[Show music begins]
Caleb Graves: This is Episode 167 of Alohomora! for December 5, 2015.
[Show music continues]
Caleb: Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Alohomora!, our globsl reread of the Harry Potter series. I’m Caleb Graves.
Shannen Michaelsen: I’m Shannen Michaelsen.
Kristen Keys: And I’m Kristen Keys. And today we have a special guest: Leigh Bardugo, who is the number one New York Times bestselling author and USA Today bestselling author of Six of Crows and the Grisha trilogy. Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us your favorite house?
Leigh Bardugo: Oh, well, I’m a Slytherin so the answer is obvious.
[Kristen and Leigh laugh]
Leigh: My favorite house is the best house. But yeah, I wrote the Grisha trilogy and I wrote Six of Crows. And I celebrated my last birthday at Harry Potter World, or the World of Harry Potter in Florida, so…
Caleb: Was your birthday during GeekyCon this year? Is that when it was?
Leigh: It was not.
Caleb: Oh, okay.
Leigh: I actually didn’t get to go to the park during GeekyCon because I was on deadline for Crooked Kingdom, which is the sequel to Six of Crows, so yeah. [laughs] It was not… I got to go to the con and I got to meet lots of great people and I got to wear my Slyther-Luna costume. I can’t bring myself to wear any colors other than Slytherin colors but I love Luna.
Leigh: So I made myself some Spectrespecs in green sparkles.
Caleb: I’m so excited that you’re here with us, Leigh. My only big disappointment is that we’re not in a chapter where we’re talking about Slytherin in depth…
Leigh: I have a lot to say.
Caleb: … because I have to say, the first time that I was in your vicinity was at LeakyCon… I guess it was last year, whatever year was the blowup machine that Maureen did?
Leigh: The one where I ran suicides? That one?
Leigh: That was my first LeakyCon and that was rough, I’m not going to lie. [laughs] That was…
Caleb: One of the best things that ever happened was that House Cup competition, but between that and this past year at GeekyCon where there were a couple of competitions… and for the Slytherins out there, if you don’t know: If there is ever a champion of Slytherin house, it is Leigh Bardugo.
Leigh: [laughs] Thank you, thank you. That actually really made my heart swell with pride, so thank you.
[Caleb and Kristen laugh]
Leigh: I am definitely a Slytherin champ but I also feel that Slytherins are much maligned, so I frequently find myself defending our house but I don’t mind.
Caleb: And Shannen is also jumping in as one of our hosts this week.
Caleb: So Shannen, why don’t you tell us, or tell the listeners a little bit about you as well?
Shannen: Well, I am in my senior year at college where I am a Creative Writing and Communications major, and I’m a Ravenclaw, so…
Leigh: That’s all right.
Shannen: What else is there? That’s it.
Caleb: What do you do at MuggleNet, Shannen?
Shannen: Oh, I do Tumblr and recently, MuggleWatch.
Kristen: Mhm, which everybody should go…
Shannen: So people should subscribe… yeah, to the MuggleNet YouTube channel that I don’t remember what it is but I’m sure if you search it, it’ll come up.
Kristen: And it is on our main page if you look in the latest news.
Kristen: It’s a video clip and she talks about all the latest news that is happening in the Harry Potter world and with Fantastic Beasts.
Caleb: Very cool.
Caleb: All right, well, we are going to get things started. First, we want to remind you that for this episode, we are going to be discussing Chapter 17 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “Bathilda’s Secret.”
Kristen: But before we jump in to this week’s chapter, let’s go into a few recap comments from last week’s chapter. The first one is from HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis, and they say,
“I’d love to learn more about Godric’s Hollow. Which magical families lived there when it was home to the Dumbledores? Who was responsible for putting up the memorial of the Potters? Is Bathilda the only witch who still lives there or are there others in the village, maybe singing with the other people in the church? (awesome chapter intro, again!) Hermione is absorbed in Beedle’s stories while trying to get over Ron leaving. Harry asks himself what else she can find in there, because it’s a short book. That’s similar to HP fans who read the series over and over, especially when we’re going through hard times, and others ask what else we can find in there, because they’re “just children’s books”. And just like Hermione manages to find the symbol of the Hallows, we can find new aspects and details in rereading.”
I thought that was very sweet at the end, very…
Leigh: Yeah. That’s so nice.
Kristen: Very sweet comment.
Caleb: Yeah. That’s what we’ve been doing for the past couple of years of this show. [laughs]
Kristen: I know, right? There’s always new things to find out. But what do you guys think about Godric’s Hollow? Do you think there are still magical families living in there?
Leigh: I would say definitely yes, if just because of all the comments on the sign later in the chapter. That would make me think that there are still people there writing on that sign.
Shannen: I actually wondered if because of the death of the Potters, if that cleared out a lot of people, if it became almost like living at a battleground, essentially. And I wondered if those were people who had come through as wizard tourists to write on the sign.
Leigh: And in a way, the whole town to me felt a little like a monument, like the entire town is kind of a graveyard for wizards.
Caleb: Yeah, that’s a good point.
Leigh: I’m here to cheer everybody up with these thoughts, so…
Caleb: Yeah, we see it a little bit in the chapter we’re going to talk about today, but yeah, we don’t really see enough… they’re there late at night, I guess, but we don’t see a lot of life and I think that’s pretty reasonable that it would probably send a lot of people away, just the danger of it…
Leigh and Shannen: Mhm. Yeah…
Kristen: All right. Our next comment comes from Yo Rufus On Fire and they say…
Leigh: Such a great handle! I love it.
Caleb: Yeah. Prepare yourself, Leigh, because some of our listeners have the best puns for handles.
Leigh: Why am I not surprised? They’re Harry Potter fans! The best!
Kristen: Exactly. [laughs] They say,
“I love Steve’s invisible fence idea for the magical boundaries that have around the tent. I wanted to push it a little farther. I imagine that it’s something that resembles the age line in goblet of fire. In the movie is shows as a little cloud line around the goblet of fire. I think that the enchantments around the tent would have something like this, but it would only be visible to the people inside the enchantments. There is no way that there can’t be some kind of boundary line for this spell. The movie exaggerates it a little bit, but when Hermione is like inches from Scabior and he only smells her perfume. If there wasn’t some kind of boundary for hermione she could have totally walked too far and Scabior would have caught her.”
What do you guys think about a boundary line for all their enchantments?
Caleb: So I guess… are we saying there’s something more specific about the tent that then these gazillion Repelling Charms that Hermione throws out every time they land somewhere…? Is it something specific about the tent we’re saying here?
Kristen: I guess from last week’s chapter, they were discussing how would Ron ever be able to find his way back because there’s nothing. Or how would they be able to find their way back if they stepped outside that line. So I guess this commenter is saying that… I guess if you set those magical boundaries, you’re actually able to see a line of where you’ve set it.
Kristen: That’s my take on it. But do you think you could really see that?
Caleb: I don’t know. I don’t know if you can. I don’t know if you can see… go ahead.
Leigh: I think you’d have to be able to see or sense it in some way. Maybe you don’t see it, but I don’t think it’s explicit in the text, but there would have to be some indicator, right? Of these invisible boundaries or you would really… that would be a pretty difficult sort of magic to negotiate around.
Shannen: Yeah, I would always imagine that you sensed it in some way. So when you got close to it, maybe there was a magical feeling. [laughs]
Caleb: Yeah, that’s fair. I would buy the feeling.
Caleb: Meanwhile, that’s the movies. We don’t see it, obviously. In the books, yeah, it’s probably not very clear. I would say you have to sense it. But that would be pretty fun if it was just recklessly like, “Go at your own risk.”
Leigh: Sorry, suckers!
Kristen: Good luck trying to find your way back.
Shannen: Better hope your friend lets you back in.
Kristen: Yeah. [laughs] A lot of Marco Polo going around.
