Transcript – Episode 214

[Show music begins]

Kat Miller: This is Episode 214 of Alohomora! for March 4, 2017.

[Show music continues]

Kat: Hello, hello, listeners, and welcome to another episode of Alohomora! You know it, you love it: It’s the Harry Potter biweekly discussion of the series. I’ll stop talking. I’m Kat Miller.

Alison Siggard: I’m Alison Siggard.

Michael Harle: [laughs] I’m Michael Harle. And our guest today is one of our longtime listeners, Paul. Paul, say hello to everybody.

Paul Gomila: Hello, everybody.

[Kat laughs]

Paul: I’m super happy to be here.

Michael: So Paul tried to actually get on the show previously, and he just missed one of our emails to be on the show. Which episode was that for, Paul?

Paul: It was for the Horcrux episode in December. Yeah.

Michael: Ahh, yes, the Horcrux episode. But we were glad we were finally able to get him on an episode. Paul is a perfect example, listeners, of perseverance…

[Kat and Paul laugh]

Paul: Thank you.

Michael: … in the face of adversity.

Kat: And wasn’t it the three of us also on the Horcrux episode?

Michael: Yeah, it was.

Kat: I thought so, yeah.

Alison: No. Was Eric on that episode? I don’t remember.

Michael: I don’t remember.

Alison: The Horcrux episode?

Kat: I haven’t recorded with Eric in what feels like 20 years, so…

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: But yes, so that’s just some more proof out there, listeners. If you’ve already submitted an audition, make sure to do it again because that’s what gets you noticed by us. But Paul, tell the listeners a little bit about yourself. What House are you in? What’s your history with Harry Potter?

Paul: Sure. So my history with Harry Potter is a bit odd. It’s a fun story to tell. I actually didn’t read the series for a long time just because I wasn’t a big reader as a kid, but [I] loved the movies and then saw Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and started the books that night because I was just so amazed and then waited to see the last movie and then read Deathly Hallows. So I did a straight movie-first experience of Harry Potter, which is kind of odd, but [I] really loved that I waited that long. I feel like it set up my expectations a little better. So that was my first experience with Harry Potter. I am a bit of a basket case with Houses, I guess.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Paul: I got Slytherin the first time I did the Pottermore test, and then I got Ravenclaw, and then a while later, I decided just to do it again and got Gryffindor, which is odd because that’s what I feel least associated with, but I just tell people I’m a Ravenclaw now. I think that’s just the easiest thing.

Kat: So what would your order be, then? Because it sounds like you have a very similar Sorting to me. So how would you rank them?

Paul: I would say probably… It’s hard. I would say Ravenclaw first, and then Slytherin and Hufflepuff are tied for second and then Gryffindor at the bottom.

Kat: Huh, very similar. Hufflepuff is a hard third for me, so it’s funny. Very similar, though.

Paul: Yeah, it’s close.

Kat: I appreciate somebody else who is like, “There’s no way I’m a Gryffindor” because that’s me.

[Kat and Paul laugh]

Paul: Yup, no, there’s no… I was really surprised when I got it. I was like, “There’s no way.”

Michael: Y’all with the multiple Houses just freak me out.

[Alison and Paul laugh]

Michael: It’s like, just do it multiple times and break the ties.

Paul: We’re all over the place.

Alison: I do, but I keep getting tied.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Kat: Then stop doing it.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Kat: That’s my solution: Do it once, guys. Once.

Michael: That’s the other thing, yeah. People do it as many times until they get what they want, right?

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Kat: That’s cheating.

Alison: Well, I’m doing the Harry Potter club at my school, and I took it again with the kids, and I ended up getting my cedar wand, Gryffindor, and Pukwudgie. [laughs]

Michael: Oh my goodness.

Alison: I was like, “Who knows who I am anymore?”

[Paul laughs]

Michael: You’re just a mess.

Paul: Yeah, I haven’t done the Ilvermorny test yet, so I should go back and do that.

Michael: Oh, okay, you don’t even know your Ilvermorny House yet. How exciting!

Paul: No. No, I’m in the dark there.

Michael: Paul is very much still in his Harry Potter journey.

[Paul laughs]

Kat: Yes he is, he is.

Paul: Yeah, I’m trying to extend it as long as possible.

Michael: Well, we’re so glad that we could be a part of that journey, Paul, because this week we are discussing something very open-ended. We are looking at life lessons and themes in the Harry Potter series as a whole. So…

Kat: It’s going to be a short show. Like, 20 minutes.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Paul: 20 minutes max.

Alison: Did we learn anything from these books? What?

[Alison, Michael, and Paul laugh]

Paul: I thought they were very shallow and to the point, personally.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: Children’s books, right?

Kat and Paul: [laugh] Children’s books.

Alison: But before we get into that, we want to let you all know that this episode is sponsored by Charles Kelliher.

Michael: No relation to Garrison. [laughs]

Alison: That is our sponsor on Patreon for this episode. You can become a sponsor for as little as $1 a month, and remember, we continue to release exclusive tidbits for our sponsors. You can have Michael read to you if you are a sponsor.

Michael: Yes, come join me. I’ll read aloud.

Alison: I will probably be singing the Ilvermorny song as soon as my friend is done with all her tests so she can play the ukulele.

Kat: Ohh, that’s going to be so cute!

Alison: Yeahh. Lots of fun stuff of coming. So…

Kat: And I think, Michael, you’re almost all set with the “Let’s Play, right?

Michael: Yes, it’s not a running joke anymore.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: It’s going to be a thing. I’m actually going to test it out tonight and see if we can make this happen. I’ve got a whole new fancy tech setup going on here that I’m experimenting with even right now with the recording. It looks a lot more… I’m not recording on my bed anymore, which is very nice. I’m at a desk. But yeah, I’m hoping I can get Sorcerer’s Stone up and running on my PC and do a little playthrough of that and see what you guys think. So that’ll be coming out for the Patreon sponsors.

Kat: Yeah, we weren’t actually lying to you guys for six months.

[Alison and Paul laugh]

Kat: It just took a really long time to figure out how to make it work.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Kat: But thank you, Charles. Yay! Claps for you.

Michael: Yes, thank you, Charles.

Alison: Yay!

Kat: Thank you, thank you, thank you. He’s been a sponsor for, like, a year and a half, so it’s very awesome. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Michael: And with that, we move into the life lessons and themes of Harry Potter.

Kat: Oh boy. [laughs]

Michael: Before we even get into any of the deeper stuff here, I thought it would just important to point out and remind the listeners [that] as we all know, the best stories, the longest-lasting stories, tend to be full of themes and life lessons, but I think Harry Potter in particular is very inspired by the history of fairy tales and children’s literature. I think probably the most important thing to cite as far as fairy tales go is, fairy tales were actually made to be cautionary tales originally for adults and children and eventually after a while started to be geared strictly toward children, although you wouldn’t think it based on current standards if you read Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Kat: Or Beetle the Bard, really, if you look at those.

Michael: Or Beetle the Bard, yes. Or even Charles Perrault or any of these other classic writers. They had a firmer hand with how to get through to children. But most fairy tales do have cautionary ideas and also entail a sense of morality and what’s right versus what’s wrong. Which is perhaps why fairy tales have lasted so long throughout time. But of course Rowling’s work has also been compared to probably most famously Roald Dahl, especially the earlier Potters, and Roald Dahl also tends to have a pretty firm hand of what morality is in his works. If you’ve ever read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Twits, [or] Fantastic Mr. Fox, bad people tend to get their dues and good people win in the end. He’s a little more black and white, I tend to find, than J.K. Rowling, which is something we’ll get into as we explore these themes and life lessons. Alison, I was curious, too, because you have a little bit of background and knowledge in some of this. I didn’t know if there was anything you wanted to add to that as well.

Alison: Yeah. This is what I do, right?

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: Yeah, just the idea, I think, of morality… I like that you brought up that Rowling’s is a lot more gray in a lot of ways. But I think that matches life and matches a modern audience’s expectations more. So she’s getting a lot of these same things across that these traditional fairy tales and that these older children’s authors are getting across, but she’s getting them across in a way, I think, that will reach more people and will stay with them more. They stand up to living life experience, because it’s true: Not every single bad person you come across in life is going to get exactly what you think they should get. And we see that a lot in Potter books, but we see that, at the end, good is still better than evil.

Paul: Right. I think she does a good job of… Because she sets up the good-evil paradigm but also has a lot of discussion of moral grayness in the series. So I think she does a good job of doing both at the same time.

