from Malfoy Sr. convincing them to fire Dumbledore, then all of them sending Dumbledore owls saying Lucius Malfoy is threatening them, Dumbledore comes back, Lucius Malfoy is thwarted, they get a couple months of freedom, and now he’s pressuring them again? I feel like all it would take would be him getting thwarted to make them say, “No, we’re not going down this road again.”

S: The Ottaline Gambols need to hold an emergency session and vote him out.

C: Speaking of Ottaline Gambol, why don’t you share with the class what we learned?

S: OMG, yes. So, one of our most amazing readers shared the best comment on one of our posts. It was very simple. It just said: “I found Ottaline Gambol!” It directed us to a link on Pottermore that talked about, of all things, the inauguration of the Hogwarts Express — why students take the train.

It’s something that J.K. Rowling wrote, the history of how students got to the school. And there was one Minister of Magic named Ottaline Gambol who found Muggle technology fascinating, she really liked the idea of the locomotive, and apparently broke quite a few laws in making this happen. She modified a hell of a lot of memories and pulled off the biggest concealment charm in British history so that all of a sudden, this scarlet steam engine just suddenly seemed to appear. Apparently, the reason no one realizes it’s there is this powerful Concealment Charm covering the whole route. This is why it can just plow through the country side and no one has any idea.

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“Strange, it feels like we’re being pushed along by some invisible force. Did they turbo charge the engine?”

BUT WE FOUND FUCKING OTTALINE GAMBOL! She is responsible for the Hogwarts Express! And that is why that psychopathic Trolley Witch went on about Ottaline Gambol giving her the job. Which makes it even MORE interesting, because you have a forbidden romance between the Minister of Magic and a lowly Trolley Witch!

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Annnnnnnnnnd she’s sexy! BLESS YOU ETERNALLY, O INTERWEBZ

C: So, when was this done? Was this when trains were the hip new thing back in the 1800s?

S: I think so.

C: I have another question, which maybe you can answer. Say this was done in the 1800s. Gigantic charm on the train. How long do charms last? Do they have people redoing the charm every year? I know wizards can live a long time, but I assume the real Ottaline Gambol is probably dead. Do spells last after you’re dead?

S: There’s a lot of inconsistencies in the book about that. You have times where certain charms break because someone died, but then you also have these cursed and bewitched objects that are hundreds of years old and work just fine. I don’t know if it depends on the difference between a charm and a curse, or what. But I would think that the Ministry would have to maintain this. Since they decided to use the train, I assume there is Magical Maintenance, making sure their Muggle-Repelling Charms still work, stuff like that. It’s like updating software.

According to Rowling, for a long time people would just fly to Hogwarts, Apparate, ride creatures, but around the International Statute of Secrecy that became impossible. So, they had to find something more discreet. They tried Portkeys, but at least a third of students would miss their slot or couldn’t find their key, and kids would show up puking. Then there was discussion of Floo Powder, but headmasters didn’t like that. There’s no date here, but I’m going to say 1700s, when trains were the new thing.

Where exactly the Hogwarts Express came from has never been conclusively proven, although it is a fact that there are secret records at the Ministry of Magic detailing a mass operation involving one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest ever mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain. The morning after these alleged crimes, a gleaming scarlet steam engine and carriages astounded the villagers of Hogsmeade (who had also not realised they had a railway station), while several bemused Muggle railway workers down in Crewe spent the rest of the year grappling with the uncomfortable feeling that they had mislaid something important.

The Hogwarts Express underwent several magical modifications before the Ministry approved it for school use.

Although, I might add, not having something that prevents students climbing out the fucking window!

 Many pure-blood families were outraged at the idea of their children using Muggle transport, which they claimed was unsafe, insanitary and demeaning; however, as the Ministry decreed that students either rode the train or did not attend school, the objections were swiftly silenced.

Good lord.

C: So, here’s my next question. Because the Hogwarts Express is scarlet, can we assume that Ottaline Gambol was a Gryffindor?

S: Oh, why not? And she had a dashing sense of style to boot.

C: Because otherwise the entire train would have just looked like a snake, if a Slytherin had made it.

S: So long story short, Ottaline Gambol is awesome, Lucius Malfoy is a dick, the school governors are sick of him. I think that sums it up.

C: Basically.

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S: Draco comes out and says that the reason he’s pulling all this shit is to get Hagrid fired. That, and he likes the attention. Ugh. Meanwhile, poor Neville. Potions is not a good time for him. Being around all the Slytherins and Snape can’t be good. They’re making a Shrinking Solution, which is supposed to be acid green, and now it has turned orange. Hermione tries to help, and Snape is like, “I don’t remember asking you to show off.”