[Kristen and Leigh laugh]
Kristen: And our last comment comes from SocksAreImportant, and they say,
“Steve said something in this episode that made me do a double take. He said that Dumbledore had inked in the symbol into the copy of Bard for Hermione to see. I never assumed this was the reason the symbol was inked in there. I assumed this copy was Dumbledore’s personal copy and he himself had inked in the symbol as a teenager when he was working with Grindelwald and they were first discovering information about the Hallows. Did anyone else think this way or did you think it was put in by Dumbledore as a clue for Hermione?”
Caleb: Yeah, I totally assume it’s from Dumbledore’s younger days. I don’t think it’s for Hermione.
Kristen: Okay. I agree. I mean, of course, you can’t tell because it doesn’t say how aged the ink is, but I agree with this commenter. I thought it was from his younger days as well.
Caleb: I think the question is did Dumbledore remember that it was in there when he was willing it to Hermione?
Caleb: And would he want her to know about the Hallows? Would he want them to be focusing on the Hallows or is he wanting Harry to be so focused on the Horcruxes?
Kristen: Well, those were all very great comments, and thank you, everybody, who commented over on our main site. There were so many great comments and I’m sorry we couldn’t read them all, of course. But if you would like to continue the conversations over there, just go over to alohomora.mugglenet.com and share your responses.
Shannen: Okay, so now we’re going to move on to the Podcast Question of the Week from last week’s episode. And it was, “Why did Dumbledore never tell Harry of their shared history in Godric’s Hollow? They both have a lot of family tragedy connected with this village and they both have meaningful reasons to return to this village and to learn more about themselves and their history by visiting it. Harry instead has to learn it through gravestones, books, and passed-down stories rather than a personal connection. So why did Dumbledore choose to keep this particular emotional story from Harry, when it is so obvious that Harry has been yearning for some connection to his family for so long?” So the first comment I have is from IamHuffledorhearmeroar – which is also a great username – and it’s actually in reply to They’ve Taken My Wheezy, who asked, “When would Dumbledore have told Harry?” So IamHuffledorhearmeroar said,
“My thoughts are that Dumbledore could have told Harry of this connection as early as Christmas time during Harry’s first year of Hogwarts. He could have given him his cloak of invisibility and told him about their connection of Godric’s Hollow. This might have been an nice way of showing Harry that he had [always belonged in the] strange new world that Harry was still trying to find connection in. I find it very interesting that Dumbledore was so silent about the subject. He could have brought up the subject so many times to Harry. It suggests to me that Dumbledore had much more deep seeded emotional reasons for keeping this from Harry. Even just beginning to talk about the subject must have brought up so much pain and shame for Dumbledore. Maybe this was a chapter in Dumbledore’s life he could not bring up even all those years later. I am also wondering if Dumbledore blames himself for the deaths of Lilly and James. He had the Cloak of Invisibility which is the Deathly Hallow that hide’s its owner from death. Dumbledore had it in his possession when Lilly and James were murdered. This not only could have cause Dumbledore pain and shame but also could have caused old feelings of his sister’s death as well. I think this would have been the motivator to keep the connection between him and Harry a secret. Dumbledore needed to be able to trust himself to teach Harry about his destiny. At the end of the day it might have just been to[o] painful for him to bring up.”
So most people said something along the lines of, “It just would have been too painful,” but I really like the point about the Invisibility Cloak.
Leigh: I wonder if part of it is that Dumbledore knew he was going to die, and given how much emphasis is placed on Harry’s willingness to die and the idea of resurrection at the end, I wonder if he didn’t want more parallels drawn between him and Harry; if he was trying to limit that personal connection.
Kristen: Very true.
Leigh: I mean, I feel like [in] so much of the later books you’re often presented with the option that maybe Dumbledore was just being a jerk. There’s a lot… that’s one of the things that’s uncomfortable. It becomes this prolonged moment where Harry is questioning this wonderful parental figure that has seemed to be one thing, yet seems to have all of these other stories behind him, and I think it is very much the parallel of realizing that your parents had lives before they were your parents, and they were fallible, and fallible in ways that you’re going to be fallible in the future. And if that’s the case – if we’re not deconstructing this too much – if that is really the parallel, then I don’t know that Dumbledore would want Harry to see that much of himself in Dumbledore. Do you know what I mean?
Caleb: Yeah, I totally like that. I thought of something different, but I am actually very convinced by that.
Caleb: I just thought maybe the simple response was that maybe Dumbledore… well, specifically to this response saying he could have done it his first year and told him about the Invisibility Cloak; I think at least that early, it makes sense that Dumbledore wouldn’t want to show Harry any favoritism, any… he didn’t know how Harry was going to be. It may go to his head. Something like that. But I think the grander scheme… it’s probably a good point.
Leigh: I think that’s a great point when you think about Dumbledore’s relationship with Tom Riddle; that maybe Dumbledore has been burned before and that… I never really thought about that.
Caleb: I would love to know what Dumbledore’s concerns were when Harry came to Hogwarts. He probably wouldn’t have talked to very many people about it. He certainly would not have talked to Snape, who is arguably the person he talks to about the big Voldemort issues.
Caleb: I don’t think he would have talked to McGonagall about it. He wouldn’t have known that Harry was going to be in Gryffindor. He may have suspected that, but…
Leigh: Now that we’re thinking about this, I feel that Dumbledore took a tremendous risk because he kind of replicated Tom Riddle’s childhood with Harry, right? He knew Riddle had in part been twisted by the fact that he’d grown up completely unloved, and then he put Harry in the exact same situation.
Leigh: Were I somebody who was trying to prevent the rise of another dark force in the world, that might not be my strategy.
Leigh: Obviously, you could say that the message was, “Well, Harry came from an equally sad upbringing or similarly sad upbringing and managed to be a hero anyway.” But I never really thought before about how risky that would be to do that to another child.
Kristen: Definitely, yeah.
Shannen: Yeah. Well, the next comment is from SeekerHolly and they say,
“I think Dumbledore knew that Harry had to figure out how to destroy the Horcruxes and defeat Voldemort on his own, and he had to significantly grow up to do so. And part of that is realizing that he shouldn’t be idolizing Dumbledore. Though it would have probably brought Harry some comfort and connection to have Dumbledore tell him about their shared past, I think it would have made it even harder for Harry to take Dumbledore off the pedestal. Harry needs to be able to have confidence in himself to complete his epic journey, and part of gaining that confidence and drive is to be able to strike out on his own out of Dumbledore’s shadow. I think the takedown of Harry’s perception of the headmaster during this book greatly prepares Harry to learn how to think on his own and ultimately complete his epic task; learning from both Dumbledore’s and his own mistakes better prepares him to take on Voldemort in the end.”
Leigh: That’s really beautiful, and I’m sort of struck by how unbelievably thoughtful all of your listeners are, especially when I think about what the comment section on most websites is.
Leigh: I’m like, “That’s crazy!” But at the same time… narratively, from a writer’s perspective, I don’t know that that holds true because he ends up in a conversation with Dumbledore at the end of all of this.
Leigh: Do you know what I mean? If that’s really the point of that, he still ends up looking to Dumbledore for answers and guidance in that final moment.
Shannen: It’s true.
Caleb: I also think that… well, yeah, I think this has some merit to it, but I also think the problem is that Harry doesn’t take it as a way… well, like any teenager, right? He’s not going to take it immediately for the worthiness of the lesson that’s behind it all. He’s angry at Dumbledore for most of this and that makes him act arguably reckless in a lot of ways, which isn’t atypical, but…
Caleb: And I think this goes to show some of the failures of Dumbledore not really foreseeing some of these problems that would come along. Not to take away from how difficult it must’ve been for Dumbledore to make that decision, given he’s already basically dooming Harry to die anyway.
