Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Ch. 12: A Salamander Patronus for Our Lord

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This week we discuss: Ron Weasley, douche extraordinaire; Harry’s jerking phallic broom; why we’re pretty sure Hermione had other friends; Oliver Wood defines hubris; salamanders both live in burning fire and symbolize (once again) Our Lord, somehow; Paracelsus’s undies; sloths, manatees, coats of arms and Internet Jesus; no one but Hermione learns; the minutiae of boggart dementors; inherited familiar spirits and Prince Rupert’s dog; Lupin/Sirius and casting Marauders; dignified movie vs. realistic book; we SO WANT to talk about sexuality and werewolves but we are restraining ourselves; wizard conspiracy theories; passive-aggressive Minerva; sexy Dementors and wizard Christmas; to be thirteen and certain of everything; and #thatssoharry.

S: Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies! I am Professor Seraphine, here with Professor Creed.

C: Hola, lovers!

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S: And we are enthusiastically back to talk about more Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Chapter 12: The Patronus

S: Otherwise known as the chapter where Ron is a douche. So. And I was reading ahead a little, and he gets even worse in 13.

C: Son of a bitch.

S: When we left off there was the issue of Hermione being the good friend that frankly all middle school character development programs that I went through taught that a friend should be – she’s actually caring about the fact that a crazy murderer is after Harry’s ass. She told McGonagall about the broomstick, and for some reason Harry and Ron could not fathom WHY she would do such a thing.

C: They’re pretty dumb.

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I found this gif tagged “asshole Malfoy,” but for once I think we know there are two assholes in this show

S: This is where I come back to: broomsticks, for boys, are like cars in the wizarding world, but also – you’re so mad she told McGonagall about your phallic object. In the opening it says,

Harry knew that Hermione had meant well, but that didn’t stop him from being angry with her.

Well, Harry, that’s textbook Bad Friend. Hermione is the Good Friend here.

He was positive that there was nothing wrong with the Firebolt now, but what sort of state would it be in once it had been subjected to all sorts of anti-jinx tests?

Fool, do you have NO FAITH in McGonagall? You think she doesn’t know her job?

C: It should be fine, and frankly, I would think it would be part of the job when the broomsticks roll off the factory line – you should be putting anti-jinx charms on them to begin with, so you can’t have things like Harry jerking around all over the place in an earlier book.

S: And this is an international standard broom, the one professional Quidditch players are using. And you know the Quidditch world is freaking crazy! Can you imagine if soccer teams in our world had magic? What they would do to each other?

C: For the record, I would let Oliver Wood jinx my broom.

S: You’d let Oliver Wood do A LOT with your broom. And he’d know how to do it – because he’s Oliver Wood.

C: Exactly.

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S: Ron is furious with Hermione too.

As far as he was concerned, the stripping-down of a brand-new Firebolt was nothing less than criminal damage.

S: Bullshit, Ron. You’re still mad about your dumb rat, and this is a convenient excuse for you to be mad. Now, I can’t decide if this is a dick move on their part, or if it’s the best thing for everyone on their part, because they just avoid her for the rest of Christmas holidays. She takes refuge in the library and they don’t try to persuade her, and I can’t decide – either they’re being jerks, or you know what? Fine, stay away, because you’re jerks.

C: From what I can remember, the biggest spat you and I had after we became friends – we didn’t talk for maybe a whole day? I can’t imagine. Hermione has a great family to go home too and she stayed to be a good friend. How pissed and hurt would I be if I were her and had to stay in this bigass castle? Granted, I’m sure she’s making good use of her time, getting even further ahead on her studies, but definitely dick move.

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Judge Knope has ruled!

S: On the upside, this is one of those things where we talk about if Hermione had other friends. There’s space for development here if JK Rowling had chosen to give it to us. There is no way Hermione is the ONLY dedicated bookworm in the school. There’s no way she’s the ONLY one who spends time in the library. She had to have made at least a couple of other friends.

C: She’d have to be at least friendly with the Gryffindor girls in her year, because they’re stuck sharing a bedroom, which has to be fucking awful. And I’m sure she’s friendly with Ravenclaws.

S: She’s the one who introduces Luna, a Ravenclaw, to the boys – she knows Luna and they don’t. So, there’s that. The night before term starts, Oliver Wood comes looking for Harry, which – wouldn’t we all want that?

C: It’s true.

S: This is as tactful as Oliver possibly can be. “I’m worried for your safety, but not as much as about Quidditch. We can’t afford to keep losing because you fall off your broom – because then we would lose.” Then Ron shares the news that Harry got a Firebolt, and I think Oliver’s brain exploded. I love that they try to explain why it was confiscated.

Waving aside the information that a famous murderer was after his Seeker, Wood said, “But Black couldn’t have bought a Firebolt! He’s on the run!”

S: What’s important is: FIREBOLT.  And what follows is the most hubristic, naïve sentence in the book.

“I’ll go and talk to her, Harry,” he promised. “I’ll make her see reason…”

S: Will you, Oliver? I don’t think anyone is thinking straight about this. I would love to see him try to give McGonagall the what-for.

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Because Oliver Wood is going to die

C: Also, we know from the stuff with Filch that you can mail away for shit. He wouldn’t have had to walk into the store in Diagon Alley to buy a Firebolt. It’s very easy for Sirius to buy this broom in a completely legit way that didn’t involve walking into a store.

