Transcript – Episode 129

[Show music begins]

Caleb Graves: This is Episode 129 of Alohomora! for March 21, 2015.

[Show music continues]

Caleb: Hey everyone, welcome to another week of wonderful Harry Potter discussion on Alohomora! I’m Caleb Graves.

Alison Siggard: I’m Alison Siggard.

Michael Harle: I’m Michael Harle. And our guest this week is Ben Wahlberg. Welcome, Ben, to the show. Thanks for coming on.

Ben Wahlberg: Thanks for having me, guys. This is so exciting.

Michael: Listeners, Ben sent us a really excellent audition discussing Anthony Goldstein and being Jewish at Hogwarts. And this was before Rowling released the confirmation that Anthony Goldstein was in fact Jewish. So you hit that one on the head, Ben. Congratulations on that.

Ben: Thanks. You know… [laughs] he’s a Ravenclaw prefect, the only words he says are “Hear, hear!”… He’s the best character.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: It was such a great analysis, and tell us about you at Hogwarts. What house would you be in and all of that great stuff?

Ben: Ravenclaw. Got Pottermore sorted into Ravenclaw as well.

Michael: Okay, so you and Anthony would be besties.

Ben: That’s what I’m trying to say here. I always want to write the fan fiction “Anthony Goldstein and the Magic of Hanukkah,” where turned Seventh Year he would teach everybody about Hanukkah and how it’s just like how the Death Eaters are oppressing everyone, and you got to pound together and fight them and all that jazz.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: You know, that is so good that I think that transcends fan fic to being canon. Let’s just call it canon.

Ben: That’s what I’m saying!

Michael: I would love that. We know Rowling is listening to the show.

[Ben laughs]

Caleb: This week’s chapter is Chapter 11 of Half-Blood Prince, “Hermione’s Helping Hand.” So make sure you read that before you keep listening.

Alison: Well, before we jump into the chapter, though, we’re going to recap some of our comments from last chapter, Chapter 10. And okay, guys, Kat said to get to 400 comments, but I am like in shock when I went to go look at these today. This morning when I went to go sort through them, there were 345. By the time – and that was at some point – it started at 323 and by the time I was finished, there were 351. And I checked just before we started recording and there were 371.

Caleb: This has to be a new record.

Alison: I’m pretty sure it is.

Caleb: Wow.

Alison: But way to step up to that plate, guys. That was… woo! And if you’re just listening now and you haven’t gone to read that, go read it all because they were fantastic and it was really hard to pick them out.

Michael: Golly, you would think Half-Blood Prince was popular or something like that.

Alison: A lot of people were saying, “This is Half-Blood Prince. What are we going to do in those important chapters in Deathly Hallows?”

Michael: [laughs] Oh, God.

Caleb: It’s interesting because it was a chapter that was away from Harry for the most part to get that many comments.

Alison: Yeah. So, well done. Applause for everyone. Anyway, so our first comment that I picked out was from CentaurSeeker121 talking about Merope and the name, and it says,

“In Greek mythology, Merope is one of the seven Pleiades, daughters of Atlas and Pleione. In one version of the story the hunter Orion fell in love with them and relentlessly pursued their affection for twelve years. At first, they were turned into doves by Zuess, but they were later turned into stars along with Orion so he can forever pursue them across the skies. INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, Merope is the faintest of the stars and it is said that the reason for this is because Merope is the only one of her sisters to marry a MORTAL while the rest of her sisters all went out and relations with GODS. Merope is often called the ‘lost Pleiad’ because this star was not discovered and charted at the same time as the others ‘sisters.’ One version of myth even says that Merope hid her face in shame because she had an affair with a mortal.”

Michael: That’s excellent.

Alison: I did not know this.

Caleb: Oh, me neither.

Michael: I remembered probably next to Xenophilius, Merope is probably one of the weirdest names we come across.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: That is bizarre. The names in Harry Potter are weird, but this one definitely takes the cake. And Rowling never chooses a name without reason.

Ben: It also has a nice meaning, a phoenetic kind of feel to it. Merope always reminded me of morose, and it’s a very sad situation.

Alison: Oh, yeah.

Michael: Mhm. Yeah.

Caleb: Yeah, that’s how I originally saw the name – as “Me-rope”.

Michael: Apparently, it is pronounced… as far as I could check in my research, it is pronounced “Me-ro-pe”. It sounds a lot prettier if you have a Greek accent obviously.

[Alison, Caleb, and Michael laugh]

Michael: But yeah, I guess it’s “Me-ro-pe.” I used to pronounce it “Me-rope” as well.

Alison: I’ve gone back and forth so many times. [laughs]

Michael: I know, it’s such a weird name…

Caleb: Her-mi-one?

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: I did know people who pronounced it like that back in the day.

Alison: Oh, man.

Michael: But yeah, that’s a great breakdown of the name because of course…

Alison: Yeah.

Michael: It’s just as obvious when you read Prisoner of Azkaban and “Remus Lupin,” but of course as a kid it doesn’t give anything away…

Alison: Yeah.

Michael: … because you don’t know that history. But yeah, if you look into all the names in Harry Potter, of course there’s deeper meaning.

Alison: The interesting thing about this too, is all the Blacks are named after stars, right?

Michael: Yes.

Alison: So an interesting correlation there, that we have other characters – other families – named after stars.

Michael: Mhm. Yeah.

Caleb: The pure-blood families.

Michael: Yeah.

Caleb: Two very prominent ones anyway.

Alison: Yeah. I wonder if that was a thing at one point. [laughs]

Michael: That would explain why they have such weird names.

[Alison, Caleb, and Michael laugh]

Ben: Ironic that it’s the centaurs that do the Divination from the stars then, if the wizards are naming themselves after these stars with significance.

Alison: Oh, yeah. That is weird.

Ben: I don’t know if that carries or goes deeper.

Michael: I think we do know to some degree it does. Because… I believe Draco is named after a star as well.

Alison:. Oh, yeah.

Michael: And I think on Pottermore it says that his parents specifically named him that because the name, as far as what the star was named after, carries weight for success. So I think it does weigh in.

Alison: All right, so another big discussion that was going on in the comments this week was about the tarot card discussion we had. We got a ton of really great comments about this – a lot of people sharing their opinions. So definitely go read this one. But the ones I picked out were from Casey L., who said,

“After that, the ten, I think, points most to Harry, because it talks about using 10 swords to kill a person, and there are 10 pretty clear attempts to kill him in the stories. (1. When he is a baby. 2. Sorcerer’s Stone Quidditch match, 3. Sorcerer’s Stone Battle with Quirrell. 4. Chamber of Secrets, 5. Goblet of Fire Graveyard, 6. Goblet of Fire against Crouch Jr., 7. Order of the Phoenix Under Voldemort’s possession, 8. Deathly Hallows At Bertha Jorkins’s house, 9. Deathly Hallows In the forest and 10. Deathly Hallows At the end against Voldemort.)”

Michael: Phew! [laughs]

Alison: Wow. [laughs] All I could say to that one was, wow.

Ben: We’re not allowed to know these things.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: You know, that was a really… I’m glad you guys have gone into such in-depth discussion on that on the last show. Because we know that everything that Trelawney says, especially when she’s drunk or unaware, tend to be more meaningful.

[Alison and Ben laugh]

Alison: Yeah. Well, our next one on this topic is from AFreeElf, who says,

“I definitely see Draco as the two of spades – throughout this book he is an increasingly conflicted character. Also particularly the bit about ‘knowing what to do against actually doing it’: he knows what he has to do to keep himself and his family safe, but he gradually realises that he does not want to do it. I always assumed Trelawney was referring to Harry with the knave of spades just because she says ‘one who dislikes the questioner’ and then stops right opposite where Harry is hiding, then thinks the card must be wrong: she’s annoyed that the cards show that Harry dislikes her. Harry isn’t exactly ‘removed from emotion,’ especially not compared to Dumbledore or Snape, but as you say he is less influenced by them now and seems to have mastered some control over them.”

Our final point about these cards comes from Hufflepug, who actually disagrees with one of our previous comments and says,

“Ten of swords: I said Dumbledore on this one. In Deathly Hallows, Harry finds out about Dumbledore’s past: how he and Grindelwald sought power and how he won the Elder Wand, which is the very embodiment of that power. The definition of this card says ‘all who take the sword perish with the sword’ and that’s pretty much verbatim what the legend of the Elder wand says. This is predicting Dumbledore’s death and how if he hadn’t won the Elder Wand so many years ago then he wouldn’t have had to die here.”