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and I think, Alison, what you said, too, is really important, about current audience expectations, especially in terms of how we’ve evolved with our relationship to fairy tales and morality tales because of course… And I think it’s starting to die down compared to where it was about five, ten years ago, but I think a lot of that… I know a lot of people attribute credit to Gregory Maguire and the Broadway adaptation of Wicked as starting to change a lot of ideas about how we approach writing, especially the bad guys in our stories these days. Audiences seem to not really believe that a bad guy is just bad because as evidenced, I think, excellently (not necessarily by the quality of the movie but by the concept behind it)… Listeners, if you’ve had the misfortune of seeing Disney’s Maleficent

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: … the whole concept behind it was that, basically, there’s a reason for her evil. But a lot of us have grown up with the story of “Sleeping Beauty” and the idea that the evil fairy is evil just because she didn’t get invited to a party, and that’s not really accepted anymore because…

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Kat: Yeah. You know who in Disney, though (just totally off topic), is actually really very evil is Cruella because she skins puppies, guys. That’s evil.

Michael: See, and despite that, shockingly, they’re still going to do a live-action young Cruella movie at Disney with Emma Stone playing Cruella.

Kat: Which blows my mind.

Alison: Stop it Disney. Just stop.

Paul: No way.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Blows my mind.

Alison: They just keep…

Michael: You cannot justify a woman who killed puppies. [laughs] But somehow, they’re going to try it.

Kat: I will never be okay with that.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: Never. Never.

Alison: I could go totally off-topic.

Kat: What did puppies do to you, okay?

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Alison: It’s going to be she got bit by a dog or something, and so she just like had it out for them.

Kat: Ugh. That’s BS. That’s BS.

Michael: But when you look at that, maybe we’re getting toward the side of the other extreme now, where these days we’re just trying to justify bad behavior almost too much.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: You have to wonder. And excuse bad behavior in that way, which could go into a lot of…

Kat: Well, yeah, #politics.

[Alison, Michael, and Paul laugh]

Michael: Yes. As I look at our document, I’m looking at [how] we have actually overarching themes first, but I actually think it might be more beneficial to go through the books one by one to start and discuss what we think of as the individual life lessons from each of those books. And maybe we can come to some conclusions about how those all add up together to create the overarching themes for Harry Potter. So we start, of course, with Sorcerer’s Stone/Philosopher’s Stone (depending on what part of the world you’re in). What do we think are the main life lessons and themes in the first book?

Kat: I definitely think believing in yourself is a big one, especially for Harry, Hermione as well, and maybe even Ron a bit, although probably in the later books more so for Ron. But I think, yeah, definitely believing in yourself and relying on others as well. Working in a team, I think, is a big one for Book 1.

Paul: Right. I think… I mean, of course there’s the moment where they come together. I think that really sets the tone for a lot of the series in that moment of them depending on each other and Hermione lying very uncharacteristically to protect Harry and Ron. I think that does set up a lot of themes going forward and just fram[es] the power of friendship.

Alison: Yeah, I think the first book is where a lot of the themes and life lessons we’ll talk about in the overarching ones… They come about in their purest form. And I mean, I’m rereading Sorcerer’s Stone right now. I’m finally getting around to my illustrated editions. [laughs] And I’m noticing just how much there seems to be this theme of just like whimsy and wonder and seeing the world in a new way and looking for the small things that make the world magical. I mean, the way she describes Harry, all of his first interactions with the magical world are just these… It’s like he’s got new eyes all the time, where he’s just this little kid, and he’s been given almost a new set of glasses.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: And now he’s seeing the world in a whole new way and just that idea of looking for the magic hidden in life.

Michael: That triggered a thought with me with the idea of having new experiences and seeing the world in a new way. Going back to the discussion about fairy tales, if we were to give it a fairy tale comparison, Sorcerer’s Stone is “Cinderella,” I would say. As far as Harry’s relationship with the Dursleys, it’s the “Cinderella” revenge fantasy that you get what’s coming to you. You get your just rewards for being a good person. And you go from the lowest spot to the highest spot. It goes from rags to riches, very much that element.

Paul: Yeah, that’s really interesting, I think. I haven’t thought about that before. But it’s a neat spin because at first, in the first book, we do see Harry coming into fame a lot. He’s got fame, he’s got wealth, he’s got friends, and everything, and then of course as the story goes forward, you realize that it’s not all good. [laughs] It’s a massive and grim responsibility that’s been heaved upon him. So it’s not all shiny.

Michael: Yeah, I think that’s an important thing to keep track of as we go through these because, in fact, I think we’re going to see some of a breakdown of these themes and lessons as we go through the series. It’s not as, perhaps, clean-cut as she presents it in the first book, not as black and white. I really like to… Paul, what you had here about a particular object… I believe you noted that one in the first book.

Paul: Yeah. I think the Mirror of Erised really is… I mean, it is, both for Harry and for the audience, a very classic teaching moment where Dumbledore, being the wisdom figure in the story, explicitly says, “Be wary of this. Don’t get caught up in this.” So it’s very plainly a cautionary tale. But it’s really interesting. I think it foreshadows Voldemort a bit. Because Voldemort is so very obsessed with his desire, and that plays into his downfall quite a bit. So I think that’s definitely something that’s worth highlighting.

Michael: That made me think of a lot of… In fact, there’s a lot of… Temptation seems to be a major theme in Harry Potter and how you approach temptation, and I’m even thinking, just in Book 1, what do we have? We have the Mirror of Erised. I think the Sorcerer’s Stone itself is a major symbol of temptation. And I’m even thinking of the moment when Malfoy extends a hand to Harry and says, “You can have it easy if you’re friends with me.” So that’s definitely a big thing. And I think we’re going to see that all throughout the series. This is interesting, though, too, because I’m thinking of the popular, of course, ring theory with the Harry Potter series, and temptation definitely links [Books] 1 and 7 very closely.

Kat: That’s funny. No joke. Twenty seconds ago, I made a note, and I was like, “I want to explore the [ring] theory of those things,” because everything they were saying was like, “Oh my gosh, these all apply to Deathly Hallows too”…

[Michael laughs]

Kat: … which is crazy. I mean, I knew that was a thing, but when it clicks in your head again…

Alison: And it even connects to [Book] 4 as the middle. I mean, what is right and what is easy? So we’ve got those.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. I had a weird… Maybe this isn’t pure ring theory, but I was thinking about, I mean, like we mentioned earlier, the characters coming into their own and getting their spotlight. When Ron sacrifices himself on the chessboard, I wonder if that, in a way, hooks up with how he disappears or leaves the group behind in Book 7. He is absent for a portion of the critical journey there, but for very different reasons. In the first book, obviously, he’s being valiant, and then in the last book, he’s being, at least in my opinion, a bit of coward. So it’s interesting. Maybe not ring theory-ish, but [it’s] interesting to compare, at least.

Michael: I think that’s important in ring theory because it’s the development and the track of Ron’s character. And ring theory can also apply not necessarily to parallels but also [to] opposites that link the two together. So I think that works as well. There’s definitely also… I think in Sorcerer’s Stone there’s a lot of… and I think it bleeds more into Chamber of Secrets too, but there’s definitely a lot of an espousal of Gryffindor-esque qualities, especially the bravery one; the bravery one comes up a lot by the end. Multiple characters have to exhibit their Gryffindor side in the last moments of the book, and they all get their turn to do it, especially with the Forbidden Corridor and the events leading up to it. Paul, you noted the first one.

Paul: Yeah, I mean, the moment with Neville is so big, I think, especially just for Sorcerer’s Stone being what it is and being more directed to a younger audience. I think it’s really crucial for her to show that that type of bravery is rewarded and valu[ed]. It’s very classic and I think very easy to set up being courageous and brave against evil forces or the bad guys or whatever. I think that’s really easy to write and explain and make sense of, but standing up to your friends is obviously something that is super important to do in your life and to know about and to experience, so I think having that in the first step of Harry Potter’s journey in the first book, I think, was really good on JK’s part.

Kat: Really sets up Neville’s character too. If you think about his entire arc, it stems from those words, basically.

Michael: And then we of course get I think one of the classic life lesson moments, which is after the potion challenge of Hermione reminding Harry of what’s really important, [which is] friendship and bravery, that classic line. And then, of course, Harry’s final showdown with Voldemort and the choices that he makes and then how he chooses to use the Mirror of Erised to get what he needs. And he does it in a very unconventional way by realizing, thanks to Dumbledore’s advice, that he doesn’t need the Stone. He doesn’t want to use it for himself. He just needs to keep it safe. And Harry… It’s almost like Dumbledore… This is an interesting way to look at Dumbledore, because we’ve talked about exactly how much Dumbledore knows or does not know. Perhaps Dumbledore is also subtlely [not only] pushing Harry in the right direction but also giving him those opportunities to shape his values, I guess? Dumbledore seems to be a big believer in that, even to the point of leaving Harry with the Dursleys. He cites that he doesn’t want Harry to be overwhelmed by his fame in the wizarding world from a young age and be able to develop a proper sense of self, which he more than does with the Dursleys. [laughs] And then in addition to that, making sure that when he goes to Hogwarts, that he’s successful on his own terms rather than on terms that other people decided for him, which is funny because Dumbledore decided it for him.

