[Show music begins]
Michael Harle: This is Episode 101 of Alohomora! for September 13, 2014.
[Show music continues]
Michael: Hello, listeners, and welcome to Alohomora! Back again to reread through the Harry Potter series. I’m Michael Harle.
Eric Scull: I’m Eric Scull.
Kat Miller: And I’m Kat Miller. And our special fan guest this week is none other than… well, I guess you guys don’t know him, but we do. Justin Dunn!
Justin Dunn: Hey!
Kat: Welcome, Justin. Thanks for joining us.
Justin: Thank you for having me.
Kat: Absolutely. Tell the listeners a little bit about yourself.
Justin: Okay. My name is Justin, I’m from Sydney, Australia, and I am a Slytherin.
Kat: So Eric, if you take the proverbial Gryffindor spot again.
Eric: [laughs] Yes, I’m on the fence, right. We just mold me, don’t we? Whenever there’s a four-person panel to figure out, so that we can represent each of the Hogwarts houses on the show.
Kat: No, there’s… never Slytherin, though. You don’t have enough Slytherin in you.
Michael: Well, we’d have Kat stand in for Slytherin, but we rarely don’t always get Ravenclaws, so…
Kat: Right, right. That’s true.
Michael: So it works out best that way.
Eric: No, I’ve found that Slytherins make for good guest hosts, if I can say that out loud.
Kat: I believe…
Justin: Yes, I agree.
[Eric and Kat laugh]
Eric: So Justin, do you know that there’s a Harry Potter group in Sydney, Australia called Sydney Muggles United?
Justin: No, actually I didn’t know that.
Eric: You should check that out if you want to do… they do Harry Potter live meet-ups and stuff. I happen to know a few members of the group. I can get you in touch with them.
Justin: That’d be cool. I’ll definitely have to look that up.
Eric: Cool. I really like Australians, so…
Kat: I really want to go.
Kat: And I do like Australians.
Kat: It’s really bad… next year I think. Right, Eric? We’re going to go next year?
Eric: Yes, yes, I said that once a long time ago.
Kat: You did say that once a long time ago.
[Eric, Kat, and Michael laugh]
Eric: Yes, yes, I’d totally love to do it. Of course we would like to travel to Australia, but for the time being were going to settle for St. Mungo’s Hospital for the Magical Maladies and Injuries.
Eric Of course I’m speaking about Chapter 23 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix entitled “Christmas on the Closed Ward.” We will be discussing that chapter today for our main segments, so please be sure to have read that before proceeding with the bulk of this episode.
Kat: And of course, as usual, before we go on to Chapter 23, we’re going to read some comments from last week on Chapter 22, which, as Eric just stated, was St. Mungo’s chapter. So our first one here comes from QuibbleQuaffle. That’s a little bit of a tongue twister.
Michael: Just a bit.
Kat: Good thing it’s short.
Eric: [laughs] Say it ten times fast: QuibbleQuaffle, QuibbleQuaffle. [laughs]
Kat: So the comment from QuibbleQuaffle says,
“Okay – I’m gonna go out on a bit of a limb here – but if anyone has ever read the His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman they might get where I’m coming from. This silver machine might by a bit like Lyra’s [Alethiometer] in the series (or Mary Malone’s ‘cave’ computer). These devices are both essentially ‘truth tellers’ but it takes an immense amount of skill to read them. We know Dumbledore’s not a great fan of Divination, but still interested in matters [that] in the Wizarding world are often left to Seers. So what if he designed an [instrument] with which he could communicate – a little like the pensieve – which could ‘tell him the present’ instead of tell him the future. In His Dark Materials Lyra sees the [Alethiometer] point to different symbols – to most people they’re just [symbols], but Lyra uses her mind to ‘feel’ the meaning of the symbols. It could be that Dumbledore is doing a similar thing in his silent conversation with the spindly silver instrument and that’s why it’s such a mystery to Harry, the reader, and everyone else in the room.”
So, of course, this comment was in response to the “in essence divided” line in the last chapter, and the little instrument…
Kat: … that Dumbledore uses that nobody knows what it is, so…
Michael: Yeah, that… I…
Kat: … I thought it was a good comparison.
Michael: That was… that’s actually great… shoutout to QuibbleQuaffle, I love His Dark Materials, even though Harry Potter has a very, very special place in my heart, I actually think His Dark Materials is one of the best young adult book series I have ever read. So if you haven’t read it, listeners, check it out. It’s an absolutely astonishing series.
Kat: I would concur, it’s really amazing. That’s right.
Michael: But yeah, that idea that… see the… and part of that is… even though that’s a really good explanation, I always wish we’d gotten – and maybe we will on Pottermore – more explanation on what that is from Rowling because it’s never followed up on. The instrument itself.
Kat: Yeah, I mean still it…
Eric: I like the idea that readers are pulling from other fantasy series entirely, to be like, “You know it’s kind of described kind of similar to this, what if it does this?” And then using that to completely influence it and inform how we feel about it. I think this is as good an answer as you would even get from J.K. Rowling because, I don’t know, it’s just like, “Well, this works for this group of characters in this world, what if they’ve placed it? What if Rowling placed it, or in general what if it could do that or similar…
Eric: … in this world?
Michael: What I get, and I’ve been trying to… ever since I listened to last week’s show and the discussion about it, I’ve kind of been trying to formulate what my problem is with that instrument, and when I think about it, if you… the thing that I think about in relation to that is the films because this is one of those things that I completely forgot was in the book.
Michael: That little machine. And for once, I agree that the film didn’t include it. Because it seems so superfluous. It’s just like, “Oh, here’s one of those random hints.” But it’s never really followed up on, and it’s made up for by plenty of other things that are introduced to us about Horcruxes and whatnot, and in conversation. This, to me, is not a necessary instrument.
Kat: Yeah, I’ve always wondered if this was meant to be something and then got cut out or dropped or changed, like if this was part of a lost plot.
Kat: You know?
Michael: Because the one thing that I was trying to pull out of it is the whole idea with the, you know, the imagery of the two snakes wrapping around, and then I was thinking last week about how the chapter is called that, “St. Mungo’s Hospital.” And I remembered that at least in America I know and in some other nations this is used but the symbol for medical practice and health care is two snakes wrapped around a rod.
Michael: Sometimes it’s one and that’s actually from Greek mythology. I think the two snakes is actually the staff that’s carried by Hermes, who’s the messenger, but I’m not sure about the one snake. I’ve read about it but I wasn’t really, it’s called the Rod of Unpronounceable Greek Name.
Kat: Oh. Never heard that tale before. [laughs]
Michael: [laughs] Oselpheus or something like that. I feel like there is symbolism behind it that goes beyond perhaps what even is just in the Harry Potter canon, she was pulling from mythology somehow with that. Because there’s never any specific follow up of Harry in the final climax chapter asking Dumbledore, “What was that instrument you were looking at? What did it do and what did it tell you?” That seems to be the missing piece as far as that instrument goes but I like the idea that it’s something that only Dumbledore can decipher and read like Lyra with her lithiometer.
Kat: Oh, you said it right. And I’m glad I said it right, too. I wasn’t quite sure, but I was pretty sure I said it right.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kat: Anyway, I do hope that eventually we’ll get something more about it. But isn’t that the truth about everything?
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kat: Hopeful for all. Our next comment here, really it’s not a comment, it’s a call-out, so I’ll just read it. It’s from ElvisGaunt. It says,
“There was a very important moment hidden in this chapter. As soon as the Weasley kids and Harry arrive at Grimmauld Place, there is this text: ‘Back again, the blood-traitor brats. Is it true their father’s dying?’ ‘OUT!’ roared a second voice.”
How was that? It was good, right?
Eric: It was pretty good.
Michael: [laughs] That was very exciting.
Kat: [laughs] It is obvious…
Eric: I think your Mrs. Black sounded more like a dude and your Sirius sounded more like a chick, but hey, whatever.
Kat: Oh, you think, “Oh, it’s not Mrs. Black.”
Michael: It’s Kreacher.
Justin: It’s Kreacher.
Kat: The comment goes on to say that,
“It is obvious that these two voices belonged to Kreacher and Sirius respectively. Kreacher deliberately misinterpreted Sirius and left the house to visit the Malfoys. And we know the rest.”
Eric: If I were wearing a hat, I would have just eaten it.