Which I thought was another interesting connection to the next book.

Michael: I think that’s another reason why I picked that Dumbledore would be ten – because he falls on his own sword, so to speak. He’s a victim of his own planning because he has to be.

Alison: Well, that was just a small sampling of so many great comments that we got.

[Michael laughs]

Alison: There were a lot of great threads, a lot of great conversations going on as well. There was a lot more on these cards. There was a whole huge thing about Merope and the love potion, which led into how love potions even work. There was a whole thing about Dumbledore’s lessons or lack thereof. Some people were saying that they felt like this is where the books’ downfall was in – a lack of actual teaching Dumbledore gave. So, everyone go read those because they were fabulous, even if there were so many of them. There was also quite a thing going where people were counting down how many comments we needed left to actually get to 400.

[Alison, Caleb, and Michael laugh]

Michael: Upping the comment count by counting down comments, that’s funny.

Alison: Yeah. So head on over to and check all of those out.

Michael: But also on, we had a Podcast Question of the Week for you listeners to answer, and you definitely stepped up to the challenge. This was an absolutely fascinating question that I was very glad that I was assigned to look at the responses. As a reminder, the question was,

“At the end of this chapter, Dumbledore says that Merope’s powers were suppressed by the way her father and brother treated her. This is paralleled a book later when we learn about Dumbledore’s sister Ariana, who also does not show her power. However, Merope’s powers simply seem to disappear while Ariana’s burst out of her. So what is the difference between the two? Why do they react in such different ways?”

And I had quite a spread of responses. The general consensus was that it boiled down to circumstance and the different experiences that the two went through. But exploring it a little more in-depth, we’ll start with a comment from Casey L., who said,

“I think one definite difference is their ages. Neither was very old, but Merope was old enough to have gone to Hogwarts and get her education and gain some control of her magic before she suppressed it. Ariana had not yet gone to Hogwarts, and it seems the Dumbledore family never felt comfortable sending her. I’d be curious to know what her family tried to do to bring her magic out in a safe way, but somewhere along the line, they apparently felt there was no helping her. Obviously they felt they couldn’t ask for help outside the family. Nonetheless, the age difference and relative maturity may be a factor in their ability to control their magic.”

The reason I wanted to read this comment was, the big question was – because this elicited a lot of questions from the listeners and I wanted to ask you guys this – do we think that Merope actually went to Hogwarts? Because I always got the impression that she did not.

Caleb: Yeah, I definitely don’t think she did.

Alison: Yeah, I don’t think she did.

Michael: Because she does not really… even at Hogwarts… if she had gone to Hogwarts I think she’d show a modicum more amount of magical ability.

Alison: Yeah.

Ben: Or found a way to leave her family and get adopted by better parents.

Alison: Yeah.

Michael: Possibly. Easily, she definitely could have.

Ben: Run away from home once you’re away from home.

Michael: Well, and as people pointed out – one, Dumbledore mentions at the end of last chapter that Marvolo probably couldn’t have fed himself without Merope.

[Ben laughs]

Michael: So I can’t imagine that he would have let her go for that reason alone, but also that… there was also talk too, because Merope has a wand. Whether it’s her own or somebody else’s, I suppose is up for debate. I don’t know if that’s been confirmed or not. And there was also discussion about the fact that Merope actually learns and knows how to brew a love potion, which doesn’t seem like something anybody in her family would show her. So people were wondering if that was something she might have learned about if she had gone to Hogwarts. So, there was quite a bit of debate about Merope’s history, which of course we will not get confirmation on until somebody puts it up on Pottermore – Jo.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: More, more, more is what we want! But our next comment comes from HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis, which was an excellent username, and they said,

“What is unique about Ariana are the magic-eruptions she suffers from. We’ve explained that she is not able to control them because of her trauma and because she was never trained as a witch. Is this the difference between her and, for example, the Longbottoms and Lockhart? They were trained and later became mentally ill, so that they cannot use magic anymore. Lockhart seems to have forgotten about it (that could also be the case for Alice and Frank, but we don’t have proof for that). Do they have outbursts like Ariana? Or does the training prevent that, even though they might not remember their magical abilities?”

So I thought that was an interesting way to actually bring some more characters that we’ve seen who have become mentally damaged by experiences with magic into the picture. But we’ve got a flip side here where they have learned magic. And as far as we know, the Longbottoms and Lockhart don’t use magic anymore. I’m assuming that’s correct…

Ben: I doubt [St.] Mungo’s would trust them with a wand.

Michael: Yeah.

Alison: Yeah.

Michael: That seems like something that they would have taken away from them.

Ben: For their own protection.

Michael: Well, yes. And then I’m assuming since they’re on the… what is it, the Permanent Spell Damage Ward?

Alison: Uh-huh.

Michael: … that they’re not being trained to use magic again. But I didn’t know, too if… because we’ve talked before, when you don’t have a wand to channel magic how dangerous that can be.

Ben: I bet they do have people on hand to deal with magical outbursts.

Michael: Probably.

Alison: Yeah.

Ben: Especially in brain damage situations. That’s a fan fic right there.

Michael: Yeah, yeah, there’s definitely, I think, more to that that could definitely be explained as far as the workings of St. Mungo’s. But I thought that was interesting to tie actually some… I thought that was a good job, HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis, for tying in some other great examples that we’ve seen that could lend to why, perhaps, how we compare Ariana and Merope. And then we got into some really deep stuff starting with ISeeThestrals, who said,

“One thing I had thought about in reference to Merope is that she was born into a family that practiced incest in order to save their pure-blood line. It was stated that all the inbreeding in the family resulted in instability and violence, which is made clear when we meet the Gaunt family. I would imagine this could also affect Merope’s powers, at least while she was young. While Morfin was unstable in his mind, Merope was unstable with her magical abilities. And of course being trapped with an abusive father suppressed the chance of her powers to grow despite the unnaturalness of her birth. We learned earlier from Pottermore that a lot of pure-blood wizards were driven to marry into their own families, and I would imagine a consequence of such a practice [would] be many [S]quibs or a low chance of wizards and witches being able to perform great magic, but it isn’t so. Merope could be a special case where inbreeding affected her powers, if not to a small degree. Ariana, on the other hand, was not a product of inbreeding, but she did suffer a moment of abuse by the three [M]uggle boys that emotionally scarred her. There are many real-life stories of people being so traumatized by something at an early age that it can completely alter their personalities and/or behavior. I’m not sure if it was stated exactly what the boys did to her, but it’s clear Ariana is one of [these] cases. Magic is not just in a person’s blood, capable of being used whenever the person desires. It is also linked to the person’s emotions, if not the majority of the time. So if a witch or wizard is experiencing some form of emotional instability, the magic would also be unstable. I tend to think of the Dumbledores as being a particularly powerful family, and Ariana was meant to be quite powerful, if not for the event that scarred her. Thus, all the power she was meant to express couldn’t be suppressed properly, causing it to burst out of her control. I don’t see Merope as ever being meant to be as powerful, despite being pure-blood. Unlike Ariana, she suffered traumatic experiences since birth, and once the trauma was gone and her emotions lifted (especially due to her love for Tom), she was able to activate the power that might have disappeared completely.”


Alison: Wow.

Michael: Thoughts on that about the incest angle because I never even thought of that before.

Alison: I think it’s really interesting. It goes back to this question of, “Okay, where does magic come from? Is it genetic? Is it something else?” Yeah, I just think that’s really fascinating. [laughs]

Michael: Well, I think that’s…

Caleb: Yeah, I’ve always thought it was definitely genetic and that it’s not just necessarily a single trait because otherwise, there would be no Squibs or different variations. I think it’s very complex, which I think is pretty reasonable to assume, and just like there are chromosomal mutations and disorders and diseases because of incest in the real world, or people who are just too similar chromosomally, the same would be true for magic. But I also think that that isn’t shown as much; there’s not as much evidence of that in the book. I think the trauma side is much more prevalent here, and I think, like this commenter said, that once Merope was finally free of that trauma, she started to flourish, for lack of a better word, and making a love potion isn’t the most complex form of magic, so it’s reasonable that she would be able to do that, working, trying it out…

Alison: I guess it would depend on what kind of love potion it was, too. Because I think they say some are tricky, but…

Caleb: Yeah, if it’s Amortentia, then that’s one thing, but yeah, I guess we never really know for sure.

Ben: I think the reason we don’t have evidence about a biological basis is because wizards a) just aren’t interested in it, but I think it could be related to something called a diathesis stress model that I learned about in psych class this spring where you’re predisposed for something in genetics, but life effects cause something large to happen, so perhaps you’re predisposed to depression, but actual events cause you to suffer from depression, so the trauma involved in each of their lives is what triggers their magical outburst. I’d love to put a wizard under a microscope.

