This week, we discuss: Harry’s angst puzzle; Hermione really doesn’t know him at all; NO ONE IS GOING TO KILL ANYONE OKAY; Evil Hermione; dead family guilt trips; the need for Pensieves in law enforcement; world-building and violating continuity by way of The Last Jedi; damn the man; the flobberworms asked for none of this; does anyone ever leave Azkaban?; medieval animal trials and executions; how to serve eviction notices to rats; the intersection of beast and human; virtuous donkeys; screaming goats and the world’s dumbest cats; no one listens to magical accessories; Crookshanks head canon; Trelawney v. McGonagall, round 2; teenage boys are dumb; plus thoughts, observations, and speculations for Solo.
S: Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies, where at long last – I thought it would never happen – we’re back to talk about the book!
C: We have not studied Muggles in lo these many years.
S: Have they changed? Tell us! Are they still weird?
C: I had no idea where we were in the book, and when you told me which chapter it was, and I started reading, I was like, I don’t even remember what has happened, so go me. Great podcast host with no clue what is going on at any point in time.
S: Excuse me, that makes us the best podcast hosts. And also, if I recall, when I started rereading this, I remembered we were getting close to the part that makes you yell a lot.
C: Yeah, I was annoyed with this chapter. Does it get worse? Do I get more annoyed? I don’t remember.
S: It does.
S: I’m sorry. For those of you who are just, for some reason stumbling across us, I am Professor Seraphine.
C: I am Professor Creed, who is just finishing her dinner.
Chapter 11: The Firebolt
S: Last time we discussed how completely inept Ministry officials, or really any adults, are at keeping secrets around children they’re supposed to be protecting, because we had that incredibly well-timed conversation in the tavern at Madam Rosmerta’s, at which point Harry learned a lot of information that he conveniently needed to know, and simultaneously wasn’t supposed to know. When we pick up, Harry is literally stumbling back to the school through the passage in a fog, with the “Why did no one tell me this!” Running through his head, trying to figure out
Why hadn’t anyone ever mentioned that Harry’s parents had died because their best friend had betrayed them?
Which, to be fair, is not an easy convo to have with an angsty 13-year-old but given the circumstances maybe someone should have had it. I don’t know.
C: I don’t know either.
S: If I recall, Mr. Weasley wanted to have that conversation, but no one wanted to let him. Either way, Harry is very angsty, very upset, he’s avoiding everyone and goes up to the common room and the dorm and pulls out his photo album to look at the pictures, and for the first time he’s looking at the OTHER people in the photos, not just his parents. He has photos from the wedding where Sirius is there, when his parents were younger, and we find that Sirius is seriously good looking. A thousand fan fictions burst into life.
He’s building up some serious righteous hatred and doing a lot of projecting. I find it interesting that he’s imagining a lot of stuff in this scene – he’s not dreaming, but it describes him as watching events in his head like a film:
Sirius Black blasting Peter Pettigrew (who resembled Neville Longbottom) into a thousand pieces. He could hear (though having no idea what Black’s voice might sound like) a low, excited mutter.
And imagining what Sirius might have said to Voldemort, and Voldemort’s laugh, and it’s all fitting together like pieces of a perfect little puzzle in his head as to how this must have all gone down, making him very angry in the process.
To the extent that he shows up around noon the next day, and everyone is like, wow, you look awful. Conveniently everyone is gone for the holidays, so there’s that, and it’s just Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They have this conversation about what Harry’s going to do.
“Harry, listen,” said Hermione, exchanging a look with Ron, “you must be really upset about what we heard yesterday. But the thing is, you mustn’t go doing anything stupid.”
And this point, I really have to wonder if Hermione knows Harry at all.
C: I was going to say, is there any other kind of thing that Harry does?
S: I appreciate her trying, but. Even as Ron says, what are you saying – do you want to try to kill Black or something? And this is the thing that always made me laugh about the movie when Harry Does finally meet Sirius. He pulls his wand out and puts it at Sirius’s throat like he’s going to do something, and I’m sitting here thinking, dude, you don’t know any spell that will actually kill this man. You’d do better to take your wand and jam it in his eye.
C: Shove it up his nose and come away with some bogeys.
S: Something! You literally do not know how to kill him magically. Either go old school or go home. You’re thirteen!
C: In the movie version, almost literally every spell is the exact same flash of bright white light and that’s it, so.
S: True, and there’s wild inconsistencies between what one spell does and another spell does, so sure, sure Harry knows some random murderous spell. Why wouldn’t he?
C: I bet Hermione could have transfigured a razor blade and slit his throat, had she wanted to.
S: This brings me back to Evil Hermione fanfic. She would be so scary if she went bad! She could single-handedly turn the Death Eaters into actual competent villains.
C: Hermione would be a better Voldemort than Voldemort.
S: That is such a good point! And she could do it and still be awesome, and not lose her looks. And all of this leads us to a really terrible point, which is where Harry is more inclined to take Draco’s advice over Hermione’s and Ron’s, which has to set off every alarm bell you have, because when you’re taking life advice from Draco Malfoy, you have reached a bad spot.
C: You have to consider, too, if you’re ever in a situation where Ron and Hermione agree on something – immediately – you should probably go with it, because it’s pretty rare.
S: That’s true! It’s got to be serious to have instant agreement without arguing. So, Hermione is trying to talk sense into him, Ron is trying to talk sense into him, Hermione tries the “What do you think your parents would want?” line, to which Harry replies, “I don’t know what they would have wanted, because THEY’RE DEAD.” I have to give him props for that, because I’ve never lost someone that close to me, but from people who have lost parents or close relatives, I know they really resent that tactic of “What do you think they would have wanted you to do?” Because you can’t ask them, because they’re dead, THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME. So, I have to applaud him for pushing back on that tactic being used against him, even though his decision-making capabilities are still really bad here.