S: The next day, Hagrid has provided a bonfire of salamanders for their enjoyment. Which sounds super cool, but also gave me the inspiration to go seeking the weird, sometimes perverted information we often find when we research mythological creatures on this show. I felt that you would appreciate knowing that of the many creatures we have considered, we have found another that is likened unto Our Lord!

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C: OH, DO TELL.

S: Had you ever heard of salamanders in fire being a thing?

C: Yes. I believe my knowledge stems from a book I read as a kid called “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” It’s the story of a woman, there’s a frog who says he’s a prince, and she’s like, “Fat chance!” And he transforms into a person, and she’s like, “OMG, you’re handsome and you’re human, maybe I’m down with this.” And a witch takes him, so then she goes on these far-flung travels on a quest to get him back, and somewhere in there mentions a salamander in a fire.

S: I remember when I read this I had a vague association, but I knew the idea was that salamanders were lizards who lived and thrived in fires, and that actually mainly comes from the fact that salamanders will live and nest in dry wood. So, people would start fires, and all a sudden salamanders are running every which way, because they’re like, “Screw this, I’m out, you’re burning my house down.”

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“Cover your face indeed, peasant! Thou hast burned my home and I shall burn thee!”

So people begin thinking the salamanders come from the fire, which they weren’t – they were just hanging out until you committed arson, and they’re off to file a claim against you.

But they’re very interesting animals. They live all over the world – you can find them in each major continent. Australia isn’t listed here; I assume that’s because everything in Australia is trying to kill you. But I’d assume there’s a type of salamander there. But there’s three main kinds – the ones who live in wood and often are around fire, and some that like water and come out when it rains, and some that excrete toxic substances. From this comes the mythology that they’re either super poisonous or they’re fiery.

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Pliny the Elder talked about this exaggerated idea that twining one salamander around a tree would poison the fruit, and then kill anyone who ate the fruit of that tree; or if it fell into a well it would ruin the well and anyone who drank from that well would be dead.

C: That’s hard core.

S: It is! And it gives them a lousy reputation. The other thing is these salamanders who escape from fire would often excrete moisture, which amphibians often do when scared. It’s either moisture, or they pee on you.

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“You like this fire, huh? You won’t like it much longer!”

So he thinks that salamanders have such a cold body they could extinguish any fire, that their skin protects them against fire. Salamanders are a big deal in China, and some people owned clothing they claimed was woven from salamander hair. Which – if you look at a salamander, where do you think this hair comes from?

C: Don’t ask questions, just go with it.

S: It was actually made with asbestos fibers.

C: Oh, God!

S: Fire resistant! So they’d claim it was salamander hair. Then salamanders get sucked into alchemy. Paracelsus is credited with the idea of elementals, things that represent the elements. There’s the sylph, representing air, the gnome for earth, the undine for water, and the salamander, for fire.

C: The undies?

S: Undine!

C: Undies?

S: NOT THE UNDIES!

C: What the hell is an undine?

S: Why would it be an elemental for water?

C: Because you strip down to your skivvies to swim?

S: I’m looking up undine as used in Paracelsus, so hold the phone.

C: I mean, I don’t mean to question the writings of Paracelsus!

S: Okay, they’re a category of elemental beings associated with water. “Later writers developed it into a water-nymph, and it continues to live in adaptations like The Little Mermaid”. So water spirits, usually female.

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“Undine,” by John William Waterhouse

C: So that’s like the German word for mermaid?

S: It’s Latin, thank you very much, derived from unda, meaning wave. Now you know.

C: I liked my German joke better.

S: Now, Sylphs…

C: I’ve heard of those.

S: Mythological air spirit, also conveniently female, and it seems like it evolved into the idea of fairies, or angels. So air and water are the lady creatures, earth is a gnome, and salamanders are the fire.

C: Earth got the short end of the stick.

S: Literally! Salamanders are in medieval lore and begin to appear in anti-papist propaganda. They return in Renaissance lore, all about the fire. Early commentators often grouped crawling things, and creatures in this group included basilisks.

C: Clearly.

S: Leonardo da Vinci wrote “has no organs and gets no food but from the fire, where it constantly renews its scaly skin. It renews its skin for virtue.” I’m not sure what virtue has to do with anything.

C: You burn away your skin in the fiery pits of hell?

S: Well, Francis I of France used it as his symbol. It’s in tons of coats of arms from the Renaissance period, it’s in Asian clothing, and one of our favorite plays Macbeth references them in “eye of newt.”

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C: YES. Okay, if you had a coat of arms, what would you have on it?

S: Why would you expect me to have an answer?

C: I have an answer! A sloth, clearly.

S: My husband would agree with that. Sloths are the embodiment of my heart and soul.

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C: For me, it’s because they’re slow.

S: They’re also the best animal because they sleep a lot and just want to hug things.

C: I just want to sleep, eat, and hang around.

S: Manatees, also!

C: The cows of the sea!

S: Same deal. They just want to float around, munch on seaweed and chill.

C: I would love to drape myself over the back of a manatee.

S: They seem so huggable, and I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate it. I love pangolins and wombats also, because wombat is a great word and they’re super cute.