Michael: Well, yeah, no. It’s interesting to think of it in terms of genetics because like you said, Ben, wizards don’t really concern themselves with that kind of science because they’re more stuck in the medieval era anyway. And I…

Ben: It’s not like Jedis and midi-chlorians.

Michael: No, no. Well, and Rowling has stated in certain cases that genetics do play a part because she did state that… because a lot of people asked her whether Dudley had magical children because he might have had the genetics through Aunt Petunia, but she confirmed that he did not because Uncle Vernon’s anti-wizard genetics stamped them out of any future generations. [laughs] So apparently, Dudley will not be starting a line of wizards again. Uncle Vernon effectively completely stamped that out.

Caleb: Which I think we can agree is probably for the best.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: Probably, probably.

Ben: I don’t know.

Michael: All those fan fictions where Dudley has a wizard or witch for a child are sadly not canon. But…

Ben: I always thought that if he did or… one time I saw a brilliant thing where he adopts a wizard child, that he figures it out, that he can tell that some kid in an orphanage is really just a wizard and adopts them because of the terrible life that his cousin is given and wants to make sure that no other orphan wizard has to deal with that, which of course is total fanfic.

[Michael laughs]

Ben: But I think he would develop and become a good person out of it, and it sucks that Vernon’s anti-wizard genes stomped that out.

Michael: [laughs] But yeah, I am inclined to agree, Caleb, that it’s more Merope’s situation that is stifling her magic. Obviously, unfortunately, we don’t really know how powerful Merope had the potential to be, but I do also agree that there seems to have been a pretty strong genetic magical trait in the Dumbledore family and that Ariana… I really like the idea that Ariana’s bursts of magic were – especially as traumatic and large as they were – because she had greater magical potential than usual. And our last comment from Saiyangirl goes into that pretty in-depth, and I wanted to read it because it touched a very personal chord with me, and it’s something that I kind of wanted to hold off and discuss in Deathly Hallows, but since it did come up with this question, I did want to discuss it here. And Saiyangirl said,

“Although Percival and Kendra can hardly be given an award for dealing with their daughter’s predicament properly, I believe there is enough evidence to say that they truly cared for Ariana. Percival was so angry at what those [M]uggle boys did to Ariana when she was young that he attacked them and ended up in Azkaban for it. And even though I cannot forgive Kendra for basically imprisoning her daughter in her own home, it seems that she did her best to care for Ariana and actively ensure her happiness; she just feared her being sent to St Mungo’s. Kendra and Aberforth went out of their way to spend time with Ariana and keep her happy. I think a [M]uggle equivalent of Ariana would be a child with [a]utism who’s never really learned to live in the outside world and perceives unknown people as dangerous. The people in the child’s family are familiar and therefore safe. And sometimes in these instances, the family basically starts catering [toward] the child in order to keep him or her comfortable and to prevent tantrums, which is what Ariana’s magic-explosions always sounded like to me; it was as if she was stuck as a 6-year-old and would throw tantrums when things didn’t go as she expected. Merope, however, was mentally and physically abused by her own family. She was put down and told she was inadequate and worthless so often that she’d started to believe it. And so she suppressed her magic in order to avoid her family’s anger; she became as unnoticeable as possible, as she knew they’d be less likely to pay attention to her and more likely to leave her alone when she did that. For Merope, using magic could only mean being too remarkable, which she’d most likely be punished for anyway. And in her sense of inferiority and state of panic, it became difficult for her to perform magic when it was asked of her. Whereas Ariana was only endangered by a single incident [that] she suffered in her childhood and was otherwise surrounded by a loving family who tried to shield her from outside danger, Merope was continuously surrounded by dangerous and unpredictable circumstances.”

And the comment goes on to discuss issues of PTSD and how those memories affect behavior and again, contrasting mental illness with physical and emotional abuse. And I did just have to point this comment out, of course, because I agree, Saiyangirl, that Ariana can be read as an analogy for autism, definitely. That’s how I saw it when I read it because listening to the story of Percival and Kendra Dumbledore was pretty much like reading about my family life as a child. It’s not too far off from the mark, and the idea that Ariana has become mentally damaged… and a lot of people were wondering what happened to Ariana and if she’s actually truly mentally damaged or if her magic is just damaged. I think most of us would probably agree she is actually what would be the equivalent of a mental disability, correct?

Alison: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah. So I thought that was a really excellent comment. There were a lot of debates about Ariana’s particular state, but there was a pretty definite assurance that Merope had undergone physical and mental abuse by most of our listeners. But I wanted to make sure [to] give a few shout-outs to some of the comments that I couldn’t include from CentaurSeeker121, ChocolateFrogRavenclaw, DisKid, Gryffindora The Explorer…

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: That was an excellent username… The Half Blood Princess, Mrs SlrKls, Phoenix, ScarletGhost, Silverdoe25, and SlytherinKnight. And I wanted to do a Shout-out Maxima to EllenDawn, enougheffingowls, RoseLumos, and WizardorWhat. You four, your comments almost made it in. I just didn’t have quite enough space for them this week, unfortunately, but they were no less wonderful than the comments that were included. And listeners, if you want to read some of those thoughts, please visit, and you can still join in the Podcast Question of the Week discussion.

Ben: I love ring composition. It’s one of my favorite things that you guys discuss on the show. I think about it every time I read the Potter books. This idea that Squibs are introduced first with Filch in Book 2, yeah? The concept? And then we have, I guess, in Book 5 a little bit of mention with M[r]s. Figg being a Squib as well, but this is our next big important Squib. On the other side of Book 2 is Book 6, right?

Michael: Yes. They would connect on the ring.

Ben: I just thought that was interesting.

Michael: Well, yeah, and technically speaking – and a lot of people did discuss that – Merope is not a Squib, despite her father’s belief that she is.

Ben: That’s fair.

Michael: But definitely a worthy connection.

Ben: I mean, the whole book is the… the biggest connection is this Voldemort history, right? Seeing Voldemort as a kid in Book 2 and then seeing him grow up again in Book 6. Brilliant. It’s so brilliant.

Caleb: [laughs] All right, so we are going to move onto the chapter discussion for this week’s episode.

[Half-Blood Prince Chapter 11 intro begins]

Harry: All right, girls, one lap around the pitch. Ready?

[Sound of whistle blowing]

Harry: Chapter 11.

[Sound of broomstick clattering]

[Sound of girls laughing]

Harry: “Hermione’s Helping hand.”

[Sound of girls laughing]

Harry: Oh, boy.

[Sound of girls laughing]

[Half-Blood Prince Chapter 22 intro ends]

Caleb: Okay, so this chapter, which I have dubbed “The Teenage Chapter”…

[Everyone laughs]

Caleb: Actually, maybe I shouldn’t dub it that because there are quite a few of those in this book.

[Alison, Caleb, and Michael laugh]

Caleb: So let me slow down a little bit on that. But a quick summary [of] this chapter: School is finally starting up and getting much more challenging for the sixth year students, the trio discuss[es] their dilemma with Hagrid and not taking Care of Magical Creatures, Quidditch tryouts are upon us, while Lavender continues flirting slightly with Ron, Harry gets a new Potions book but decides to keep with the trusty old one that he has discovered, Dumbledore’s absence at Hogwarts is noticed, and the trio finally visit[s] Hagrid and learn[s] some sad news about one of Hagrid’s pals, shall we say. And the chapter closes out with some news on what’s going on with the Ministry and a search at the Malfoy manor. So just to start off, as they get into classes and Harry is getting ready for the Gryffindor Quidditch tryouts, which will happen later in the chapter and we’ll talk about, Hermione brings up that one of the reasons that there are so many people trying out for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and just so much going on around here, is because people are actually starting to believe Harry’s story and that he is indeed the chosen one. Of course, this is very early in the book that this nickname of the Chosen One is being used more and more on Harry, but now we are seeing the spread of all of these people really believing his story and coming back from this idea that a lot of them previously had not believed anything he or Dumbledore said. And that starts… it comes off of the travel and the Pensieve in the past chapter of learning about the Riddles and the Gaunts and as we move forward, learning more about what’s going to happen with the prophecy and Voldemort. But just the important tone setting that people are starting to believe Harry more, and that brings some good and bad things in very important but also trivial ways.