[Justin and Michael laugh]
Eric: My bad.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kat: It’s okay. Just wanted to point out that it is very hard, as we’ve mentioned before, to remember everything when you’re reading one chapter a week, so we appreciate when you guys call us out on these. But also: cut us some slack.
Michael: And luckily that particular issue comes up in this chapter.
Kat: It does.
Eric: And that is really the crucial interaction between Sirius and Kreacher that ever happens.
Kat: Right. And we’re going to continue with a little bit of Sirius bashing here…
Kat: … with a comment from RoseLumos it says…
Michael: Oh… [laughs]
Kat: She prefaces it – I assume it’s a she. If not I apologize. It says,
“So people may hate me for this but I am a bit of a Sirius hater. There are many reasons but this chapter has a big moment. Obviously Harry is going through a huge emotional and mental crisis (again) and Sirius really doesn’t do anything to connect to his godson or to help him out, especially when he seeks help. He then spends the morning being to[o] afraid to sleep, and once again Sirius doesn’t reach out to help. Later in the next chapter we will see Harry retreat from everyone and, once again, it doesn’t seem like Sirius cares. It is discussed how Sirius treats Harry more like a friend th[a]n a son, and I feel these chapters prove this. Harry isn’t a normal teenager and I don’t think Sirius knows how to deal with this so instead of trying harder he gives up at times.”
Kat: It’s true.
Michael: Yep. Absolutely. I think that’s another jarring transition from the films to the books and vice versa…
Michael: …because they didn’t have time to develop Sirius this way they ended up just making him really fatherly and nice and relatable and here what RoseLumos wrote is definitely more the… I think based on how Rowling set up Sirius and how she does remind us that he’s been in prison for a very, very long time at a very young age and his growth’s been stunted from that…
Kat and Eric: Mhm.
Michael: … I think that is the more logical growth for Sirius and development of his character and it is… that’s another thing that we’ll see in this chapter, too. I forgot how badly Sirius deals with – when they get to Grimmauld Place he’s been drinking. And not Butterbeer. [laughs] So…
Kat: Hagrid was probably just there.
Michael: Oh man, that would be fun.
Eric: Would it?
Kat: Oh, yeah.
Eric: Would it? [laughs]
Kat: Oh, right. So I just want to do, in typical Michael fashion, that there are other discussions going on actually on the main site. Somebody posted a bunch of death clues that are in this chapter and they are all over on MuggleNet, and you should go read them and check them out because I think there are seven in this chapter alone.
Kat: So… well, chapter 22, not 23, but it’s pretty great discussion as usual, our listeners pretty much rock, so go check it out.
Michael: Yeah, that was awesome that actually I saw some of those comments and I haven’t remembered those theories and they were actually on our own site…
Kat: I know it was pretty great.
Michael: … I remember reading some of those theories on MuggleNet when they came out. So yeah that was a fun Time-Turner experience…
Kat: Yep. I think those all live under the… let’s see I’m going to go to the site right now…
Michael: Is it the Level 9 area?
Kat: It is. So it’s under “Books” and then “The Little Things” and then “Death Clues.” It’s right there, so…
Eric: That’s awesome.
Kat: You’ll see it, there’s lots of them. Check them out.
Michael: But continuing on with the discussion, we’re actually going to move into last week’s responses from the Podcast Question of the Week. And as a reminder, that question was,
“During the scene at St. Mungo’s, we clearly see how the Order is responding to the attack on Arthur. Assuming that Voldemort and Umbridge know everything that happened, what are the Ministry and Voldemort doing at this moment? Also, the Ministry never publicly, or privately (as far we as know), acknowledged the attack – why not? What was the official internal story of the attack?”
So most of the responses that we got were actually split into two parts. A lot of you would start with what the Ministry was up to and conclude with what Voldemort was doing. So if you hear your comment here and it’s been a little spliced up from your original, that’s because I’m just separating out the meatiest parts because a lot of you were saying generally the same thing. But you all went into grandiose detail about each one, which we love on this show. And the first bit of grandiose detail comes from Elvis Gaunt over on the main site and Elvis Gaunt says,
“As for Voldemort, he had first tried to use Podmore and Bode to steal the Prophecy, but those plans were foiled; he went to the Ministry himself with his pet[;] he was found out. For all he knows, the security around the place may have been tightened after these three incidents. But now he knows Harry can get a peek into his mind sometimes and has hatched the next plan; repeatedly think of the Department of Mysteries, ensure that Harry can see it too and get him curious about the place. That was what Voldemort was doing, continuously picturing those corridors in his mind. Must have been pretty boring for a man of action like him.”
So thoughts on Voldemort’s actions afterwards?
Kat: So wait…
Kat: … Voldemort went to the Ministry himself?
Michael: Well, as Nagini.
Eric: As well, Nagini.
Michael: Through Nagini.
Kat: Oh, okay. I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.”
[Eric, Justin, and Michael laugh]
Eric: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Michael: He just waltzed on in.
Eric: It’s just funny because all year Voldemort has apparently been thinking about this door but now he’s got to do it, it’s like a chore.
Eric: Now he’s doing it for a reason. It’s like, it was already happening, except now he knows that there’s this connection, he’s going to use it to his advantage by continuing to do what he was already doing but now he’s put some effort into it. I mean you mentioned, or ElvisGaunt mentioned, “He’s a man of action”…
Eric: … and I think that’s really interesting seeing him just – I imagine him with like a night cap on.
Eric: You know like in bed…
Eric: … holding his temples. Yeah, yeah, yeah, like a Santa Claus hat, but it’s striped and matches his PJs, and he’s holding his temples, thinking…
Kat: I’ve also never pictured him as actually someone who sleeps, which is why I find the whole thing weird.
Eric: It’s possible.
Michael: You just saying that made Voldemort ten times creepier.
Kat: Well, he’s part vampire, right?
Michael: [laughs] That’s pretty…
Eric: I don’t know if that’s ever stated.
Kat: I mean, hello, he created Edward Cullen.
Justin: Oh, God.
Kat: Come on.
Eric: Thank you, Justin. That was…
Michael: Saying what we’re all thinking. But the thing I was thinking, too, about the idea that Voldemort… how quickly he discovers this connection because he seems to realize it pretty soon. Because I was wondering if when Harry feels the urge to strike at Dumbledore, if that’s Voldemort’s first active test on Harry, to see what he can do to Harry.
Kat: I think so.
Michael: Yeah. Because that’s pretty quick, if he figured it out that fast. Same night.
Kat: I think he did. He’s pretty effing smart.
Michael: So impressive job, Voldemort. Terrible, but impressive. Terrible. Great, but terrible.
Kat: Oh, you sound like Ollivander. Yeah.
Michael: [laughs] And our next comment, once again from QuibbleQuaffle…
Eric: Just call him Ventrilomort.
Justin: Oh, God.
Kat: Wow, Michael. I just realized we picked comments from the same three people.
Michael: We did. Well, they are just…
Kat: Totally on accident.
Michael: They are just bosses, these guys. [laughs]
Kat: I guess so.
Eric: It’s not favoritism. It’s not.
Michael: We didn’t do this on purpose, we swear. [laughs] The next comment here is from QuibbleQuaffle, and QuibbleQuaffle focused a little more on the Ministry’s actions, and QuibbleQuaffle said,
“I just wanted to point out a quote from the chapter – when Fred asks if the story of the attack is going to be in the Prophet Arthur replies with ‘No of course not… …the Ministry wouldn’t want everyone to know a dirty great snake got-‘ at which point Molly cuts him off and he changes what he was about to say to ‘got- er- me.’ If we assume that, like Dumbledore tells Everard’s portrait to ensure, Arthur is found by ‘the right people’ then maybe any evidence at the scene was cleaned up by the Order before the Ministry could make any investigations. Do we know for certain what Nagini does after attack[ing] Arthur? I always assumed she scarpered because Voldemort felt Harry in the snake’s mind at the same time as him and freaked out. So maybe Dumbledore was able to spin it to the Ministry, and the Ministry, in turn, not wanting to cause a panic or to be proved wrong would hush it up.”
Kat: First off, I want to say props for using “scarpered.” Good job. Props.
Michael: Yes, yes. I remember there was another episode farther back, where we were like, “scarpered?”
Michael: “What does ‘scarpered’ mean?”
Kat: “Is that a word?”
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Kat: I remember.