So, they’re trying to distract him. Ron is like, “Hey, let’s go see Hagrid!” Hermione: “No, we’re not supposed to go outside!” Harry: “Hey, YEAH, let’s go see Hagrid so I can ask him why HE never told me about Sirius!”
Which is not where they wanted this to go, but Harry has spoken and therefore they shall visit Hagrid, ignoring a challenge from Sir Cadogan on the way, I might add, which makes them yellow-bellied mongrels indeed.
So, they go, and I thought this was an interesting way for this chapter to play out. Harry marches down full of his own anger, plans to lay it all on Hagrid, only to find that Hagrid is fully absorbed in his own tragic problem, which is that he just got a letter regarding Buckbeak’s fate.
On the good side, they’re not holding Hagrid responsible. They’ve taken Dumbledore’s word that it wasn’t Hagrid’s fault that Draco Malfoy’s a douche and got himself attacked by an angry hippogriff. But they’ve also accepted the word of Lucius Malfoy, and have decided that in April Hagrid has to present himself before the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures, and there will be a trial, to decide what to do from there. In the meantime, he’s got to keep Buckbeak tied up.
Hagrid is already a mess, crying about how the Committee hates “interesting creatures.”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked at one another. They had never seen eye to eye with Hagrid about what he called “interesting creatures” and other people called “terrifying monsters.” On the other hand, there didn’t seem to be any particular harm in Buckbeak. In fact, by Hagrid’s usual standards, he was positively cute.
C: So, I have a question.
C: And I know the answer to this is, because the plot said we couldn’t have this yet. But in an instance like this, why wouldn’t you just bring in Malfoy, Hagrid, a few of the witnesses, and use the Pensieve to see what happened? Look at all the memories of the incident, and you can see pretty clearly that Draco was dicking around and being an ass, and that’s what happened.
S: God dammit, Professor Creed, when are you going to accept that the magical world does not operate at optimum efficiency?
C: This is why I have so many frustrations with Harry Potter. I understand why – we can’t have that yet because it comes into play later, but at the same time it bothers the part of my brain that likes things to be neat and logical.
S: I actually had this conversation with a student recently when discussing Star Wars. The student complained to me that The Last Jedi violated continuity, and so of course I wanted to know why. Specifically, they were talking about Admiral Holdo light-speeding through the First Order ship.
He argued that this violated continuity because if that had always been possible, why didn’t they do it before? I guess he felt like you were overpowering the characters to the extent that it seemed silly that the characters hadn’t done it in the past.
C: I don’t think committing suicide by light speed jump is overpowering someone.
S: One of my arguments was, to be fair, that’s not a sustainable combat model. You’re then required to make every mission a suicide mission, and I don’t see that happening. Of course, the simple reason why it wasn’t done is that either George Lucas didn’t think of it, or the special effects at the time didn’t allow him to pull that off. Rian Johnson and the scriptwriters thought of it. But that’s the out of world explanation.
Still, logically speaking, it doesn’t make sense to do that often. You do it in desperate circumstances, in which you would think differently. So, my argument to him was that it didn’t violate continuity. But in this case, I see your point. I understand why she parcels out things the way she does, but when she introduces them, she does so as things that have always been there, and that everyone knows about – like the Pensieve, like the Unforgivable Curses. We get introduced to them and they become part of the story from then on, but it does raise questions like – why did we not utilize this before if it was something everyone had? I mean, if the Ministry is holding any kinds of trials, they should be using Pensieves in court.
C: That’s my thing.
S: This is also an idea that Black Mirror played with in its most recent season. It wasn’t the best episode, but it posited a world in which insurance companies use devices to interview people present at a hit and run, for example, and the devices help them compile the memories of everyone present, and then they assess based on that. Which, you know, if you have the technology, use it.
So, the answer to your question is – yeah, they totally should. They’re not only because J.K. Rowling decided they’re not.
C: Which is fine. It is what it is. But it’s a thing you notice as you reread as an older person. Now I just want to go argue with your student about this. He’s wrong, by the way. Does he think that Jedi should not be able to have telekinesis through the Force simply because it wasn’t in A New Hope?
S: That’s essentially what I argued. It’s like saying because it wasn’t in the originals, we can’t do anything new. And that’s a bad measuring stick for the story, because it works you into a corner where you can only have the same film over and over. We discussed the light saber fights, too. It’s like saying light saber fights should only be staged according to the rules of fencing, the way they were in the original movies, but with laser swords.
But instead, the new movies have been written by a generation that has grown up with these movies, looked at light sabers, and thought, you know, if you actually did have a light saber you could do all sorts of other things. You wouldn’t just treat them like Swords That Happen To Be Lasers like the original series did. And we’ve seen all sorts of new innovations in the fighting, especially in The Last Jedi.
It’s not a violation of continuity. But it does cause a problem when you create plot holes for yourself by introducing things. In this case, you’re right, because it raises valid questions about how the Ministry conducts itself – although EVERYTHING IN THIS BOOK raises questions about how the Ministry conducts itself, let’s be fair. From their handling of confidential materials to their criminal justice system to their prison system – there’s so many things.
C: That’s really the thing that unites all the Harry Potter properties, from the books to the movies to Fantastic Beasts to – what is that horrible play? Cursed Child?