[Everyone laughs]

Paul: “You will be independent because I demand it.”

Michael: [laughs] So that makes things a little complicated, which that we’ll revisit when we get down to Order of the Phoenix, when we get to that point in the story. And now, interestingly, when we walk into Chamber of Secrets, I thought it was funny. Shout-out to Paul, listeners: He went in and just started listing all the themes and life lessons for each book, but what I thought was funny was when I was looking at the Doc earlier today, I noticed that Chamber of Secrets was very empty.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Paul: Yeah, I could not… I could think of very little for Chamber of Secrets.

Michael: I wonder why that is. I know that some… These days, Chamber of Secrets has oddly tended to have a lesser standing in the fandom. It’s gone down the list for a lot of people.

Kat: It’s just a soft book, in my opinion. I don’t know.

Paul: Yeah, I think it’s a stepping-stone now between… Obviously, the first book is big and monumental, and I think Prisoner of Azkaban is also a fan favorite for a lot of reasons. So yeah, maybe it’s just fallen by the wayside.

Michael: That’s so funny because Chamber of Secrets is really, really important.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: And I feel like Chamber of Secrets, in terms of the fandom, has actually taken the place of where Half-Blood Prince used to be because a lot of people… I used to have that all the time [when] I would tell people that I loved Half-Blood Prince, and they’d be like, “Yeah, me too! I don’t remember anything that happened in that book, but it’s great”.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: And those two books are so… They’re very much linked in ring theory, and they’re very much linked with a lot of the themes. And who noted these two particularly?

Alison: This is me.

Michael: Alison!

Alison: Because I was sitting there, and I was thinking, and I was like, “What happens and what do we learn?” And I think one of the big ones is judgment, especially judging others, I mean, and determining that one thing about someone is going to make them good or one thing is going to make them bad. I was especially thinking of Harry on the Parseltongue and the thought that “Oh, he suddenly can speak to snakes. He’s definitely the Heir of Slytherin.” And you get into that, but I mean, they judge Malfoy so quickly. They’re like, “Oh, he knows. He wants all the Mudbloods to be taken out. It’s him.” They don’t stop to question, which I think is something… Maybe it’s because I work with 12-year-olds all day…

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: But it’s something that especially kids do a lot. Things are so black and white. But I think 12 [or] 13 is about the age where a lot of kids start seeing some of the more complexities, and they start saying, “Oh, wait, hold on. I need to take a step back and look at the whole picture before I say this is or this isn’t.”

Michael: Yeah. I think you just hit on something we’ve noted before of why Harry Potter is so phenomenal as a piece of work and why it was so lauded at its time of publication, because it did grow with its audience. And it’s an unusual series, I think, for a lot of people in that way because 12 [or] 13 is the point in your life when you start seeing that things aren’t quite as black and white as you were perhaps led to believe in childhood. And of course, physically your body begins puberty, and in addition to that, you suddenly start being exposed to a lot of knowledge of things that you did not have before of adult life, I think. And Chamber of Secrets definitely starts that as well. While most people would say that Goblet of Fire is the beginning of the really dark period of the series, people are being Petrified and potentially killed in Chamber of Secrets.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: Harry does talk to more than one dead person. It definitely gets a little darker from where Sorcerer’s Stone started.

Paul: Right. But even [in] Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry murders somebody at the end of the book!

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: Yes. He really does.

Paul: Y’all have talked about this before, I’m pretty sure, but it’s never really addressed: “Oh yeah, Harry, by the way, you murdered an adult as a child.”

Michael: Granted, it’s self-defense, but still…

Paul: Sure, sure. Absolutely. But still, we never see Harry have that moment of “Oh, I just… oh, God!”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Paul: So I think while it does get progressively thematically darker, it really is set up from the get-go that this is not necessarily a happy story. This is not going to be a pleasant journey.

Michael: Judgment. What you said, Alison. It was funny when you cited the Harry struggle, Harry versus Hogwarts in this one. When I heard you starting to explain that, I was thinking of the scene with Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley. This is where we’re first introduced, more properly introduced… We see it a little bit in Sorcerer’s Stone with Malfoy when he first meets Harry in Diagon Alley, but we get it largely expanded upon with the introduction of Lucius, and we widen the scope of prejudice in the wizarding world and values based on prejudice. So that’s definitely… And of course, that is, I’d say, further expanded upon with Harry meeting Voldemort’s younger self in this book and seeing what he values. Of course, the major thing is that Tom set up Hagrid.

Kat: And Dobby too.

Michael: And Dobby, yes. So Dobby [is] definitely another major example of that. So prejudice…

Alison: And then the other one I thought of was mercy versus justice. I was especially thinking about Ginny in this one because of the whole thing that happens at the end. It’s a big deal. There’s that thought all throughout the book of “whoever’s doing this is terrible and we need to stop them, and whoever it is is ultimately bad.” And then we find out it’s Ginny. And Dumbledore at the end gives her a pass on everything because he understands that…

Kat: She was possessed.

[Everyone laughs]

Paul: That whole possession deal thing.

Alison: NBD.

Michael: But she was possessed because she was… And this is “Another!” I haven’t gotten to smash my Thor cup in a while in regard to Ginny. This is a theme that Ginny brings up in later books as well as Cursed Child, depending on how you choose to take that, in that she’s left out a lot. And while Ron views her as the treasure of the family because she’s the only girl, Ginny seems to go through… At least [during] her first year at Hogwarts, it’s suggested [she’s] a little bit lonely and a little bit pining, of course, because she has eyes for Harry. And she’s a little shy, and she ends up turning to Riddle to comfort her. So there’s definitely also the idea of keep[ing] an eye on the quiet ones.

Paul: Because they might get possessed.

[Kat laughs]

Paul: Yeah, that’s a really good point. I think it’s interesting because if you think about it just a little harder, it really does give you a lot of information about the Weasley family and why Ginny would feel lonely if she has a giant family and she’s set up to be the jewel, like you said, because she’s the only girl. It gives you a lot to think about, for sure, if you take a moment.

Michael: I never thought of it this way [either], but of course a new character we get introduced to in Chamber of Secrets that you could also… I’m thinking now that she was meant to be a parallel for Ginny in some ways: Moaning Myrtle. In Book 2, she’s meant to be what would happen if Ginny was ignored continually.

Paul: Oh yeah. Wow! I haven’t thought about that.

Alison: [gasps] Sorry, I just made a weird connection.

[Paul laughs]

Michael: Well, I did too. What’s your weird connection?

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Alison: Has anybody seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of those early episodes where it’s the girl who disappears because no one pays attention to her?

Kat: Oh my gosh.

Michael: See? There you go.

Alison: [laughs] It’s a really weird episode. But yeah, so she goes around terrorizing everybody because she turns invisible.

Michael: Well, Harry Potter is definitely also a celebration of the underdog. I think our three heroes are all set up to be… And I think this is sometimes difficult to remember because when you watch the movies, our three heroes are very attractive and have done nothing but continue to blossom into even more attractive individuals since then. And Rowling has even said on a few occasions that while she appreciates their attractiveness and their acting abilities, those three are not exactly quite what she pictured. And it’s quite clear by her descriptions that that is the case. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are not the three cool kids at school.

Alison: Yeah. Not at all.

[Paul laughs]

Michael: They’re very much on the sidelines, and they are very much not paid attention [to]. If it weren’t for Harry’s history, I think he would fit in just as well with Ron and Hermione, as far as not as much attention paid to by his peers.

Kat: Speaking of cool kids, we must not forget about Lockhart in Chamber of Secrets.

Paul: The coolest kid.

Alison: Ah, yes!

Kat: And he is all sorts of lessons.

Michael: “Fame is a fickle friend.”

Alison: False pretenses!

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: Yes, exactly. Exactly.

Alison: [as Lockhart] “Celebrity is as celebrity does.”

[Michael and Alison laugh]

Kat: I think he’s a good contrast to the other side of judgment as well. Because the school is judging Harry, thinking that he’s done this thing, and yet they’re all 100% accepting everything that Lockhart says. And so I think the whole notion of “make judgments for yourself,” which J.K. Rowling has put out – not only about other people but [also] specifically the media, which we look at, too, in later books – I think that that thread starts here.

Alison: I think it’s also an interesting look at celebrity culture, where, especially [in] Western society, we seem to have a tendency to hero-worship famous people, and she shows the problem with that through Lockhart of he’s not what he seems to be. He’s pretty much just a nice face on a book cover, not anything more than that. And so making sure you’re looking beyond surface levels. I mean, we get that with Tom Riddle in this book too – and I guess more in Half-Blood as well – of you have to look beyond the surface for what a person really is; I mean, Tom Riddle, she describes him as being handsome and well liked but evil! [laughs]

Michael: God, this is blowing my mind. I don’t know how I just didn’t see these, the idea that Lockhart is the setup for Riddle. You should know not to trust Riddle just because he’s saying nice things and he’s pretty. Because you already got it from Lockhart! [laughs] And that’s been well established from the beginning of Lockhart’s [unintelligible].