Justin: How did Nagini use the buttons for the lift?
Eric: With her tail.
Michael: We had a few comments last week asking how Nagini even got into the Ministry.
[Justin and Michael laugh]
Eric: Her tail… the pipes, Michael.
Michael: The pipes!
Justin: Ah, yes.
Eric: Haven’t we learned? That’s how snakes get around.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Michael: Not a problem. Just use the pipes. [laughs] That is pretty funny, though. I like the idea that Nagini gets a visitor’s pass. She wears it.
[Justin and Michael laugh]
Eric: Oh, yeah, yeah. Just has a little badge pinned to one of her scales.
Kat: “State your business.”
Michael: But actually, I think the idea that the right people were able to clean everything up so that nobody even knew is probably the only way that we can get around this in the way that the Ministry doesn’t say anything about it.
Kat: Yeah, it’s like the Ministry is the prosecution and the Order is the defense. And they’re trying to clear the evidence so they can’t be convicted.
Eric: I think it’s brilliant to say that it was cleaned up by “the right people,” to use that quote from the book, and the only thing I don’t know if I agree with or not is whether Dumbledore is trying to spin something to the Ministry, or whether or not he has to because I just don’t think that the relationship exists there between Dumbledore and the Ministry. I don’t think he would explain himself and try and put on a game face or poker face about what is happening. I just think it was covered up so well that the Ministry maybe never found out.
Michael: Well, and I guess, too… the thing we’ve got to keep in mind, too, is that sometimes when we say Ministry, tragically, in this book, we mean Umbridge.
Kat: Well, she has to know because Dumbledore tells her. Because Hermione comes in this chapter and is like, “Oh, Dumbledore excused you to go see your father.”
Michael: Right. Because they are going to have to know that something happened because Arthur has to take leave from work.
Eric: Well, he works at the Ministry… I don’t know. I wonder how that happened.
Michael: And in line with this discussion, I really loved what RoseLumos said here because she actually brought up a discussion piece that I brought up a few chapters ago, which I was glad to see. RoseLumos said,
“I think someone mentioned on the show how bad Ministry security is and I can’t agree more. Not only do we have to question how Order members can just sit in front of a door every night without security knowing but a few months later there is an all-out battle between Death Eaters and teenagers that isn’t reported until the very end of the battle! We met Eric the security wizard but does he or his department actually do anything!?! How can the building [that] houses all of British wizarding government plus the secretive Department of Mysteries just go unguarded for about twelve hours every night?”
Eric: I’m going to take this, okay, on behalf of…
Michael: Yeah, Eric, Eric. [laughs]
Eric: … Eric the security wizard is a great employee. He is a valuable asset to the Ministry. But at the same time, his shift is over, he goes home, and it’s…
Michael: Why isn’t there a night shift at the Ministry? [laughs]
Eric: It’s the Ministry’s fault for not employing somebody of equal skill as Eric the security wizard for the overnight guy.
Michael: I don’t know.
Eric: No idea, RoseLumos. I think it’s a very fair question.
Justin: But don’t they say that they use an invisibility cloak? To stand in front of the door?
Michael: Oh yeah, they do. They do.
Justin: I mean, this doesn’t explain that the snake got in, but that can explain why they can just casually stand in front of a door for twelve hours.
Michael: I just… I think for me the shock for that comes from the fact that since that is such a high security area, the fact that somebody can even sit there, without any magic to detect their presence because there are things invisibility cloaks can’t block. So the idea that somebody can just sit there right in front of the most secure, really dangerous place in the Ministry…
Eric: Yeah, I mean, if there were the wizarding of equivalent of not trip wires, but lasers…
Eric: … something that you disturb that. I mean, just imagine what even museums have protecting them, and then magnify that a hundred times for a hub of government like the White House.
Justin: The protection of the department would be to protect the secrets inside, and they have protection as we see later in the book from that circular room with the doors. They’re not expecting someone to be just sitting outside the doors, so why would they have protection out there?
Michael: I guess.
Kat: That’s valid.
Eric: That’s a valid point.
Michael: I guess. It just all seems very loose because the thing that I always am shocked at is when we get to that chapter where Harry and the group go to the Ministry and they just waltz right on in after hours.
Kat: Well, I think that was set up. It was made easy for them.
Michael: Oh, yeah. Yeah, there might have been an element of that. But I don’t know. It just… it still bothers me. I’ll never get over that, so Eric, take that back to Eric from security at the Ministry for me, please.
Eric: I’ll tell him you said hi.
Michael: Thank you. [laughs]
Eric: I won’t tell him all the nasty things you and RoseLumos just implied there.
Michael: [laughs] And our last comment here comes from MinervaLupin. MinervaLupin had an excellent, much more extensive comment that I cannot read on the show because it’s too long, but I did want to read this. Minerva made up a letter that Fudge would have sent out to Ministry employees that I thought was pretty on point here, actually.
Michael: It goes,
“Dear Ministry Workers, As you might have heard, Mr. Arthur Weasley from the Misuse of Muggles Artifact Office has been attacked while on duty at the Ministry and sent to St. Mungo’s last night. Witches or wizards unknown sent Mr. Weasley a toilet seat that had been modified to be poisonous and attack the first person it came into contact with. All this has been done under the guise that the object in question was being used in the act of Muggle-baiting. This attack was brought about to prevent the Muggle Baiting Act that Mr. Weasley has been pushing forward […] these last few months. Please know that this is an isolated attack and that your Ministry is already investigating this attack. We will update you on Mr. Weasley’s condition as we are made aware of the facts. Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic.”
Eric: MinervaLupin should write for MuggleNet Fan Fiction.
Michael: Yes. [laughs] I will read those fan fictions aloud as I did your letter, MinervaLupin. I just thought that was a really excellent, cleverly written version of events from Fudge.
Kat: It is. I like that she tied it back into stuff that was actually already happening.
Michael: Yeah, yeah.
Kat: So this is very plausible, I think.
Michael: Yes. Very nice recollection of the Muggle-Baiting Act and the frequent mention of toilet humor in the Harry Potter series. Well done. [laughs]
Kat: [laughs] Yeah. That is very true.
Michael: J.K. Rowling is clapping somewhere…
Kat: Oh, I hope so.
Michael: … because she’s listening. I did want to shout out to the other contributors from last week. We had Adam Klawitter, bent-winged-snidget, ChocolateFrogRavenclaw, DisKid, GinnyWeasley002, LeslieLovegood, PuffNProud, Ravenclawesome, SnugglesWithNifflers, SpectacularlyHypothetical, SpinnersEnd, StoneHallows, and WizardorWhat. You all left fantastic comments on the Podcast Question of the Week. If you would like to read those comments or even participate in this discussion, head over to the Alohomora! main site.
Eric: [laughs] SnugglesWithNifflers…
Kat: It’s a great username.
Michael: Oh, Eric is running on low.
Kat: Wow, he is very amused.
Eric: Well, I believe that concludes our discussion on Chapter 22 from last week. Now it’s time for Chapter 23.
[Order of the Phoenix Chapter 23 intro begins]
Sirius: [singing] “God rest ye merry Hippogriffs, your talons let not tear…”
Gilderoy Lockhart: Chapter 23: “Christmas on the Closed Ward.”
Sirius: [singing] “We fly into the air, through flurries and snowflakes we soar…”
[Order of the Phoenix Chapter 23 intro ends]
Eric: Now we begin Chapter 23 with our summary of the chapter. Harry spends Christmas vacation at Grimmauld Place, but rather than interacting with all the wonderful people that are there – his family, his friends – he chooses to spend it hidden away from all of them. He feels dirty, he feels used, he feels like a weapon, and he doesn’t want anything to do with them. But eventually, there is an intervention. Ginny and Ron and Hermione come in, have a talk with Harry, and things are just slightly better. But they decide that they’re going to visit Mr. Weasley at the hospital wing again, and when they do that, they run into some surprise guests that are unexpected. So toward the beginning of the chapter, as I mentioned, Harry is feeling vulnerable because he realizes that Dumbledore probably had a plan this whole time in avoiding him; that he basically is a weapon that can harm any of his friends, even his closest friends, so he’s distancing himself from them. But he has a particular revelation where… it’s all because he has attacked Mr. Weasley and he feels bad about it still, that he’s like, “I could attack them at any second and so I just need to get away. I need to get away from the wizarding world. I can’t even go back to Hogwarts because what if any of the students there get attacked? No, I can’t do this. I’m just going to go back to the Muggle world. I’m going to go back to Privet Drive.” And so…
Eric: I know. It’s a terrible chain of reasoning of thought… I mean, it’s logical; you realize why he’s doing it. But he pretty much has his hand on the doorknob of the room when a voice calls from behind him and he has a conversation with Phineas Nigellus Black, former headmaster of Hogwarts.