Shannen: A few commenters brought up the whole, “Oh, Dumbledore wanted to keep Harry on task,” basically, and I think that was part of Dumbledore’s flaw. He was like, “We got to stick to the plan; I can’t get too close to this kid,” but of course he says he got too close to Harry anyway. Maybe if from the beginning you hadn’t tried to not become friends with him, and you’d just shared what you have similar in your past, it would’ve been a little bit better. Maybe not okay, but…
Leigh: I think one of the things we’re dancing around – one of the conceits of this series, narratively – is that there are things you can’t be told. It’s a narrative device employed by authors, like, “I’m going to… this character cannot be told valuable information.” Because we talk about, “Why did Dumbledore leave this as a clue?” There’s a lot of dancing around in the chapter that we read for this week that we’ll talk about where it’s like, “Why hadn’t…? Had he meant this? Had he meant that?” And that a lot of that could be… there’s, I think, a certain amount of discomfort as a reader when you realize, “Well, that’s how the story gets told.” If he had just sat Hermione and Harry and Ron down and been like, “Listen, this is what you need to know. And by the way, the sword is here.” That’s something she’s contending with as an author throughout the entirety of the series; What Harry needs to know, what needs to be discovered, and also what allows her to continue telling the story to readers as opposed to cutting it short.
Caleb: So if we can back off from that discussion because that really makes me want to ask you, Leigh: As an author, how do you deal with that? You’re coming up with ways to tell the story to the reader, but you’re also trying to keep it genuine and true to what these characters are going through. What is that struggle like? Does it come naturally? Easier in some ways than others?
Leigh: I think it really depends what kind of story you’re telling. I’ve never written a seven-book series, and quite frankly I can’t imagine writing one. I’m just not that kind of author, so I have nothing but love and respect for these books and what they did and the mythology they built and the way that our investment progressed through them. They’re really very important to me. As a writer, I think it’s really… you’re always dealing with the struggle of release of information. However, I have never written a relationship – or a character relationship – where there’s been any indication of, “There’s something you need to know, but you’ll just have to learn it on your own.” I have a real problem with that. Narratively there’s a break that occurs for me where I’m like, “That just… if lives are on the line, what possible reason could you have?” Unless there’s a very strong imaginable prohibition against you speaking something, or that you’ve been bound in some way from telling people something, that’s not a narrative device that I like. That said, it’s a really old one. It’s like, “You have to go on the journey.” It’s The Wizard of Oz; “It was with you all along!” Why didn’t you just tell me, Glinda? I’ve been wearing these shoes for hours! [laughs] That’s definitely not something that came to life just in these books. I think it’s a trope of fantasy fiction, and children’s fiction in particular. The only time it really drives me insane is if you read a book, and you realize that it’s a trilogy and it really should have been one book; the way that they’re drawing out that knowledge is like, “You’ll learn something in the next book, but I can’t tell you what!” That drives me nuts. But that’s not what I think is happening here.
Kristen: [laughs] Yes.
Shannen: Okay, so our last comment is from Hufflepuffskein, and it says,
“My first inclination about this question was along the same lines as many of the other commenters’ thoughts that Dumbledore did not trust himself in these sorts of emotional matters and perhaps feared that he would reveal too much too soon. Harry needed to learn the entire story in bits and stages to make the difficult yet right choice at the end. Dumbledore getting overly emotional during a Godric’s Hollow field trip may have spoiled those plans. But in reading the previous responses, I’m wondering whether Dumbledore’s own emotional state was the most important in his own mind. Perhaps he felt that it would be too much for Harry and he wanted to spare him the grief, just as he says during their chat after Sirius’s death. He cared for Harry “too much” and envisioned a trip to Godric’s Hollow would “cause him [more] pain.” It’s conceivable that despite the logical reasons for his not wishing to go listed above and by several others that Dumbledore actually really wanted to share this with Harry but reserved that information and those emotions so as to spare Harry the heartache for as long as possible. Perhaps Dumbledore hoped that if he could survive Voldemort’s defeat, he would share this with Harry after it was all said and done.”
I really liked that because almost everyone else said, “Dumbledore wanted to spare himself,” but then this was, “He wanted to spare Harry.”
Leigh: I mean, that’s the exact opposite of what I first posited, which was that Dumbledore knew he was going to die. And in some ways I like this theory more because it means he was just being a human being and thought, “Well, maybe it won’t come down to it. Maybe we won’t have to go to war, maybe he won’t have to find the Hallows, maybe there will be time for this after he has graduated.” There’s a lot of maybes in there.
Caleb: Yeah, I just thought about that same possibility. And I’ve never really thought about that. I’ve always assumed that Dumbledore was very signed on to the fact that Harry had to die. But maybe there is… I mean, I would have to expect there would be some degree that Dumbledore holds out hope that even though he knows this is 99% imminent, that there is maybe some way out, something he can figure out in the end to reverse it. Maybe he foresaw this opportunity of Harry “dying” and coming back, which really changes the way you think about it.
Caleb: [scoffs] It was so much easier to be mad at him.
Leigh: I actually like this so much because it also makes sense in terms of the first books; because there’s this idea that maybe Voldemort can be kept from coming back, that this is not going to happen, [and] that this is preventable. And yeah, I think I’ve always thought that he had this grand endgame, but in some ways I think it’s so much more believable to think that maybe he was just sort of holding out for the best.
Leigh: And that this also wasn’t high on the priorities list because the sword isn’t hidden there. This wasn’t supposed to be a stop on this outing. They weren’t supposed to be driven to go to Godric’s Hollow, right? Voldemort predicted that Harry would need to go home. In a way, he predicted better than Dumbledore.
Shannen: I like to imagine a universe where Dumbledore lived and they defeated Voldemort and everything and then Dumbledore was like, “Come, my boy, let me show you our home.”
Shannen: That would have been so cute.
Leigh: That would have been lovely, but it didn’t happen. I was really struck by, in this chapter – I reread Chapter 16 as well, to prepare because I do my homework – and something that struck me as a little bit peculiar was the difference between wizard monuments to war and Muggle monuments to war. The obelisk, and then that it’s the Potters who are at the center of the village, and that the Potters’ home is left ruined as this memorial. And I found myself wondering if this is because the wizarding world is so much smaller than the Muggle world? When we build monuments, they’re not usually to specific people who were lost in a moment. They’re to battles, or all the people lost. And I also found myself… does Rowling ever talk about why the wizards never get involved with Muggle wars? Is that ever mentioned?
Caleb: Hmm. That’s a good question. I don’t know. I’m not sure that she does.
Leigh: That’s really interesting to me. I feel like that’s a whole paper I wish I were in grad school to write.
[Caleb and Kristen laugh]
Caleb: Yeah, I had thought about this, too, rereading the previous chapter; that it seemed unusual, even for their significance. Obviously that they would be at the center of the town as this monument… it’s a good way, maybe, to think about it. It is pretty small, but…
Shannen: Hermione does ask, “Why didn’t they rebuild the house?” And she comes from a Muggle family.
Kristen and Leigh: Yeah.
Shannen: And I always thought, not that it was weird in the sense of, “Why would they do this?” but it must be so weird for Harry to see a monument of himself, and he’s still alive.
Kristen: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Shannen: And no one ever told him that this existed.
Caleb: Yeah, that is another thing.
Shannen: So thank you so much for everyone who responded to the Podcast Question of the Week. There were so many comments, and I really loved reading them all, so make sure to go to the site and read the rest of them, and comment yourself.
Caleb: All right, we are going to move into this week’s chapter discussion.
[Deathly Hallows Chapter 17 intro begins]
[Sound of hissing]
Harry: Chapter 17.
[Sound of Nagini attacking]
Harry: “Bathilda’s Secret.”
[Deathly Hallows Chapter 17 intro ends]
Caleb: All right, so a quick summary for Chapter 17: Harry and Hermione are leaving the graveyard after they think someone is watching them. They make their way to the remnants of the Potter home, where a strange woman beckons Harry and Hermione to follow her. After an odd interaction with Bathilda Bagshot, we find out that not all is as it seems with the old woman. Voldemort almost catches Harry and Hermione but they escape, and Harry sees a very important memory of Voldemort’s before Harry loses a very important possession.