Number 1, Snape is an asshole. But that also makes me think of that point in Cursed Child where Hermione says she was an excellent student, and Snape replies, “You were average at best.”

Now Snape is actively threatening his students! At the end of the lesson they’re going to feed a few drops of the potion to Trevor, who did nothing to deserve this, I might add, and see what happens. Meanwhile, Seamus is like, “Hey, I’ve been reading the news and they say Sirius Black has been sighted pretty close to here.” Which just prompts Draco to get even more involved in Harry’s personal life, and he asks Harry if he’s thinking about going after Black.

“Of course, if it was me,” he said quietly, “I’d have done something before now. I wouldn’t be staying in school like a good boy, I’d be out there looking for him.”

No. You fucking wouldn’t.

C: Malfoy’s ass would be hiding at home.

S: Yes. That is accurate. You would not be looking for Sirius Black. You have just spent a week moaning and crying about a scratch on your arm.

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“Please, have mercy! I was savaged by a rampaging hippogriff mere months ago!”

You would be holed up with private security 24/7 and putting out press releases about how horrible it is that the Ministry isn’t doing its job. No to all of it.

C: Well, the only difference would be – he clearly is not actually injured. He’s faking being injured and whining for effect.

S: Yeah.

C: I don’t know that he could whine for effect if he thought Voldemort’s right-hand man was coming for him.

S: But you gotta look tough in front of your love interest. If you don’t, when will he ever fall for you? Gotta put your most attractive qualities forward. Harry is like, what are you even talking about? The fuck?

Meanwhile, Hermione is being a great friend. It’s been working, apparently – she’s whispering instructions to Neville, and by the time they gather around the potion works exactly like it’s supposed to. They give it to Trevor and it shrinks him to a tadpole. Which is not really how I would expect a Shrinking Solution to work. I expected more like in Despicable Me, when he gets the shrink ray and shrinks the big elephant to a tiny elephant.

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C: I’ve never seen any of those movies, but I get the reference anyway.

S: The first one is great. The sequels, take them or leave them. Also, I deeply identify with Gru in that he thinks he’s evil and he’s really just grumpy. He has his evil lair and minions and evil vehicle, and he has a freeze ray, which he uses on people in line at Starbucks. He’s really not that evil, and when he gets the chance to be really evil, he sucks at it.

C: He’s the Diet Coke of evil!

S: Semi-evil! Quasi-evil! And it’s charming and heartwarming because he gets saddled with three orphans and falls in love with them, turns into a big Mr. Mom taking them to amusement parks and making them special pancakes and letting them draw on his walls. If you haven’t seen it, see it. Fortunately for Trevor, he’s fine.

So, Snape logically takes points from Gryffindor, because obviously Hermione helped Neville and he told her not to. So, thanks. Academic excellence? Fuck you, five points from Gryffindor.

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C: Well, I mean, they did cheat.

S: I know.

C: Obviously they only cheated because Snape was being awful, so I’m not criticizing the cheating.

S: I have a hard time seeing Potions not being a somewhat collaborative effort. You’re seated in groups – it’s like a science lab.

C: Yeah, of course you’re going to copy off of each other!

S: Or at least assist. The whole point is to have them make the potion, right?

C: We sat at individual desks in Physics, and I still cheated off of you, so.

S: That is fair. I would like to argue with Snape about his teaching techniques.

Then Hermione disappears, because Ron was talking to her and he thought she was behind them, and they turn around and

Hermione was panting slightly, hurrying up the stairs; one hand clutched her bag, the other seemed to be tucking something down the front of her robes.

Her bag splits because it has all the books ever in it.

Ron: We don’t have these subjects? Hermione, vaguely, Oh, yes, of course, what’s for lunch?

Ron, with the understatement of the year:

“D’you get the feeling Hermione’s not telling us something?” Ron asked Harry.

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I don’t know, Ron, where do you get that idea? She’s only vanishing, reappearing, and taking a million different classes. She might not be telling you something. I’m going out on a limb and saying yeah, probably.

C: I think what I like best about this is Hermione doesn’t even bother to make up anything that could be a legitimate excuse, she just basically refuses to play.

S: Yes!

C: She doesn’t even bother to appease the nosy man who wants to know what’s going on. She’s just like, “No.”

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Uncharacteristic lack of comment

S: Exactly! She’s totally counting on their lack of interest or them getting distracted. She’s counting on them being boys, and if she doesn’t answer them, the hope that they’ll give up.

C: And they do!