Kat: And they’re both incredibly smart characters too. And they do stupid things with their smarts.

Michael: Well, and they both have a sense of that they’re higher than other people, that they are more valuable than other people.

Kat: Yeah. That judgment again.

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. That is crazy. See, it’s so funny when I look back on these things, and then I realize, “How did I not figure any of this out as I was reading it?” because she gives you all the clues.

[Alison and Paul laugh]

Michael: And I think probably one of the major… and of course these tend to come at the end of any book/movie/morality tale of any kind, is usually the end is where everybody sums it up ,and especially the first three, four books, even well into five, I think, because we are able to sit down with Dumbledore, and Dumbledore explains why Harry did the thing and why it was a good thing.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: But Chamber of Secrets I think is a major one because the big piece is, it’s our choices that make us who we are, tying back into [as Dumbledore] “It’s your choices who make you what you are, but I chose for you…”

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: “… so it’s also my choices too.” But that goes back, too, to what we had noted in Sorcerer’s Stone about Gryffindor. I think now the moral grayness starts to happen because we’re introducing, well, Gryffindor, but also Slytherin. Which one will Harry choose as his journey goes on? Will he stay with Gryffindor? Will he continue to espouse Gryffindor ideals? Or will he let the Slytherin side take over?

Paul: Yeah. This definitely sets up the “don’t judge a book by its cover,” there are a lot of characters that are more than meets the eye, that sort of theme, which I think is – by far – one of the most prominent in the series.

Michael: So good, we just reminded everybody why Chamber of Secrets is actually a good book.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: Okay. Everybody go read Chamber of Secrets! It’s not that bad.

Paul: [laughs] It’s not that bad.

Kat: You know what’s great? And it has everything and nothing to do with what we’re talking about. I’m finally getting the chance to sit down and read Harry Potter without analyzing it…

Paul: Why? [laughs]

Michael: Been a while, huh? [laughs]

Kat: … one chapter at a time. Which, for the record, listeners, it is incredibly hard to read one chapter at a time for four and a half years, okay?

Alison: It is.

Kat: You forget a lot of things. Things fly out of your head faster than you can ever imagine. And I am just so in love with this book series!

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: And I am thoroughly enjoying sitting down and… Well, I’m doing the audiobooks this time – thank you, Audible, by the way, for the copies of the audiobooks – but I am thoroughly enjoying just sitting down and letting it wash over me and not thinking about all the nuance. Although of course, it’s all running through my head, but now I don’t have to take notes and stuff! I am in the middle of Chamber, and I am enjoying it more than I ever have before, so…

Alison: Yeah, I agree. I restarted Sorcerer’s Stone, and it’s just fun to go back and emerge and just lose yourself instead of being like, “And this connects to this, and here’s this, and…” Anyway…

Michael: Despite that, do you both feel, though, that you’re reading it a little differently because of what we went through with Alohomora!?

Alison: Oh yeah!

Kat: Absolutely! Because I’m remembering discussions that we had on certain chapters and things that stuck with me that [were] said and yeah, I’m definitely having different experiences this time.

Michael: See? The value of a reread. Just because we finished doesn’t mean you can’t go back and reread it that way.

Kat: It’s making me really want to start over again.

[Michael laughs]

Paul: Yeah, same here! What happened…? You mentioned that Chamber and Half-Blood both had the same problem. I used to really not enjoy Half-Blood Prince because Deathly Hallows is my favorite, so I was just trying to get through Half-Blood so I could get to Deathly Hallows, and then after listening to the Alohomora! on Half-Blood Prince I was like, “Wow, there’s actually so much going on here that I can’t wait to actually sit down and read it again and appreciate it.”

Michael: Oh, good! Yes! It’s a really good book. Half-Blood Prince is really, really good!

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: And speaking of other books that are really, really good in the series…

Alison: Yes!

Michael: … we come upon pretty much the universally beloved Prisoner of Azkaban. Go.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: What do we got? What do we got in this one?

Kat: You kick it off. You love the book so much, you kick it off.

Michael: Well, I mean, okay, since I’m going to kick it off, I’m just going to be super selfish on this one and go #lupinlove on that.

[Alison laughs]

Paul: There it is.

Kat: Fair enough, fair enough.

Michael: I mean, come on. Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are the reasons why this is everybody’s favorite book in a lot of ways. And a mystery that I think has developed around the two of them. I don’t know why, because Chamber of Secrets does have a really well-structured, intricate mystery, but there’s something about Prisoner of Azkaban‘s, and I’m not sure which element it is; maybe it’s within these themes that we’re going to explore. Something about Prisoner‘s for everybody seems to elevate it above the first two. What do you guys think the complications or the new additions are that Rowling adds in her lessons and themes that are different from Chamber‘s and Sorcerer‘s?

Kat: I think, for me, it’s definitely that real-world evil, if that makes sense? Because we see Sirius as somebody who’s a murderer and obviously we know Voldemort is a murderer, but he is a wizard, and I think that from our first introduction of him, we’ve always seen him as this bigger-than-life baddie. And you can’t really relate to him in any way. And I’m not saying that people out there relate to Sirius, but I feel like he feels more real; he feels like a different kind of threat than Voldemort, and I think that that’s part of, I guess, what makes it a bit more intense straight off the bat as well.

Michael: I think, Kat, that’s a great way to put it. The difference, I think, between the two of them is that, at this point in the series, we get Sirius’ backstory. We don’t get Voldemort’s. And we know Sirius was just a guy, basically, before all of this happened. While we get all of this information through a funhouse mirror, and it’s all incorrect and warped, it’s still generally the information that we need to make a picture in our head of who Sirius is and make him a little more relatable in that way.

Paul: Right. I’m totally on board with you. I think it is the immediacy of it. Because Voldemort is still very distant and nonmaterial at this point, but here we have Sirius Black, who is on his way to murder somebody. [laughs]

Kat: He has a body! Let’s put it that way; Voldemort does not have a body.

Paul: Yes. He even has a body. So yeah, I think part of going back to your original question, Michael, of what really makes this such a juicy favorite is because you have the really tense, scary, some murder mystery, some really immediate threat, but then at the end you also – because of the plot twist – you get the very soft like, “Aww, it’s Harry’s godfather.” It’s amazing. So I think it’s both sides of that. You get the really warm fuzzies and the really stressful bits as well. I think that’s, I guess, what makes it the best of both worlds and makes it everyone’s favorite.

Michael: I think with what you said, Paul, that actually translates really well to the moral grey. Sirius is neither here nor there; he’s in between.

Kat: Ugh, he’s a terrible person.

[Everyone laughs]

Paul: Yeah, I was about to say, “This is a whole new can of worms.”

Alison: We all know how Kat feels!

Kat: That’s a whole other episode, which I’m going to add to the list because that needs to happen.

Michael: A Sirius Black episode? Yeah, it’s going to. Kat is determined to make Sirius the more debated character than Snape at this point, I think. [laughs]

Kat: Well, okay, Sirius is a step above Snape for me.

Michael: We should have a Sirius versus Snape duke it out.

Kat: That would be so hard because I dislike them both so much.

Paul: That’s a fair point.

Alison: That would only end in bad things. Let’s not do that.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: Speaking of Sirius, I think the thing that really draws me in this one – and actually, funny enough, I think it’s a theme that I see the most repeated in Cursed Child, and that’s why, I think, I love Cursed Child a lot – is this idea of time and history and a connection to the past and to the future. And just this idea of legacy and how you are not just one moment or one person in one time; you are connected to everything before and you will be connected to everything after. Because we see how much of Harry’s… The past he wasn’t even around for, a past he has no clue about, has affected his present and how his present and that past will affect his future through all of these… I mean, even just the idea of the Time-Turner, of going back and replaying your own time, of [not only] walking back in your own steps but also being a past and a future self in the same place. It’s crazy, and I love it. I love just this idea of legacy.

Michael: That’s really interesting because it makes me think of how it’s almost like the movies were a little bit one tick behind or jumped ahead a little bit in some cases, because I can hear the promotional materials, the trailer, in my head for Chamber of Secrets, and the trailer did say “the past will return” and “the future of Hogwarts is in jeopardy!” And that’s actually more of a thing in Prisoner than it is in Chamber.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: The idea of time. Like you said, Alison, the importance of time and legacy. Yeah, that’s so brilliantly said. We get the legacy piece – the more past – coming through with Sirius, but we actually get a literal representation of it with the Time-Turner, and Harry learns to take a metaphorical strength from his past by using a literal way to get back in time. Which is pretty crazy when you think about it. And he summarizes that really well to Hermione at the end. As much as Hermione is like, [as Hermione] “I have no idea what you’re saying,” but that whole idea of “I can do it because I’ve already done it.”