So we start off, as we’ve mentioned just a little earlier, that Harry and Hermione find their way to the Potter home, which unlike the monument of the family is in utter ruin. It seems like nothing has changed from the moment – from that Halloween night when everything went afoul. Harry suggests that no one has rebuilt it because maybe dark magic prevents such. But the sign that pops up as they approach closer seems to indicate otherwise, that it was intentionally left this way. And the text says, “left in its ruined state as a monument to the Potters and as a reminder of the violence that tore apart their family.” And every time I read that, that last line is just so striking to me. I don’t know if I’ve ever been somewhere, except maybe the Holocaust Museum here in DC, that talks about such terrible human acts. It’s just so… it gets you.
Leigh: This to me was a closer parallel. It’s interesting that you mention the Holocaust Museum, because I was trying to think about places that are dedicated to specific loss and specific moments of violence. And the closest I could come, which is not necessarily the closest one that’s out there, was Anne Frank’s house. Which was admittedly where… I was just in the Netherlands, so it’s maybe fresh in my mind. But this idea of a space being dedicated to one person who is particularly important to a given narrative of war and violence… because like I said, this is very different from the way that we usually… I mean, it’s a murder site. This is a site where murder took place. It took place in the context of a war, but it was murder. So we just don’t have a lot of places like that, you know? In cities we tend to gloss over them and say, “Something terrible happened at this place,” and you have to go look it up in some atlas obscura or something. It’s not like there’s a plaque on the front of the building: “three people were murdered in this home.” You know?
Caleb: Yeah, and do we think that’s the best way to memorialize the Potters? I mean, obviously it’s a lot bigger than them. They’ve got their monument elsewhere in the town. But do we… I guess just in general, if you were in that position, is this the best way to sort of commemorate what happened?
Shannen: I can’t imagine rebuilding the house, because that almost seems disrespectful. I don’t know.
Leigh: Yeah. I do think there’s a… I mean, one of the big things that’s different about this is that this is supposed to be the moment that ended a war, right? Basically it literally ended a conflict that had cost many, many people their lives and prevented things from getting much worse. So it’s this moment that ended a war. Maybe the goal was to not let it be easy to forget, you know, that it’s the blast site. Instead of saying, “We planted this beautiful tree here,” it’s like, you guys all get to go on and continue with your lives and this is… maybe that ruin is really important that way.
Kristen: Mhm. I like how you said too that the wizarding world is such a smaller community that they’re able to do this, and it was such a prominent moment in the wizarding world that people can go visit and see and really feel for Harry and what had happened.
Caleb: We see a couple of pieces of evidence where people have visited the site. We don’t know how long ago they were there, but the messages almost seem like they’re recent because… I don’t have the chapter right in front of me, but they say something about… they’re basically encouraging Harry to keep going so it seems recent. I wonder how many people actually visit this site and if they feel like there’s a danger there, or if they feel that danger has passed. I guess it’s only recent[ly] that… some people have even started to believe that Voldemort is actually back. But I feel like people still have doubts about it, and there’s a lingering fear about the place.
Kristen: I assumed that people had visited before all this had happened. Years ago, like slowly.
Shannen: Oh, I assumed that the most recent comments were within the past few months. Because he said something about them being fresh.
Kristen: Oh, okay.
Leigh: Yeah, they’re glowing brighter and very much like, “Keep going, Harry,” and “We support you,” or something like that.
Leigh: I actually…
Shannen: I wonder if people are visiting right now during this whole book as a way to connect to him, to feel like he’s out there doing something. Like if the house is still here, Harry’s still here somewhere.
Caleb: So moving on from this very ominous visit to the house, a strange woman approaches and the strange woman says nothing. But [she] approaches the Potter home, and keeping in mind that… I think I’m right in remembering that they’re still under the Invisibility Cloak, or had they stepped out? They’re definitely still under the Polyjuice disguise.
Leigh and Shannen: Mhm.
Kristen: Yeah, they’re under the Cloak.
Caleb: Yeah. So she seems to see them, and she beckons Harry and Hermione to follow. And I’m wondering, should they have been more suspicious? It’s pretty clear a couple of lines down, but Harry and probably Hermione already suspect that this is Bathilda, even though they don’t say it. They’re obviously very eager to find out as much as they could, but it’s just such an unusual and weird interaction. They should have been more suspicious at this point.
Kristen: I’d say yes.
Shannen: [laughs] Yes.
Leigh: I say that this brings us right back to Dumbledore. This puts us right back into that position of… they have largely been led to believe that Dumbledore is some kind of guiding hand in all of this, and they know that Dumbledore knew Bathilda. So there’s every reason for them to be like, “Ah, of course! We solved the puzzle, and here is our reward. Now we will go to the next phase of the quest.” In some ways, they’re following the fantasy narrative exactly as they should. At the same time, yeah, I don’t think it would have been unreasonable to be like, “How about a test?” [laughs]
Kristen: Yeah. “Nobody else has ever been able to see us under the Cloak, but this chick? Yeah, she’s all right.”
[Caleb and Leigh laugh]
Kristen: It doesn’t make sense.
Shannen: Seems legit. [laughs]
Kristen: Yeah, right?
Leigh: That also was a little bit weird to me too, because Hermione had talked about covering their tracks but then she didn’t. Harry was like, “Nah, we don’t have to,” and then… I sort of figured she saw the tracks and they’re in front of the wizard house, so…
Caleb: Mmm… yeah. Good point.
Leigh: I felt like she was sort of walking the line between sensing them and seeing them.
Caleb: Yeah. Because I guess we don’t get a clear confirmation that she can actually see them.
Shannen: That’s true.
Caleb: I’m willing to bet she cannot because I don’t think the snake has the ability to see through invisibility, but [it] probably has a pretty good way of sensing just because… reptilian, whatever.
Caleb: I don’t want to think about that because I hate snakes, but…
Leah: [gasps] Rude.
Caleb: Not… I know…
Shannen: This is a great chapter for you.
Caleb: I have nothing against Slytherin house because I think, if anything, that would be my second house and I border on that a lot. But snakes just… the slithering… aah, I can’t.
Leigh: I think they’re beautiful, but that’s just me. [laughs]
Caleb: [laughs] So once Harry does confirm that it’s Bathilda, he’s still playing out this idea that Dumbledore left this for him. And so we just mentioned that, talking about Dumbledore and his effect on this. So there’s at least some reasoning of following her. Maybe they should’ve been a little more suspicious, but this description of her is just so much. The text is: “Her eyes were thick with cataracts and sunken into folds of transparent skin, and her whole face was dotted with broken veins and liver spots.”
Kristen: Bleh! [laughs]
Caleb: Probably not enough to think, “Oh, there’s something living inside there and it’s not a human.”
Leigh: Oh, she’s a corpse!
Leigh: She’s a corpse animated by a giant reptile.
Shannen: Of course.
Leigh: It’s not that much, but she definitely needs to exfoliate.
Caleb: I don’t… [laughs]
Caleb: I’m not surprised Harry didn’t pick up on this, but I am a little surprised Hermione didn’t second-guess him.
Caleb: And maybe she was just kind of worried about saying it in her presence… I don’t know.
Shannen: I feel like Hermione was kind of like, “Okay, Harry, you really want to do this? I guess I’ll let you, even though I’m a little iffy about it.”
Kristen: So this is what it looks like when you get old.
Leigh: I think it’s…[laughs] Yeah, we haven’t seen any real old people.
Leigh: I think it’s interesting because she stresses – by “she,” I mean J.K. Rowling – stresses early on that she’s a small figure, she’s hunched over, she has trouble walking. And so there’s a certain amount of harmlessness that’s sort of imbued into her. And Harry even says to Hermione, “Oh, I think we can take her.” There’s this kind of lack of threat in her, which quite frankly is a little weird because in the Wizarding world there are some very powerful witches and wizards out there who are quite old.