S: Government ineptitude?
S: It’s nice to know they have a common thread. No matter what time, place, or era you were in, the government sucks.
Poor Hagrid. He’s so sad, he knows Buckbeak will be executed, and Hagrid doesn’t want to bother Dumbledore about it, and Ron and Hermione are worried that Harry will start yelling, but fortunately Harry is thinking, maybe this isn’t a good time to make this about me. So, Hermione suggests looking up a case that could help. Even Ron offers to make a cup of tea. It’s like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory – no idea what to do when people are upset except to offer a hot beverage, because that’s what his mother does. That’s Ron here.
C: One of my favorite lines comes up here pretty quick. Hagrid is going on about how nobody likes his classes, and they immediately lie and say they love them, and Ron asks how the flobberworms are.
“Dead,” said Hagrid gloomily. “Too much lettuce.”
S: I love that too!
C: It’s the best. Poor flobberworms.
S: Weren’t they poking lettuce down the flobberworms, and had no idea what they did, and now they’re all dead?
C: I just imagine giant flat earthworms with mouths, and it’s like foie gras, like where they force feed the geese?
C: When you think about it, it’s sad.
S: At least with the flobberworms I don’t think anyone wanted to eat them, they were just trying to keep them alive long enough to decide whether they were useful.
C: What did the flobberworms ever do to anyone?! I am so upset.
S: This is the chapter to be upset about that on. We do get Hagrid briefly talking about Azkaban, the first time he’s ever mentioned it, and he’s talking about how horrible it is to be near the dementors again. Hermione asks what it’s like, and he’s describing it – he thought he was going mad, you lose your sense of self and will to live – and this brings me back to my point of WHAT THE FUCK IS THE MINISTRY DOING, because
“Mind, the dementors weren’t keen on lettin’ me go.”
“But you were innocent!” said Hermione.
Hagrid snorted. “Think that matters to them? They don’ care. Long as they’ve got a couple o’ hundred humans stuck there with ’em, so they can leech all the happiness out of ’em, they don’ give a damn who’s guilty an’ who’s not.”
Not an ideal situation for your criminal justice system to hinge on!
C: Are you kidding? That is exactly what we do here in America and we are just fine. We have been made great again.
S: We have locked up more people than the entire world! And it brings back the problem of using these dementors. I guess there’s an assumption that few people ever leave Azkaban. Which makes you wonder, do people go for shorter sentences? Or is it more, once you’re there, you don’t leave?
C: Yeah, is there a wizarding world county jail before supermax federal prison?
S: It’s like once you’re there it’s assumed you’ll be staying, which is awful, assuming life sentences for everyone.
C: Oh my god, it’s Gitmo.
S: It IS Gitmo! That’s the point! They throw him in there with literally no trial, after picking him up based on a prior offense on his record, throw him in, and weren’t going to let him out. If the Chamber of Secrets issue hadn’t been cleared up, he would have stayed forever.
And on the rare occasion someone DOES get out, THEY DON’T WANT TO LET THEM GO. How do you coerce a dementor to let someone go? What kind of intervention does THAT take?
Anyway, Hagrid is distraught. He’s thinking about letting Buckbeak go, but he’s afraid of breaking the law because he doesn’t ever want to go back to Azkaban – and if nothing else, Harry realizes he
couldn’t brood constantly on revenge if he wanted to help Hagrid win his case against the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures.
C: Way to not be totally self-centered, Harry. Good job.
S: At the very least, he, Ron and Hermione start looking up research to help defend Buckbeak. They research famous cases of marauding beasts. And these are fascinating. There’s a case from 1722 where the hippogriff was convicted and something awful was done to it. Or 1296, my personal favorite:
“This might help, look — a manticore savaged someone in 1296, and they let the manticore off — oh — no, that was only because everyone was too scared to go near it…”
And this rang a bell for me, because I thought, I’ve heard something about this before. So, I did a little research and my memory was immediately jogged. In the Middle Ages, there was an outstanding tradition of putting animals on trial.
C: For being witches? Because everything and everybody was a witch back then?
S: For any kind of crime. Particularly if the animal killed or seriously injured a human being – they would execute the animal. But in many cases, they’d put them on trial first. And there are various theories about why this was done. Some people feel like it was due to superstition, others attribute it to the mindset where humans are supposed to have moral dominion over all the earth. But it was also useful economically, because there were a lot of lawyers who needed work, so specializing in animal trials became a thing people did, because why not, it’s good money if you can get it?
C: What does that even mean? I understand, but what does that entail? What parts of law would I have to concentrate on if I wanted to go into animal defense?
S: I don’t know about the legal specialty, but I would like to point out that pigs were by far the most common animal put on trial.
C: Because everybody likes bacon?
S: Apparently there were a lot of pigs running wild in Europe around this time. According to E.P. Evans’s 1906 book, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals,
“The frequency with which pigs were brought to trial and adjudged to death, was owing, in a great measure, to the freedom with which they were permitted to run about the streets and to their immense number.”
So, pigs were implicated in a number of murders.
C: Pigs can’t murder people! Because pigs can’t take a human life with intent!
S: You need to tell that to the lawyers, because there were incidents where pigs chewed off ears and noses and killed children. This line in particular killed me:
one swine going so far as to eat a child “although it was Friday,” a serious violation of church decree that “was urged by the prosecuting attorney and accepted by the court as a serious aggravation of the porker’s offense.”
C: At least wait until Sunday evening, you know?
S: I thought you would also like this one. In 1394, a pig was hanged for having sacrilegiously eaten a consecrated wafer.