C: I need a minor coat of arms featuring the Weasel of God.

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The Internet offers a sloth in recompense

S: That is your house symbol! If this was Game of Thrones, you would be House Weasel.

C: What would my house motto be?

S: All Hail!

C: Let’s go with that.

S: I guess if I went with the sloth, it would be “Sleep all night, nap all day, party never.” But since we’re talking about the Weasel of God, it only seems right to mention that salamanders were used in heraldry representing the mastery of passion, passing through fires unblemished. “They represent the virtues of purity, loyalty, chastity, virginity, impartiality—”

C: OH! Failed that.

S: “And they are symbolic of Jesus, who—”

C: Failed that too!

S: “In the fire of the holy spirit, baptized the virgin Mary, and the devotion of Christians who keep the faith. The salamander was the symbol Francis I chose for his own sign, with the motto nutrisco et extinguo” – feeding and extinguishing. “The good fire and the bad fire,” temptation and evil, overcome.

C: You know, I think it’s really rich to call yourself King Francis of France. You’re trying really hard there, Frank.

S: I love it so much. And salamanders have shown up in the Narnia series, the series you mentioned, in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury… I just thought you would appreciate that once again, we have discovered a creature representative of our Lord and Savior, which seems to have nothing to do with Our Lord. It seems to mean a lot to you to find that every creature IN THE WORLD is representative of Jesus. If we find out that the sloth has ever represented Jesus in any way, we will have a field day! I’m sure it would be a great surprise to the sloth, for one thing. I’m sure someone somewhere has compared them. The day that we get to be like, “Our Lord is like a manatee….” NO, YOU ARE NOT GOOGLING RIGHT NOW!

C: Let me send you this thing I just found, it’s amazing! The most wonderful thing ever, ever, ever.

S: Listeners, I hope you are as excited as me to see what insane thing has been found.

C: There’s so much, I did not expect this great bounty, but I have been blessed, as you are about to be blessed.

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S: WHY??? Okay. Okay, okay. Listeners, I’m currently looking at our Lord Jesus, the Sloth, looking to bless us all. Oh, it’s a sloth Jesus sweater!

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Now we have an image of Our Lord the Sloth being summoned to heaven, surrounded by 11 apostles, and I did not know that was how that went down, and I clearly need to reread my Bible – and now I have found something to send YOU. There’s a little less Jesus-manatee interplay than Jesus-sloth, but the internet has once again proven to us that it exists for a reason. Also, does Jesus not know that the manatee needs to be in water??

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C: They’re mammals, they don’t breathe underwater. It’s fine.

S: In the associated pictures there’s a Chris Pratt Jesus holding a raptor, then a Jedi Jesus holding a baby sheep and a light saber, and I can’t decide if he’s about to decapitate the lamb, or go fight someone, but listeners, if you’ve never googled random Jesus stuff, there’s a lot.

We have hard-core rabbit holed on this one. But at the very least I hope you feel educated on the fiery, holy salamander.

We also learn that Harry has the shortest life line Trelawney has ever seen. Apparently, she’s never met Cedric Diggory.

C: Oh, Sibyl!

S: In Defense Against the Dark Arts, Lupin has promised Harry that he will help him learn to fight dementors, and they’ll be meeting after school in another classroom.

And I love this interchange, as Lupin walks off.

“Still looks ill, doesn’t he?” said Ron as they walked down the corridor, heading to dinner. “What d’you reckon’s the matter with him?”

There was a loud and impatient “tuh” from behind them. It was Hermione, who had been sitting at the feet of a suit of armor, repacking her bag, which was so full of books it wouldn’t close. 

“And what are you tutting us for?” asked Ron irritably. 

“Well, isn’t it obvious?” said Hermione, with a look of maddening superiority.

S: I imagine Hermione: “I wrote the essay! Did YOU write the essay? Because if you did, you’d know!” But once again Hermione is the only one who thought about her homework, and she’s the only one who does any learning around here.

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C: But she doesn’t learn to lock her doors with something aside from Alohomora!

S: That didn’t happen!

C: It got nominated for a shit-ton of Tony’s.

S: WHY?

C: Fuck me, I don’t know.

S: Staging, costume, etc. It has to be production values. I’m sure the effects are good, and the acting too. It’s not their fault they have the worst script ever. That script makes Twilight look good.

C: Brachiobendo! Someone should do Twilight: The Musical. Can you imagine the songs?

S: SO MUCH STANDING AND STARING. But they could use different practical effects, like when Bella is contemplating Edward’s smell, they would waft perfume scent!

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C: And vice versa. “This is freesia? Ugh, smells like grandma.”

S: In the evening, Harry goes to the classroom, and Lupin has handily found a boggart lurking in Filch’s filing cabinet. They’ll use the boggart to practice, and it will turn into a dementor when it sees Harry. Interestingly, the boggart doesn’t just look or act like a dementor – it has the same effects. It makes Harry cold and pass out. Does it actually turn into a dementor? Or just mimic it?

C: It’s pretty concerning to think that at any given moment a boggart posing as a dementor could be going around kissing people. Now that everyone has met dementors, I find it hard to think that wouldn’t be the thing that scares you.