Kristen: Mhm. Yeah.
Leigh: But I was… I mean, something that really struck me… You know what it was? It was the word “coping.” Maybe that’s something that’s used more frequently in the UK, I don’t know. But when he says he wonders if… they go into the house and everything smells horrible, and later you find out [it’s] because somebody actually died there.
[Caleb and Kristen laugh]
Leigh: But in the moment, the house smells really terrible and it’s almost like she’s a hoarder. And [it] says, “It seemed like she had almost forgotten that she could do magic,” because she’s lighting the candles. And there’s this moment where Harry has this very, I think, sort of wonderfully empathetic thought, where he’s like: “He wondered if anybody had looked in on her to see if she was coping.” And I remember reading this for the first time and feeling this squeeze in my heart because I was thinking of this sort of helpless old woman who had been left behind in this Wizarding village where she’s supposed to be this keeper of history and all of this kind of thing. And [all] her friends and Dumbledore is gone and nobody’s taking care of her, which I think was a really smart thing to do as an author because then you are much more primed when everything goes to hell. So I sort of found it more believable because she was choosing to couch it in very human terms that we were seeing this old woman.
Caleb: Hmm. Yeah, I think that’s totally true. I mean, now we obviously have the benefit of looking back with hindsight, but I was totally shocked the first time I read it.
Leigh: Yeah! Yeah!
Kristen: Oh, gosh, yes.
Leigh: I know! [laughs] I was totally freaked out by it when I first read it!
Kristen: Oh, yeah. I had to reread it.
Shannen: I think when I first read it, I was like, “Leave. The sword is not here. Let’s… please, this is creepy.”
Shannen: “I don’t want to be here anymore.” [laughs]
Leigh: Oh, I was fully in like, “Oh, so sad to grow old alone, so sad.”
Leigh: “Who’s that sad, shuffling weirdo?” And then… [laughs] No! There’s danger in the weirdo.
Leigh: But I also was really struck by… this is a totally generic comment to make, but I just need to say it. I haven’t reread these books in a long while, and I was really struck by how good the writing is and how evocative. Even in her descriptions of the Christmas scenes and the streets and the quality of the light and then when you enter the house, it’s very economical because it’s… You talked about early on how people frequently turn their nose up at books written for children, but books written for children have to be much more sparse in their descriptions; they have to do a lot more with a lot less. And as I was reading this, I was like… [sighs] It was just such a nice reminder of how wonderful these are, even when she’s describing totally disgusting things…
Leigh: Like all the stuff that’s covered in grime and this poor old woman and her chamber pot… It’s just so deftly done.
Caleb: Yep. I agree. This is one of my favorite things to look back on as we reread. It’s just these… not just these big [unintelligible] moments, but really looking at just the language that she uses.
Caleb: It’s just really amazing.
Caleb: So as Harry is interacting with Bathilda, aka Nagini, now the locket seems to awaken. And this is such a good diversion that Jo does here. Harry mistakenly thinks it’s because the locket senses the sword to destroy it because the sword is near, which seems totally believable.
Leigh: Mhm. Mhm!
Caleb: And she’s just leading us along like she does. And we see there’s a dark room and there’s this – I didn’t even put this in the comments; I’m thinking back about it now – the lighting of the candles in this room is a really cool moment. It turns out horrible, right?
Caleb: But just the lead-up… I wish this could have been in the movie, just like the slow lighting of the candles and this revealing of this dark room with these photographs. Some of the photographs are missing, and Harry thinks about it later that Rita Skeeter has taken some of these pictures to put in The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. Just this very dark room lighting up and things are becoming… things are picking up as the light is entering the room. But Harry notices one of the pictures is the young man from his Voldemort vision earlier with Gregorovitch that he’s been trying to figure out who it is, that in the memory the young man is stealing something from Gregorovitch, the wandmaker. And Harry suddenly remembers that he’s from Rita Skeeter’s book, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. He still hasn’t obviously figured out who he is and his purpose and what he stole, but we get an interesting connection there. And then…
Shannen: You know, it was nice of Nagini to think, “Ah, I should light some candles for them so they can see.”
[Kristen and Leigh laugh]
Caleb: Yeah. Right.
Shannen: “Those poor humans…”
Caleb: Okay, so they do head upstairs. And this is the moment where you definitely know something is not right, because there’s no reason otherwise that Hermione gets left behind.
Kristen: I just want to point out too, there’s also a moment where Hermione’s voice… she says something to Bathilda, and Harry points out that Hermione’s voice sounds very clear and loud in the room.
Caleb: Ooh! Nice.
Kristen: And I wonder if that’s him not realizing that he’s hearing both Parseltongue and English.
Kristen: Like spoken.
Caleb: I’d totally buy that.
Leigh: Yeah. Yeah, me too. I never even noticed that.
Caleb: So when they do get upstairs, things start to move pretty quickly. The Horcrux starts to move against Harry’s neck – or I should say, away from his neck – toward Bathilda’s form and Harry has a brief Voldemort vision where Voldemort is very happy all of a sudden. And while Bathilda’s form distracts Harry with this shapeless mass… this scene is also really interesting to me because there’s so much confusion as you’re trying to read fast and figure out what’s happening, but you’re like “What is he looking at? What is a shapeless mass? Am I missing something?” And as he’s looking at this mass – which Harry just totally assumes that a sword is hiding in this pile of rags on the floor or wherever – Harry sees, I guess out of the corner of his eye, “the old body collapsing and the great snake pouring from the place where her neck had been.”
Leigh: [sighs] So good!
Kristen: So disgusting. [laughs]
Leigh: It’s so good! [laughs]
Kristen: I’ve got to say when I first read this, that’s not what I was expecting.
Shannen: Gosh, no.
Caleb: This is a light preview of some of the – especially in the most recent Robert Galbraith books – the horror scenes that she creates for her crimes later on. But it’s just the idea of a snake coming out of someone’s neck made me never want to sleep again.
Kristen: [laughs] And certainly not get near anybody’s neck.
Leigh: I remember… if I remember correctly, I listened to this before I read it. And I have a very clear memory of being in my car and being like, “What?!” and having to rewind. [laughs]
Leigh: And it was such a… when I was invited to be on the podcast, I was like, “Oh, man, this is…” I’ve probably reread the first four books of the series many, many times but not the last few, and so I was like, “Okay, I’m least familiar with this.” And this is really one of the only moments I remembered very clearly from it. It is so terrifying and good! As an author, you’re just like, “Yes! This is the dream! To make people freak out about snake bodies!” [laughs] That was just, “Wow.” It’s so good. I really liked it. [laughs]
[Caleb and Kristen laughs]
Caleb: I’m glad someone did.
Caleb: I like going through my PTSD that I’m reliving every time I read this chapter.
Leigh: He’s just rocking back and forth in the corner! [laughs]
Caleb: [laughs] The snake wastes no time and immedately attacks Harry as it comes out of this frail old woman’s body and tries to crush him on the floor. And eventually, the snake’s grip on Harry releases and we realize it’s because Hermione has come to get Nagini off Harry. And the text says, “It struck, and Hermione dived aside with a shriek; her deflected curse hit the curtained window, which shattered.” So I thought about this deflected curse part of it, and is this a sign that Nagini is a Horcrux? We obviously don’t know what spell Hermione used to get at Nagini. Obviously basilisks have pretty strong defenses, just their body as it is. But for me, I thought, “Huh, I wonder if this is just a slight preview that it can’t just be destroyed with ordinary magic” – can’t be harmed with ordinary magic.
Leigh: When do they figure out that Nagini is a Horcrux?
Caleb: [sighs] I can’t remember.
Kristen: [Do] they already suspect it?
Caleb: See, that’s what I’m wondering, if they almost already do. I can’t remember now.