Michael: [laughs] I love Phineas Nigellus. I missed him in the movies; that was a very sad cut…
Michael: … because he is just a fun character. I love his snark.
Kat: Who would we cast in that role?
Eric and Michael: Ooh.
Michael: It’s got to be somebody good.
Eric: John Hurt maybe?
Kat: But he’s Ollivander.
Eric: [laughs] I know.
Michael: Ooh, since he didn’t get to play Snape and he’d be good at this kind of stuff, how about Jeremy Irons?
Kat: Oh, that would work.
Michael: [laughs] Put a goatee on him.
Eric: Eh, he’s too young. I love Jeremy Irons.
Michael: Too young? What?
Eric: Yeah, he’s too young.
Michael: Insanity, good sir.
Kat: They can make anybody look old.
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Michael: If he twirled that goatee they’d give him like Scar twirls his goatee, you’ve got the perfect look there. [laughs]
Eric: Okay. I would just expect him to sing to Harry.
Kat: I would actually say Bill Nighy if he wasn’t Scrimgeour.
Michael: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I could see that.
Eric: Yeah, he’s solid. I would say that… I would rather actually have Michael Gambon as Phineas Nigellus than as Dumbledore but…
Michael: He’d probably love that. [laughs]
Kat: How many other surly British men are there?
Eric: I’m trying to think. I mean, quite a few.
Eric: It’s kind of their… it’s their trade. It’s their national export.
Michael: Ben Kingsley. Ben Kingsley.
Eric: Yes, Ben Kingsley…
Kat: Yes. That would work.
Eric: Well, yeah, that would work. Anyway, regardless… Phineas Nigellus comes straight out and calls Harry a coward, which is misguided. Harry quickly corrects him, but the question is raised whether or not Harry belongs in Slytherin. Because he sees Harry and he says, “Oh, you’re running away, are you?” And Harry says, “Yeah, kind of.” But he doesn’t realize at the moment that Harry is trying to get away to protect everybody, and so he says in a quote from the book on page 495: “‘I thought,’ said Phineas Nigellus, stroking his pointed beard, ‘that to belong in Gryffindor House you were supposed to be brave? It looks to me as though you would have been better off in my own house. We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not stupid. For instance, given the choice, we will always choose to save our own necks.'” This is very interesting… this quote is very black and white. It’s just like… Phineas is saying whenever a Slytherin has a choice to save their own neck, they will take it. Which actually goes a long way to kind of a foreshadowing or justifying what happens in Book 7 at the final battle with all of the Slytherins. But at the same time here, it’s just really brought up again as to whether or not Harry belongs in Slytherin. And I don’t know, I thought it was an interesting thing for Phineas to just come out and say, but the Slytherins do like to talk about themselves.
Kat: Well, I think it’s valid because it’s somebody who doesn’t know Harry.
Kat: Somebody who hasn’t spent years analyzing him and seeing him, what he does and doesn’t do. So I don’t know, I think it was a good point for him to bring up.
Eric: Mhm. Well, Phineas does say to Harry, “I have a message for you from Albus Dumbledore,” and here Harry is really engaged. He’s like, “Okay, what is it?” And Phineas says, “Stay there.”
Kat: And Harry’s like…
Eric: “I haven’t moved!”
Eric: “I’m still right here listening to you!” And Phineas is like, “No, no, that’s the message, you dolt. Dumbledore says stay there.” I mean, this is getting old for me reading it in the books, but I really think that Dumbledore… of course, we talked for a minute about Sirius and whether or not he’s doing the right thing by Harry – I think we all agree he’s probably not – but now Dumbledore again has given him this two-word answer that just doesn’t sit all that well with Harry. And is it again a case of Dumbledore giving Harry too little?
Michael: Justin, what are your thoughts on Dumbledore? Everybody knows our thoughts. What are yours?
Justin: I can see where Dumbledore was coming from, but I really feel like Dumbledore should have explained a lot more to Harry, probably when Voldemort came back at the end of the fourth book. And the fact that he’s keeping Harry in the dark now, giving him so little to go with, just basically saying, “Follow my instructions” with no explanation, especially knowing that Harry is a kid and he’s a teenager – teenagers get annoyed with this kind of thing and Harry’s going through so much – I feel like Dumbledore’s been a bit too aloof towards Harry to really just keep doing this to him.
Kat: But I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that Harry’s been through too much, and that’s why Dumbledore’s trying to shield him. And I think in a lot of ways that’s valid. Dumbledore doesn’t exactly know what’s going on yet. Why put the stress and the worry on Harry until he does know what’s going on?
Michael: Well, in a way you could, I suppose, argue that the end result would be the same if Dumbledore had told Harry what his suspicions were at this point. They’re generally the same suspicions Harry has about himself right now, and he’s about to walk out.
Kat: And you know what, no matter what Harry knew or didn’t know come the whole Sirius thing, he would have gone to the Ministry no matter what.
Michael: Oh yeah.
Kat: I mean, doesn’t matter.
Michael: Yeah. But…
Michael: Yeah. I still have problems with the way Dumbledore conducts this, but at the same time it would seem like it’s all going to be the same end result.
Michael: It’s unfortunate that the bearer of the message has to be Phineas Nigellus as far as Harry goes, because that’s probably not the person you want to send to interact with Harry at this time.
Eric: Well, it’s an interesting point. I’m glad you mentioned that because something else I wanted to say about Phineas Nigellus is basically the conversation descends into a shouting match. [laughs] Harry says, “That’s it? That’s all he’s got? Stay here, this is all he’s going to tell me?” And Phineas just gives him all the attitude and says, and I quote: “This is precisely why I loathed being a teacher! Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything.”
Eric: “Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay, that there might be an excellent reason why the headmaster of Hogwarts is not confiding every little detail of his plans to you? Have you never paused, while feeling hard-done-by, to note that following Dumbledore’s orders has never yet led you to harm?” Et cera, et cera… There’s a big thing there and then it ends with, “Good day to you, sir.” But it’s awesome, and I’m really wondering as a counterpoint here… we know what J.K. Rowling’s stance on portraits are. But this seems to be a really mightily informed version of Phineas Nigellus. He remembers how he felt about being a teacher. This to me seems a lot more than just a shadow of the man.
Kat: Well, somebody who felt so passionate about that in his life would teach his portrait about those feelings. Probably just complaining about it in his office, the portrait would learn about how much he hated students.
Eric: But don’t portraits appear after you die?
Kat: They’re painted while you’re alive…
Kat: … and the person in the portrait, the person living, teaches the portrait of themselves about themselves.
Eric: Okay then. Well, I just think it’s a really… Phineas Nigellus – we’ve said this before; we’ll say it again – is a really great character.
Michael: Yes, he’s wonderful. Call us, Ben Kingsley.
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Kat: We’ll get you in the remake.
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Michael: You too, Jeremy Irons. You’re still an option.
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Kat: Michael just really wants your phone number, to be honest.
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Eric: Yeah, he just wants…
Kat: I just want to talk to Scar.
Eric: Moving on for a moment, Harry just really does not have a good day. He’s laying in bed and everybody is downstairs, and there’s one point where Ron kind of calls for him but quickly runs away because he’s in one of his moods again. He stays like Dumbledore tells him to, but he doesn’t want to be seen.
Kat: It says that he feels unclean. Like how sad is that?
Michael: Yeah. No, this… for the first time reading this chapter, I really felt just how awful Harry must feel. I don’t know if it’s just, as I frequently say on the show, life experience or age or whatever, but this time out of any other read, this was kind of a terrifying section to read. To just hear Harry’s thoughts of thinking he’s a monster and his active distancing from the people he loves, it’s a frightening example of what exactly Voldemort wants. Luna in a way almost summarizes… since her lines are kind of compacted and borrowed in the movie, she summarizes it a bit better there. Kind of like, “Isn’t that what he’d want?”
Kat: I was just thinking about that line.
Michael: Yeah, because that lovely scene in the forest is only in the movie.