S: I guess that just speaks to the things that scare you earliest always scaring you. Boggarts are the answer to the monster under the bed, the thing that scares you. My question is, if you’re afraid of a monster that will eat you – could the boggart eat you? How dangerous is a boggart?

C: I feel that this is a question best answered through years of therapy.

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S: The spell Lupin will be teaching Harry is the Patronus Charm. It conjures a shield, an Anti-Dementor,

“A projection of the very things dementors feed on.”

Dementors can’t hurt it, and the Patronus shields you. It’s summoned out of your happiest memories and shields you from giving in to despair. Which is an elegant metaphor.

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C: Indeed.

S: And each Patronus is unique to who conjures it, which ties to that old idea of wizards having a familiar which accompanied them, usually an animal.

C: Can you imagine the epicness of a sloth Patronus?

S: Can you imagine the dementors creeping to a puzzled stop in front of a smiling, happy sloth Patronus? This makes me think of the term Spirit Animal, but I hesitate because that means something in Native American culture that has been co-opted. But that’s also heraldry and coat-of-arms, right? We all like the idea of an animal to represent us. If a Patronus takes a form, it takes the form of an animal.

C: I think we’ve talked about this before – you took the test on Hogwarts.com or whatever the hell it is.

S: Mine is a black and white cat.

C: You didn’t like that, did you?

S: It didn’t feel like it fit me at all.

C: It’s very McGonagall-y, though.

S: And it reminded me of my former cat I grew up with, the best animal friend ever. What was yours?

C: Let me look it up. Oh, there’s a new quiz! Take the Defense Against the Dark Arts quiz. We must do this after the episode.

S: While you’re looking it up, I’m going to touch on lore about familiars. They’re animal guides.

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This is European folklore, and they were believed to be supernatural “entities which assisted in the practice of magic. They were described as clearly defined, three dimensional forms, vivid in color, animated in movement and sound, unlike later descriptions of some which had smoky, undefined forms.” There’s a lot of crossover here. They’re almost always animals.

C: MY Patronus, by the way, is a mink.

S: There are three different kinds of narrative as to how you meet your familiar: You encounter your familiar going about your daily life. Joan Prentiss from Essex said she was alone in her chamber, sitting on a low stool, when her familiar first appeared to her, which sounds to me like she was on her chamber pot.

The second way is they’re given “from a pre-existing individual, which was sometimes a family member and at other times a more powerful spirit.” This woman, Margaret Ley from Liverpool, claimed to inherit her mother’s familiar.

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“In a number of accounts, the cunning person was experiencing difficulty prior to the appearance of the familiar, who offered to aid them.” So, they appear, are handed down, or come when you have problems. You might enter into a pact with a familiar, and then conjure them when you needed assistance.

So, the parallels make sense. It’s like a patron saint that comes when you need assistance.

AND! Of course, you’re a mink, because YOU’RE THE WEASEL OF GOD! I bow to you because it is becoming clear that you are the one the prophecy spoke of.

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C: A little about Patronuses from Pottermore:

The form of a Patronus may change during the course of a witch or wizard’s life. Instances have been known of the form of the Patronus transforming due to bereavement, falling in love or profound shifts in a person’s character. Thus Nymphadora Tonks’s Patronus changes from a jack rabbit to a wolf (not a werewolf) when she falls in love with Remus Lupin. Some witches and wizards may be unable to produce a Patronus at all until they have undergone some kind of psychic shock.

I don’t think I knew what her Patronus was before, so that’s interesting.

It is usual, but not inevitable, for a Patronus to take the form of an animal commonly found in the caster’s native country. Given their long affinity with humans it is perhaps unsurprising that among the most common Patronuses (although it must be remembered that any corporeal Patronus is highly unusual) are dogs, cats and horses. However, every Patronus is as unique as its creator and even identical twins have been known to produce very different Patronuses.

So, what does that mean? Any Patronus that takes a shape is unusual?

S: Yeah, usually it’s just a shield or burst of light. They talk about shield patronuses, which seems to be basic. But hard core patronuses become corporeal, which is interesting, because in Book 5 most of the kids can produce them.

I just noticed there’s a whole subtitle on the Wikipedia page entitled Prince Rupert’s dog.

During the English Civil War, the Royalist general Prince Rupert was in the habit of taking his large poodle dog named Boye into battle with him. Throughout the war the dog was greatly feared among the Parliamentarian forces and credited with supernatural powers.

And was considered a familiar. So, this guy took his dog into battle, which freaked people out and made them think it was magic.

C: And the dog was a poodle!

S: Sounds like a badass dog to me.

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I…only wish I understood what was happening in this print

C: Sounds like traumatizing your dog for no reason.

Extinct Patronuses are very rare but not unknown. Strangely, given their long connection with wizardkind, owl Patronuses are unusual. Most uncommon of all possible Patronuses are magical creatures such as dragons, Thestrals and phoenixes. Never forget, though, that one of the most famous Patronuses of all time was a lowly mouse, which belonged to a legendary young wizard called Illyius, who used it to hold off an attack from an army of Dementors single-handedly. While a rare and magical Patronus undoubtedly reflects an unusual personality, it does not follow that it is more powerful, or will enjoy greater success at defending its caster.

S: A thestral Patronus must be a complicated person.

C: Was Dumbledore’s a phoenix?