Leigh: Because at the end of the chapter, Harry says it would all have been worth the while…
Leigh: … if he’d killed the snake. Although, to be fair, that could be a reasonable response whether it’s a Horcrux or not.
Caleb: Right. And I can’t…
Shannen: No, I think in chapters before… because I feel like I just… I’ve been listening to the audio as well, and so I feel like we’ve just talked about it a few weeks that they thought that Nagini was one.
Shannen: Because they said that she’s always by his side, so that’s going to be a real hard one or something.
Caleb: That’s fair. So Harry realizes that Voldemort is coming because he’s in this room. He’s being attacked by Nagini but he’s also having Voldy visions and…
Caleb: … so this is a really epic scene, I think. Because we have Hermione who’s showing incredible magical skill just across the board. She’s getting up to the room, she’s getting Nagini off Harry. She’s handing the situation magically in this pet-pressured situation, while Harry is really filling this role of this amazing capacity to get out. He’s like Indiana Jones, right? He’s jumping out the window…
Caleb: I think it’s he who shoots the spell to break some of the window – I could be wrong, but I think it’s him – and then they jump out of the window so they can Disapparate. And I felt like it was such a great – I don’t want to doubt Ron…
[Kristen and Leigh laugh]
Caleb: … but it just really shows how great of a tag team Harry and Hermione are when they’re under pressure. I just think they’re great.
Caleb: I also think…
Leigh: I mean, he’s so lucky she’s there. Like she’s so on poise…
Shannen: That’s true. Oh, yeah.
Leigh: She basically is like, “Yo, Harry, I don’t know if we should go with this lady.” He’s like, “Let’s go with the lady.” She’s like, “Yo, Harry, I don’t know if you should go upstairs.” “Let’s go upstairs.”
Caleb: Oh, yeah.
Leigh: And then she’s like, “All right, let me come save your ass again, Harry Potter.”
Kristen: Oh, yeah.
Leigh: It’s true he’s sort of the physical motivator in this, but she’s casting spells and…
Leigh: I mean, just… she’s so great. But I had to reread this a few times, even though… the action got a little bit – because he’s switching back and forth from Voldemort’s POV. I got a little confused about what was actually physically happening. But I loved the way… you have Voldemort’s greatest moment of defeat being replayed again. This is the site of his great humiliation, his great defeat, and now he’s getting away once more. It’s pretty great that we get both of those POVs. I think it’s really satisfying at the end of this chapter.
Caleb: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what I was about to jump into. I think this was such brilliant juxtaposition in so many ways. First it’s the dynamic in the room: Harry is trying to escape, but he’s also seeing Voldemort chase him, to be in the same room as he’s about to Disapparate; he’s almost there. And then immediately there’s this full circle moment as Voldemort… we go back in time to see his murderous mission approaching the Potter house. And it’s so pivotal that we see it this way because this is the only way we could ever see this moment. Unless there was some magic that Jo would’ve invented for [Harry] to see James’s and Lily’s memories through the Resurrection Stone or something, I don’t know. But otherwise, there is no one else who has survived or was there and remembered it. Obviously, Harry doesn’t…
Leigh: And even then there’s this kind of… I love how cinematic it is.
Leigh: It’s like him striding through the streets and then seeing the little kid in the Halloween costume. And for a moment you’re seeing the kid’s POV, right? And there’s this moment: “Should I kill this child?… I will not; I’m feeling good.” And then there’s this… I love the mood shift when you go into his POV; I think it’s really striking. She’s always describing how cold he is, and there’s always this coldness associated with him, and you really feel it in this moment. And then it’s so heartbreaking. I didn’t realize how much there is in this chapter that’s just wrecking, like seeing his family through the window. And when you’ve just been to the house and you’ve just had Harry pining for the life that he might have had and just how real it feels in this moment, how he would have gone to school in this town, and his mother would have made him his birthday cake… This whole imagined life that you’re about to see destroyed is so much more powerful because you’ve just seen it all through Harry’s eyes, and it’s loaded with… you care so much in this moment. It’s not just like, “Oh, remember when we saw them back in the Mirror of Erised?” It’s so visceral, it’s so human… and him making the little puffed colors of smoke…
Leigh: I was like, “Oh, no! No!”
Leigh: It’s really awful and so good. But so awful!
Kristen: Yeah, and I wrote down… I think this is slightly before they go into the full memory, but at some point the narration says, “He was Voldemort,” meaning Harry was Voldemort. And I’m wondering if that’s the first time when Harry goes into Voldemort’s mind, it says straight up [that] he was Voldemort. Because I feel like all the other times, it’s like a dream and it’s like, “Oh, and I had a high voice, which was weird.” And it’s not until afterwards that he’s like, “Oh, I guess I was Voldemort that time.” So I thought that was really powerful that this was maybe the first time that it was like Harry is in Voldemort’s mind. And he’s completely in it and completely in this memory.
Shannen: That’s really interesting. There’s this definite feeling of everything being… especially because of the way this book is paced, there hasn’t been a lot of action before this. And then all of a sudden everything is happening so quickly, and to me there’s this sense almost of claustrophobia where you can see everything narrowing to a single point. And it’s been very, very loud – lots of explosions – and then all of a sudden it’s quiet again. And it’s like you’re with him on the street. Yeah, I don’t know if that’s true or if it isn’t, but it feels very momentous when that’s happening.
Caleb: I also really… and I never thought about Voldemort’s thought process in this way before, but as he’s approaching the house – actualy when he’s already in the house and he has killed James – he thinks to himself, “He could hear her screaming from the upper floor, trapped, but as long as she was sensible, she at least had nothing to fear…” So I thought, wow, this is almost like a thought of mercy from Voldemort, like he was willing to just… I mean, he was obviously very intent on his mission of killing Harry, but he had this moment where he thought he didn’t need to kill her, even though he had needlessly killed, or at least had Death Eaters needlessly kill people. But then it shifts really quickly, because once he’s in the room, when Lily tries to protect [Harry] – and obviously she’s openly defying Voldemort’s very purposeful mission – he thinks, “He could have forced her away from the crib, but it seemed more prudent to finish them all…” That’s so intriguing that he was once, just a few seconds ago, thinking she could survive. And even here he recognizes he could remove her in front of him and not kill her, but he’s like, “Eh, better to just finish it all off.”
Kristen: Mhm. Maybe because he saw her love for him that he never had as a child. Seeing it in action is something different.
Kristen: I don’t know.
Leigh: That’s much darker.
Leigh: When he hears her screaming to me I think you could see it as a moment of mercy, or pragmatism, or just that… at that moment it’s just like, “Uh, what are you screaming about?” What are you making so much noise about? You’re not the issue here. You’re not the problem here. I do like the idea that there’s something in him that is pricked in some way by seeing a mothers love that visibly in front of him. I want to back track a little though, because there’s also a moment when James doesn’t bring his wand…
Leigh: … into the room…
Leigh: … and he hears the door open and … Voldemort’s response to that is so interesting to me. He’s marveling at the naivity of this person, almost at the innocence that still exists in these people. In some ways – I think – it’s one of the overarching themes of this book is how war changes us, how it changes our day to day behaviors, and the way we respond to other people, and how we meet circumstance. And this is a moment where James really believes he’s safe, and Voldemort’s somebody who never has felt safe in his life. There is no safe place for him at all and never has been, and I think that that is the orphan story in a way that James maybe could never understand.
Caleb: Even in the situation he was in?
Leigh Yeah, because he really still believes in… Voldemort comments on the fact that they don’t know that this charm has been broken, they don’t know that they’ve been betrayed, and if you are somebody who’s come from the background where you have never been able to trust anybody, then you are always waiting for the next betrayal. And at this moment James is still somebody who… James dies before he can become somebody who doesn’t believe that anybody can be trusted.
Caleb: Yeah, I had planned on raising the question, “Did the Potters not consider any additional protections against Voldemort should he break the Fidelious Charm?” I think that goes in part to answering it, that they… maybe I think they were a little bit naive, and this is really represented in this moment when he doesn’t bring the wand to the door.