Kat: [as Luna] “That’s what he wants.”
Michael: And it is a great moment that really summarizes what’s going on here, Voldemort succeeding in this moment.
Eric: Well, eventually Ron does come back. He’s with Hermione who has arrived…
Michael: Yeah, Hermione!
Michael: Taking charge. She came back from vacation for this, you guys! [laughs]
Eric: Yeah, she totally… Harry owes her big time.
Michael: Yes, he does.
Eric: No, but I mean Hermione came back from skiing.
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Eric: Don’t tell Ron that it was a disaster…
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Eric: … because he laughs so hard about it. But no, Hermione comes in, so does Ginny, and Ron is with them. And they have a little “come to Jesus” with Harry about…
Kat: Oh, wait… what?
Eric: It’s an intervention. It’s intervention time.
Kat: [laughs] Come to Jesus…
Eric: You’ve never heard of that phrase, “come to Jesus”?
Michael: I have.
[Michael and Kat laugh]
Eric: It’s synonymous with intervention or self-realization, that sort of thing. So, essentially… really the biggest thing here is that this is probably my favorite part of the entire book. It’s hidden in this chapter, but really the seeds for the Harry/Ginny relationship that would come in the next book I feel start here in a way. Because Ginny… here’s a quote from her. She says, “We wanted to talk to you, Harry. But as you’ve been hiding ever since we got back…” And he replies, “I didn’t want anyone to talk to me.” And he was feeling more and more “nettled”. And she says, “Well, that was a bit stupid of you, seeing as you don’t know anyone but me who’s been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels.” So, this is the first really moment where Harry, I think, stops seeing Ginny as just “my friend’s little sister”. He sees her as somebody who has gone through possession by Voldemort, nothing short of a soul in a Horcrux diary taking her over. And Harry’s response is “I forgot.” He just doesn’t know really. He doesn’t remember that this happened to her, but it has. And she levels with him about this. And I think it’s really the cornerstone of their whole intervention, or “come to Jesus”, whatever you want to call it, because he calms then. Something inside him breaks because she’s able to talk him through the fact that she was possesed. And she’s able to say, “When I was possesed, I didn’t remember anything I was doing, and since you do, it’s probably not possession.” And so, even in that little bit of conversation, “Hey, I’ve actually been through what you’re going through, or what you think you’re going through, and I’m here to talk to you,” this thing that Ginny did… Hermione and Ron are always great to him, but now with Ginny too, I think it really kind of brings him over to the other side of the threshold.
Kat: It puts her on a level playing field that she wasn’t on before.
Kat: That’s what it does.
Michael: You guys know that moment… if you guys have seen Thor, you know that moment when he’s drinking coffee and he smashes his cup and goes, “ANOTHER”? And I’m like, that’s what I want from this moment. Why weren’t there more of these with Ginny and Harry? I want “ANOTHER!” I want another!
Eric: Another! [laughs]
Michael: This is so… this feels like one of the most natural leisurely moments between the two of them. The conversation they have is just so organic, compared to when Rowling started pushing their relationship in Book 6.
Michael: This is the beginning of a really great relationship and I wanted more! I think this is just…
Eric: Yeah, I mean…
Michael: … really just great to see them relating on something.
Eric: I completely agree. When Harry says, “I forgot,” she replies, “Lucky you.”
Michael: [laughs] Yeah, yeah.
Eric: You know, “Lucky you for forgetting that I was possessed by Voldemort.”
Eric: “I sure haven’t forgotten it.” You’re right, it really is organic…
Eric: … as you say.
Michael: It’s just… I don’t know, compared to some of the other… and I’ve talked about this before on the show, but I’ve always felt that that relationship just comes into the series a little too late in some ways, and it’s just not quite as built-up as I would have wanted personally.
Michael: And I think more moments like this would have been really nice to see, especially because… like you’re saying, Eric, in a way almost like how Hermione and Ron are great for Harry, and Ginny has just reached another level of relatability with him, I almost wish that this would have allowed Ginny to come into their fold a little more, kind of be part of that circle.
Eric: Well… look, I think she does. It’s not just because her dad’s in the hospital too, but she kind of pals around with them the rest of this chapter.
Michael: Yeah. Yeah, she’s there, which is great.
Eric: I mean, it might be little, but I think the fact that she does go around the wards, which we’ll get to in a minute, but she goes around with them. I think really kind of… I don’t know, she’s not just Ron’s little sister anymore.
Eric: I guess that’s all I keep saying, but…
Michael: Yeah, I still love that. I always laugh at that moment in Prisoner of Azkaban when they’re on the train and Harry says, “I need to talk to you guys about something.” And Ron just turns to Ginny and says, “Go away, Ginny!” [laughs] And she does… [laughs]
Eric: She gets up, yeah. She does, yeah. Well… what was I going to say? [laughs]
Michael: Nice change, nice change for her.
Eric: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I think too though with Ginny in Book 6… I think in the movies she just becomes this girl with a really strong Diffindo.
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Eric: It’s like, whoa! That escalated quickly, or Diffindo just blew up the…
Eric: Huh? Reducto.
Michael: Kat’s got her Book of Spells out.
Eric: I’m going to redo that. She becomes the girl with the really strong Reducto that just goes out of control.
Kat: That’s better.
Eric: Oh, that escalated quickly. She just destroyed the whole Hall of Prophecy. But in the book she really is this character who I think is perfect for Harry.
Eric: In many ways, they’re complementary. Her and Harry, even in Book 6, do share some moments. It’s not completely devoid of them, but…
Michael: Is this… I have to ask all of you too, just out of curiosity because I feel bad thinking this, but I felt this the first time I read it. And maybe it is because we’re looking from Harry’s perspective. But when Ginny kind of dropped that little bomb, as a reader I was like, “Oh… yeah. I forgot about that, too.”
Eric: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Michael: [laughs] I’m sorry, Ginny.
Michael: That wasn’t nice. [laughs]
Eric: Maybe that’s why I have that reaction to this scene, because I had forgotten it, too. I mean, she’s leveling with him. She’s coming out and saying it.
Eric: This matches her personality as described elsewhere in the books. I mean, she’s competent. Boys are her brothers; she can handle overbearing personalities. Harry’s mood right now is super overbearing, and she needs to come in here and say, “Look, I’ve been through what you think you’re going through.” And she does that. But of course, nobody really remembers specifically. You may remember the diary, but to remember that it was actually Voldemort and… the whole plot of Book 2, it’s nice to have this reminder.
Michael: Yeah. I like when Rowling goes back and retroactively makes these… especially the first two books, when she makes details in them that, I think, when we read them, especially those of us who grew up with it, to read them at that younger age when it’s like, “Oh, and then Ginny got taken into the Chamber of Secrets, but she’s fine, whatever. Because it is all fun and games. Yay, wizards!”
Michael: And then to look back on it with this lens of “Actually, that was super traumatic for the individual character.”
Eric: Yes! It was traumatic, and she says… Ginny is able to go on in this chapter and say a little bit about waking up and not knowing where she’d been. So just offering that little bit of insight, because she’s such a small character in Book 2, is really something special. So of course, it wouldn’t be the Christmas chapter if we didn’t talk about what everybody got for Christmas. [laughs] So let’s. The next morning it’s Christmas, and there are some gifts given around. I don’t think anything is better than Hermione’s gift to Ron: a homework planner.
Kat: She got one for Harry, too.
Eric: Did she?
Justin: Greatest present ever.
Eric: I know. Isn’t that so passive aggressive? It’s like, “You’re going to need this because I don’t want to do this anymore for you guys.”
Kat: I would use it. [laughs]
Michael: I’d use it.
Justin: I’d probably say I’d use it, but I wouldn’t.
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Eric: But one gift I wanted to mention in particular is – I mean, besides the homework planner – this book that comes to Harry from Lupin and Sirius. So they’ve given him sort of a joint gift for Christmas. But it’s a book with… let me find the title of it. It’s Practical Defensive Magic and Its Uses Against the Dark Arts. It is not just one book; it’s a set of excellent books, which had – this is a quote – “superb moving color illustrations of all the counter-jinxes and hexes that it described.” Not only is this perfect for Harry, not only is it perfect for the year, because of course Umbridge is not teaching them practical magic, but it’s [also] perfect – and Harry quickly appropriates it for his brainstorming – for the DA. He realizes that this is going to help him plan lessons and I mean, in terms of all of the gifts that Harry gets – sure, the Invisibility Cloak in Year 1 is pretty cool – but really this one book, I think, for me, nails it right on the head. This is exactly what Harry needed right now.