S: It’s accurate! Hermione knows her friends very well. Now we go on to the first competent lesson we’ve ever seen! Lupin is looking better, and he walks in and tells them

“Good afternoon,” he said. “Would you please put all your books back in your bags. Today’s will be a practical lesson. You will need only your wands.”

Which struck me as such a distinct foreshadow of Book 5, the mirror book for this. I think of Umbridge’s first lesson, when she comes in and says the exact opposite of this.

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C: That’s an excellent point. You’re so wise.

S: I’m such a nerd and I’ve read these too many times. Now, it says:

They had never had a practical Defense Against the Dark Arts before, unless you counted the memorable class last year when their old teacher had brought a cageful of pixies to class and set them loose.

C: I think they had lots of practical experience with Lockhart, but it mostly benefitted Harry because Lockhart was tackling him.

S: That is true! Lots of good thespian experience as well. Didn’t he have to howl like a werewolf at one point?

C: I think so, yeah.

S: So Quirrell – we never saw his classes, but apparently he never had a practical lesson either. So it’s about damn time.

Lupin leads them to the staffroom. They run into Peeves, who is trying to stuff the keyhole with chewing gum. Peeves is being an ass to Lupin, which apparently is not usual. It says that

Rude and unmanageable as he almost always was, Peeves usually showed some respect toward the teachers.

But he’s singing “Loony, loony Lupin” at him. Lupin takes it in stride and asks him politely to remove the gum. Peeves: “No.” Lupin: “Class, allow me to show you why I am awesome.” He uses a spell, waddiwasi, to shoot the gum out of the keyhole and down Peeves’ left nostril. Which is very specific, but also lets us know that Lupin is going to be the cool teacher.

C: So, you like to look up obscure things and bring them into our podcast.

S: I do.

C: Waddiwasi. Tell me about that.

S: That’s a good question. Let me see if I can give you something on that. O Google, do not fail me now.

C: I can’t believe you didn’t have it prepared.

S: I have lots of other things prepared! Just not this. I mean, it just sounds like “wad” and it’s never used again.

Despite Professor Lupin saying it is a useful little spell, it is used nowhere else in the series, which would rather call its usefulness into question.

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Really, Lupin? USEFUL?

This little moment tells us way more about Lupin than it does about the spell. The spell is throwaway, and it sounds funny.

C: It’s an extremely specific spell that can only get gum out of keyholes.

S: Into your nostril. DO you have to think about where you want it to go? Does it just find a handy orifice?

C: I would think it just shoots out and goes wherever is closest.

S: Possibly. Either way, it shows us that Lupin turns challenges into teachable moments, but also that Lupin doesn’t get provoked easily. They go into the staffroom, and charmingly enough, Snape is hanging out there by himself because no one wants to hang with him. He takes a parting shot as he leaves at Neville, again.

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“And now, to flounce away dramatically because I didn’t want to hang out with you dunderheads anyway.”

“Possibly no one’s warned you, Lupin, but this class contains Neville Longbottom. I would advise you not to entrust him with anything difficult. Not unless Miss Granger is hissing instructions in his ear.”

I love Lupin’s reaction. I just picture David Thewlis, the perfectly cast Lupin, with this mild expression:

Professor Lupin had raised his eyebrows.

“I was hoping that Neville would assist me with the first stage of the operation,” he said, “and I am sure he will perform it admirably.” 

We learn that they are tackling a boggart.

“Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces,” said Professor Lupin. “Wardrobes, the gap beneath beds, the cupboards under sinks — I once met one that had lodged itself in a grandfather clock.”

Which I love so much! It’s not just thematically appropriate, since this is so much the book that deals with fear. We’ve already met the personification of fear in the Dementors. Now we meet this creature that turns itself into what you fear the most. Thematically, it’s great. But it’s also an amazing answer to why every kid fears what is under the bed or in the closet. It’s a boggart! And only you know what’s under there, because it’s the monster under your bed!

But I do have some obscure information about boggarts if you would care to hear it.

C: I mean, why do we do this podcast, if not for obscure information?

S: Damn straight. So English folklore, of course, I don’t know where else you think this would come from. It’s supposed to be a household spirit. It seems that they all came from the same word, so words like bug, bugbear, bogey, bogeyman, are all related. The boggart is the Bogeyman. They presume that all those words are related to an Old English word, which is also the root of the word Pooka. Have you ever heard of a Pooka?

C: I’ve heard of pukka shell necklaces.

S: I’d heard of it in Russian folklore. A Pooka, or puca, is a spirit or a ghost that’s mischievous, it can be helpful or harmful.

The creatures were said to be shape changers which could take the appearance of horses, goats, cats, dogs, and hares. They may also take a human form, which includes various animal features, such as ears or a tail.