S: I’m pretty sure we can assume yes.

C: This is funny.

While there is a widespread and justified belief that a wizard who is not pure of heart cannot produce a successful Patronus (the most famous example of the spell backfiring is that of the Dark wizard Raczidian, who was devoured by maggots), a rare few witches and wizards of questionable morals have succeeded in producing the Charm (Dolores Umbridge, for example, is able to conjure a cat Patronus to protect herself from Dementors).

S: Wait, what? He tried to produce a Patronus and instead produced maggots that ate him?

C: Apparently.  You have the same Patronus as Umbridge!

S: Now I REALLY want a different one. UUUGGGGHHH.

Some witches and wizards may manage an incorporeal Patronus, which resembles a mass or wisp of silvery vapour or smoke. In some cases a witch or wizard may choose to produce an incorporeal Patronus deliberately, if he or she wishes to disguise the form it generally takes (Remus Lupin, for instance, is afraid that his corporeal Patronus gives too much away). 

S: We find out in Book 7 that you can use a Patronus to send a message, too, which has to be complicated, but is cool.

C: If your Patronus is a phoenix or a werewolf, you know who it’s coming from. They’re not common.

S: The argument has been made that this is part of how we know Snape is ULTIMATELY a good guy, because he produces a corporeal Patronus, but. To produce one, you must concentrate on a very happy memory, and Patronuses are picky. It can’t just be a good time. It has to be true happiness. Harry first tries whinkign about when he first rode a broom, and he gets a little bit of something when there’s no dementor. But it’s also complex, because when the dementors are around he hears his parents’ voices. And he’s never heard them any other time, so it’s a complicated thing, because he partly wants to hear them, even if it’s in a horrible moment.

The first time he tries, noting happens, he passes out, and Lupin gives him chocolate as a true friend should. Lupin offers them to stop, but Harry is like,

“I can’t afford to fall off again. If we lose this game we’ve lost the Quidditch cup!”

It feels so quaint – the books where we cared about the Quidditch cup. That’s cute.

C: I love how the kids always have their priorities 100 percent backwards.

S: Which is accurate; they’re children. He tries imagining Gryffindor winning the championship, and this time he hears his father as well, for the first time. This is tough to read. Harry is crying, and then

“You heard James?” said Lupin in a strange voice. 

“Yeah…” Face dry, Harry looked up. “Why — you didn’t know my dad, did you?”

“I — I did, as a matter of fact,” said Lupin. “We were friends at Hogwarts.”

THAT’S a detail to drop there, Lupin!

C: I’m just thinking, when JK gets done with the Fantastic Beasts movies, what do you think the odds are that the next project is the Marauders?

S: I don’t know. If she does the fanfic will be through the roof.

C: I think it’s one of those things where people have their own ideas, and this has gone on for so long, it’ll be another 10 years if she ever gets to it, and there will be a lot of people unhappy no matter what she does.

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And, I mean, if I can’t have THIS casting I’LL be upset, so what do you do? (Also Jamie Bell as Pettigrew, based on this dream setup)

S: Yeah, there was a lot of thought about Grindelwald, but they already screwed that up. And with Newt Scamander, there’s new characters we had no time to think about. And then at a certain point, you have to ask how you’re casting them. Are you casting for the character as written, or to throw back to the films? Are you casting young Gary Oldman and David Thewlis? There will be annoyed people whichever way you go.

C: Would you do movies, or just books?

S: Yeah, but if she does books, INEVITABLY there will be movies. The Potter Machine will not allow her to make books that DON’T become movies. If they were as well-written as the Fantastic Beasts film has been so far, I’d see it. If the casting was better than Johnny Depp, I’d REALLY see it. It’s just that there is so much slashfic about these four. I love the idea of Sirius the womanizer at Hogwarts, though. The guy who had no problem getting a date.

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“No one gets kicked out of Hogwarts, you dolt!” (Also, the Internet is TRULY the gift that keeps on giving)

And you know Lupin had at least two girls crazy about him who never said a word.

C: And he would have thought, “Oh, I could never afflict someone, the burden, blah blah blah.”

S: Lupin is like, maybe this is too much, maybe we need to stop. Harry is like no, I can do one more.

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And he does! Three cheers for our hero and those spine candles!

I love that in the movie, they go very noble, and it’s beautiful in the film when Harry describes what he was thinking of that allowed him to produce a Patronus. It’s a gorgeous moment, touching and beautiful, and I love that in the book, it’s not quite so noble. It’s the moment when he found out that he was a wizard and would be leaving the Dursleys forever.

C: What was it in the movie?

S: He says he was imagining his parents sitting and talking to him, and he doesn’t even know if it’s real, but just seeing and hearing them was what he had. It brings tears to your eyes, it’s a gorgeously filmed moment.

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Meanwhile, the book is like, hell no, Harry doesn’t have to be at the Dursleys anymore!

C: Probably more realistic for 13-year-old Harry.

S: It works! The third time, he tries again, he still hears the screaming, but it’s less, and then he sees the Dementor, but it’s slowed down. He manages to produce a Patronus, but can’t hold it for very long, and then Lupin Riddikulus’s the boggart, it’s back in the case, and Lupin is like, hey Harry, that’s pretty damn good for one night!