Michael: Yeah, it’s nice. What I was thinking about when reading this chapter was because, of course – to champion a little but of Lupin love here – he’s so ancilliary in this chapter. He’s just around. I don’t think he actually ends up saying very much, if anything. What I was surprised at, actually, when we were talking about how Harry and Ginny end up finding that common ground and relating, when I was reading about Harry’s summary of what it’s like to feel like you’re a monster, I was like, “You could have gone to Lupin.” He probably would have had a lot to say about it.
Kat: Yeah, I was really wondering why there wasn’t a moment between them.
Kat: I was really wondering about that.
Michael: Especially seeing as Harry also knows that Lupin is an authority on the Dark Arts and would probably, possibly have some knowledge on what happened, so combine that…
Eric: Man, where’s Lupin when Harry needed him? Come on.
Michael: He was right there! He’s right over in the next seat on the train. [laughs] They could just talk.
Eric: It’d be like, “You know, Harry, I actually am a monster once a month.”
Eric: And “Let me talk you down off this ledge.”
Michael: Yeah, no, I think that would have been a nice moment. I mean, it’s great that it’s Ginny for the purpose of future stories, but at the same time…
Eric: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Michael: … it seems like there’s a resource there that is going untapped. But at least, like you said, luckily Lupin and Sirius are really on the up and up on things. I’m always really impressed with some of the presents that come through because I’m like, “Dobby sent Harry a painting? Like, a portrait of him? When, what, how did he get that to Grimmauld Place? What? How did that even happen?”
Kat: Well, it’s Dobby. He can just Apparate it there.
Michael: Yeah, I guess he could just snap his fingers, and it’s there.
Michael: Even though it’s not supposed to be a place you can find.
Eric: Who made that sound? That was a perfect sound.
Kat: I did.
Michael: Kat did that.
Eric: That was a perfect…
Kat: I know.
Justin: I love the idea that Harry kept the painting and hung it above his bed at Hogwarts.
Kat: Oh, I hope so. I hope so. That would be worth a lot since Dobby is no longer with us.
Eric: Oh, gosh! [laughs] You’re saying the painting would go up in value.
Kat: Of course it would.
Eric: You’re not wrong.
Kat: It almost always happens.
Michael: It’s an original Dobby. An original Do-bby.
[Eric, Justin, and Michael laugh]
Michael: A Do-bby. An original Do-bby.
[Eric and Kat laugh]
Michael: Especially because she’s such a cool character, poor Tonks just seems to do everything wrong in this chapter, right? Like that Firebolt gift. She’s like, “Here you go. It’s just a little, tiny Firebolt.” And Harry is like, “God, I wish I had my real Firebolt right now. This gift sucks.” [laughs]
Kat: He doesn’t say it sucks. He says he watches it zoom about the room.
Michael: I’m exaggerating for comic effect, Kat, God.
Eric: Longingly. Longingly watches it zoom about the room.
Michael: So sad, so sad.
Kat: Sorry, I’m a literal person.
Michael: [laughs] You’re a Ravenclaw.
Kat: I know.
Eric: [laughs] Yes, so after the gift exchange… and Sirius, by the way, is in very high spirits. He’s just happy to have company for the holidays, but they do go to deliver a present for Kreacher, and they find that he is not around.
Eric: Yeah, this…
Michael: And I was going…
Eric: This obviously… we mention… I mean, it ties in with what happened last chapter, and they basically see a bunch of old… well, they get to see the inside of Kreacher’s closet, and they notice a bunch of photographs of some of the family members and really, just trinkets and things that were meant to be thrown out. Or actually were thrown out.
Kat: I wish the locket [were] there.
Michael: Yeah, that would have been…
Kat: No, I do.
Michael: That would have been a nice little throw away mention.
Kat: Yeah, I mean, that would have been two mentions in this book.
Michael: Yeah. Nice little additional hint.
Eric: There’s just one.
Michael: Shout-out for Harry. He gets… he knows exactly what happened. We always…
Michael: … talk about how Harry is not on the ball.
Michael: But dang. He summarizes exactly what happened, and Sirius is like, [as Sirius] [coughs] “No, no, he’s probably upstairs, smelling my mother’s underwear. Its fine.” [laughs]
Michael: [as Sirius] “Don’t even worry about it.”
Eric: I know. It’s funny because you want to believe the best. You want… Sirius, though, it’s another example of how he’s flawed, but he’s also jumping to the wrong conclusion, and he’s just assuming that everything’s okay. He’s not really taking responsibility for what he did.
Eric: He’s not in the right mind to go […] actually look for Kreacher. He’s despised this elf since early childhood, and now it’s just “Oh, he’s gone. Thank gosh. We’re all very relieved.” But he doesn’t really see it as… he had one job, essentially, which is to stay here and be safe and secure, and he sent Kreacher away and allowed, obviously, the events to unfold that did. So that’s very unfortunate, but we do get to St. Mungo’s again. We do visit Arthur Weasley, and in a particularly high point for his character, across the whole series, we learn that he has used a Muggle remedy…
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Eric: … of stitches to try [to] heal his wound.
Kat: I love this whole fight. It’s so funny.
Eric: Yeah, they basically – Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny – excuse themselves when things are about to get heated.
Kat: Even Bill, Fred, and George are like, “Oh, we’re out of here.”
Eric: Yep, yep, we’re going. Cup of tea, right now. Pronto.
Michael: Lupin even goes over to the next patient. [laughs]
Eric: He’s like, “I don’t know who you are. Hi, I’m Remus Lupin.”
Michael: [laughs] “You look like a werewolf.”
Kat: “Let’s be friends.”
Michael: [laughs] “Want to be in my club?”
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Eric: Yeah, yeah. “My Ignoring Molly and Arthur About to Scream at Each Other Club.”
Eric: But that’s a great moment for Arthur. But we do have… there are two other people [whom] we do see before the chapter is out.
Michael: Oh, my.
Eric: The first – in a complete surprise, but such a pleasant surprise it is – we see Gilderoy Lockhart with all of his charming smile, his perfect teeth, and even a little wavy hair like he used to have.
Eric: He doesn’t remember them.
Kat: You know what I like about this?
Kat: Okay, so we know Jo is cheeky and likes all of this, and she has said that Lockhart is the one character that she’s based off of somebody [whom] she knows.
Kat: So I love that she brought this character back to remind this person that she doesn’t like them.
[Eric and Michael laugh]
Kat: It’s like, “Guess what; here’s a reminder: I don’t like you.”
Eric: Is it really? Because I see it as yeah, it’s a continuation of the character, but I like it for that way because in this way Gilderoy is not that person, where it’s like…
Eric: … him in Book 2, when he acted the way that he did and when he knew what he was doing and all that junk, yes. But now the character has grown, and I see it as like it’s just kind of the natural progression. You go through a Memory Charm, but some of it seems to be coming back, and he just keeps offering to sign autographs for them. He’s like a shell of what he once was.
Kat: Well, right, of course. That’s what I mean. She’s like, “Haha, guess what. Remember this guy? He was a D-bag until he basically blew up his own brain.” So…
Michael: Of course she also…
Justin: I don’t know. He still seemed like it a bit. Doesn’t he?
Justin: He goes, “I used to be a teacher; taught you everything you know, right?”
Eric: Yeah, yeah. He really… but that comes from… I think it comes from a place of innocence, right? He just thinks…
Eric: Because some people… well, we find out that Gladys Gludgeon, who has… I mean, brilliant to have been named in this because we know she was writing to Gilderoy in Book 2. She still writes him weekly, and I think that, really, his head is being filled by some of these admirers. I mean, he’s able to say, “She really admires me; wish I knew why.” But he knows that he’s admired, and so I think that’s where his little confidence comes from, his little “Yeah, I taught you everything you know, didn’t I?”
Kat: It’s like when a five-year-old rides a bike for the first time, and you clap, and they grin. Yeah.
[Eric, Justin, and Michael laugh]
Michael: It is fun to see Lockhart back, though.
Michael: That was the… I don’t think anybody expected this. This had to be probably one of the biggest surprises for a cameo.