C: Well, don’t leave the consecrated wafers out on the altar! Good lord. It isn’t like the pig is going to stand up on his trotters and get into the cupboards, come on.
S: George Orwell tried to warn us! According to this book, we have surviving records showing at least 200 animal executions. These included bulls, horses, eels, dogs, sheep, pigs of course, and interestingly, dolphins, which he doesn’t say much about – he just says they were tried and executed in Marseilles in 1596. This all just boggles the mind!
There were other punishments for animals who weren’t executed. Rats, for instance, were sent a letter advising them to vacate a house when they weren’t welcome. WHO GETS THAT JOB? Issuing letters to rats??
C: I have two comments. One is that I read a book many times by Bill Bryson that is basically a biography of Shakespeare, but also goes a lot into London of that time, and this is before they made the Thames a little more of a regular river, dredging and barricading and all the crap people do to bodies of water. So, the Thames was very wide in some places, and people would fish in it, dump their waste in it – but there were dolphins and whales that would come up the Thames. It seems ludicrous, but it could happen.
S: That’s interesting!
C: My second point – there is a woman in our hometown who … how shall I describe her? She’s one of those very arty types, and she also might be a tiny bit mad? She told me a story once about how she was having a problem with fire ants in her yard, because where we live fire ants are a big problem. She went into her yard and sat down and had a conversation with the ants, and said, look guys, you stay in this part of the yard. You have all this corner – but don’t come any closer to my house. And the queen agreed, because they were both women, and they had a female connection and got a good dialogue going, and they were able to sort everything out.
S: Wow. It’s interesting, because in some of these articles they talk about people interacting with animals at such an intimate level, day to day, at this time, and they did have a better sense of animals’ personalities, they had relationships with these animals to the extent that maybe that was a contributing factor.
C: Can you imagine how much it would wreck a family to lose a horse or a bull in that fashion?
S: I know! And the outcomes of some of these trials are interesting. In some cases, they’d rule that the animal needed to be disciplined. In one case they would kill the animal but spare its children. Let me find this case – in 1379 two herds of pigs at a French monastery got agitated, and one herd killed a man. The pigs that killed the man, as well as the herd that was the onlookers, were tried. According to the case, through
their “cries and aggressive actions,” the onlookers “showed that they approved of the assault,” and mustn’t be allowed to escape justice.
But the friar couldn’t afford to lose all the pigs. So, he writes to the Duke of Burgundy asking him to spare them. He ordered that the onlooker swine should be released, but the murderous pigs must be executed.
When you think about the theme of this book, Joyce Salisbury in “The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages” talks about how in this time, there starts to be this blurring between animal and man, and medieval literature is full of fables and stories, and the belief that animals would act like humans. Also, some of the delightful marginalia in manuscripts show dogs, horses, rabbits in human clothes, engaging in human activities. She argues that there is this idea of the animal as partially human.
And then there’s this case in 1386 in France, where they convicted a pig of murdering a baby, and before its execution, the pig was dressed in a waistcoat, gloves, a pair of drawers – they put a human mask on the pig’s head – and then chained it up before it was hanged. Which is by far one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read.
C: I have so many feelings about it and none of them are good.
S: Oh! Oh! OH! Do you remember how we talked about how basilisks are born?
C: Um…let’s go ahead and say yes, I do. Oh wait, is that the thing where the chicken sits on the egg or something?
S: Yeah, like a rooster would lay an egg, and there’s a toad involved, but apparently in 1472 in Switzerland they sentenced a rooster to be burned at the stake for
“the heinous and unnatural crime of laying an egg.”
C: Then it wasn’t a rooster.
S: That’s what I would say, but one could also argue that a basilisk was on its way to being born and they did what they had to do.
There’s just so many of these cases! There are cases where they tried to prosecute mice, and in one case the judge ordered the mice to leave but noted that the animals had to be granted free and safe conduct, and that they could take 14 days to vacate. How do you enforce this stuff?
The sixteenth-century lawyer Bartholomew Chassenee was successful in stopping a trial against rats that ate a field of barley by claiming that his clients could not appear in court because they were afraid of the village’s cats. Other lawyers pointed out that these creatures were created by God and had a role to play in the world, or that they needed to eat the food in order to survive.
C: I don’t know why, because the cats didn’t do a very good job at keeping them out of the field of barley, did they? Not much to be intimidated about there!
S: Lawyers pointed out that these creatures were created by god and needed to eat the food to survive. In fact, there were trials sometimes against insects – locusts who ate crops, for example. They’d order them to leave town by a certain date.
C: Would that that worked! I would evict so many insects from where I live.
S: We would never have to live with a roach ever again!
C: Oh my god. The worst. The WORST!
S; So, I thought about what they said about the rampaging hippogriff and what they did to it, that it was horrible. It seems like the most common thing they’d do to these animals was hang them, which seems really inefficient to me. You don’t hang a pig the way you would hang a human, don’t you think? Just get an ax or something? I’m not an expert on executing farm animals by any means, but I feel like hanging is unnecessarily complicated.
C: All I know is how you kill chickens, so.
S: There was a moose in a town in Switzerland that they thought was a demon, and they fed it an apple full of needles.
S: Now, it mentioned a number of bestiality cases where the people are also on trial.
Sometimes they say the animal would be executed with the person who committed the crime, but there are a few cases – and I love this one SO MUCH–
C: The animal was the aggressor?
S: No, it was a donkey. A bestiality case in 1750. And the donkey was acquitted on the grounds that she was a victim of violence. And a convent prior signed a letter testifying that he had known the donkey for 4 years and
“she had always shown herself to be virtuous and well-behaved, both at home and abroad.”