And could also take human form. The Pooka you also see in Celtic and French mythology, but it all comes from the same word.

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Aww, it’s been so long since I forever tainted my relationship with a cute fluffy animal thanks to batshit creepy folklore

So, the boggart is always mean. They’ll follow a family wherever you flee, which, fuck that nonsense, that’s horrible! I know we said before that people are dumb in horror movies for not picking up and moving away. But no, the boggart figured that out a long time ago and just moves with you.

C: Maybe that’s why moving away is never a real solution.

S: Possible.

C: Because in the end, it’s not the house that’s haunted –it’s yourself.

S: Ohhhh damn.

C: That was so deep. I shocked myself with that one.

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S: Supposedly they crawl into people’s beds at night, put clammy hands on their faces, pull off the covers, pull your ears, and people would hang –

C: Ha!

S: I don’t know why they pull your ears!

C: You know what that reminds me of?

S: What?

C: Cleolinda’s story of the tiny moist hand.

S: Oh my god I miss Cleolinda so much.

C: She’s on Twitter!

S: I know but she’s not writing as much anymore and I miss that. I follow her on Twitter.

C: Listeners, if you haven’t read it, Google “Cleolinda Tiny Moist Hand.” You’ll find it.

S: And go on to investigate cleolinda.livejournal.com. Her Movies in 15 Minutes – I still re-read them and laugh every time. Her Twilight recaps were the best things in my life for so long. And her Hannibal recaps were great. SO, shout out to Cleolinda, and thank you, Professor Creed for introducing me to her!

C: I do what I can.

SO similar thing – hang a horseshoe on the door, leave a pile of salt outside your bedroom – I’ll never understand why salt is supposed to keep bad things away, but why not?

C: As a ghoul or a monster, or ghost of any kind, you are still conscious of your blood pressure.

S: That is fair.

C: You’re not as young as you used to be, and you’ve gotta watch it.

S: There are different stories about the boggart, about a farmer who outwitted a boggart, different things. That’s where she gets this story. It has a lot of history. It’s a nice introduction to all of this. It’s also apparently related to the idea of the will o’the wisp, an atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers that draws you off safe paths, and that’s related to boggarts and hinkypunks, apparently.

The idea about the boggart is that it transforms into whatever you are the most afraid of, which could be complicated depending on what you’re afraid of. If you’re just really scared of being buried alive, for example, I imagine a boggart might find it challenging to convince you that that is what you’re looking at. But if you’re a kid and you have some kind of concrete fear, then that is something else. That’s the idea. Lupin suggests that we have an advantage over boggarts because we already know the shape it will be. If you know what you’re afraid of, you know what it will do. It’s always best to have company dealing with a boggart, because it gets confused, and the thing that truly finishes it is laughter.

All these things are fan-fucking-tastic. These are just things people do to help them deal with fear. It’s easy to be afraid when you’re alone, but when you have people with you it’s less frightening. If you can laugh at something, it can take away the terror. Which is why we laugh at our motherfucking president so much, because it’s a way of lessening the terror.

And the charm that gets rid of one is Riddikulus!

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I LOVE IT! You are looking at this thing and calling it ridiculous! It’s beautiful. I remember getting to this point and falling in love with the whole concept.

Do you know what your boggart would be?

C: I think it would have a hard time with me.

S: Oooh.

C: Because I am really scary. You can tell by my voice that I am an intimidating presence.

S: True. And so fearless that the boggart wouldn’t know what to do, because really, what could it do?

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C: Mine would either be something that it couldn’t do because it’s not a corporeal thing.

S: It’s like a situation.

C: Yeah, or the dead bodies of my loved ones.

S: Yeah, like Mrs. Weasley’s boggart. Same deal for me – mine would be situational, and it’s hard to turn that into a boggart. But this is pretty great.

C: Hang on, I have to correct myself. My boggart would be Jill Ellis remaining head coach of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team until she dies.

S: The horror!

C: That’s my boggart.

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S: Oh, listeners. I have learned so much about Jill Ellis in the past two days alone.

C: I have such a rant that I could go on, but I’m not going to right now. I’m going to keep it in, maybe at the end of the episode, we’ll see, but I’m not going to drag us off.

S: I’m so proud of you.

C: But if anyone would like my opinion on Jill Ellis, feel free to email us or tweet at us! I will share all my thoughts.