Eric: I mean, he’s on the floor for spell damage – that’s what it’s called – and he’s wandering away from his nurse. I mean, the nurse is described as being motherly. She says, “Gilderoy, you naughty boy.”
Eric: But I think that…
Kat: Eric, this is a family show.
Eric: I’m not Noah! Come on.
[Kat and Michael laugh]
Eric: I’m not going to turn that into some kind of hyper-analysis thing.
Eric: No, but she’s just like, “You naughty boy, you got to come back here,” so yeah, it was a bit of a surprise, and do we think that… I mean, I just want to get your opinion. Does it seem like he’s on the mend? After this appearance, did you possibly expect either a)… because he was a villain in Book 2. Did you ever think that he would come back and be a threat? Or did you ever think that he would just come back in general by the end of the series?
Michael: No, I always thought as a cameo and…
Kat: Yeah, permanent resident ward.
Michael: And Rowling said [that] he never got out of there. At least as far as we know, he’s still in there.
Michael: Sad but true.
Kat: To this day.
Eric: Okay. Well, then…
Kat: Wait, I want to mention that there’s a particularly awesome death clue that takes place right here.
Eric: Okay, go ahead.
Kat: As you mention, Lockhart… no, no, no, I want the listeners to go check it out on MuggleNet because I’m not a good explainer of things…
Kat: … as you all know.
[Eric, Kat, and Michael laugh]
Eric: Well, then, of course, we come to our second guest, the special guest cameo of the evening. It’s a little unexpected, but with his grandmother we see Neville Longbottom, and we meet his grandmother, first of all. I mean, this is really quite cool. She has some dialogue, and this grandmother, [whom] we’ve known about – well, obviously throughout the whole series, but there have been bits of her, particularly her clothing in Book 3 – now we actually get to meet the witch, and…
Eric: … she is very pleasant, wouldn’t you say?
Justin: And he’s got the hat.
Michael: [laughs] Girl’s got style.
Eric: I mean, she tells Harry, “Neville speaks highly of you,” or she tells Hermione that, and she’s really nice to them.
Michael: No, this whole scene… part of the reason I wanted to be on this chapter is because this chapter is one of – next to some stuff we hear in Deathly Hallows about Dumbledore’s family – the most upfront chapters about individuals with disabilities, which… listeners, you all know that is a very close issue to my heart. And I really, actually, as difficult as this is for Neville, because keep in mind – and I’m sure if any of you listeners have a disability or have a family member with a disability – you’ve probably been Neville in this very moment. I know I have. It’s not easy to explain this to your friends. This is not an easy thing to talk about with friends. So the fact that it’s not Augusta being overbearing or awful. Actually, she’s actually being… like you said, Eric, she’s actually a pretty great character. Her take is just… because she’s not a teenager, she’s just more blunt and forward about it and honest. And actually, really, when you’re… from what I’ve learned with living with a brother with autism, and again, now that I’m older, I feel like her way is probably the best way, to just be forward about it. Just tell people and move on. But it’s hard, it’s hard. I hate to… I just want to give Neville a big hug in this scene because it’s just… this is one of the.
Michael: It’s a really hard scene to read.
Eric: I think, I mean, these guys… they handle it pretty well. I think they’re going to continue to be good friends of Neville’s, but it’s like the secret got out. He didn’t necessarily want… I mean, he didn’t tell them, so he didn’t want them to know. But they did happen to discover it, and now all of them know about his family. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and Augusta asks Neville, “Are you ashamed?” but he says no, but it’s really just that it was difficult to… I mean, where do you even start? By saying, “Yeah, at Christmas I visit my parents, who are forever damaged by what these Dark wizards did last time.”
Kat: Well, and the thing, too… you have to remember it never exactly comes up. They never talk about… As far as we can tell, Nevile is not super close to any of them. They’re friends, but they’re not close. They’re not sitting around the fireside being like, “Oh, so what are your parents like? Oh, yeah, cool, what about your family?”
Eric: I don’t know about sitting around the fireplace, but he does sleep in the same dormitory as Harry and Ron.
Michael: Oh yeah, but…
Kat: Okay, you… fine. It’s like going to a conference with your friends and sharing a room. That doesn’t mean that you see them and talk to them all the time.
Eric: Well, a conference lasts a weekend. Hogwarts lasts a whole school year.
Kat: You know what I mean.
Michael: Well, but I’m actually kind of on Kat’s page with this just because, more this reread than any other, I’ve really realized, actually, how out of this circle Neville is.
Kat: Yeah, he really is. I mean, he’s part of the second trio, but definitely not the first one.
Michael: Yeah. Hmm.
Eric: Yeah, well, I mean, I think that… I mean, do you think that this changes how close they are to him or he is to them?
Kat: At least to Harry. At some point. But not yet. Neville really grows into himself. Give him another book.
Eric: Yeah. No, for sure, that’s exactly true.
Michael: I think going with them to the ministry at the end is a pretty big moment for, actually, all of them [who] share that experience, and we’ll see that at the beginning of Half-Blood Prince when… how the reconfigured train compartment companions are, so…
Eric: I have to mention before we conclude that one of my favorite theories from the Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter during the… Back before the books were complete, one of the theories for Book 5 was that Neville’s mother was potentially communicating with him through the bubble gum wrappers that she gives him.
Michael: Oh yeah, I remember that.
Eric: She walks across the floor just to give him… And his grandmother is like, “You’ve got a whole bin full of those. Just chuck it or whatever,” but Harry sees, as they walk away, Neville putting it into his pocket.
Eric: I know. It’s sad. It’s really sad. But it’s kind of like if… So if Alice Longbottom was in some sort of shell syndrome where she can’t really communicate but is able to somehow maybe scrawl notes maybe or something – or even if it’s in code – maybe something that she could be somehow communicating with them through… maybe something is written on the bubble gum wrappers. So I always really liked that idea. It doesn’t ever pan out. It doesn’t come to fruition, but I love that idea because… but it’s also because it’s more comfortable than saying, “Well, no, the gum wrappers don’t actually have anything on them, and it doesn’t mean anything. She just does it.”
Michael: Yeah, I think that’s why I like that it’s not a big thing because I think this is a… and again, something that isn’t in the movie, shockingly, but it is an extremely iconic moment from the books that I think a lot of fans carried with them after reading it. And I know, again, just for… as somebody who has an individual with disabilities in his family, that’s kind of that thing, those quirks, those strange things that the individual may do that other people might think strange, but you think… I mean, the ways I communicate with Charlie just to have a conversation with him are weird. They’re strange. And I remember at this age, I would have been just super conscious of that, wouldn’t want anybody to really see that. That was just the thing that me and Charlie shared. But now, no big deal. That’s just how it is, and I take pride in that actually, really more than anything.
Kat: I hope that Frank and Alice are still alive.
Michael: Yeah, I hope so. I hope there’s some… It’s so sad that that plotline just ends here with that.
Eric: I know.
Kat: It is, yeah.
Michael: That there’s no really more much of that. But at the same time…
Eric: I think Neville and Hannah probably bring their kids by, that sort of thing.
Kat: Do they have kids? I don’t think they have kids.
Eric: Oh, they will one day.
Michael: [laughs] Just wait ’til post-2017, right?
[Eric and Michael laughs]
Eric: No, but I did want to say [that] there’s a really brilliant moment that the chapter ends on. It’s kind of a click moment for Hermione because of course none of them had any idea that this happened to Neville’s parents specifically or that, I think as Harry says, it was Bellatrix Lestrange who did this to Neville’s parents and that’s what put her in Azkaban. And Hermione just has this moment where she stops in her tracks and says, “Bellatrix Lestrange did that? The woman that Kreacher has got a photo of in his den?” So I think something crucial has clicked here. That now they’ve seen the inside of Kreacher’s den, they’ve seen the photograph that he has of different members of his family, and Hermione realizes now – for the first time, it’s personal – that the people that… that Kreacher might not be the perfect elf. For the first time, she’s in opposition with Kreacher, I think, now as a result of this realization.
Kat: Yeah, I’d never thought of that. That’s true.
Justin: Do you think when… is it later in the book, or had that already happened that the prisoners escaped from Azkaban that that thought might cross Hermione’s mind that she saw the picture of Bellatrix Lestrange in Kreacher’s den, and now Bellatrix has escaped?