S: Although part of me is depressed thinking that a donkey in the Middle Ages was granted a better defense against rape than a lot of people do today, but….
C: I was trying to think; how do I work in a joke about what the donkey was or wasn’t wearing?
S: I know. Sometimes they would try spiritual punishments, like laying anathema on them, which is like excommunication for beings that don’t belong in the Church, so I guess if you couldn’t execute them you’d lay anathema against insects. They tried it against weevils one time. This is just a weird little bit of history, I think, and it made me think so much about this medieval idea of animals having human natures, and blurring the line between animals and humans, and asking if animals are responsible for their actions or not – and this whole book is about that, about blurring the lines between animal and human, and raising questions of who is responsible for what. In the case of the Animaguses in the book, maybe not so much. But even having the question of Buckbeak in this very animalistic story where we also have Remus Lupin, a werewolf, which raises questions about what he’s responsible for, and Crookshanks, who is so conscious beyond an animal’s normal levels – it’s so interesting to juxtapose this with this idea of putting animals on trial and trying to define intent, putting them in clothes – so many strange things.
C: Dressing the pig up – that’s weird.
S: That was just weird to me up to a point until I read that they put a mask on it to give it a human face, and then that crossed the line for me from weird to really disturbing. And I don’t know why. I’m not sure what it is about that that bothers me more than putting it in underpants and a vest. But it does!
C: It’s just weird!
S: Some people thought there could be a practical side to it – like, control your pigs or we’ll come in and do something about it, a sort of intimidation tactic. But otherwise, it seems like this was a thing! Judges trying to determine motive!
C: So, with the caveat that I clearly am not a scholar of the Middle Ages, I guess my sort of idea is that you had to work your ass off from sunup to sundown. When do people have time for all these absurd trials?
S: This is where I think there must be a strange element of entertainment and spectacle to this. Because you’re right – there’s no point to this unless you truly do believe there’s some element of soul determination, that God wants you to do make sure this is taken care of. But I feel like at a certain point this has to do with people who need a break sometime and want to be entertained – and maybe the best entertainment some days is to go watch the local pig get put on trial!
C: I guess, man! They found time to pack the theaters in London, so. Clearly, they had a little bit more time and money than we tend to think they did.
S: If they had time to come up with psychedelic rye paste and improvised sex toys –
C: Oh my god, BROOM HUMPING!!
S: There’s time for shit, you know?
C: I mean, there’s always time for broom humping.
S: People will always find time for things that are pointless and entertaining.
C: Are you implying that broom humping is pointless? How DARE you, madam! Have you ever humped a broom in your life?
S: I’m just saying it’s entertaining, at the very least. And you cannot argue with that – whether you’re participating or simply watching, it must be entertaining!
C: Oh man, yeah.
S: So anyway, I thought you’d appreciate that little side trip into the fact that this is NOT a thing invented for the magical world, although it makes way more sense for the magical world because these animals seem to have a level of sentience that regular animals don’t. But no, regular people were stupid enough to do it with pigs and donkeys, and let’s all excommunicate the locusts! I still need a scene in a movie somewhere where someone delivers a letter to a bunch of mice in a house and crouches down next to the hole in the wall, waiting for one to poke its head out so they can deliver the message! I need to see it because that’s amazing material.
C: Be the change you want to want to see in the world, Seraphine!
S: So yeah – medieval animal trials are fascinating and a little scary. That’s kind of what I’m taking away from my history lesson today. Have you ever wanted to put an animal on trial, Professor Creed? Because I’m not going to lie, my cat used to get up to some stuff.
C: No, my cats are so dumb. Every time I park they come running toward my truck and won’t get out of the way. I literally have to park the truck and bodily move them, or else they would let me run over them. World’s dumbest cats.
S: Oh man, our neighbors used to have goats that would get loose and get in our yard and eat all the flowers. If I had known I could have taken legal action against them, this would have been a much different conversation.
C: I really like goats.
S: When they’re not screaming! And when it’s hot and they’re left alone all day and they scream over and over again? It gets old fast.
C: Have you seen the clip of the Taylor Swift song –
C: I love it so much.
S: It’s sad that it works so well. So, back to the book, the idea is that they’re going to try to keep Buckbeak from being the next pig hanged in the town square. Then we get to Christmas morning, and yay, presents! Sweaters and munchies from the Weasleys! And then – the package.
C: Which, how this broom was wrapped to where they didn’t immediately know it was a broom is beyond me.
S: Like in the first movie when he gets the broom at the table, and they’re all staring, perplexed. “What is it?” I don’t know, what do you think it is? A stack of books? Something conveniently wrapped like a broom would be wrapped? It’s not even in a box!
C: It’s a mop! Oh my god, can you imagine your kid in the wizarding world, and you think you’re getting your very own broom, but no, your mother has just gotten you a bewitched mop, so you can help around the house?
S: That’s amazing. Mrs. Weasley should do that.
So, either someone really likes Harry and got him an international-standard broom…or someone got him a sex toy, and I’m not sure which one it is. I hope it’s the broom.
Although, given my theory that it could be something other than an international standard broom, this sentence:
He could feel it vibrating and let go; it hung in midair, unsupported, at exactly the right height for him to mount it.
C: OH MY GOD. Why is this podcast always like this podcast is? And for once, it was not me, it was you!
S: Excuse me, MANY TIMES it’s been me. Who educated YOU about the epidemic of Middle Ages broom humping? It was me!