He handed Harry a large bar of Honeydukes’s best chocolate. “Eat the lot, or Madam Pomfrey will be after my blood.”

It just now occurs to Harry to ask about that little detail Lupin dropped a moment ago – you know, that part where you knew my dad, and didn’t you know Sirius too?

“Yes, I knew him,” he said shortly. “Or thought I did. You’d better be off, Harry, it’s getting late.”

Lupin! Be more obvious, Lupin!

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Remus Lupin’s incredibly suave changing the subject, everyone!

The first time you read this, not knowing that Lupin will eventually take Sirius’s side, not knowing that Sirius is innocent, and thinking the first time that Sirius is what they say he is and that Lupin was his friend and was betrayed – I was always fascinated by the complexity of it, and I loved the character of Lupin in this moment. I spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to be the only one of your friends who was still alive and hadn’t betrayed anyone, knowing that one of your best friends is a crazy murderer getting closer by the minute – trying to go about life with all that knowledge. I always wondered what he could be thinking with all of it. Dude has to have some feelings about this!

C: Especially because they were secret lovers at school.

S: I’m not going to say there’s no subtext. Of all the attempts at slashfic, I feel like there is a little more there. At the very least, doesn’t Snape accuse them of bickering like an old married couple?

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THE SLASHFIC NEVER ENDS

C: I could have sworn that at some point in time JK said that Lupin was gay or thought he was gay, until Tonks. I could have sworn she said that.

S: That’s fascinating if you can find that, because I’ve got some really interesting – well, I think they’re interesting – thoughts about Lupin and his relationship to relationships and sexuality and all of that, tied into werewolves, so we will have a lengthy discussion on that. When we finally get to the big reveal, where we find out the things we’ve been discussing this entire time, obliquely, we have stuff to talk about.

So Harry wanders to finish his chocolate and feels like he wishes he hadn’t brought up Sirius, and he’s trying not to dwell on his parents. It hearkens back to AD telling him it doesn’t do to dwell on dreams and not to live:

But he’d never be able to produce a proper Patronus if he half wanted to hear his parents again. “They’re dead,” he told himself sternly. “They’re dead and listening to echoes of them won’t bring them back.”

I appreciate that moment where he has to make himself get a grip, accept that he doesn’t want this, and he can’t half-want to hear them every time or he will fail. He has at least learned one or two things since he’s been at Hogwarts.

C: I have found a couple of things on Lupin.

S: Are either of them going to lead to crazy lengthy discussion?

C: I don’t think so, it’s just an answer. David Thewlis, according to the Harry Wiki, has said that Prisoner of Azkaban director Cuaron told him to portray Lupin as a “gay junkie,” especially since apparently from the googling I’ve just done, Rowling intended werewolf hysteria to be a metaphor for the AIDS hysteria.

S: That I knew. I didn’t know the bit about Cuaron.

C: And then there’s this…“Thewlis also notes that he corrected his take on the character for the ensuing movies, adding that he hadn’t yet read the books while filming Azkaban and had no idea that his character would eventually pair up with Tonks. Although marrying a shape-shifter doesn’t exactly preclude homosexuality or bisexuality,” which I had never considered, “Rowling also explicitly informed the actor later that she didn’t create Lupin with a queer sexuality in mind.” And that is from an article on Tor.com.

S: And yet, it is THERE whether she meant it to or not. And we will discuss this at length – it’s another situation where she took something very sexually laden – werewolves – and sanitized it to separate out all those elements from this character and how it’s portrayed. All of that will play in within a few chapters, and I cannot WAIT to hear what you have to say about it.

But in the meantime, let’s go back to what’s important: QUIDDITCH! Ravenclaw plays Slytherin, Slytherin wins, according to Oliver this is good news because if they beat Ravenclaw they get second place, so they’re having lots of practices, which means Harry is doing a lot. He’s got anti-Dementor lessons, six Quidditch practices a week, and a lot of homework.

Even so, he wasn’t showing the strain nearly as much as Hermione, whose immense workload finally seemed to be getting to her.Every night, without fail, Hermione was to be seen in a corner of the common room, several tables spread with books.

I love that of everything she has – Arithmancy charts, Rune dictionaries, and diagrams of Muggles lifting heavy objects! It really leads you to wonder what a Muggle studies class must actually be like. Not this one, of course, because it is ADVANCED Muggle Studies, thank you very much.

C: Honestly, I think it’s a lot like Ancient Aliens, where you have a bunch of people who are like, “Oh, but how could these primitive non-white cultures have built things like pyramids???” As if people didn’t have things like tools or math back then.

 

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“Non-us people?? With BRAINS???”

S: So it’s like Ancient Aliens, but about Muggles? Why have we never touched on this before? Do you not think there’s this huge subset of conspiracy theories in the wizarding world about Muggles, just like there are on the Muggle side about all these things that might be real? Surely there are some weirdos in the wizarding world, other than Mr. Weasley, who just has a mild obsession with technology, but conspiracy minded, don’t you think?

C: Yes. I’m not sure what the conspiracy would be about, but…

S: Yeah, Muggles are boring, but you know how there are magical explanations for all the things Muggles can’t understand. It’s like them trying to understand the purpose of a blow dryer or something.

C: What is the purpose of a blow dryer?