S: There will be many. Neville gets to go first, and these are the kind of things that make Lupin a very good teacher. And if you are a teacher, or you’ve just had a good teacher, these are things great teachers do. He presents context for the lesson, he poses a question and calls on Hermione first, and then for the next question he chooses who he calls on, because Hermione has the tendency to want to answer everything. It isn’t a bad thing, but it can dominate discussion, so instead he poses it to Harry. He wasn’t expecting to answer, but he takes a stab at it and it’s a good answer. Then he gets Neville, someone lacking self-confidence, to assist. And you know he’ll be successful, which will not only bolster Neville’s confidence but will also engage the class. It’s a win overall. And it just so happens to work out even better, because Neville’s worst fear is Professor Snape.

So, Lupin remembers that Neville lives with his grandmother, and apparently Neville’s grandmother dresses very distinctively.

C: Ottaline Gambol?

S: This woman is fashion-forward if any wizard is. Why does she wear a hat with a stuffed vulture on top?

C: I don’t know. I’m trying to think of buzzard jokes, but there aren’t that many of those.

S: Who is this woman? And who broke her sense of style? Lupin suggests that when the boggart comes out, it will be Snape, and Neville should use the spell, and hopefully it will force the boggart to assume a ridiculous appearance – in this case, Snape wearing his grandmother’s clothes. If Neville is successful, the boggart will shift its attention to everyone. So, he’s giving them a moment to think about the thing they fear the most, and about how to make it look funny, so they can fight back.

Harry thinks, and at first, he goes to Voldemort. But then, no, he realizes, I’m not nearly so scared of Voldemort as I am of dementors. Which, I don’t fucking blame him. Voldemort is pretty scary, but he’s also bad at trying to kill you. He’s failed multiple times, so the track record isn’t so bad.

C: Yeah, a dementor can suck out your soul. Not that Voldemort isn’t awful and terrifying, because he is, but Harry has held his own accidentally a few times, as opposed to a dementor who made him faint instantly.

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S: And when you think about it, Voldemort himself is so afraid. He’s who he is because of his own fear. But a dementor doesn’t feel fear or intimidation. It’s the pure embodiment of fear, and of course that’s what frightens Harry.

I love this description of Neville:

They all retreated, backed against the walls, leaving Neville alone beside the wardrobe. He looked pale and frightened, but he had pushed up the sleeves of his robes and was holding his wand ready.

C: YOU GO NEVILLE.

S: Right? And of course, Snape steps out, and Neville does Riddikulus! And it works!

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Now we get to see what people are scared of. Parvati goes forward and it’s a mummy!

C: Not scary, Parvati!

S: Someone must have read her a disturbing story when she was a kid.

C: You know what I think is interesting too? Apparently, all of these kids know what scare them the most.

S: Yeah.

C: I don’t know that I’d be able to pick what scares me most. You could ask me, what’s your favorite song? What’s your favorite movie? Depending on what I can think of when you put me on the spot, my answer might change. But they all seem to have something in their minds what’s going to happen, what they’re going to do. There’s no situation where Parvati is like, oh, it’s going to be a mummy! And it turns out that it’s a vampire.

S: That would be interesting, don’t you think? You think you know what it will be, and it turns out to be something else? I know you read one or two of the Thursday Next books.

C: I read the first four.

S: I think it’s in Lost in a Good Book where Thursday has to fight off Aornis. If you’re not familiar with the series, shame of you, what have you been doing with your life? Second, get on it. It’s by Jasper Fforde, the first book is The Eyre Affair, and it’s set in a world with literary detectives and massive criminal Shakespeare forging rings and an entire world inside books. Our heroine becomes an in-book enforcer with Jurisfiction, and she’s targeted by various Big Bads. One of those is Aornis, a mindworm who can mess with your head. She’s been slowly erasing Thursday’s memories of her life before the BookWorld, and is putting her in situations where she’s faced with nothing but her worst memories. In the final battle, she takes Thursday to a battlefield – a memory where Thursday, when she was a soldier, screwed up in battle and got her brother killed. That’s haunted her forever, and now at Aornis’s last stand she will put Thursday here and she will lose her mind, and Aornis will have won.

And one of the things I thought was bloody brilliant was that when they get here, at first Thursday is fading, but then she remembers something. They’re in a psychically constructed lighthouse, facing off, and she tells Aornis, “You missed something.” Aornis is like, “No, impossible, I’ve seen all your memories, this is the worst thing you have.” Thursday says, “No, it’s not. You’ve missed the one thing that’s always there.” And you hear footsteps coming up the lighthouse. Aornis begins to get more and more terrified.

You never see what it is. It’s just described as that lurking that childhood fear that all children feel – fear of something monstrous and terrifying and elemental in the dark. It doesn’t even have to have a shape. But that fear is the first and deepest fear that anyone has. So she lets that take a shape and go after Aornis, and makes her escape.