C: You’re right, you’re right.
S: Thank the odd assortment of information collected in my brain about the Middle Ages. So yeah, it’s not just a broom, it’s a Firebolt. We talked about it earlier in the book when we discussed the concept of – if the price isn’t displayed, you can’t afford it.
S: And the price wasn’t displayed, so. This thing is wildly expensive, and they’re trying to figure out who the heck could have sent this. Some of their theories are dumb 13-year-old theories. No, Dumbledore did not send you this broom. No, Lupin cannot afford to send you this broom.
C: Who got Harry the Nimbus?
C: Did she buy it herself?
S: I think she did, unless she used school funds to do it, because she wanted him on the team. There was ulterior motive there, because she wanted him as Seeker. But even she’s not going to go out and spend international level money for this. Why buy a kid a Ferrari when you can get a Toyota? Someone bought him a Ferrari, though. Of course, Ron is looking on the bright side – Draco Malfoy will be sick over this! We do have a little mention about the fact that Lupin, for all his being ill, is never in the hospital wing when he’s ill, hmm.
Then Hermione comes up with Crookshanks, who has tinsel tied around his neck, awwww.
C: I am the world’s biggest Hermione defender, but I have to say in this case she 100 percent shouldn’t have brought Crookshanks in with her.
S: Especially because the minute she comes in she drops Crookshanks on the bed and gets distracted by the broom, and of course, unlike Ron and Harry who are thinking with their testosterone levels, Hermione is thinking with her brain and notes that this is a very odd thing to get, because literally no one we know could afford this, and who would buy it and not tell you they’d bought it? None of this makes sense. And apparently Hermione is the only one who still worries about the fact that a world-class crazy murderer is hunting Harry’s scalp.
Putting these facts together, she comes to the very interesting conclusion that maybe it’s unsafe to get on the Firebolt. But they’re distracted again by Crookshanks’ latest murderous attempt on Scabbers.
C: With good reason. You go, Crookshanks!
S: I have to say I admire Crookshanks’ persistence. He does not give up. He may not have tons of opportunities, but when he does it goes for it.
C: CROOKSHANKS KNOWS WHAT’S UP. I wish my cats were part Kneazle.
S: Ron aims a kick at Crookshanks, misses, hits the trunk,
knocking it over and causing Ron to hop up and down, howling with pain.
C: You deserve that, Ron. You shouldn’t kick animals.
S: And it’s also a useful plot device, because – we talked about this – about Harry having that Sneakoscope and burying it in socks in his trunk, and so it’s probably going off all the time and he doesn’t notice. But just now the kicking dislodged the socks from the trunk and now the Sneakoscope has fallen out and it’s whirling and gleaming and whistling, and again Harry stuffs it back in the socks, and puts it away so they can’t hear it anymore. THAT SNEAKOSCOPE IS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING, Harry! What is the point of having magical detection devices if you’re not going to trust them?
He does this again in 5! What is the point of a magical two-way mirror if you’re not going to use it? UGH. Someone needs to teach Harry Potter how to use accessories.
But no, no – he’s going to go kill Sirius Black with his useless wand.
C: Can I ask you a question that is off topic?
S: We don’t go off topic on THIS podcast, ma’am, I don’t know where you think you are!
… Yeah, sure, go ahead.
C: I remember that Hedwig gets killed in 7. What happens to Crookshanks?
S: It doesn’t really get said. Crookshanks just kind of vanishes off the map.
C: I love the idea of Ron and Hermione getting together and in typical wizarding world fashion getting married weeks after the end of 7, and Ron having to live with Crookshanks.
S: That’s amazing. I like to think head canon that when Hermione wiped her parents’ memories and sent them to Australia, she sent Crookshanks with them. Because deep down, we all know Crookshanks is the most capable cat ever, and Hermione knew if anyone messed with her parents Crookshanks would attack them.
C: I like that theory.
S: And then afterward she got him back, and made Ron’s life miserable forever, because kneazles don’t die in my head canon as well.
S: Aside from Crookshanks being amazing, now they’re all mad and Harry is noticing that Scabbers has lost weight and fur. Ron thinks it’s the stress of constantly being threatened with assassination, but Harry is like, you know, he’s boring and useless and very old, which is a bummer to him because he knows if Scabbers dies Ron will be inconsolable.
But everyone is now mad. Hermione is mad at Ron for trying to kick her cat…
Ron is mad at Hermione for Crookshanks trying to eat Scabbers…
and Harry is trying to ignore them and play with his Firebolt. Take that how you wish.
For some reason this seemed to annoy Hermione as well; she didn’t say anything, but she kept looking darkly at the broom as though it too had been criticizing her cat.
S: And then we have the awesome Christmas dinner – only like 12 people are still there – Dumbledore, McGonagall, Flitwick, Filch, Hagrid, Snape – and a handful of students. And Dumbledore has these Christmas crackers, noisemakers which pop open to give you presents, and he ends up getting a vulture-topped hat, which HAS to be a nod to Snape, and so of course he puts it on immediately.
C: Lighten up, Severus.
S: Then Trelawney comes down!
C: All of this is amazing, all this stuff between Trelawney and McGonagall. I love it because McGonagall is so good and so professional, and yet Trelawney is all these things she doesn’t like and gets under her skin simply because she exists, and it’s hilarious to me.
S: In addition to her high-pitched scream when she realizes there might be 13 people sitting at a table! And I love that McGonagall– the minute Trelawney sits down, McGonagall pokes a spoon into a tureen, turns to her and says, “Tripe, Sibyl?” Which kids probably won’t get that joke, but if you’re older you do, and you realize she’s the Queen of Shade.