Alison: Yeah. Well, and I think, too, the idea of the fact that Harry’s Patronus is…

Michael: His dad.

Alison: … a stag, is his dad, is someone he has no memory of but is still so much a part of him and comes through him is just… Ugh, I love it! That’s one of my favorite story tropes, is legacy and past and future.

Michael: I think the thing, too, for me, that’s added into this plot – all of these elements that we’ve listed – that really adds another layer to all of them and complicates them a little bit more is the Dementors and the representation of depression, and Rowling has stated that Dementors are supposed to be her world’s literal representation of depression because she had suffered [from] depression herself. And she would… A few times, actually, while writing Harry Potter, still, that did not go away, and for many, depression never does go away. And I think that connects really excellently, Alison, with the themes you were talking about, about the past because Harry also initially fears the past and yet has a curiosity about the past through his depression because the Dementors allow him to hear the past and relive his past. But in a way, that makes him uncomfortable. And weighs on him.

Paul: It is interesting, and I think this just adds into why this book is more potent. Harry’s past obviously weighs so heav[il]y on him and heav[il]y in the story; the entire story springboards from his past that he doesn’t remember. And Sirius walks in as the only connection that he has. I feel like it’s in there somewhere. I can’t remember the exact quote or scene, but Harry says, “He knew my parents,” and that’s such a big deal.

Alison: [dramatically] “He was their friend!”

[Michael laughs]

Paul: Right, yes, he was their friend.

Michael: Excellent reenactment, Alison.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: I actually really love that scene.

Paul: It’s a really good scene. It’s an amazing scene. But I think that…

Kat: In the book, to clarify.

[Alison, Michael, and Paul laugh]

Alison: I like it in the movie too, actually. But…

Paul: Yeah, yeah. So that was all I had. So I think it’s a really important moment for Harry to see… Well, it’s the first thing that has really walked into his life that has been directly connected to his past.

Michael: Well, and then, as I mentioned at the beginning of this particular part of the discussion, another part of the past walks into his life with Lupin.

Paul: Right, yeah!

Michael: And of course, as Rowling has put forth on Pottermore – but as suspected by many early on – Lupin is a representation for HIV, AIDS, and other stigmatized diseases within the real world and how we treat that, and of course Lupin represents this duality of his affliction scares people, but he himself is a good person. He’s actually quite the opposite of what his affliction is. More of that moral grayness/diving deeper into character complexity, I think, with somebody like Lupin. But course, too, Lupin lets his fears get the best of him, and he can be somewhat cowardly at times and does not take action. He makes bad choices sometimes, based on his experiences.

Kat: Never sets his friend up to be a murderer, just saying.

[Alison, Paul, and Michael laugh]

Kat: Sorry, I’ll let it go.

Michael: He’s no Sirius.

Paul: Sorry, I just can’t remember; I haven’t read the books in a while. Does Harry know that Lupin knew his parents until…?

Alison: No!

Paul: Yeah, okay, so he just finds out at the very end.

Alison: Like, midway. He finds out, I think, during their first Dementor lesson or something. He’s like, “Wait, you knew my parents?” And Lupin is like, “Yeah, we were friends in school. Moving on!”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: No information; thanks Lupin. But I think an interesting thing about Lupin, too, that he brings out – and actually, all of the Marauders – is this idea, again, of appearances versus inner selves and in this case, more of your inner demons, in some ways, and what you become or what you can choose to become in the case of Peter, James, and Sirius in some ways. But you also don’t have much of a choice with that. So just the whole idea of Animagi, I think, brings up some interesting themes about inner-personalities that may not necessarily show on the outside, but you can become that.

Michael: Well, yeah. We’ve got three new characters who go through a major bait-and-switch. Lupin is the nice guy who’s revealed to be a werewolf at the end. Sirius is the bad guy who’s revealed to be the nice godfather at the end. And Peter Pettigrew is…

Kat: “Nice.”

[Paul laughs]

Michael: Well, to Harry, anyway.

Kat: [laughs] Sorry.

Paul: The well-meaning godfather.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: And Peter Pettigrew is this martyr-saint at the beginning — in the way that Harry hears the story and perceives him — and turns out to be the true villain. And they’re all Animagi.

Alison: And their Animagi suggest that… a rat, a loyal dog, and a werewolf…

Michael: Hmm. So we’re seeing that in each of these stories, there’s always a literal piece and a metaphorical piece. There’s something that Rowling uses in her magic to set up a theme by making it literal, but she uses it to show what her characters are going to do or how they’re going to act in this particular book. So again, just don’t know how we didn’t get it because she was just giving it all right to us.

[Alison, Michael, and Paul laugh]

Paul: Right in our face[s].

Michael: Yeah. Right in our face[s]. And I mean, it’s so perfect, too, how we touched on how important time and legacy and the past is because Prisoner of Azkaban in ring theory links up with Half-Blood Prince. So there you go. Or actually, no, it doesn’t. It links up with Order.

Alison: I was like, “No, it’ll be Order.” [laughs] But I think that…

Michael: Well, that would’ve been…

Paul: Oh, but Half-Blood makes way more sense to me. [laughs]

Michael: Yeah, now that I said that, that actually makes in that way.

Alison: Well, I think Order works because it’s the first moment Harry decides to step up and be a leader and lead to a future. So if Prisoner is all about his past, Order is all about…

Alison and Kat: Future.

Kat: Because he learns what his legacy is to be, who he has to become through who he was.

Michael: Well, that legacy, that past, gets a little muddled from the way he initially understood it in Order. He definitely has a new understanding of it in Order versus Prisoner. But then, of course, we get to the middle of the series, and here we are at a major turning point in Goblet of Fire. Golly. How do we want to talk about this?

[Alison and Paul laugh]

Kat and Michael: Voldemort gets a body!

Paul: Well, I did want to throw in this right at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban. This is where we see the start of our distrust of the media in the series with the Daily Prophet touting that Sirius is a criminal and a murderer and then that not being true, so it does set up the continuing theme that the Ministry may not be the best. [laughs]

Alison: Yeah, I was going to say also that mistrust and skepticism of a corrupt government.

Paul: Right. Just wanted to throw that last bit in there.

Michael: No, well, and it’s amazing to think how perfect that transition is from Prisoner to Goblet with the setup of the mistrust of the media because the introduction of Rita Skeeter was not something that was in Rowling’s initial draft of Goblet of Fire. Rita Skeeter didn’t exist in Rowling’s early drafts of Goblet. She was actually represented by the daughter of the Muggle Weasley cousin who’s an accountant. And she was going to fulfill Rita’s place with having the information to relay to the trio and be the snooper, but Rowling realized that she could only snoop so much as a student, and so she brought Rita in to fill that place, so it’s interesting to see what she almost missed with Goblet of Fire and just how much… I think we all like to think that these stories just perfectly fell out of her head, just went right from the brain to the paper. But it’s moments like that where you realize it took her a lot of work to find these connections and a lot of planning. But yes, definitely a major theme in Goblet of Fire. The distrust of the media, the distrust of the government… major themes. I think government comes up a little more in Order, but the groundwork is laid in Goblet.

Alison: Press is definitely in Goblet, I think.

Kat: Especially all that stuff with Teen Vogue. I’m just kidding.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: Well, and then of course another major element that’s introduced right from the get-go, even before we get to Hogwarts, while the Triwizard Tournament is celebrated, of course, as this international event, we get another international event before that with the Quidditch World Cup, and Rowling expands this world and invites a huge group of other nationalities and countries to play, and that really widens our scope even more. How does that affect the themes and the life lessons?

Kat: I feel like it magnifies them and I think allows people to see more applicable lessons for themselves in the real world, if that makes sense. I feel like this is the point where a lot of the lessons turn from magical things that you can maybe relate to a little bit because some of the scenarios in the first books are less real than in the later books, and so I feel like this is the point where it becomes real-world issues as opposed to sci-fi novel issues, if that makes sense, if I’m describing that correctly.

Michael: Yeah. It takes the initial series down from high fantasy to fantasy a little bit more.

Alison: Well, it’s the moment where everybody was like, “Oh, wait. This isn’t necessarily just kids books anymore.” It’s the moment where we switch on a little bit more of the things that maybe you miss as a kid reading them when you’re so wrapped up in the story, but as you experience the world more and you become an adult and you reread, you go, “Oh. Oh. Okay. I’m seeing that there,” making those connections between those things.