That’s what that made me think of – that elemental, formless terror that you have. I get what you mean – these kids all have a great idea of what they fear, but there’s always that nebulous fear of something you can’t really name or pinpoint. It’s just terror. That’s my philosophical segue.

C: This is kind of depressing. It’s interesting, but it’s bumming me out.

S: Aww! I always found it interesting in the sense that as a kid, you have this sense of the Thing In The Dark, and you grow past that, even though you always have that basic recognition of what fear is, but you get past it and move on and learn to deal with it. It’s just recognizing that as humans, we all have it and must learn to deal with it. Sometimes people, particularly people who respond to fearmongering, I think must respond to things that tap into that nebulous, subconscious fear lurking in your brain. It’s not even specific or direct or logical, it’s just FEAR! EMOTION! BANG!

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C: Like your lizard brain.

S: Yeah! SO, do you as a person grow to recognize that instinct for what it is? Once you do that you have a way to defeat it. And maybe that’s what the boggart and dementor really are – being able to recognize fear, know where it comes from, and learn how to kick its ass.

But these kids all have specific things they’re afraid of. Parvati fears mummies, Seamus is afraid of a banshee, because you bet those are the stories he heard as a kid.

C: I’m more down with being afraid of a banshee than a mummy. Sorry, Parvati. Unless it’s one of those mummies that was in the tomb that gives Muggles two heads.

S: Oooh!

C: That’s a different kind of mummy.

S: That’s an excellent point. Then we get a rat, a rattlesnake, a single bloody eyeball, and Lupin says it’s getting confused, so that’s either something someone is actually afraid of because maybe they watched Congo way too young, or maybe the boggart is just aiming and missing. For Dean, the eyeball becomes

a severed hand, which flipped over and began to creep along the floor like a crab.

…Dean?

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C: He must have really hated the Monster Book of Monsters.

S: Right? I feel like Dean got into his mom’s stash of Clive Barker books way too young, maybe he read “The Body Politic” where this man is convinced that his hands are plotting against him – and they are.

For Ron, we knew what it would be. It’s a Gigantic Fucking Spider.

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And then Ron vanishes its legs, makes it funny. It goes to Harry, and then Lupin calls out to it and draws it to him, instead of letting it transform.

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What we see that Lupin is afraid of is a

“silvery-white orb hanging in the air” 

And Lupin barely puts forth any effort to defeat it. He’s like, “Oh, you. Bye!”

C: Okay, so do you remember the first time you read this book? What did you think of that? Because I had no fucking clue.

S: I didn’t either. I remember reading it and wondering what it was supposed to be. And she tries to throw you off. Toward the end of the chapter, Lavender asks, “I wonder why Professor Lupin is frightened of crystal balls?” It’s an attempt at misdirection so you don’t think too much about what that is. I didn’t understand, and I knew we’d solve it eventually, but I remember being confused.

One thing I thought of while I read this – I said last week that Lupin was a badass because he walked up to a Dementor on the train and told it to get lost. And now we see Lupin’s worst fear, a silvery white orb, which, spoiler alert, we know to be the moon. And it struck me how much calm he usually has in the face of fear. He’s almost lackadaisical in the face of things that frighten everyone else. He’s not bothered. And it occurred to me that the reason for that is that Lupin’s worst fear is himself. Literally nothing else in the world will be as frightening to him as he is.

C: Aw!

S: Everything else is secondary. On the one hand, it’s clearly a struggle. But on the other hand, it makes him uniquely equipped to help Harry at this stage, and to face down the things to come, because really, how much worse could it get? He can face things others don’t because he has that context for it.

C: At least he can until he and Tonks get married, and then she gets knocked up.

S: And that is a whooooooooole other fucking conversation, which will probably take a full episode.

Lupin makes it change, and says,

“Forward, Neville, and finish him off!” said Lupin as the boggart landed on the floor as a cockroach. Crack! Snape was back. This time Neville charged forward looking determined. 

“Riddikulus!” he shouted, and they had a split second’s view of Snape in his lacy dress before Neville let out a great “Ha!” of laughter, and the boggart exploded, burst into a thousand tiny wisps of smoke, and was gone.

C: I almost kind of feel bad for the boggart!

S: FUCK YES NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM! Give him a little self-confidence and look what he can do! Lupin gives 5 points to Gryffindor for everyone to tackle the boggart, 10 for Neville since he did it twice, and 5 each for Hermione and Harry for answering his questions. Great lesson, read the chapter, summarize, hand in on Monday, and scene.

C: I don’t know if there’s rhyme or reason to it, but why are some classes with other Houses, and this is just Gryffindors?

S: This time it does seem to be just the Gryffindors, but in the movie the Slytherins are there. Maybe it’s an issue of scheduling?