Michael: But more importantly, Harry is super sexy now …

[Alison and Caleb laugh]

Alison: Which is… this conversation always cracks me up because it’s basically like a Harmony shipper’s dream except for we’re actually seeing that Ron likes Hermione.

[Ben and Caleb laugh]

Ben: My favorite line: I love “‘I’m tall,’ said Ron inconsequentially.”

[Alison, Ben, and Caleb laugh]

Alison: I love when there’s a line where she just shoots him a look like, “Ron, shh. We’re not talking about you right now.”

Michael: No, and it’s funny… this reread more than any, and I think especially because of how we’ve really talked up Hermione and talked up Harry and talked Ron down a little bit lately, I feel like… because when I first read the books, I thought that the Harmony shippers were absolutely crazy because it’s so obvious that it’s Ron and Hermione. It was very obvious to me when I first read it. But I mean, even though I’m still very much Ron/Hermione, I can see it. I can see why you could legitimately think that, not withstanding the traditional assumption that the lead male and female will get together but also that… Hermione is very complimentary of Harry. Not just…

Alison: But sometimes she’s being very factual. I think one of the best things [is when] she’s like, “You’re this and this and this and this and this, and that’s why everyone loves you.” [laughs]

Michael: Yeah, yeah. That’s true. She definitely boils it down in a more distant observer way. Not like she’s interested herself. She’s being almost practical about her observations, not like she’s in that group of people who admires Harry for quite the same reasons.

Ben: Right before that conversation, we get our first mention of the [Water-Making Spell], and I like that she builds up that water spell because it’s so important later in the locket chamber. I like seeing Harry use spells for practical reasons that he learns in class. I don’t know. It’s just nice payoff. [laughs]

Michael: Since he never does that.

Ben: Yeah. Here it is: Aguamenti. She just slips it in there.

Caleb: So it’s shortly after that comment – poor Ron points out that he is indeed tall – and Harry, as I mentioned in the summary, gets his Advanced Potion-Making book from Flourish and Blotts, but he decides to keep the Half-Blood Prince’s copy because it has proven so trustworthy at outdoing Hermione in Potions, but Hermione gets at the same time the Daily Prophet, and they find out from the Daily Prophet that Stan Shunpike, no other, has been arrested for being a Death Eater. Quoting the Prophet, i says, “Stanley Shunpike, conductor on the popular wizarding conveyance the Knight Bus, has been arrested on suspicion of Death Eater activity. Mr. Shunpike, 21, was taken into custody late last night after a raid on his Clapham home.” So this was always really interesting, and I can’t remember how much gets resolved. I know we get a scene in Deathly Hallows that includes him, but also, listeners, remember that we’re doing this one chapter at a time, so our scope is limited. But I remember reading this and being like, “What? This is so out of left field, so random.”

Michael: And they reason it through because we brought Stan up a few episodes ago because nobody could remember whether he legit had info on the Death Eaters or if he was just making it up.

Alison: Yeah, there was a comment someone left about they had a theory that he actually was, and they explained it.

Caleb: We definitely don’t ever know for sure. I’m going to pause at that, and if I’m wrong, I’m sure someone will tell me if I am.

Michael: I don’t subscribe to Stan being a real Death Eater. Anything that he does in favor of the Death Eaters is under influence. I think this was just him being super stupid. [laughs].

Caleb: Yeah, I agree.

Ben: My evidence is that when we do see him with the Death Eaters, he’s definitely under the Imperius Curse. It says something about his eyes or something? So I would think that this is just bragging, like Ron says. What a good memory of him joking at a Veela about being Minister of Magic.

Michael: Yeah, yeah, no, that’s…

Ben: I just always feel bad about for Ernie. They always seem like really good friends.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: They’re a pair, right? Yeah, I know. One without the other. Sad.

Ben: J.K.’s grandfathers separated.

Caleb: Oh, yeah. That’s right. [They’re whom] they’re named after. I forgot about that. So this, also, is interesting, if we… I was trying to read into it a little bit more, that it shows that the Ministry is maybe trying a little too hard to show [its] activity for a public face, which is obviously a complete 180 from the Fudge administration. So I guess at least they’re doing something, but maybe they’re grasping at straws, calling people Death Eaters in the paper. It’s one thing to take him into protective custody and ask him some questions but put in the Daily Prophet that they found a Death Eater… eh, maybe a little much. And this transitions right into Hermione bringing up that things are getting dangerous and the parents of Hogwarts students are starting to take notice and how a couple of students have actually left the school. It says the Patil twins’ parents want them to go home. They haven’t yet, but Eloise Midgen has been withdrawn.

Ben: Eloise Midgen!

[Everyone laughs]

Ben: Worst acne ever! [laughs]

Caleb: And then Ron questions why people would be leaving. They got Aurors at school. It’s the [safest] place to be, and plus, [laughs] the always-the-cherry-on-top, “We’ve got Dumbledore, guys! Come on!”

[Everyone laughs]

Caleb: And while this a fine moment for that reason, it also gives Hermione a chance to bring up that she has noticed that he has been gone quite a lot, off doing his shady things. So there’s a small discussion on that. Hermione is always paying attention to weight these things.

[Alison, Caleb, and Michael laugh]

Caleb: You’d think that Harry would notice this. He’s looking forward to his lessons, but it’s Hermione, of course. Actually, we are not surprised by that.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: That’s true.

Michael: So does this mean that Dumbledore is having his own Horcrux camping trip, where he’s just out in the woods every now and then with his little tent, doing his Horcrux hunting there? [laughs]

Alison: Oh, gosh!

Michael: He’s having his Deathly Hallows. [laughs]

Caleb: It’s a very Gandalf moment. He’s going off a lot, away from the very critical mission going on or whatever and just taking care of stuff or researching things on his own. And doesn’t always end well.

Ben: “A wizard comes and goes as he likes.”

Michael: Yeah. And there'[re] so many… You could probably write a whole book on what Dumbledore is up to because…

Caleb: I know.

Michael: I just hate that. It kills me every time, and we just had this with the last chapter, but at the end where Harry is like, “So your hand happened at the same time as the ring?” “Oh, too late! Next time, Harry.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Every single time. It just drives me crazy because we never… Even though we know the after-effects of putting the ring on, we don’t know Dumbledore’s actual encounters with the Horcruxes and how he destroyed them and how he found them. It’s fascinating stuff in itself.

Caleb: And so they continue talking about how outside world events are affecting Hogwarts students. We learn that Hannah Abbott’s mother was killed just recently.

Michael: Just bam! Right there. [laughs]

Caleb: We don’t get anything of a reason. I thought about this – kind of interesting – because no one in Gryffindor in Harry’s year loses someone like this. Unless I’m forgetting something, it’s only two Hufflepuff students: Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott. Susan loses her aunt, and Hannah obviously loses her mother here. Just a thing I just now thought of. Anyway, people closer and closer to Harry are dying. Obviously, he’s already lost someone very close to him – Sirius. It’s just more people [who] are connected to him… They’re losing people. So it’s just aggregating the effect of what’s going on around him.

Ben: I had forgotten that Hannah Abbott’s mother died, but I remember she ended up with Neville eventually, right?

Michael: Yes. She does.

Ben: Who also has – sort of – some lost parents in some way. I can just picture them really comforting each other about their situations.

Michael: I like that.

Ben: Because I always wondered what would bring them together.

Michael: No, yeah. I was just going to say, “I like that connection because I think when Rowling announced that, everybody was like, ‘Okay?'”

[Everyone laughs]

Ben: It’s like she was pairing up spares.

Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, so it was. And I know a lot of people thought maybe since she’s a Hufflepuff, and Hufflepuffs tend to be inclined toward Herbology… but I actually like the suggestion about that. I think that might be something that Rowling… That seems to me more like what Rowling would have in mind when she pairs characters up.

Caleb: Yeah. It’s true.

“What did surprise him was that when Ron drew level with them…”

This is from Harry’s point of view, obviously.

“… Parvati suddenly nudged Lavender, who looked around and gave Ron a wide smile. Ron blinked at her, then returned the smile uncertainly.”

[Alison and Caleb laugh]

Caleb: Let’s just all imagine not our movie Ron, but our book version of Ron that we all had in mind before we saw Rupert Grint doing this:

“His walk instantly became something more like a strut.”

Alison: Every time I read that, I just do a face palm, and all I can think of is “Oh my gosh. It’s such a boy thing to do.”

Michael: Yeah, gross.

Alison: I just have to stop and just be like…

Caleb: I ‘m going to keep reading because it keeps getting better:

“Harry resisted the temptation to laugh, remembering that Ron had refrained from doing so after Malfoy had broken Harry’s nose…”

Because those are so similar.