Eric: I mean, it’s a terrifying thought. Well, it’s terrifying just thinking that Kreacher could be going to live with [an]other family and serving [an]other family, and it’d still be allowed. But obviously, the end… that’s the big reveal or whatever, but I’m thinking, “Yeah, I mean, if you look at the Black family tree, it’s foreshadowed throughout this whole book.” So the fact that Bellatrix is… Bellatrix in the movie is like, “Okay, yeah, she’s the girl you hate, right?” She’s the main female villain in the whole series or whatever, but in the books it’s less so. In the books there’s… she doesn’t stand out as much, I don’t think. I mean, yes, she does everything that she does in the movies, but it’s not beating you over the head with it, so I think that when Hermione realizes this, I tend to think in broader strokes like, “Oh, yeah, well, Kreacher likes bad people,” but at the same time, she is related, and so I can see how, I mean, maybe Hermione would come up with that notion, that idea.
Michael: I think the reason she doesn’t is because plot-wise, as we were talking about before, in my opinion, unlike how the Ginny-Harry thing comes up like that, Bellatrix has been excellently foreshadowed up to this point. We haven’t quite met her proper yet. We’re about to. We’ve seen her in the flesh once very briefly, but we’re about to have our first live encounter with her at the end of this book, and she, unlike some of the other things we discussed, she has been very excellently built up, and this is just another moment that adds another layer to her build-up. In a way, she’s almost built up in a slower way than Voldemort was in Book 1 before we meet him so that we know how terrifying she is. And I think, too, the mention of that and Hermione connecting “Oh, that’s the same photo” is also meant for us to say, “Maybe that’s where Kreacher went.” Because she hangs out, on occasion, at the Malfoy manor.
Eric: Yeah, but we haven’t seen the Malfoy manor yet. We don’t know that.
Michael: We know it exists, but we haven’t seen it. And there’s that whole connection of Bellatrix is related to the Malfoys, etc., etc.
Eric: I don’t think it’s overtly stated, though. Okay, think about this: The beginning of the next book, “Spinner’s End,” Bellatrix and Narcissa are running through the woods together, sisters, etc. That happens then, but up until this point, I don’t think we have any reason to believe that even Bellatrix and Narcissa would be together.
Michael: Don’t we? Because…
Justin: Well, we know they’re sisters.
Michael: Yeah, I was going to say, “Don’t we already get that from the family tree?”
Eric: Yeah, we know they’re sisters, but that doesn’t mean they’re close or…
Michael: Yeah, but I think…
Justin: But I mean, they’re both involved with Voldemort, and if Bellatrix has escaped, where else is she going to go?
Kat: I think maybe the connection comes from that, Justin. That’s probably right. We know that Bellatrix is bad and was probably with Voldemort, and therefore, we assume that because she’s sisters with Narcissa and we know that Lucius is a Death Eater and we know that Draco is not a cool guy, Narcissa and Bellatrix are probably hanging out. I think that’s where the association comes in.
Eric: I guess I should have figured that out.
Michael: I think that maybe that’s, too, more of those… like, we’ve talked about before, maybe that’s one of those hints that you’re truly meant to pick up on a reread, not on a first read.
Kat: Right, right. Yeah, with the seven novels, right, yeah.
Michael: Yeah. And before we end, I just had to say – because I just know the listeners will catch it if we don’t mention it – Miriam Stroud, the Healer who gets fired, as she should be for being so stupid… we see her give Bode that plant that’s going to strangle him in a few chapters. So…
Kat: Right. Dummy.
Michael: So that’s what you get, Miriam Stroud. At least you got off with full pay. [laughs]
Justin: Can you imagine if she’d touched that when she’d… I can’t remember how it was delivered but…
Justin: … what if she touched it? Like, she tried to water it or something?
Justin: That could have been a horrifying thing right there in the ward.
Kat: Is that how it works?
Michael: I don’t know how it actually activates to choke you.
Kat: Right, but that would be funny, Justin. You are correct. That would have been a funny scene.
Kat: Even just to read about it.
Eric: I’m trying to remember now. Wasn’t that plant intended for somebody else?
Michael: No, it was meant for him.
Kat: I don’t think so.
Michael: Bode is recovering right now. He’s about to be able to tell what happened to him.
Eric: Oh, okay. I got it.
Michael: So the Death Eaters sent him Devil’s Snare clippings.
Eric: Yeah. Well, I believe that concludes our discussion for Chapter 23.
Kat: After we’ve had a nice cry over Neville. Right?
Eric: Let’s all hold hands.
Kat: The Could-Have-Been.
Michael: So before we end this episode, we always like to ask a Podcast Question of the Week, and this week, we’re looking back on Hermione, but not just Hermione – her relationship with her family. The question is “Not for the first time, Hermione offhandedly mentions in this chapter that she has left her vacation with her family early, claiming to her parents that she needs to study for her exams. As has been noted in the past by the fandom, Hermione often monopolizes her time with her parents in order to prioritize her life in the magical world. How is this a reflection of Hermione’s relationship with her parents? Is there an additional layer to that [that] we do not see?” This has been speculated lots over the years by the fandom. You will find many a fan fiction on MuggleNet Fan Fiction about it. But please head over to the main Alohomora! site and help us answer this question about Hermione and her family.
Kat: And just to wrap up this episode, we want to thank you, Justin, very much, for not only your great input but [also] for creating the perfect four of the Houses, so thank you.
[Eric and Kat laugh]
Justin: No worries. Thank you for having me. It was a lot of fun.
Kat: Great, thanks for joining.
Eric: If you would like to be on the show, just like Justin, there are many ways that you can do that. There’s a list of obligations and steps to take. Find out how you can be on the show by visiting our “Be on the Show!” page at alohomora.mugglenet.com. If you have a set of Apple headphones, you’re all set. If not, there’s more stuff that you might need. So go check that out at alohomora.mugglenet.com.
Kat: And in the meantime, if you just want to keep in touch with us, you can find us on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN, facebook.com/openthedumbledore, [and] on Tumblr at mnalohomorapodcast. Don’t forget to follow us on Snapchat at mn_alohomora. And of course, there'[re] several ways you can leave us a message. The first is our phone number, which is 206-GO-ALBUS (206-462-5287). And of course, audioBoom, which is free and on our website at alohomora.mugglenet.com. All you need is an Internet connection and a microphone and you are set. Just do try [to] keep them under 60 seconds so that we can play them on the show. So it could be a reaction to something we said, a question for an upcoming episode, a limerick, a song, a little jig, whatever you want. We just want to hear it. So send them over.
Michael: And did you know Alohomora! has a gift shop at St. Mungo’s? Well, we do. And it’s also online, of course, if you can’t get all the way to St. Mungo’s. We have new shirts – House shirts, to be precise. I believe we’re talking about “Your Ravenclaw is showing,” “Your Hufflepuff is showing,” etc., etc. [laughs] You get the gist. It’s hilarious, and you should get some. They’re pretty awesome-looking, actually. So check out our store for that and many other pieces of merchandise from Alohomora! And we also have ringtones that are free and available on our Alohomora! website.
Eric: Then of course there’s also the app, which is awesome. It’s available seemingly worldwide. Prices do vary. We offer episode transcripts, bloopers, alternate endings, host vlogs, and more. I believe I’m in charge of the app content, so we will see what hijinks I can get up and into this week. But the app is available, as I say, across all platforms, so go check that out. The information about it is on our main website. And I have been Eric Scull.
Kat: You “have been Eric Scull”? You are no longer?
Eric: That’s how I outro. It says, “Outro: I have been…”
Michael: I have been, and still currently am and will be, Michael Harle.
[Show music begins]
Kat: I’m Kat Miller.
Kat: Thank you for listening to Episode 101 of Alohomora!
Eric: Open the Dumbledore. And stitch it closed again.
[Show music continues]
Michael: There we go. Can you check that? See if that’s…?
Kat: Ooh, ooh, let me sit up.
Michael: [laughs] God, careful. Oh my God.
[Eric and Justin laugh]
Kat: I was [lying] down on the bed.
Michael: That sounded exactly like vomit. That was…
Michael: [laughs] It did!
Justin: [laughs] Yeah.
Eric: Now we begin Chapter 23 with our summary of the chapter.
Eric: Harry begins Christmas at Grimmauld… whatever. The editor can…
Michael: It’s beautiful. Keep going. It’s beautiful, it’s beautiful.
Eric: Harry continues…