Paul: I think, Kat, you made an interesting point. And I think the opposite, but I think it’s… You mentioned how the first three books [were] maybe a bit more high fantasy than Goblet of Fire, but I think Goblet of Fire has more fantasy jam-packed in it, in a way, because it was the first time we really interacted with dragons, I’m pretty sure. We get merpeople…

Michael: Well, other than Sorcerer’s Stone. Norbert is in that a little bit more than he is in the movie.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Paul: Right, right, Norbert in the movie.

Michael: Not much, though.

Paul: But Norbert is not a threat yet. [laughs]

Kat: Adult, scary dragons.

Michael: Adult dragons, yeah.

Paul: Right, adult, full-sized dragon. So for me, it seems like the magic is getting less ambiguous and mysterious, and in Goblet of Fire, it’s like, “Here’s tons of magic and tons of danger in your face all the time because this is a tournament.” So that’s just my perspective on it. I think it gets a little less ambiguous and a bit more real, not necessarily less [fantastical], if that makes sense.

Michael: I think what you’re saying, Paul, actually fits with perhaps why this book was such a shock to the reading community as a whole was because the… Goblet of Fire is actually dripping with magical content with this expansion to a larger scope of her world and a huge increase in worldbuilding. I think that might contribute to the shock of the ending, which ends up being so human. The shock of loss and the overwhelmingness of what happened to Harry. And while there’s a lot of magical elements involved in that, I think Dumbledore also does a great job at the end of boiling down why that was a traumatizing experience for Harry on a human level.

Paul: Right. Now that you say that, I think I understand Kat’s point a lot more because it does take the level of fantasy into a more real place, having that cultural expansion and just saying that this is a whole established… Of course, in the universe, this is a normal world, and it’s not just [a] “Hogwarts exists on this tiny island of dreamland” sort of a scenario.

Michael: Kat, a really interesting point I see you put here was the concept of “the other.”

Alison: Oh, that was me.

Kat: That was Alison.

Michael: Oh, that was…? Oh.

Alison: Sorry.

Michael: Oh, it’s in green.

Kat: She used my color. That’s why you thought it was me.

Michael: She used your color! [laughs]

Paul: Trying to give you credit.

Kat: Alison, so lazy.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: Sorry. I was trying to type quietly.

Michael: Just going to change those to red. There we go.

[Alison and Paul laugh]

Kat: No, loneliness… That one is mine.

Alison: Loneliness and jealousy is Kat.

Michael: Oh, for goodness’ sake.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: I just thought of it and just was adding it in there.

[Michael laughs]

Alison: I think, especially because we’re introduced to Durmstrang and Beauxbatons and the fact that there are wizards outside of Britain and there are people… I think we get to know a little bit more even just within Hogwarts. I mean, this is the Hufflepuff moment – right? – of the books, where we get to know Cedric fairly well. And we start to see, okay, these people [whom], in the books, Harry has put aside as “other” [and] not necessarily like him in a lot of ways. They start to see, “Oh, maybe we are more similar. Maybe we need to come together. There’s a bigger world than just our small area,” which, then, I think becomes even more important when all of the sudden the big threat is back. Like, “Voldemort is back; we’ve got to start thinking about the bigger picture than just our happy little home of a school.” And I think even the fact that… I mean, even if you just look at Ron. Ron at first is super – the word “infatuated” is not what I’m looking for – enthralled by Krum.

Michael: No, I think “infatuated” was the right word.

[Everyone laughs]

Paul: Both accurate. Both accurate.

Alison: And then he’s infatuated with Fleur, and then he turns on both of them, this… But then Hermione starts to become friends with them more, and then Harry sees all of them as equals in some way, competitors, people [whom] he looks up to in a lot of other ways. And so we start to see how getting to know someone as an individual can make them no longer “the other.” And it’s easier to empathize with… I mean, Harry hates Cedric at first, but then he gets to know him [and] gets to know he’s a good guy, and when Cedric dies, it destroys Harry in a lot of ways. He’s devastated by the fact that he just had to watch someone he’s starting to consider a friend be brutally murdered for no reason, just that idea of getting to know people to eliminate the idea of “the other.”

Paul: Right. That’s a really good point. I think the book as a whole does a really… and going off of, Michael, what you said earlier, the book plays a lot with scale in a really interesting way that I hadn’t really thought about until you mentioned it because it’s… Obviously, we have this giant, international expansion with wizards coming in and witches coming in from other countries, but at the end of the day – like you were mentioning, Alison – it gets really personal because Harry has these new relationships to consider, and there’s so much on a personal level going on. And of course, the ending is – what’s the word I’m looking for? – such an intimate moment between Harry and Cedric and between Cedric and his father. All of that circumstance is really at a microscopic level, so it does really weird things with scale that I hadn’t really thought about.

Michael: Oh yeah, even taking it from something so big as… And I think that’s part of what makes the ending so frightening and unnerving, is that we go from this huge tournament to this graveyard where there’s just a handful of people involved, and it heightens the fear and the danger for Harry because the whole book he’s been surrounded by multitudes of people.

Paul: Yeah. Suddenly it zooms in really far…

Alison: Well, yeah, the threat becomes more one on one. It goes from “Oh, this name, You-Know-Who, Voldemort,” this entity that Harry has never… I mean, he’s come across [it] but only in these weird ethereal ways, is suddenly standing in front of him, shares blood with him, and is touching his scar. And Harry is just like, “Everything just got personal right now.” It’s no longer…

Kat: It amplifies the theme of loneliness, which for me is a really big one in this book because so many of the characters aren’t talking to each other at one point. And Harry feels utterly alone in the fact that he’s trapped into this tournament [and] has no way of getting out. There’s exactly nobody [who] can help him. Nobody. They all try, and they all do, but they can’t perform the task for Harry. They can’t get him out of it. He is a singular entity going through this experience completely by himself. And then when you throw the other major theme that I feel is in this book – which is jealousy – on top of it, it’s Ron jealous of Krum. [laughs] I mean, maybe most of the jealousy comes from Ron, but I also see it in other directions as well. So I feel like those two things coupled together with that big-scale to small-scale to big-scale to small-scale, it sets it up to be a pretty epic journey for Harry. There [are] a lot of ups and downs in this book for him.

Paul: Yeah, there’s a lot going on. I like how you brought up Ron because I was about to say, Harry, of course, feels very alone and isolated, but so does Ron. Ron gets very mad and upset with Harry, under false pretenses, of course, because teenage boys don’t communicate with each other. [laughs] I think Ron is definitely feeling bitter and jealous and alone at this point as well.

Michael: Yeah, and I think that was great to bring up the jealousy and the loneliness because I think… In tandem with the idea of “the other” because I’d say “the other” is the one that really strikes me because it’s almost like the characters start to have an understanding of what’s going to happen if they don’t hold hands with each other through this and how petty their disagreements or their prejudices toward each other can be and what terrible consequences that can have. It’s almost like we actually have to have the book where the good guys say, “Oh yeah, we have prejudices, too, that are built into us. And that’s not okay.” Which also is… I think the other thing that’s fascinating how that develops in Goblet of Fire is, it’s not all completely resolved. Not everybody just suddenly says… Dumbledore begs the audience – he begs all of the schools – to unite and to help each other, and he begs Hogwarts itself to unite. And the Slytherins go, “Pfft, nope.”

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: And the Hufflepuffs are in shock, as well as the Ravenclaws. And the Gryffindors are just confused, and everybody ends up being confused because Harry’s story isn’t clarified. And so it’s the first one that ends where the characters don’t know what to think for the first time.

Paul: Oh yeah. Its an incredibly ambiguous situation for everybody.

Michael: And then, of course, at the end, you mix in Fudge with that, so you’ve got the adult element too, that the adults are also not on the same page because of course Dumbledore and Fudge have their falling out about how to approach this new threat.

Paul: Yeah. I mean, I was just going to say, there is not much more significant news that Harry could’ve brought back. There isn’t really anything more serious than Voldemort returning, and it’s of course the one thing that nobody can confirm, so it really just lights the fireworks in everybody’s face because it creates a lot of ambiguity, and like you mentioned, Dumbledore is obviously on Harry’s side and Fudge is not, so it really brings a lot of chaos to the story that has not been there before.

Michael: So perhaps in Goblet, the literal representation of the theme is the new characters and the expansion of the world, the idea of how you’re going to treat your neighbors and “the other.”

Kat: For sure, yeah, because then you take that giant theme and you narrow it down to one singular person in Order of the Phoenix. Because that is…

Michael: Oh. What a beautiful transition.

[Alison laughs]

Kat: I know.

Michael: And tell us more about that, Kat.

Kat: Well, you guys know how much I love Order of the Phoenix, and it is — in my opinion — the most Harry-est of the books, obviously.

[Paul laughs]

Kat: It is the one that is solely about Harry Potter. It’s about his journey and his thoughts and his feelings, and I know that all of them are about that, but this one in particular is focused completely on him and everything he has to do, everywhere he’s been, everywhere he’s going. And that, in large part, is the reason why I love this book so much, because I feel like I get to know Harry not as the hero so much [but] just as that teenage boy.