[Alison, Caleb, and Michael laugh]

Caleb: [continues]

“… Hermione, however, looked cold and distant all the way down to the stadium through the cool, misty drizzle, and departed to find a place in the stands without wishing Ron good luck.”

[Michael laughs]

Alison: This is Hermione’s Mean Girls moment.

Ben: You laugh because obviously, that’s a funny line, and then JK is like, “Harry didn’t laugh. Why are you laughing?”

[Alison, Ben, and Michael laugh]

Ben: Love your friends.

Caleb: This is that awkward moment where everyone knows what’s going on, but no one actually talks about it, and Harry has already picked up that Lavender has a thing for Ron. Ron doesn’t really know what’s going on, and Hermione wants zero of it.

Michael: It’s funny too because Charlie and I are rereading Order of the Phoenix, and I’m at the part where… Just recently, in the last few chapters, there'[ve] been a lot of mentions of Lavender on the sidelines, and literally every time she interacts with Ron – the few times she does in Order – she does so with immense disgust.

[Alison and Caleb laugh]

Michael: It’s so funny, I think, that this pairing came up. Now, if there’s one… because I spent most of Goblet of Fire defending Cho Chang, and I will still defend Cho Chang, to some degree. I have no defense for Lavender Brown.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: This girl… I think the movie nailed it. She is just… Her interest is purely vapid, and because Ron…

Caleb: Yep. Jessie Cave is amazing. It’s just so great.

Alison: Honestly, though, I think it would be so funny to see Hermione and Lavender in their dorm later.

Caleb: Oh my God.

[Ben and Michael laugh]

Alison: Just glaring, no speaking… [laughs]

Caleb: We’re drawing on the huge missed opportunity of a Mean Girls/Hogwarts spin-off.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Caleb: I cannot tell you how much life that would give me.

Alison: [laughs] Oh my gosh.

Caleb: But after this little scene, we finally get to the Gryffindor Quidditch tryouts. I love this scene because it shows, I think, 1) how good of a captain Harry is, and aside from being the Chosen One, blah blah blah, the Quidditch pitch is where he shines, and this is just such an innate thing for him. But it is also a hot mess.

[Alison and Caleb laugh]

Caleb: The whole thing is a hot mess.

Ben: This has the funniest line in the book.

Caleb: I just really love this scene. So everyone and their mom show up to trial for the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

[Alison laughs]

Caleb: So, so many people, and as earlier in the chapter, it seems a lot of people just want to be close to Harry, and this is a great opportunity.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: So we very quickly get reacquainted with Cormac McLaggen, who[m] Harry has already met earlier in the book, and I don’t want to jump ahead of myself, but he introduces himself as a Keeper, so he already assumes he’s going to get the job. And brought up how he tried to try out last year, but he ate a pound of Doxy eggs for a bet, which sounds like a really stellar guy from the start.

Alison: Another one of those [face]palm things. [laughs]

Michael: You know what’s so interesting acout Cormac and him being introduced in this book is that… and we’ve talked about this before, but Slughorn is one of our first pretty stand-out examples of a likable Slytherin – at the very least, likable. Cormac is an excellent example of an almost completely unlikable Gryffindor.

[Everyone laughs]

Ben: This is where the Gryffindor jock stereotype comes in: Cormac McLaggen.

Michael: Well, and it’s funny. Like you said, Ben, it’s [the] perfect way to summarize it, because Cormac still embodies the things about Gryffindor that we know to be true, but he’s all the negative versions of it.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: So it’s nice to see Gryffindor not being glorified quite as much as the other Houses because I think we still get on Rowling for not really doing a good job with some of the House representation in the books…

[Ben laughs]

Michael: … so at least we get one Gryffindor here who might be an example of how Gryffindors can go bad.

Ben: I just like name. I love how she names her characters. Cormac McLaggen. It’s all these hard K’s. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah. [in a Scottish accent] Cormac McLaggen.

Ben: You don’t want to say it. [laughs]

Caleb: So the tryout itself for the Chasers is really the amusing part.

Michael: Oh my God, yeah.

[Ben laughs]

Caleb: [continues]

“Harry decided to start with a basic test, asking all applicants for the team to divide into groups of ten and fly once around the pitch. This was a good decision: The first ten was made up of first years and it could not have been plainer that they had hardly ever flown before.”

So this very basic intuition of how to weed out the unskilled players. This just – again, like I mentioned earlier – goes to show that Harry just has a very good intuition. He has no experience of being a captain. He never really saw Wood or Angelina do really extensive tryouts like this. They were only ever really a couple of people. He never saw tryouts with Wood. He saw a little bit with Angelina but just a very great execution, but…

Michael: Can I just say, Caleb, as you’re reading this, “This just may be just the funniest passage in any of the Harry Potter books ever.”

Caleb: That’s why I’m reading it. We never read like this, but I just feel so inclined to.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Keep going, because it’s hilarious.

Caleb: [continues]

“This was a good decision: The first ten was made up of first years, and it could not have been plainer that they had hardly ever flown before.”

[Ben laughs]

Caleb: [continues]

“Only one boy managed to remain airborne for more than a few seconds, and he was so surprised he promptly crashed into one of the goalposts.”

[Alison and Ben laugh]

Caleb: [continues]

“The second group was comprised of ten of the silliest girls Harry had ever encountered, who, when he blew his whistle…”

Harry with a whistle is really funny to me.

[Everyone laughs]

Caleb: [continues]

“… when he blew his whistle, merely fell about giggling and clutching one another.”

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: [continues]

“Romilda Vane was amongst them. When he told them to leave the pitch, they did so quite cheerfully and went to sit in the stands to heckle everyone else.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Not to stereotype girls, but I swear I’ve seen this group of girls in real life.

Alison: Oh, no. Yes, yes!

[Michael laughs]

Alison: Speaking, as a girl, yes! [laughs]

Michael: [laughs] That is just so on point. I have seen… and again, I want to preface this so the listeners don’t think I’m like, “All girls are vapid and stupid” because they are not. That is not what I am saying. But I am saying that, having been in high school in my life…

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: … there were definitely girls who were that type of girl who would just – oh my God – giggle at everything, and you would never know why, [laughs] but in their head, it was hilarious, so…

Ben: I was just picturing them all coming together, and they’re like, “Let’s go to the Quidditch tryouts. Let’s just do this. We’re not going to fly. We won’t be able to fly.”

[Alison laughs]

Michael: Oh, this is like a dare one of them made to Romilda Vane or something.

Ben: “I bet you won’t. I bet you won’t go, Romilda.”

[Ben, Caleb, and Michael laugh]

Caleb: “Say I won’t. Say I won’t.”

[Ben and Michael laugh]

Caleb: Guys this is just one of the five groups, okay?

[Ben and Michael laugh]

Caleb: [continues]

“The third group had a pileup halfway around the pitch.”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Caleb: [continues]

“Most of the fourth group had come without broomsticks.”

Alison: [laughs] That one just… oh!

Ben: This is the best line, this next one.

Michael: Brace yourselves. Here we go.

Caleb: [continues]

“The fifth group were Hufflepuffs.”

[Alison and Ben laugh]

Caleb: It gets better:

“‘If there’s anyone else here who’s not from Gryffindor,’ roared Harry, who was starting to get seriously annoyed, ‘leave now, please!’ There was a pause, then a couple of little Ravenclaws went sprinting off the pitch, snorting with laughter.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Ah, man. It still… I even reread last night, and I still laughed out loud at the Hufflepuff line.

Alison: Every time. [laughs]

Ben: I’ve listened to this chapter with Jim Dale three times going to and from classes, and it gets me each time…

Michael: Oh my God.

Ben: It’s so good.

Michael: It’s funny because at first I think I felt… I feel bad thinking back on it now, especially as a Hufflepuff, but the first time I read it, I was like, “Oh, did the Hufflepuffs not even know that this was not their tryout[s]?” [laughs] Did they just show up by accident?

Alison: No, they just wanted to actually have a chance to win at Quidditch for once. [laughs]

Michael: [laughs] Can we transfer to your team?

Alison: Since we do not do very good at that. [laughs]

Michael: [laughs] I just thought that was hilarious.

Alison: As a Hufflepuff, I will say this.

Michael: I just… how did that line not end up on a T-shirt right after this book? [laughs]

Alison: [laughs] “Most of the fifth group were Hufflepuffs.”

Michael: “The fifth group were Hufflepuffs.”