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S: I don’t know. Oh, Hermione.

“How’s she doing it?” Ron muttered to Harry one evening as Harry sat finishing a nasty essay on Undetectable Poisons for Snape. Harry looked up. Hermione was barely visible behind a tottering pile of books.

But of course Harry doesn’t have time to think about this, because Snape gave him lots of homework.

C: Because it’s not about Harry!

S: And we can’t solve that mystery until Act III anyway, so hold that thought, Ron! He dismisses it so easily, it gets less than a paragraph’s worth of thought. And then Wood comes by for the outcome of what we always wanted to see – him trying to talk sense into Professor McGonagall.

“She — er — got a bit shirty with me. Told me I’d got my priorities wrong. Seemed to think I cared more about winning the Cup than I do about you staying alive. Just because I told her I didn’t care if it threw you off, as long as you caught the Snitch first.”

C: Oh, Wood.

“You think I’d said something terrible…Then I asked her how much longer she was going to keep it…”

S: I feel like McGonagall may have kept it a couple of days longer passive-aggressively. Harry is thinking he might have to buy something else – at first, he thinks he could buy what Malfoy has, but then he’s like, whatever, I’m a trendsetter. Apparently, he’s harassing McGonagall every lesson now, and McGonagall is like, I cannot with you, I will TELL YOU when you can have it back, so there.

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On top of that, his anti-Dementor lessons aren’t going as well as hoped. He was able to produce that Patronus that one time, but after that it’s just one of those things. It’s hard to keep doing consistently, and it doesn’t really drive the Dementor away. He’s like, I thought this would do more, and Lupin is like, yeah, it’s not something that just happens, so in the meantime have a mild alcoholic beverage. He’s like, here, you’ve never had this before, and Harry is like hey, yeah, I love Butterbeer, OH WAIT I’VE NEVER BEEN TO HOGMSEADE NEVER MIND!

Dude, how do you EVER expect to be an Auror if you keep blabbing things like this?

“I see,” said Lupin, though he still looked slightly suspicious.

You SHOULD. And then we get the lovely description of what is under a Dementor’s hood.

C: AAAAAUGHHH.

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Apparently, under every Dementor’s hood is a nerdy, undernourished aardvark! (Seriously. Kid’s costume. This is a KID’S COSTUME. What the actual fuck?)

S: The movie wasted no time theorizing about this one and showing everyone a gaping maw. But as Lupin says, no on is in a condition to know, because a Dementor only lowers his hood when he’s about to deliver the Kiss.

“It’s what dementors do to those they wish to destroy utterly. I suppose there must be some kind of mouth under there, because they clamp their jaws upon the mouth of the victim and — and suck out his soul.”

Which I must quibble with, because as we know from our study of medieval and Renaissance art, the soul exits through the ANUS. I have extensive material to back this up, including Judas Iscariot, so this is nonsense.

C: I mean, if it went the other way, we would basically have – what is that one really horrible movie? Human Centipede.

S: NOOOOOOOOO.

C: Which I have never seen, but I have seen enough box art to get the gist of what they were trying to say, and oy. For the record, I don’t think you could actually do that.

S: You couldn’t.

C: The flesh around the person’s mouth is not thick enough to hold the sutures you would need to do that.

S: I don’t think the angles line up. There are so many things wrong with this, listeners.

C: NO ONE TRY TO PROVE US WRONG.

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S: No, we are happy to be ignorant! I prefer not to watch movies clearly marketed to the scatological porn niche. I guess we’ll just have to sanitize it, though, otherwise we will have a really inappropriate situation going on with the Dementors every time they want to suck out someone’s soul.

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I…I Googled sexy Dementor

That feels like a variation for a porn parody, for sure.

C: It gives a very different connotation to “that sucks ass.”

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WHY DID I GOOGLE??

S: LAYERS! So, we’re at the other end of the alimentary canal, but either way we know your soul soundly resides in your digestive tract! But you can exist without your soul, simply without no sense of self, memory, anything. You exist as an empty shell.

C: I have a question or a something, I don’t know what you would call this. Interesting to me that they have Christmas, but there’s never anything about religion, and yet we still have the concept of souls separate from brain and heart function.

S: It is interesting and speaks more to the notion of immortality derived from non-Christian thought. The idea was around before Christianity, and I guess it’s a somewhat universal idea, and even if you don’t believe it’s such a common idea that you understand it anyway. In this universe the major plot hinges on souls, so—

C: Oh, yeah, that’s true.

S: As far as Christmas, I can’t decide if they’re celebrating the Saturnalia-esque version, or if it’s just convenient because people like having Christmas moments in movies. I’m going to hazard to say that in this world, if magic is real and wizards are real, then most of the theological figures or deities would be explained as wizards, which may complicate matters.

C: I wonder what it was people saw when whichever of those two prophets it was rode away on the chariot of flame up into the sky. What was going on with THAT wizard?

S: Showing off his cool new fire chariot, clearly.

C: And somehow forgot to mindwipe the Muggles. He was like one of those Quidditch World Cup referees that got vanished into Egypt for six months.