Leigh: Yeah, it says they still believe in friends. He’s marveling and like, ‘Oh my God! Friends…
Leigh: … and it’s easy to step and be like, “Oh, how silly. Voldemort is just… he doesn’t like anybody.” But he’s… especially because we were just talking about Dumbledore and Tom Riddle, and this is in some ways still a very tragic character. Is somebody who can’t conceive of a world where you would ever feel trust, or ever feel safe. I actually remember feeling as a teenager that there was no safe place, and I know it resonated with me as this is one of the things that turns you into a monster, is if you really never find the tribe of people you can really trust, and who you would trust to be your Secret Keeper. You need that.
Caleb: You saying that just reminded me that… I remember reading an interview – I don’t remember where it was posted – but it was you and Veronica Roth interviewing each other, and you talk about this, and Veronica talks about how her background is very different, and you talk about your protagonist for The Grisha Trilogy and her for The Divergent Trilogy. It’s a really great interview. People should go and look that up.
Leigh: Oh, thank you!
Shannen: And it’s interesting that he says that, “Oh, they still believe in friends.” And it struck me when reading the chapter this time that Voldemort didn’t bring any back up.
Shannen: Obviously he wanted to go into the house and kill them himself, but he didn’t even have them on the street or something.
Shannen: He was really like, “I can do this,” but he couldn’t.
Leigh: Yeah, that’s a great point! That’s a really great point. Let’s be real. He’s maybe not the best general, because he is consistently…
[Kristen and Shannen laugh]
Leigh: … he is being consistently being let down by his – other than Bellatrix – people are constantly dropping the ball. And…
Leigh: … also constantly turning against him for human motives that he doesn’t really understand, like Draco’s parents. This is one of the reasons he’s not a great leader, is because he only leads through fear. He doesn’t actually know how to manipulate people beyond that. That’s… in some ways I think that makes him a beatable bully.
Caleb: That’s a nice segue into the question I was going to ask next. So we see Voldemort failing that night on Halloween. We obviously know that the choice to not push aside Lily and just go for Harry is what was his ultimate downfall, at least his first downfall – I should say – and then we see him failing once again in Bathilda’s house. He does get the picture of Grindelwald. He doesn’t know what… we assume he doesn’t know what’s yet, but it’s not a total loose for him, because that will be important. Is it interesting that Voldemort – we at least never see it – get angry at Nagini? Obviously Nagini’s not human, so it’s a little different, but throughout the series – and you were just mentioning this – that he leads through fear, and he punishes for not coming through, but we never see this… arguably this is Nagini’s fault. The snake wasn’t able to hold Harry down. Hermione got the snake off of Harry, and they were able to escape.
Caleb: I don’t know if we ever see him get mad at Nagini.
Kristen: No, because it’s a part of him.
Shannen: [unintelligible] Horcrux.
Caleb: Yeah, that’s what I said. It’s not a human, but is there any moment of just pure rage showing up, that it didn’t work out, and he has to lash out at something, but the Horcrux is probably enough to deter him.
Kristen: It’s his pet, no!
Leigh: I feel… [laughs]
Caleb: I mean, [unintelligible] talking about.
Shannen: With other humans he’s like, “You suck!” but with the snake he’s like, “Oh, don’t worry about it.”
Kristen: [unintelligible] my snake is the best!
Leigh: You know what’s interesting? Is I don’t… do we ever see Voldemort ever get mad at himself? Because that’s essentially what’s happening here, right? That snake’s…
Leigh: … an extension of him. This is all getting very strange [laughs] this conversation…
Leigh: This is all getting strange, this conversation. But the snake is an extension of him. It literally has part of his soul so it would be not unreasonable for him to get angry at himself but maybe he just does not ever do that. Maybe he does not have that impulse to be the way that ordinarily we would be like, “I really messed it up.”
Kristen: He does in the movie. He does. He portrays those “Aaah” scenes.
[Caleb and Leigh laugh]
Caleb: Those classic scenes.
Kristen: There are like five of them in the movie. He gets so angry.
Caleb: So Harry and Hermione make it back to the tent very worse for the wear. They consider the magic of the fact that Nagini was in Bathilda’s body and Harry realizes at this moment, of course, that it was speaking to him in Parseltongue, which I am thinking Harry really has got to get a grip on his awareness. Everyone who comes into Parseltongue, it is time, let us get there.
Leigh: To be fair, he does not encounter Parseltongue that often.
Caleb: That is true.
Leigh: That we know of. And then the one.
Caleb: So we find out that Harry’s wand was broken and Hermione might have caused it when she used the blasting curse. Such a devastating line: “Harry took it into his hands as thought it was a living thing that had suffered a terrible injury. He could not think properly. Everything was a blur of panic and fear.” I mean, think about what he has just gone through and then holding his wand is makes this overwhelming feeling of panic and fear.
Leigh: I know this is going to sound super weird but it instantly made me think of Hedwig.
Shannen: No, I understand that.
Leigh: Hedwig was the biggest loss for me in the books basically, I was like, “No, that is not possible.” And so this was also this moment you have read along with Harry about news to certain things that are stable in the world. This is a given. You reach for your wand and that is magic and there it is. So seeing that undermined I think is pretty awful.
Shannen: When he says that he cannot be around Hermione after that, I was like, “You leave her alone.”
Kristen: She just saved your ass.
Shannen: I know.
Caleb: I thought about that and I thought that was pretty rough, but he does not verbalize it and I expected worse from Harry here thinking about him lash out to her because he does that.
Shannen: I felt really bad when he is like, “I will just borrow your wand.” He does not even ask her.
Caleb: Yes, right.
Shannen: He is just like, “I will use your wand,” and she is like, “Okay, I guess I do not want to argue with you right now.”
Caleb: I think he makes a decent effort to try, though, to make her feel better, saying, “It is fine, it is an accident.” Obviously, it is not the best it could be but on a Harry scale we scored pretty high here.
Leigh: He walks away.
Shannen: He is doing well. He is like, “I am doing fine, don’t you worry about it.” I definitely appreciate that he does the stiff upper lip here but I also really respect her for being like, “I think it was me.” And that is a very Hermione thing to do, to just be truth above all else.
Kristen: It was the snake, it was the snake.
Shannen: It was totally the snake, are you kidding me? It was Voldemort.
Caleb: Right after he realizes his wand is broken there is a line where “Harry thought of Ollivander kidnapped and held hostage by Voldemort, of Gregorovitch who was dead. How was he supposed to find himself a new wand.”
[Kristen, Leigh, and Shannen laugh]
Leigh: All about Harry.
Caleb: Right. That is problem one. Your best friend has the crap beat out of her right now saving you from being crushed to death and at the same time it is a legitimate concern.
Shannen: It is. You have no other weapons. You have essentially had somebody tear both of your arms off at this moment. Okay, maybe that was an overstatement.
[Leigh and Shannen laugh]
Shannen: But you know what I am saying. I think we have to put ourselves in the mind of… I do not mean to jump to a completely different metaphor but I think about how stressed out I get when I cannot even reach for my cellphone. I am like, “I left my phone at this restaurant,” or something or break it or if it runs out of charge and the way you keep reaching for it. And then I imagine that magnified by 10,000 and this being your sole means not only of communication and of defense. I get it. I get why he would be like, “An old man is captured and being tortured and another guy is dead. Where am I going to get a wand from?” It is narcissistic, but I think it is also understandable.
Caleb: Fair point. I thought also this is leading us to the Elder Wand. We were mentioning Ollivander and Gregorovitch, the two leading wand experts and we know Gregorivitch is important in this chain of the Elder Wand or we find out later. He thinks about how he was supposed to find himself a new wand and, obviously, we know that is the way he does get his wand back, unlike that worst movie scene ever where he breaks the Elder Wand.
Leigh: That is the worst.
Kristen: That makes me so mad.