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I mean, I would think the Slytherins would appreciate a little variety in the schedule

C: I know I find weird things to ask questions about.

S: I wondered that too. I don’t quite understand how the scheduling works – some days they’re with some classes, some days they’re with others.

C: It just seems like, if you’re having to teach this subject for the entire school, if you’re not putting two houses in one class you are really stretching out the workload.

S: Yeah. Which is, I guess, why they have it on alternating days. You’ve got to spread it out with other grade levels. Anyway, everyone is super pumped up after that lesson with the boggart. Hermione is like, “I wish I’d had a chance to try the boggart!”

“What would it have been for you?” said Ron, sniggering. “A piece of homework that only got nine out of ten?”

Maybe! What do you know, Ron? Punk.

C: I actually really would like to know what Hermione’s boggart would be.

S: Later on in the book she does face it in the obstacle course Lupin creates.

C: Oh yeah! I had completely forgotten about that because we haven’t gotten there yet.

S: Right. We do get to see what it is at that point. So, at that point in the story, what she sees makes a hell of a lot of sense. But you have to think that her boggart would not be the same thing much later. I guess as your priorities change, what you fear most will change.

So that is the very fun Chapter 7!

C: I feel like it was so short! It really was compared to the previous chapter.

S: It was! It did feel short. How on earth did we manage that?

C: I don’t know but we can’t move ahead because I haven’t read the next chapter.

S: I haven’t either. That’s okay. I think we’re at the point now where we can be justified in one chapter per episode, because shit happens.

C: Not that that has stopped us before.

S: No, but I do think the beginning of books go a bit faster. But whatever happens, you can count on us to talk our asses off.

C: And for me to ask weird questions.

S: How do they make that schedule work?

C: See, this is the problem I have with books, and way more with movies – I get caught up in details that should not matter, and yet I get hung up on them. And the only movie where it doesn’t bother me is Star Wars, where I am extremely forgiving, but with other properties I’m not so interested in, it’s hard for me to handwave things away.

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S: Yeah, I remember getting hung up on a plot hole from the first Pirates of the Caribbean, because I loved the first movie, I thought it was brilliantly done. And then they came long and realized, wow, we didn’t expect that to be wildly successful, let’s make a sequel.

C: That was a mistake. You and I have talked about this before, and I’mma let you finish, but we’ve agreed that the biggest mistake they did with those movies was turning Jack Sparrow from a supporting character to a protagonist, which was a huge mistake. Also, all those movies are at least a half hour too long, if not more.

S: Hands down the biggest mistake they made. Jack Sparrow is not meant to be a protagonist, and he loses so much of his fascination as a character.

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Go back and watch the first one – it holds up really well and it’s a brilliant movie. To me, it’s got just the right balance of humor, camp, and action. If you just take Jack in that at movie, he’s a fabulous character. There’s so much mystery about him that it works. But what bugged me about the first movie was – you know how they’re trying to get the coin back from Will, and they have to do that because they realize Bootstrap Bill mailed the coin to Will to keep the others from getting it? In retaliation, they strap a cannon to his boots and toss him overboard. So they have to track down Will. And I remember thinking, they’re fucking cursed pirates! He’s still alive at the bottom of the ocean just hanging out. How could he not have just untied his boots, perhaps, and walked out? They walk around under the ocean all the time. They can’t be killed. He’s a fucking undead pirate. So his dad was clearly alive out there. So I guess when they made the sequel I think someone was like, oh, hey, there is that, so let’s figure something out.

C: Untied his boots, perhaps? I love that.

S: The other thing that bugs me about those movies, especially the third one? They go on about the Flying Dutchman, and it must have a captain, and it ends up being Will because he stabs Davy Jones in the heart.

C: I’ve never seen it, so I’ll take your word for it.

S: Oh, fuck. Okay.

C: I was smart enough to stop after the first one, and I went no further.

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S: Well, basically they build up pretty early on that somehow, it’s Will’s destiny to free the Dutchman from Davy Jones and return things to their normal order. So, in the end, Davy Jones stabs Will, and Will is on the verge of dying. It’s right when Jack has Jones where he wants him, in a face-off, he’s about to stab the heart himself to become immortal and stop Davy Jones. But because Will is dying, Jack gives that up. He puts the knife in Will’s hand, stabs the heart, ends Davy Jones, and now Will is immortal, and the Dutchman is set free, the sailors are un-gunked with sea creatures, and things return to normal.

EXCEPT.

Here’s the thing that makes no sense. The whole point of that stupid effing Davy Jones story was that Davy Jones was all in love with Calypso, and she broke his heart, so he cut out his heart, so he wouldn’t have to feel anything, locked it away in the chest, and that’s it.