Michael: Yeah, yeah. I think… Well, yeah. Again, going back to the thing that really stunned us as readers is that the series grows with its audience. And of course, Order of the Phoenix addresses something that I don’t think many series like this would dare to address in this way that Rowling said, “Yeah, those things in the last book were actually super traumatic.” And not only the last book but [also] all of the previous books are beginning to weigh upon Harry, both mentally and physically, and I think the literal manifestation is — for me — a little more obvious here because Rowling really does push that idea of this magic connection between Voldemort and Harry that is physically harming Harry and changing him. I mean, it’s probably one of the most excellent young adult, juvenile fiction examinations of puberty and the horrors and confusion of puberty in a lot of ways.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. I think, I mean, like you just mentioned, Cedric’s death just destroyed Harry, and personally, I think I mentioned this before, but I will defend caps lock Harry until the end of the world because I think…

Michael: Oh, you and Kat [are] together on that one.

Kat: Paul, can we be best friends? Can we be best friends?

[Alison, Michael, and Paul laugh]

Paul: I’ve always thought that, I mean, with everything Harry goes through, with his childhood and just everything he’s experienced and especially going into the summer between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, he knows that his archnemesis is back; he knows that he nearly died; he watched Cedric die; he had to endure traumatic experiences the whole year having to face these challenges with personal conflicts between Ron and Hermione and a whole lot of other stuff floating around in his head, probably. And going into the summer without any news, being completely isolated, and I’m totally empathetic with Harry being just furious and terrified, absolutely terrified, all at the same time, so I will always defend caps lock Harry, and I think it’s even that J.K. writes him way stronger than I personally would’ve handled that. [laughs] I think he comes out of it pretty well if you really consider what’s going on.

Kat: You can’t see me, but I’m high-fiving you right now.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: Well, I remember, too, with our read-through of Order of the Phoenix that while I still determined at the end of the whole series that Order is still my least favorite book in the series, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s really, really good. It is a very well-written book. I think my problems with it come more with logistical things, mainly Grawp.

[Alison and Paul laugh]

Kat: Oh, Grawp is the worst. Just pretend he isn’t there.

Michael: Well, for me, Grawp represents some other clunky parts of the plot that make Order for me a little too long because I think Order is so well written in other ways that there’s a lot of other stuff added in that’s just… It’s almost like that worldbuilding from Goblet, but it doesn’t go anywhere versus Order, where there’s some meandering that I didn’t really care for. But despite that, I think it’s one of the strongest — for the reasons that Paul was saying — in just the complexity with Harry and how well Rowling writes him, and I don’t really know how everybody experienced this around the world – I should really take a look at my copies of international editions again – but when [we] US readers opened up Order of the Phoenix, it was to realize that the line spacing and margins had been drastically changed, and there were a lot more words on a page, and Rowling had evolved her vocabulary, definitely advanced it for readers, and I think, for me, that was a subconscious signal of “Oh, this is different. This is going to be different.” I felt it right from the get-go when I opened up Order of the Phoenix for the first time that this wasn’t the same Harry Potter.

Kat: The margins are different?

Michael: Yeah. I think they made them smaller.

Paul: I think they actually tried.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: They shrunk the margins, and they shrunk the line spacing.

Kat: Okay, I’m looking at my PDF copies, and they look the same. But it could just be because they’re PDF copies.

Michael: Yeah, I think those might be formatted differently.

Kat: I mean, the perfectly, very legal copies that I have of these books…

[Alison, Michael, and Paul laugh]

Michael: Yep, that didn’t sound suspect at all. And I mean, that’s something in the US editions, that that was changed. I think if you go to the back page, it’ll tell you what they… because some books do that.

Kat: Oh, right. It tells you the typeface and all that jazzy jazz.

Michael: Yep. Yep, yep, yep. But of course the other… Stepping just away from Harry for a little bit — as you guys mentioned before — we have the major theme of politics, and we mix that a lot with the themes of education and how politics meets schools.

[Alison, Michael, and Paul laugh]

Alison: I’m all about the education stuff in this book.

Michael: Something teachers and librarians in the room here are very passionate about, obviously.

Kat: Oh, yeah. The text is half a point smaller.

Michael: See?

Paul: There we go.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: No way.

Kat: Yeah, 11.5 versus 12.

Michael: Can you imagine how big that book would’ve been if it had been the same as the rest of them?

Kat: Are subsequent books the same? Have you ever checked?

Michael: I don’t know, actually. I think for some of them they did go back to the old format.

Kat: I’m going to look right now.

Michael: Yeah, take a look.

Kat: Half-Blood Prince is 12-[point font], and Hallows is 12. There you go.

[Michael laughs]

Alison: No way.

Michael: Mind blown.

Alison: That’s crazy.

Kat: There’s a bit of trivia for you.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Kat: Which Harry Potter novel is printed in 11.5-point [font]?

[Michael laughs]

Paul: That is the bonus round question.

Kat: Garamond, for the record.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Kat: Adobe Garamond.

Alison: What a good font.

Kat: You’re weird.

Michael: But Alison and Paul, you both had things to say.

Alison: Oh, I just love this idea of education and how if politics gets too involved in education, our actual education suffers.

Kat: Too real, too real!

Alison: Yeah, especially as a teacher. [laughs] Especially when today we were discussing when to give standardized testing and it sucked. But you even get some of these ideas of censorship, and when the government gets too involved and says, “This is all we’re going to let people learn,” you miss out on a lot of things that are really important. But it also brings up these themes, this idea of sometimes you have to take your learning, your education, into your own hands. The whole thing with the DA – probably one of the reasons I love the DA – is that it’s a group of kids [who] say, “No, we need to learn this. Let’s learn it, however [long] it takes for us to learn it.” And they are self-intrinsically motivated, and they’re self-sufficient learners in that case, which as a teacher makes me happy because I wish all my students would do that.

[Michael laughs]

Alison: But yeah, there'[re] a lot of interesting things about education.

Paul: And so I just have a lot of thoughts about education systems in general. [laughs] But I’m not a teacher; I’m not a professional. I just have been in academics my entire life, and as a student…

Kat: An enthusiast.

Paul: Yes! And as a student of psychology, there are just so many plot holes with the way that education works and the standardization and all those sorts of things that really bog down (a) an individual’s capacity to learn [and] (b) the teacher’s ability to perform their best, so it’s really just unfortunate. But yeah, we get a great example with the Ministry meddling at Hogwarts, and it’s always so frustrating. [laughs] It’s always so frustrating to read this book because I just hate to see it happen.

Michael: [laughs] Well, this idea we’re talking about – education and good examples versus bad – is excellent in how it connects with ring theory to Prisoner. Because as we were saying before, with the shakiness of the connections to Prisoner and Order, we do go from who is generally regarded as the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to the worst. And the interesting thing, too, about the teaching styles and what you guys were saying about how Harry, Ron, and Hermione take the learning into their own hands with their peers, is that that’s something they were taught about by Lupin in some ways because Lupin very much encourages the students to embrace what makes them individual. And he does it in their first lesson by showing them their individual fears and teaching them how to individually tackle their fears.

Paul: Yeah, it’s a really good point.

Michael: And then the finale of that is that they have to come together to finish it off. So really, Lupin’s lesson in Prisoner is a microcosm for what they need to do in Order to succeed, interestingly, if you look at it that way. And I always love citing this little fun fact that Daniel Radcliffe picked up on that, because the sweater vest that he is wearing in Order of the Phoenix during the DA sessions, he wanted to wear as a tribute to Lupin’s contribution to Harry’s character.

Paul: Ooh. Also good trivia.

Michael: Yeah! [laughs] So he noticed that theme too.

Alison: Well, and there’s also the fact that Lupin is one of the ones who gives Harry books he uses to design DA lessons. He gives him some of the resources and tools that Harry uses to help himself and their little group learn. Which I always loved. I loved picturing Lupin and Sirius finding out about it and Lupin being like, “Oh my gosh!” and running out to buy this set of books and marking passages of “Teach them this, teach them this! Do it this way.”

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: “Everything I tried to do in one year and couldn’t.”

Michael: And of course, without saying her name, having mentioned Umbridge, I’m thinking of another character that gets introduced that’s really important – Luna. Major character. And Paul, you had noted about the issues of grief in Order of the Phoenix.

Paul: I did not note that down, actually. [laughs]

Michael: Alison, you’re taking everybody’s colors!

Paul: Someone used a different color.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Alison: Sorry! [laughs]

Paul: So yeah, Alison, go for it.