C: Where’s Professor Lupin? He’s ill again. “But surely you already knew that, Sibyl?”
S: Trelawney gets super sharp:
“Certainly I knew, Minerva,” she said quietly. “but one does not parade the fact that one is All-Knowing. I frequently act as though I am not possessed of the Inner Eye, so as not to make others nervous.”
And McGonagall is like, well, that explains a lot.
C: Which is also not true, because she does nothing BUT pretend she’s possessed of the Inner Eye.
“If you must know, Minerva, I have seen that Professor Lupin will not be with us for very long. He seems aware, himself, that his time is short. He positively fled when I offered to crystal gaze for him –“
“Imagine that,” said Professor McGonagall dryly.
C: I love this:
Professor Trelawney’s voice suddenly became a good deal less misty.
S: Meanwhile, Dumbledore is chatting up some random first year, because that’s what he does.
C: I want to know – oh, it answers it here. I want to know what a chipolata is. It makes me think of chipotle, the pepper, and the restaurant chain. But it says it’s a platter of sausages.
S: I’m Googling. Oh, there you go. It’s a type of fresh sausage, mostly created in France.
C: Is it patty?
C: I don’t like link sausage, I can’t handle the casing.
S: But anyway – again Sibyl Trelawney freaks out because of her obsession over 13 people being at a table and the belief that the first person to rise will be the first to die. Ron and Harry stand at the same time, and she’s trying to determine who stood first, and McGonagall is like,
“I doubt it will make much difference,” said Professor McGonagall coldly, “unless a mad axe-man is waiting outside the doors to slaughter the first into the entrance hall.”
C: McGonagall would be so upset to realize how many young men in this country have become mad axe-men.
S: She would be most disappointed. Oh, Sir Cadogan is drunk! Scurvy cur.
C: “And the same to you, sir!”
S: And then it happens. Harry has the Firebolt, he and Ron are staring lovingly at it, and Hermione walks in with Professor McGonagall. Because Hermione went to McGonagall and told her about the broomstick, and McGonagall wants to see it. No note, no message – okay, I have to take this. We need to check it for jinxes. And you know, as someone who has ridden a bucking broomstick in his time, you would think this might concern Harry a little bit. You know? Have we learned NOTHING from Book 1?
S: McGonagall is like, look, you’ll get it back, we just have to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with, because, you know, YOU MIGHT DIE. Do you have dying on your schedule this year? Did you make time for that?
C: Trelawney has been predicting it, don’t help her out!
S: Don’t prove her right! And like idiotic 13-year-old boys, they round on Hermione, Ron especially.
“What did you go running to McGonagall for?”
And Hermione shares the only bit of logic in the room:
“Because I thought — and Professor McGonagall agrees with me — that that broom was probably sent to Harry by Sirius Black!”
C: Again, plot reasons, whatever – I don’t understand why they are this mad about it. Granted, yes, Hermione probably should have tried to convince Harry to hand it in himself, but she knows it’s not going to happen unless Ron is on the other side telling him, oh no, there’s nothing wrong with it, don’t listen to Hermione. She’s been down this road before, she knows how it goes. But seriously, the minute she says “Sirius Black probably sent this to you and they want to check it to make sure it doesn’t kill you instantly” — CALM THE FUCK DOWN GUYS. Does he even have a Quidditch match before he gets the broom back? Because you know McGonagall will do everything in her goddamn power to make sure he is on that Firebolt if it is safe. It’s not like Filch or Snape took it.
S: Skimming ahead, it seems like Harry is annoyed and impatient and wants it back, but I don’t know how mad he is. If anything, he’s probably more frustrated. Ron is using this as an excuse. He’s already mad about Scabbers, and this is just another thing to be mad at her about. He’s using this as an excuse to keep being mad. Whereas even Harry has to concede that Hermione is trying to be smart. That seems to be par for the course, though. Even when Harry is wrong, he can usually concede that Hermione might have a point. Ron can’t.
And this is why 13-year-old boys are not ideal partners in life. This is why middle school is terrible.
C: Middle school was the worst.
S: And this is like 8th grade! Everyone is all angsty, even in the movie they have pimples –
C: I don’t recall, it’s been a while.
S: They’re artfully covered with makeup.
C: Oh, you mean the actors.
S: Yeah, even the actors are a bit specky. But yes, that is the end of Chapter 11 – we are left with an angry Ron, a disgruntled Harry, a frustrated Hermione who is proving how awesome she is, sticking to her guns and not letting them back her down, and Crookshanks quietly plotting his next opportunity to scarf Scabbers down. We can only hope that he will not be put on trial for that offense.
C: I love you Crookshanks! Me + Crookshanks por vida.
S: You might get put on trial for that too. So that’s it! When we come back in a year and a half, if our track record holds up, we’ll be looking at Chapter 12, “The Patronus.” And in context, this is not a super encouraging chapter because this is where we learn the one thing we have to defend against the dementors. Literally, just this one thing. We should definitely hand control of our most dangerous criminals to things we literally have only one defense against.
C: Makes perfect sense!
S: So, before we end this, questions, comments, stories you’d like to share?
C: Regarding this, or anything?
S: I’ll let you pick! This is your classroom as well, Professor.
C: I don’t know. You’ve seen the new Avengers, but I have not, so we can’t discuss that, alas. But we can discuss Solo when that comes out.