S: It is something you could deep dive into. But I guess we’re going with the all-purpose idea of soul and existence, which makes sense, because she does similar things with all the mythology she borrows – takes the general idea, focuses on one or two aspects, doesn’t tamper with the rest, and creates an all-purpose world that appeals worldwide. So, I guess it’s vague enough to work no matter where you come from.

And this is what will happen to Sirius. This is what the Dementors have permission to do if they find him.

C: As if they needed permission.

S: As if they care, because the Ministry can literally do nothing to them. Just a reminder to everyone – the dementors are way more powerful, you have nothing over them, and you are letting them run your penal system. Congratulations.

C: Ah, your penal system.

S: And Harry, with the certainty of an angry 13-year-old, says Sirius deserves it.

“You think so?” said Lupin lightly. “Do you really think anyone deserves that?”

“Yes,” said Harry defiantly. “For…for some things…”

I envy him his certainty, where he’s 13 and knows the absolute answer to this.

C: We’ve all been there.

S: I appreciate Harry here, thinking he’d like to tell Lupin about the conversation he overheard in the Three Broomsticks, but

he knew Lupin wouldn’t be very impressed by that.

I’m glad that at least Harry is realizing Lupin would not be impressed by his dumbness! So later, when he gets his butt chewed out, he’s not surprised.

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C: It is the world’s greatest set-down.

S: Now he’s bummed that he knows stuff about Dementors, and those things are bad. On the way back, he sees McGonagall with his Firebolt, and the clouds opened up and sang!

“And Potter — do try and win, won’t you? Or we’ll be out of the running for the eighth year in a row, as Professor Snape was kind enough to remind me only last night…”

And now we have our answer as to WHY Harry got his broom back – Snape was trash talking, and McGonagall decided she’d held out long enough.

C: Probably! Thanks, Snape.

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S: Again, in a sentence that annoyed me even more, Harry is like, “We should make it up with Hermione, she was only trying to help.” Oh, NOW that you go the thing you wanted, you can go make up with her? You guys are such jerks.

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C: Boys.

S: Speaking of boys, poor Neville. We’ve talked about Sir Cadogan being the worst portrait guardian, changing passwords multiple times a day, and he won’t let Neville in. So, Neville tried to be smart and wrote all the passwords down, but he lost his list and can’t get in. Odds bodkins! I love that Elizabethan-era swear word.

I like this moment because we’re so focused on the hilarity of Sir Cadogan calling to Harry and Ron, “Good e’en, my fine young yeomen, come clap this loon in irons!” that you don’t think about the implications of having a week’s worth of passwords lost.

Everyone is happy about the Firebolt. They’re talking to Hermione again for five minutes, and Harry is asking her about her work – Muggle Studies essay: Explain why Muggles need electricity.

He suggests she might drop a couple of subjects, which is heresy. She’s about to explain why Arithmancy is awesome, but Ron starts shouting his head off and brings the bloody sheets, and Scabbers is gone, and there is hair from a ginger cat on the floor.

C: So where IS Scabbers right now?

S: Scabbers is trying to get away. At this point he knows the jig is up, and he’s worried about Sirius getting to him. He tried to fake his death for the second time to get out of the castle so that he could get away from everyone, because it’s getting too close for comfort.

But Hagrid finds him later outside. Too bad, because things are heating up and now Sirius has a week’s worth of passwords.

Plus, all of this gives us a great excuse later for Harry to see Peter Pettigrew’s name on the map!

C: That actually makes me wonder something else—wouldn’t Harry have seen Pettigrew’s name on the map before?

S: If he’d been paying attention, yeah. She doesn’t show him using it that much in the book. He uses it to go to Hogsmeade and back, and he’s looking at the passages, not anywhere else. And is Ron taking Scabbers with him to Hogsmeade?

C: I don’t know. You’d just think it would be on Ron’s name in the dorm.

S: Only thing I can think is that he’s just not been noticing it.

C: Sounds like Harry.

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#thatssoharry

S: You see these memes going around saying that since Fred and George had it for so long, they would have seen someone named Peter Pettigrew sleeping in Ron’s dorm, wouldn’t they have known? First of all, do we think Fred and George know everyone in Ron’s dorm? Maybe, maybe not. Do they care about underclassmen that much? Would they think to ask? Probably not. Just me ranting about a dumb meme. And that is why we do this podcast, so I can rant.

So that’s chapter 12! When we come back, it’s Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw and Ron vs. Hermione.

C: I’m so excited.

S: It’s the part where we struggle with our feelings for Ron, and you can struggle with us! We’re on Twitter @admugglestudies and at mugglestudiesblog@gmail.com. You can peruse some of our older recordings, some with better sound quality than others –

C: Some drunker than others.

S: Yes! We’ve got more book and Fantastic Beasts 2 coming soon, so a lot more upcoming on the Advanced Muggle Studies curriculum for our tens of fans!

C: Each of you is our favorite fan.

S: Until next time, I am Professor Seraphine of the house of Sloth.

C: I am Professor Creed of the House of Weasel of God!

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

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

Show Notes

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

Stubby the Rocket. “Every So Often, Remus Lupin Is Gay.” Tor.com.

Rowling, J.K. “Patronus Charm.” Pottermore.com.

“Familiar Spirit.” Wikipedia.org.

“Mythical Beasts: The Salamander.” Under The Influence.

“Salamanders In Folklore.” Wikipedia.org.

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

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