Caleb: Which I take every opportunity I can to talk about how terrible that scene is. People get upset about the Goblet of Fire Dumbledore scene, wrong. That is not the worst moment in the Harry Potter movies.
Shannen: No, Harry breaking that wand.
Leigh: Wait, which scene in Goblet of Fire do people get mad about?
Caleb: Right after Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire and he screams and pushes Harry against the wall.
Kristen: Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?
Leigh: Ah. That may be why I have not rewatched Goblet of Fire. That is really interesting, okay.
Caleb: So we close the chapter with this and this horrible feeling for Hermione because she is obviously very devastated at what happened with the wand and feels the blame and Harry does negligible amount to make her feel better and that is how we end the chapter.
Leigh: It is really fun.
[Caleb and Kristen laugh]
Leigh: Very uplifting.
Shannen: I forgot how much was in this chapter.
Caleb: It’s very loaded.
Leigh: Like I said, I read Chapters 16 and 17 to prepare, and at first we’re at the grave where they make the roses…
Kristen: Yeah. [laughs]
Leigh: … and I was like, “Oh God, poor Harry,” and then all this traumatic stuff happens and the wand is broken and everybody’s fighting and Ron is gone and it was like… I had forgotten… I feel like there’s so much angst in this book and this is definitely one of the pinacle moments of that. Despite all the deaths that are about to ensue.
Kristen: I know, right? It’s only going to get worse. [laughs]
Leigh: Yeah. But, you know, it’s interesting because so many deaths happen offscreen in this book…
Leigh: … particularly in that final battle scene. We lose so many really valuable characters and we don’t get to see their last moments, so it’s interesting that we do, in this book, get to see Harry’s parents last moment and that it does get this incredibly personal buildup to that scene. That’s not something we always get in these books. I think, in part, because they’re children’s books. In the early stories they would just be doubly devastating. But it made me think a lot about… do you guys remember when the new Superman movie came out and… yeah, I hated it…
Caleb: I made that conscious choice to not watch it.
Leigh: Oh, it’s so terrible and I really… Henry Cavill’s face is a beautiful work of art, regardless, it’s like that movie. It’s tragically bad, but one of the reasons it’s bad is that you don’t care about so many of the people who die. There are constant explosions and deaths and half the planet is being destroyed and yet you don’t know any of the people. You have no personal attachment to any of it. And so you don’t feel anything when these things happen. And I really thought about this when the way that these two chapters were built where you have all the lead-up and then you see this death scene that has been so pivotal to these books, I thought was just really deftly done. I thought it was really good. Really sad.
Shannen: So now we’ll move on to the Podcast Question of the Week, which is, “How exactly does the magic surrounding Nagini work? Is she consciously controlling Batilda’s body, or is this some kind of pre-programming from Voldemort? Is this magic possible because she’s a Horcrux? Nagini is able to sense or see Harry and Hermione under the Invisibility Cloak, which is a Deathly Hallow, and she knows it is them despite their disguises. Is this because of a spell cast on her, because she can smell them, because she’s a Horcrux, or something else entirely?” So you guys can go online and answer this question on the Alohomora! website and we might read your response on the next show.
Caleb: That’s a great question, Shannen. I’m really anxious to see… there are a lot of different directions this could go…
Caleb: … so I’m excited for it. So we want to take a moment to thank Leigh Bardugo so much for joining us. I’ve been excited about this episode for a long time now.
Caleb: So glad we could make it happen.
Leigh: Thank you guys very much for having me. It was so fun to go back into this world and to get to talk about it with us and people, so very much appreciated.
Caleb: And Leigh, tell our listeners… Six of Crows is already out and…
Caleb: … if you already haven’t started reading it, you should. I will say I started reading it law school, finals impending makes it a little hard to get through as much as I wanted, but it’s…
Leigh: Man, get your priorities in order.
[Caleb and Kristen laugh]
Caleb: But it is a wonderful book and we talked a lot about this… J.K. Rowling’s ability to write with amazing detail. If you want to read novels that create amazingly detailed worlds, Six of Crows but also the Grisha Trilogy, it is just something you need to dive into.
Leigh: Oh, thank you.
Caleb: And tell the listeners who have not jumped into Six of Crows just a brief idea of what they would be reading.
Leigh: Six of Crows is a magical heist story. We pitched it as Oceans 11 meets Game of Thrones, but I have realized that most people under twenty have not ever seen Oceans 11, so now we just describe it as Guardians of the Galaxy but with less space. It’s a ragtag band of misfits story. It’s about six kids who all come from various different backgrounds and who are offered a chance to pull off what might be an impossible heist to break a scientist out of this fortress that’s never been breached before. And if they can do it, they’re going to come into basically a life-changing sum of money. It means something different to all of them and so they have to work together to do it, and none of them trust each other, some of them have some history together. It’s basically my favorite kind of story, which is that found family, finding your tribe kind of story, so I hope people will check it out. And the Grisha Trilogy is… my favorite description of the Grisha Trilogy ever was Harry Potter meets Anastasia meets Avatar: The Last Airbender so if any of those things appeal to you…
Leigh: … you will check it out.
Caleb: And the second book in the Six of Crow series is called… you said it earlier in the episode.
Leigh: It’s called Crooked Kingdom, and hopefully it will be out next year. It’s just a two book series. It’s a duology. And you don’t have to read the Grisha Trilogy to read Six of Crows. They’re totally separate. And I have a short story coming out with Stephanie Perkins next year, I have a horror story in Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, and hopefully I’m going to be able to announce some of my new stuff too soon, but I can’t yet. So there you go.
Caleb: Very exciting.
Kristen: If you would like to be on the show, just check on our page at alohomora.mugglenet.com. All you need to have is a set of Apple headphones and you’ll be set. No fancy equipment is needed, and don’t forget while you’re there on our website to download a free ringtone.
Shannen: You can contact us on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN or on Facebook at facebook.com/openthedumbledore, or on Tumblr at mnalohomorapodcast.tumblr.com or on Instagram at @alohomoramn. You can call us at 206-GO-ALBUS – that’s 206-462-5287 – or you can send an owl to audioBoom, which you can find on alohomora.mugglenet.com, and it’s free. Just keep your message under 60 seconds, and apparently we’re coming soon to Google Play.
Caleb: Indeed. And make sure to check out our store, which has a lot of great products. House shirts and other products with themes like Desk!Pig, Mandrake Liberation Front, Minerva Is My Homegirl, and so many more.
Kristen: And don’t forget to check out our smartphone app. As part of our hosting service, we are listed on an app called Podcast Source. This app is free and includes transcripts, bloopers, alternate endings, host vlogs, and much more.
Caleb: All right. That’s going to do it for this episode of Alohomora!
[Show music begins]
Caleb: I’m Caleb Graves.
Shannen: I’m Shannen Mickelson.
Kristen: And I’m Kristen Keys. Thank you for listening to Episode 167 of Alohomora!
Caleb: Open the Dumbledore!
[Show music continues]
Shannen: I’m wondering…
Leigh: I have contributed!
[Caleb and Kristen laugh]
Caleb: You have. Indeed.
Leigh: It’s what I needed to do.
Shannen: I’m wondering how many people Nagini has lured up here and been like, “Are you a Potter?” and they’re like, “No?”
Caleb: Oh. See…
Shannen: [laughs] And then she’s like, “Never mind.”
Caleb: That really messes with my head because as I was reading this, I wanted to thought, “Oh, is it worth putting in a joke up here that Bathilda is luring Harry upstairs?”
Caleb: And now that you’re talking about her having a frequent line of customers coming upstairs, there’s just a very weird…
Kristen: She’s got five bodies she’s digesting already.
Shannen: “Whoops, you’re just a Muggle. I’ll eat you.”
Kristen: “Not again.” [laughs]
Leigh: “Never mind!”
Leigh: “Please leave us a good review on Yelp. Be on your way.”
[Caleb and Kristen laugh]