Caleb: They finally do get their new Chasers, though. Obviously, Katie Bell returns to the team after a great trial. The newest member is Demelza Robins, who is particularly good at dodging Bludgers. And Ginny, who obviously played on the team last year but is particularly skilled at Chaser and Seeker, it would seem.

Alison: Can I just say, “This is the only scene in the movie where I feel like they really actually nailed Ginny’s character, how she’s supposed to be”? [laughs] The only scene in the movies where it’s like, “Oh, this is book Ginny, not…”

Caleb: Yeah, where she’s her own person. [laughs]

Ben: So I was looking around in names because I love the names, right? And I was digging into Demelza Robins. Apparently, there’s a good chance that it’s a tribute to Demelza Hospice Care for Children, which is this charity supported by Daniel Radcliffe.

Alison: Yeah, I believe JKR said that was real.

Michael: Yeah. I’m pretty sure she confirmed that, so…

Ben: Isn’t that nice? I thought that was nice.

Michael: Yeah, no, I thought that was really cool that she…

Ben: Shoutout to Demelza Hospice Care for Children!

Michael: Yeah. I thought that was neat that she threw in a few references from the more movie-based stuff…

Alison: This is the book where she does that. She does that again later, where she has Slughorn call Ron “Rupert”!

Michael: Yes, Rupert!

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: And it just makes me laugh every time.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: We also get two new Beaters to replace Fred and George, [which are] Jimmy Peakes and Ritchie Coote. But then the main event, the Keeper trials, and it’s pretty much a contest between Cormac and Ron. Cormac goes first. He saves four out of five, but for some reason, on the last one, he goes completely in the wrong direction. The crowd laughs and boos at him, and McLaggen walks off, grinding his teeth. Then Ron is set to go on his trusty Cleansweep Eleven, and there is a “Good luck!” cry from the stands. Harry looks up, thinking it’s going to be Hermione. It is not. It is Lavender Brown.

Michael: God. [laughs] I think I get extra mad at this, and I won’t go into detail, but…

[Caleb laughs]

Michael: … I have had an experience in my life with a Lavender Brown.

[Alison and Caleb laugh]

Michael: I could just hear it. I can hear it, and it makes me cringe, especially because I feel like I know how Hermione is feeling right now. It is just the worst when you have feelings for somebody, and there’s somebody so vapid sitting right next to you who’s getting the attention.

Caleb: It’s so random, out of nowhere.

Michael: Yeah, right? [laughs] And that happens! It does happen in real life.

Caleb: Yep. It so does.

Michael: And it is the worst.

Ben: I want to defend this element about the Lavender and Ron relationship, though. Just like Harry and Cho, both of these characters need a relationship before they get with the person who[m] they’re going to be with for the rest of their life.

Michael: No, that’s true. That’s true, yeah.

Caleb: I think that’s true for most people.

Ben: And it doesn’t even seem that forced, though. It is almost last minute. JK says, “Oh, crud, I need to put Ron with somebody before he’s with Hermione forever.”

[Michael laughs]

Ben: But this is good! Because Lavender is most things that Hermione isn’t.

Alison: Yes. [laughs]

Michael: That’s true. That’s very true. So not so much a defense of Lavender as the relationship.

Ben: Oh, no. No, I wasn’t really… I mean, it seems like…

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Poor Michael was going to have to take issues.

Michael: Because I was going to have to just lose it.

[Alison laughs]

Ben: I’m saying, “She’s probably a really good friend of [Parvati] Patil.”

[Michael laughs]

Ben: They seem [like they’re] besties. They seem like […] better bestie[s] than Harry and Ron.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: I don’t know. They seem on equal footing with Harry and Ron…

[Ben laughs]

Michael: … as far as how much they feed each other’s delusions.

[Alison, Ben, and Michael laugh]

Michael: Oops.

Alison: What?

Caleb: Real life from Michael Harle.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: Sorry, guys. I just really don’t like Lavender Brown. Oh, God.

Caleb: So we’ll move on from now…

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: … because she’s about to get a little slight throwdown. But Ron does manage to save all of the goals. Cormac is very upset. He… it says [that] after Harry is… obviously, Harry is excited because now he has a good excuse to bring Ron on, he was very nervous about this in the beginning, but he finds McLaggen’s red face inches from his own soon after Ron manages to save the last goal. McLaggen basically accuses Ginny and Ron of cheating in some sort, saying that Ginny was too easy on him with her attempt at the goal, and Harry just doesn’t take it. He says Ron won fair and square. We don’t really think much about it, and Ron is brought on as Keeper, and after they’re closing it out, Hermione beats Lavender down to the field. Maybe the “good luck” set her off just enough, but she manages to beat [her] down and congratulate Ron. Meanwhile, Lavender, having no opening, is walking off looking grumpy.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: You suck, Cormac! Your Keeping is bad, and you should feel bad.

[Alison laughs]

Ben: Do you guys have the American edition?

Michael: Yes.

Ben: So at the bottom of 225 – right? – it has, “Ron saved one, two, three, four,” and then you have to turn the page to see if he [got] the fifth.

[Alison, Caleb, and Michael laugh]

Michael: Yeah, I have that. Yeah. [laughs]

Ben: I don’t know if she planned out that layout.

Michael: Probably not.

Caleb: Yeah, I’m going to say no.

Michael: Probably not.

Ben: What serendipity.

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: It worked well. So they start to leave [from] the Quidditch pitch, and Ron throws out the suggestion that it was very odd that Cormac missed that last goal so terribly and that he looked Confunded on the missed save. My autocorrect in the Google Doc says “confounded.”

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Because that’s the actual word. Hermione turns pink. Harry, of course, notices; Ron doesn’t. Who would’ve thought?

[Michael laughs]

Alison: Beautiful moment: “You don’t need luck, Ron. You’ve got me.” [laughs] I just love that, where it’s just like, “In your face, Lavender. He doesn’t need luck. He has me!”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Caleb: So they transition from Quidditch tryouts to finally going to see Hagrid, which they had been putting off for a while because they are worried how he will take them not taking his class this year. They first see Buckbeak. It’s good to get a quick view of our favorite hippogriff, and Harry has a little quiet moment with Buckbeak, mentioning how Buckbeak missing Sirius too. So there’s a little sad moment before we get to the confrontation with Hagrid. First Fang comes galloping along, happy to see the three of them, but Hagrid? Not so much. He, rather immaturely, sees them and then turns to go back into his hut and slams the door, slams them out of the hut. And this is a really interesting moment because Harry pretty much immediately calls Hagrid out on this and doesn’t really take his little tantrum. He is very assertive about calling Hagrid out, threatening to blast down the door, and Harry is just standing up to him the whole time. It puts them on very equal footing, or maybe even more lopsided than that. Because Harry… I mean, no student would do this to a teacher, and Hagrid brings that up after the fact, and then they have this exchange where Harry is very sarcastically mocking him, saying, “I’m sorry, sir” after Hagrid calls him “Potter.” Which is a very weird dynamic, but also, I don’t know.

Michael: No, I agree. I think… funny, the way I looked at it… Dad, I hope you’re not listening, and if you do, I say this with much love and affection, I’m pretty I have had this argument with my dad before.

[Ben and Michael laugh]

Michael: This is the kind of argument you have with your parent as you get older and you can be on equal footing when you argue with your parents. And Hagrid – we’ve discussed before – is one of Harry’s father figures. So I think this is is that. Like you said, Caleb, Harry is coming into his own where he can hold his ground against his superiors. Which I think is important because that’s going to be big in Deathly Hallows, so… yeah, it’s starting here, though, for sure.

Caleb: Yeah, I will say that I think I tend to hate on the relationship [between] Harry and Hagrid in some ways because Hagrid is problematic in a lot of ways, but things come back together the right way in the end, and when you brought it up, it just made me think of that scene. I got a slightly bit emotional, so I will say, “It comes back together the right way in the end.”

Michael: I mean, regardless of that, yes, Hagrid is being a huge baby. This is unacceptable behavior.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Caleb: In this scene, yeah. So they dicuss Care of Magical Creature briefly, but they move on because they hear a funny squelching sound, and they all look around. Hermione lets out a shriek. Ron leaps out of his seat. You’d think that they would be used to these things by now in Hagrid’s vicinity. But they are freaked out by the foot-long maggots, which I guess is fair. I would be pretty freaked out by foot-long maggots. I just squirm every time I read this.

Alison: It’s not okay.

Ben: Well, especially Ron, with his history of vomiting slugs.

Caleb: That’s true. It’s traumatic there. They ask what they are. Hagrid is just like. “Oh, just some giant grubs like any other dude has around his house. No big deal.”