S: That is definitely on the schedule. And while I was at the IMAX showing of Infinity War –
S: The biggest comic book movie of our era only comes around once, so! It was worth springing for the 3D IMAX. But I also enjoyed getting to see the Fantastic Beasts trailer on the IMAX screen, and I will say – although the most elaborate and fancy screen in the world cannot make up for Johnny Depp’s fugly, the movie itself on the big screen looks even more fantastic. Getting to see the trailer on the big screen made me more excited, you appreciate the visuals more, and sassy Jude Law Dumbledore a lot more. So very excited. We will discuss more as we get closer, plus Solo after the fact, so we’ve got stuff to discuss!
C: And you are anticipating Solo being bad.
S: I am. I fully anticipate Solo to be terrible. The only thing that looks good to me right now is Donald Glover’s portrayal of Lando Calrissian, because that is so far as I can tell flawless. He stole that entire trailer with one second of roguish grin, and so I am going for Donald Glover, not this android version of Han Solo that they have cast. I could be wrong, he might be great, I think he will suck. We’ll see who’s right, because I know you’re looking forward to it and think it will be good.
C: I was very meh on it for a long time, until they released the teaser trailer, and then I was like, oh, I’m intrigued. I didn’t think the trailer was as bad as you did. I am excited for Donald Glover’s Lando. I think Chewie will be hilarious and steal the show. And I think they will very deliberately give us a very different Han Solo from the original trilogy.
S: Which is fine.
C: I’m also a little meh about Emilia Clarke. Sometimes I think she’s really good in Game of Thrones, which I watch intermittently, but in her movies not so much.
S: I Have to agree. She’s had some incredible moments on GOT, but movie-wise I haven’t been wowed. For me, her character better be interesting, more inherently interesting than she seems. Right now, she feels like a stand-in. I don’t know if they’re going to try to make this a romantic thing with her and Han –
C: They are.
S: Princess Leia is a tough act to precede, and because Leia is as awesome as she is, if this character is not awesome, or is just formulaic, it won’t help, because everyone will say, why do I want to see this? I hope there is something engaging or different about her that makes us buy it, because generic love interest is not great.
C: From what I’ve seen about the tie-in material, she and Han grow up together on Corellia, they’re friends as kids so they go back away. One of the impressions I get is that she’s been away for a while and they meet as older people. My guess is she’ll be someone he knew, was fond of, maybe put on a pedestal, they get tied up in this heist, she dies, he becomes super cynical, and it takes someone as great as Leia to break him out of it. Obviously, we know they don’t end up together, and they’re not going to let her exist in the periphery – I mean, they could, but why do that when you could potentially fridge a woman?
S: Really, what else is there to do with a woman but fridge her? You said you didn’t think the trailer was as bad as I thought, and honestly, I don’t think the movie itself looks bad, it’s that I do not agree with who they cast to play Han. I think it doesn’t work from what I’ve seen. But it could surprise me in the context of the film. If he does not work, the film won’t, because you’ve hung the movie on a miscast character. Harrison Ford is a tough act to follow or precede, and it seems like they wanted him to imitate Harrison Ford. So how do you go about it? DO you try to present a different Han by picking an outstanding actor and letting him do an interpretation of Han close enough to be recognizable, but still markedly different, or do you pick someone who you are asking to do their best Han Solo impersonation for the entire film?
C: And you think they went with the latter.
S: I do. And I’ll take it further, that his imitation is not great. I think they picked him because they thought he looked like a young Harrison, and because they want him to imitate Harrison, and I would have been happy with someone who looked less like Harrison but could bring more charisma. This guy and charisma for me do not go in the same sentence. I don’t think they’re in the same galaxy. But if I’m wrong I will happily eat my words and you can lord it over me.
C: I haven’t seen this dude in anything else, but even if they cast the perfect person, who do you think is a great actor? The guy who plays Loki? The guy who plays Dr. Strange? Put whoever you consider a great actor in this role, but even then, they don’t want him to have the charisma Han from the original trilogy had, because this is a different Han. He’s younger, more naïve, and dumber. Han is as dumb as the day is long. He runs on the seat of his pants and luck, he’s not the sharpest tool in the box.
S: He operates on his gut.
C: And at this time, he doesn’t have a lot of gut. He’s been dicking around and dreaming of being a hotshot, so I don’t think he’s meant to have the charisma.
S: You could be right!
C: Doesn’t mean it will be good, of course.
S: Hey, maybe Gellert Grindelwald is supposed to be horribly ugly and completely charmless to reflect how far he’s fallen and how evil he’s become! I don’t think it is – I think it’s bad casting! But it could be! So, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. For what it’s worth, I hope you’re more right than I am.
C: I think it will be fun. I don’t know where it will stack up among SW films, and I don’t think at this point anything can touch The Last Jedi or Rogue One, but we know the screenwriters are good!
S: Well, until we get more news, or one day when we get through this book – until then you can find us on Twitter @admugglestudies, or email us at email@example.com, and you can check out some of our older stuff if you’re feeling particularly self-punishing. Especially when you get to Cursed Child, because, you know, Cursed Child.
C: Awful audio quality.
S: Terrible! Which is fitting because Cursed Child is so bad. So that’s it for us! Until next time, I am Professor Seraphine –
C: I am Professor Creed –
S: And we’ll see you next time on Advanced Muggle Studies!
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McWilliams, James E. “Beastly Justice.” 21 Feb. 2013. Slate.
“Medieval Animal Trials.” 8 Sept. 2013. Medievalists.net.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Simon, Matt. “Fantastically Wrong: Europe’s Insane History Of Putting Animals On Trial And Executing Them.” 24 Sept. 2014. Wired Magazine.