C: THAT’S NOT HOW THAT WORKS.

S: Oh, that’s how it works in this movie! So, at the end of the movie, the sailors are like, “Well, the Dutchman has to have a captain, and whoever kills Jones has to take his place.” So, they fucking cut out Will Turner’s heart and put it in the chest. I’m thinking, “WHOA HOLD THE PHONE.” Cutting out your heart was never a condition of the job! That was just Davy Jones being psycho! It has literally nothing to do with actually being the captain of this ship! So, there is no reason why he should cut his heart out. It has NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING. At this point you people have all just gone crazy and have some kind of mutilation fetish that makes you want to carve him up to make him your captain!

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C: So, here’s what I don’t get. At the time there was only going to be in theory the three movies. So, you’re going to end the series with a hero and heroine separated forever, and also, he has no heart because it’s stuck in a chest forever? That’s not a great way to end a trilogy.

S: He sails off on the Flying Dutchman, and he can come aboard once every 10 years, which again, is not the best way to end this story. There’s a little after-credits scene with Will coming back, presumably after 10 years, and there’s Keira Knightley waiting for him with his 10-year-old son, because the one time they screwed he knocked her up.

C: Oh, of course.

S: Good timing. Supposedly the Disney people said the idea was that he had figured out a way to come back, which is a bunch of bullshit. But at a certain point I think they put themselves in a corner and were like, oh fuck, we don’t know how to end this, we’re in a narrative hole here, and instead of making this work – why not let Jack take over the Dutchman? Why not let him have immortality? But of course, they were like, oh shit, if we give Jack an ending where he gets what he wants, we won’t be able to make useless sequels that make a ton of money for no explicable reason! So that’s why. That’s why they fucked the ending of the series – to keep making crappy movies.

C: Well, a friend of mine went and saw the most recent one – the fifth one?

S: Yeah.

C: I don’t remember everything she told me, but she saw it when it was first out. Something happens, and Will is able to come back, on land, with Keira Knightley.

S: I think what happens is that they realized Jack shouldn’t be the protagonist, but they’d gone too far. Jack on his own in that godawful 4th movie didn’t work, and nobody cared. So, they wanted the dynamic from the first one and brought back Keira and Will, but at this point you’ve screwed up. You’ve made a secondary character a protagonist, and it failed. It’s like making a bunch of movies about Draco Malfoy. I get that the fanwankers out there would love it. I know two authors who would love it.

C: Cassandra Clare?

S: NO, the two godawful writers of Cursed Child who are so hot for Draco. But Cassandra Clare too.

C: Because she wrote that enormous fanfiction she turned into whatever it was.

S: Yeah.

C: She was E.L. James before E.L. James was E.L. James.

S: Yeah, and then E.L. James ripped off her ripping off J.K. Rowling, then ripped off Stephanie Meyer. I’ve lost track of who we’re ripping off. The point is, pirates was good and then it sucked, plot holes are the worst, and we are done with Chapter 7. So next time, we will do Chapter 8. There may be a slight gap, so hang in there! We’re trying to podcast about Star Wars too, so we’ll see how that goes.

C: The premise of this is, we wanted to do a Star Wars podcast, or at least I did and Seraphine is being dragged along in my wake. There’s a bazillion of those, just like there are a bazillion Harry Potter podcasts.

S: Oh, but ours is better. We cuss, they don’t. For some reason they’re trying to be all family-friendly, and I don’t understand that shit.

C: We are the NC-17 podcast you’ve been looking for. We’re going to read back through the used to be canon, now Legends books. In Legends, Han and Leia had 3 children, one falls to the Dark Side, and we’re reading it leading up to it, and we’re going to compare it to the arc of Ben Solo in the sequel trilogy. So, our first book will be Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore. I’m pumped.

S: YAY! So far, I’ve been reading the book and at first, I was kind of like, ehhh, and then it got to a point where it got very intriguing. I’m now at the point where we meet the Big Bad, the crazy anti-technology zealot who reminds me of Euron Greyjoy. When I got there, I got very interested, so hopefully I’ll be finished soon, and we can talk about it.

Until we do that, hang out with us, be patient. We will do the Flight of the Fat Lady next! Until then, I am Professor Seraphine –

C: I am Professor Creed —

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

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And Draco’s father WILL hear about it!

Show Notes

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

“Puca.” Wikipedia.org.

“The Hogwarts Express.” Pottermore.com.

“Boggart.” Wikipedia.org.

“Waddiwasi.” The Harry Potter Wiki.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. J.K. Rowling.

 

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