Ben: I like Ron’s first instinct, though, is “What do they grow into?”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Caleb: But then we learn the big news: that they are, in fact, for Aragog, and as Hagrid starts to explain that he’s got them to feed Aragog, he suddenly, without warning, bursts into tears. It’s just a very troubling time for Hagrid right now. The poor guy’s got a lot of feelings. Aragog, we learn, is sick. He’s dying, and [I’m] not really sure how the maggots are going to help him, but Hagrid thinks he knows best.

Michael: Are you saying you guys don’t eat maggots when you get sick? Okay.

Alison: Oh my gosh.

Caleb: Can’t say I have tried that remedy.

Michael: Alison, you’re not having some maggots right now?

Alison: No. No. Bleh.

Caleb: [laughs] Ron and Harry are not too sad, of course, that Aragog is falling by the wayside in the way of health because they were almost spider food when they ran into him last. But Hermione, always the one to help Hagrid and his pet problems, “Is there anything we can do?”

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: Hermione, girl, come on.

Alison: Hey, she’s just trying to be nice. [laughs]

Michael: She didn’t have any personal experience with Aragog. She didn’t know what she was doing.

Caleb: That’s true.

Alison: I love that the line, though, where it’s like, “Harry and Ron are both like, ‘No! No! No!'” Basically…

[Michael laughs]

Alison: “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!”

Michael: “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: “Thanks, Hermione.” [laughs]

Michael: Well, luckily, they don’t have to do anything anyway. Thank God.

Ben: I’m interested in this restiveness that the other spiders are getting into, what they’re trying to do. Are they going to eat Aragog or something?

[Michael laughs]

Ben: What do you think is going on?

Caleb: I always assumed they would.

Ben: Is Aragog’s near-human intelligence the only thing keeping the whole spider colony together?

Michael: Yeah, I think as far as… because Fantastic Beasts goes into Acromantulas a little more, and from what I understand, they are… what are they? They’re classified with five X’s by the Ministry, which is their highest classification rating. They’re not even supposed to be tampered with by people. It’s really astonishing, actually, that Hagrid developed the relationship that he did with Aragog according to the book. So yeah, I… and it’s funny to me… I think this is a great example – and we’ve talked about this a lot before on the show – of why we get frustrated with Hagrid is, literally, Aragog’s relatives… I’m sure… I think we’ve gotten to the point where Hagrid will walk into their lair, and they will be like, “We are going to eat you right now if you don’t leave,” and he’s like “Oh, that’s so sweet!”

[Alison and Ben laugh]

Michael: This level of just ignorance that Hagrid presents to the Acromantulas and their culture. As learned as he is about these animals, he actively chooses to ignore it when… he completely leads with his heart, Hagrid, which is definitely an advantage in some ways and a disadvantage in others. And I think that becomes very frustrating when it comes to this animal stuff.

Ben: I wonder how Acromantula pick a new leader. Wait, but what I wanted to say – I threw this in the doc – is that this is our ring composition moment of the chapter for me because Aragog is so huge in Book 2, and here he is showing up in Book 6. Introduced and then dies. Just like how Sirius – right? – is introduced in [Book] 3 and then dies in [Book] 5. That ring composition that brings everything together so perfectly.

Michael: Yeah, it’s things like these… because technically speaking, if you think about it, the Aragog plot doesn’t necessarily need to be in Half-Blood Prince.

Ben: No, it just makes it feel cohesive.

Michael: Yeah, and that’s because… ring theory is something that’s been posited by academics in the fandom, and Rowling has never officially confirmed that she used it consciously, but it’s things like this that make me suspect that she did. Because that’s too purposeful to me. There'[re] too many links that make sense for it to just have been coincidence, so… and this would be one of them.

Ben: I also appreciate the next… we don’t have it in the thing… about the Time-Turners? This is where we learn that they destroyed all of the Time-Turners, which has always seemed like the most ridiculous sentence.

Michael: Well, I…

Ben: That no one had a Time-Turner out at the time but that all of them were right there and destroyed all at once. [laughs]

Michael: I really like that that’s basically Rowling speaking through Hermione. Just being like, “No, you cannot use a Time-Turner to kill Voldemort. No!”

[Ben and Michael laugh]

Ben: “I broke them all!”

Michael: I think that’s still a big thing in the fandom among people who are more focused on the movies because the movies don’t cover that plot…

Alison: Yeah.

Michael: … and it’s still all over things like Tumblr and Instagram. People joke about the Time-Turner being a plot hole but I think she went out of her way in that one sentence to be like, “No. You cannot use this for any means whatsoever anymore.” She was very clear about that.

Ben: And how long does it take to make a Time-Turner?

Caleb: I would think a very long time. Lots of very complicated magic.

Alison: Yeah. I think it would be a very tricky thing.

Michael: Yeah, I think it would take… yeah, complicated magic implies that it would take a while. And Pottermore glossed over it because it was like, “Oh, there’s just a time charm that you just put in an hourglass!” And I was like, “Yeah, it probably takes a little more than that.” [laughs]

Alison: Yeah.

Ben: If I’m the Ministry of Magic, I’m going to put all of my resources suddenly into this time travel technology here and fix the problem with time travel.

Michael: But I do think it’s funny, too, that it’s reported in the Prophet because I was like, “Maybe the Prophet shouldn’t go around telling everybody what’s in the Department of Mysteries.”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: It’s not very much a mystery anymore.

Caleb: Okay. So we have one more major point to talk about. I know we’re running kind of long on our discussion because there has been so much fun and funny moments so we’ll move through this. It’s pretty standard, but it’s the idea that we learn about the Malfoy Manor being searched, but leading up to it this is Harry, Ron, and Hermione walking back to the castle. We see Cormac having trouble getting into the castle, running into the door a couple of times.

[Everyone laughs]

Caleb: Ron makes fun of him and this is where we learn… Harry confronts Hermione that she used the Confundus Charm on him but she justifies it because she says that he was making some bad comments about Ron and Ginny; he has a bad temper and that’s enough that Harry shouldn’t want him on his team, which is fair…

[Michael laughs]

Caleb: … but this also shows that Hermione is getting ever more rebellious.

Alison: That’s my girl.

Caleb: Harry says to her, “‘But wasn’t that dishonest, Hermione? I mean, you’re a prefect, aren’t you?’ ‘Oh, be quiet,’ she snapped.” And he’s spurred. And when they get back up to the castle…

Ben: Wait, wait, wait. I’m sorry to delay us, but I’ve got one right here. Do you know what that was when he was bumping around? Confundledoor.

Alison: Oh my gosh. [laughs]

Michael: Oh my God. Episode title found.

Alison: Yes.

Michael: Oh my gosh.

Ben: Open the Confundledoor. [laughs]

Michael: Somebody put that… now we need a t-shirt of that. Oh my God, that’s perfect. I have to point out…

Ben: I’ve been sitting on that one for days.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: Props. And Hermione love. Here’s some Hermione love.

Ben: Oh, for sure.

Michael: Like, dang. That Confundus Charm was really strong. [laughs]

Ben: Yeah.

Caleb: From quite a bit away, yeah.

Michael: Yeah. He’s still suffering the effects of it. He can’t get through a door; that’s pretty severe Confunding. So well done, Hermione.

Ben: Well, it’s the power of love.

Michael: And she did that nonverbally, too, so… well done, Hermione. You get As on everything. Well, not As. Os in this world.

[Everyone laughs]

Caleb: So we get a brief moment where Slughorn invites Harry to a dinner. Of course, Harry says he can’t go because he has his postponed detention with Professor Snape. Slughorn also invites Hermione; he’s obviously very impressed with how she’s been doing in class. Slughorn ignores Ron as if he’s not even there. Ron does not take well to this, as is justified. Hermione now gets the Evening Prophet and we learn that Arthur Weasley has recently done an inspection of the Malfoy house and nothing… it says from a confidential tip, and Harry tells them that that was from him; it’s what he talked to Arthur about before he got on the train. Unfortunately, though, the search yielded nothing and they go into a conversation that Harry thinks that maybe Draco has at Hogwarts the thing that they are hiding that Harry is convinced of, and Ron and Hermione explain to him that’s not possible because they were searched coming into the castle. So it’s this back and forth of Harry trying to figure out things, ways that… where this missing thing that he’s convinced of is or whatever’s going on… Ron is preoccupied with being upset that he’s being left out. While Harry is trying to figure out ways to explain what’s going on with Draco, he doesn’t say much of it, but just that he watches Ginny playing with Arnold, her Pygmy Puff. There’s no description or analysis or anything on it, but it’s just a moment where Harry is noticing Ginny.

Alison: Oh, def.

Michael: Another! Another! I smash my Thor glass. Another! Not enough!

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: This is… ahh. God, I hate this. Not enough. This is poorly done. After all that excellent Ron/Hermione stuff, what the crap is this? [laughs] Not enough, not enough.

Alison: [laughs] Harry. That’s the problem, it’s Harry.

Michael: God, there are so many… and again – and I’ve mentioned this once before on this show – I pinpoint it exactly where my problem is with the relationship. There is a paragraph where it comes to a head. But this is a lead-up to that. This is not enough! And I can see even people arguing that sometimes you watch your love, your crush, whoever you’re feeling for from afar, and you don’t even consciously notice that you’re doing it. I get that, sure. But this has come so late in the series already and with the excellent build-up of Ron and Hermione – it’s so well done in this chapter alone – that just to get basically nothing from Harry and Ginny… yes, yeah. What were you going to say, Alison?

Alison: Oh, I was just going to say I like these moments because they’re moments where… I feel like whenever Harry really notices something Ginny or connected with Ginny in this book, it’s very comforting. It’s very low-key. It’s very normal, which is what he needs in a relationship after all the crap he’s gone through.

[Caleb laughs]

Alison: So even just this notice, where he’s just thinking and he just looks to the side and it’s just very calm and there she is, playing with her cute little Pygmy Puff, and it’s just a very nice moment.

Michael: See, and I can even see that with how Rowling has developed their relationship past the books, especially with the Quidditch stuff that Rita wrote.

Alison: Uh-huh.

Michael: And I can definitely see that, and I think that Rowling has made clear – past the books – that that’s why Harry and Ginny are a good fit for each other. And maybe it’s because the narration is coming from Harry’s point of view, but it’s just…

Ben: Perhaps Harry can’t admit it.

Michael: Yeah.

Ben: I was going to say: He can’t admit it to himself, maybe? I don’t know. I want to defend J.K.’s writing, but it is a problem that it’s just not there enough.

Michael: Yeah. Well, and I guess it just bugs me, too. And we’ll get more into this as we go down the road with Half-Blood, but once it does get acknowledged in Harry’s mind… oh my God. I don’t know about you guys, but I hate the furry, green monster in his chest. That’s the worst metaphor ever.

[Everyone laughs]

Caleb: Oh my God. We’ll certainly have to break that down.

Alison: Really?

Michael: I hate that metaphor. It’s one of my least favorite that she ever came up with.

Ben: Oh, yeah.

Michael: And so I just… I guess because… and it turns Harry’s love for Ginny into a competition, an intense competition, and really nothing more than that for those portions of the book. So just… and I really like that analysis, Alison. I guess in a way I want that more in the narration of the book. You know what I mean?

Alison: Yeah.

Michael: I want it written because it’s a great interpretation, though.

Alison: That’s why I like it is because I feel like the moment… and I actually like that monster metaphor because I feel like that’s the moment Harry… it actually clicks in his mind that, “Oh, I have a thing for her.” That’s the moment where he’s not noticing it consciously, but then all of a sudden there’s this moment and he just goes, “Oh… oh.” [laughs]

Ben: Maybe up until a certain point he doesn’t think he’s allowed to like Ginny because of Ron.

Alison and Michael: Yeah.

Michael: That’s true.

Caleb: Well, there will be plenty of opportunities in this book to analyze and break down the Harry/Ginny dynamic, but it’s just a moment here, a brief moment, that will set us up for a lot more. The chapter closes out with Demelza Robins. The book weirdly uses all these token characters to bring Harry his notes to create small scenes. I actually really love it. But Demelza brings him the latest note. This one, however, is not from Dumbledore about a new lesson. It is from Professor Snape, who, if we remember, Slughorn said he was going to ask to see if he could get the detention postponed, but Snape says he will be doing detention no matter how many party invitations Harry receives and Harry finds out he’s going to be sorting out rotten Flobberworms from good ones without protective gloves. That to look forward to.

Michael: That’s disgusting. [laughs]

Caleb: And that ends our chapter.

Michael: Yeah. I like the little running joke with… it’s such a weird little running joke with all these random characters giving Harry notes and things. [laughs]

Caleb: Yeah.

Alison: And it’s so funny that he met and put Demelza on the team that day…

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: … and, “Take him this note.”

[Everyone laughs]

Ben: It makes you like her a little bit.

Caleb and Michael: Yeah.

Ben: It’s her little “er” in there where she’s uncomfortable saying what she has to say…

Alison: Yeah.

Ben: … makes her sympathetic right off the bat.

Michael: Because that’s how we would be if we were talking to Harry Potter.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Ben: Oh, I thought of one more ring theory – wait, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I love this ring theory stuff so much – is that obsession with Malfoy being up to something because that’s what Book 2 is all about.

Alison: Ahh.

Ben: They use Polyjuice Potion to figure out what is Malfoy up to.

Michael: Oh yeah, that’s true. Yeah.

Ben: And this time they just don’t buy it, maybe informed by the fact that Malfoy wasn’t really up to much.

Michael: Luckily we get a break from that for this chapter because it’s all about the love.

Ben: Yeah. [laughs]

Alison: All right. Well, with wrapping up our chapter – just like we always do – it’s time for our Podcast Question of the Week. So this week we’re talking about… there’s an interesting balance; we’ve pointed out a couple places in this chapter where we get some really dark stuff, but we also get some great instances of really funny humor. So the question is,

“This chapter fluctuates between the extreme tones of humor and darkness. The focus on the teenage dynamic gives us insight into Harry’s life at the moment, yet the events outside of Hogwarts remind us that the wizard world is becoming increasingly perilous. Does this bouncing back and forth offer a much needed balance or does it downplay some of the more serious issues raised? How do we see this light and darkness fluctuate throughout the remainder of the series and how does it impact how we see the rest of Harry’s journey?”

So head on over to and leave your comments, and we’re excited to hear what you come up with.

Michael: Yeah, we hope you will examine that one in depth, listeners, because that’s definitely something all of us have noticed before, and in the tone of this chapter, but we didn’t get a chance to really examine it. So we’re throwing that one completely to you. And speaking of great listeners, we want to make sure and thank Ben for having the courage to come on the show and share his ideas with us. He was an excellent guest. Thank you so much, Ben, for joining us on this episode.

Ben: Thank you. I’m so honored. This has been a blast. I love this show so much.

Michael: We’re glad you enjoyed yourself.

Ben: [laughs] I did.

Alison: And if you would like to be on the show, just like Ben, make sure you go to our “Be on the Show” page at If you have a set of Apple headphones, you’re all set. You don’t need any fancy equipment. And while you’re there, make sure you download one of our ringtones for free.

Caleb: If you’d like to stay in contact with us, make sure you’re following us on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN, on Facebook at, [and] on Tumblr [at] mnalohomorapodcast. If you’d like to leave us a voicemail, you can do that at 206-GO-ALBUS. That’s 206-462-5287. Or you can leave us an audioBoom at our main website, There’s a little box on the right-hand side where you can do this for free; all you need is a microphone. Just keep it under 60 seconds.

Michael: And of course, make sure to check out the Alohomora! store. We have lots of really neat themed products from all of the jokes from the show, including house shirts as well as the Desk!Pig shirt, Mandrake Liberation Front, Minerva Is My Homegirl, and so, so many more. We are still brainstorming some further new products that we can get to you. Some day, you guys, that Lupin Love shirt will totally happen.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: It’s in my head. I have a pretty clear vision in my head; if only I was an artist. But yes, make sure to check out the Alohomora! store for all of the great products that we have from the show.

Alison: And also make sure you check out our smartphone app, which is available, as Eric likes to say, on this side of the pond and the other. Prices vary. It includes things like transcripts, bloopers, alternate endings, host vlogs, and more.

Caleb: All right. That’s going to do it for this week’s episode of Alohomora!

[Show music begins]

Caleb: I’m Caleb Graves.

Michael: I’m Michael Harle.

Alison: And I’m Alison Siggard. Thanks for listening to Episode 129 of Alohomora!

Ben: Open the Confundledoor!

[Show music continues]

Michael: Of course, Ben, I know you wanted to answer this question so badly.

Ben: Oh, for sure.

Michael: And as a fellow Jew, I understand why you wanted to answer this question.

[Ben and Michael laugh]

Michael: Would you eat the Desk!Pig?

Ben: Oh, no! It’s not kosher.

[Michael laughs]