Alison: Yeah, it just hit me, the grief cycle and how Harry has to actually come to deal with grief. In a lot of ways he starts to deal with death, but we’ll get to that, I think, more in Deathly Hallows. But he has to deal with all of these things, and I like that you brought up Luna because it seems like [she’s] the only person who understands Harry going through the grief cycle, because the only other person who has really had to do this that’s his peer is Luna. So she’s the only one who sees him struggling to go through these steps and comes to help guide him along a little bit more. Not that all of Harry’s friends don’t help him – because I think they do – but she comes to help him in a more informed way.

Michael: Well, yeah, because that’s what the characters address with Harry at the beginning. They want to talk to him about it, but then when he tries to talk with them about it, they get uncomfortable because they can’t empathize with what he’s talking about. They can sympathize, but Harry needs empathy, not sympathy, at that moment. And he makes that so clear by yelling at them.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: But that’s the only way he can do it because he doesn’t even know how to even describe it to somebody who can’t understand it.

Alison: Well, and I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s so nice that Luna is this oddity, because it highlights just how different she is from everyone else, too, and why she’s the only one who can connect to Harry and empathize with him about this.

Michael: Well, and I think it’s important, too, that Luna is there as that character because, as Rowling does so well, she establishes that Dumbledore for the first time in the series is not going to be that character. And I think what increases Harry’s fear throughout the book is that he knows Dumbledore could be that person for him, and he’s come to expect Dumbledore to be that person, and for the first time, Dumbledore can’t do that, not necessarily because he doesn’t know what Harry is going through. He expresses a little bit in Goblet of Fire that he does, and he also hints at it at the end of Order; he won’t say why. But even with that said, Dumbledore distances himself from Harry because of the Voldemort issue anyway, so Harry really doesn’t have anybody to talk to. So it is important for Luna to be the representation of that. The interesting thing, too, is I think Luna tries to break through to Harry throughout the book. And he doesn’t know how to let her in, because she is new and she is unusual to him, as grief is to many people.

Kat: And I think, too, Luna is also a big representation of accepting exactly who you are and exactly who you are going to be. So that idea of fate and destiny. And I think that she is really the only person who could ever allow Harry to fully be that person and to understand exactly where he has to go and who he has to be. And it is through talking with her and realizing that she’s not different – she’s just real and authentic. And she is living the life that she is meant to live, and he realizes, I think, that he has to do that and come to terms with that at the end. And I think there isn’t a single other character in the book that could have helped him come to that conclusion.

Paul: Yeah. That’s a really, really good point. To your point, Michael, how Dumbledore couldn’t really be that person, I think it’s really important for one of Harry’s peers to be the person to say… As wonderful of friends as Hermione and Ron had been to him, there is only so much that they can really say “I see you and understand you” in Harry’s life. So I think it’s really important that Harry has a person like Luna who can really truthfully say, “I get you. And yes, I’m…” Luna is obviously presented as a very strange and odd and – to use the word in the book – loopy character, and that just, I think, adds to the ongoing theme we have been talking about [of] not judging books by their cover and really getting to know people. Because if you read the first pages where Luna is introduced, who would have guessed that she would play such an important role in Harry’s life? She is just a weird ancillary or tangential character. But I think it’s really important that she gets to really see eye to eye with Harry.

Kat: And that impact obviously is reflected in the fact that he uses her name for one of the kids. So…

Michael: And while many, I think, rag on the introduction of the Thestrals as being “Well, they are just there to get Harry to the Ministry; they are a convenience,” the Thestrals are the magical manifestation of everything, we all were just saying, I think. And the movie spells that out very clearly with the scene that is not in the book where Luna says, “Yeah, they are odd, but they are not dangerous,” kind of a thing.

Paul: The line – I can’t remember if it’s in the book, but I know it’s in the movie – “I can see them too.” I mean, just that alone speaks volumes [about] their relationship and what it comes to mean to Harry.

Michael: And I think before we leave Order of the Phoenix, we do have to also touch on, of course, the major issue of prophecy and fate and how that… We talked about how Prisoner introduces that idea that there are certain fixed points within the past that can’t be changed but that maybe can be changed. We’ve already had that build-up from Chamber of choices, and that all comes crashing down here at the end of Order of the Phoenix with the revelation of the prophecy. Again, another connection to Prisoner with Trelawney’s introduction in [Book] 3 as this false prophet who is suddenly revealed to actually be a legitimate prophet on a good day.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: When the weather is just right.

[Paul laughs]

Michael: And I think this conversation is even more built upon. I actually like the conversation that Dumbledore has more in Half-Blood Prince than Order with Harry about this. I think that’s my other problem with Order, is more on how it was marketed. Because Order was marketed as – and Dumbledore even says – “I’m going to tell you everything,” but he literally does not do that until the next book.

[Alison and Paul laugh]

Michael: He doesn’t tell Harry anything he doesn’t already know.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: The ending really is… Part of that discussion is clarification, a technical clarification, of the plot that we all already know, which is Harry and Voldemort have to fight and one of them has to die. And that piece of the prophecy is introduced and this idea that “Are there things about our future that we cannot change, that we don’t have a say in?” But of course, I think we’ve had it well established by Dumbledore up to this point already that that’s not true. Because he makes all the decisions.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: Always going to bring it back to that. Which leads us into Half-Blood Prince. Amazing that we haven’t mentioned Snape much at all this whole time. [laughs]

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: So let’s talk about Snape! [laughs]

Kat: Ugh! Just kidding.

Alison: [laughs] Avoiding.

Paul: Yeah, Snape. Wow. It’s a fun little education bullet [point] again about cheating, I guess, [laughs] so we can make him out using the Half-Blood Prince’s book.

Michael: [laughs] That’s true. Well, I think the thing that I think so many people forget about Half-Blood because it… This is why I like Half-Blood so much, is because this is very subtle and I don’t think it’s ever explicitly stated. Harry briefly reflects on it at the end, and he immediately rejects what he reflects on. And the movie completely misses the point.

Alison: That’s because the movie does not follow the book at all, and I’m still mad about it. [laughs]

Michael: Still love it, but still…

Alison: No.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: But it does miss this key point, which is that Harry sees another side of somebody who[m] he feels is his enemy. He sees a completely different side of Snape. Again, he reflects on it briefly and immediately rejects it. [laughs] He basically does say, “Ah, I’m going to get Snape. He killed Dumbledore, and he’s a jerk.” But in this book, he is introduced…

Paul: And he’s a jerk.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: Yes. “And he’s a jerk.” But I think he is really forced in a completely different way. This goes beyond Dumbledore saying, “Oh, I trust Snape.” And it goes beyond Harry’s Muggle perceptions of the past that he sees in Order that he begins to experience to “Oh my God, I directly took advice from Snape and it was good.”

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: And he’s saying, “He helped me and he saved my life a few times. He helped me in school. He was kind of a friend.” Because he does say that he considers the book a friend at some point.

Paul: It’s really interesting. I think that the… I don’t know. It seems like such a mundane relationship between Harry and the book. It’s just a book with notes in it that helps him in school. But I guess that, in a very sneaky way, makes the revelation that it’s Snape more impactful to Harry.

Michael: Yeah. It’s going to have a lot of bearing on later parts of Deathly Hallows and how Harry understands what Snape did. But we had a few other points here.

Alison: Yeah, I think especially in the circle theory with Chamber we get this idea of choice again, but we get choice muddled with the nature versus nurture debate. Especially, I think, in learning Voldemort’s backstory, where there’s this line of “Okay, what did he choose? Why were those choices influenced by his nature and what was influenced by the way he was raised? And what was influenced by his family history?” And things like that. Again, it’s almost another timeline, where the past is going to influence what you choose now, and what you choose now influences your future and the future of other people. So it’s the idea of choice we get in Chamber, but instead of just, “Oh, your choices define who you are,” it’s “Yes, your choices define who you are, but there [are] a lot more factors that go into your choices and the consequences of your choices.”

Michael: Which factors into Dumbledore’s discussion with Harry at the very end, the extremely nuanced, very complicated discussion they have about the prophecy, where Harry just does not understand, for a majority of that conversation, what Dumbledore is trying to communicate, which is “You don’t have to do it, but you will do it because of who you are, because of the choices you have made up to this point, the nurture that you’ve experienced and the nature of your circumstances.” All of that does combine together to make Harry the person he is and will result in his choices in the future. The inevitable. So there it’s almost like, in a way, prophecy can have a self-fulfilling nature, but there is still an independence from that prophecy, I guess. There’s still a way to take fate into your own hands in this situation.

Paul: I really want Dumbledore’s personal diary throughout the entire series [laughs] just to see how well he designed Harry’s experiences, because I’m personally not one of the people [who] thinks that Dumbledore is an omnipotent designer, but I for sure think that he purposefully says certain things to Harry and leads Harry in a particular direction to try to facilitate Harry’s feeling of obligation to destroy Voldemort. So I’d love some notes [laughs] like, “Today, I told Harry this. Hopefully…”

[Kat, Michael, and Paul laugh]

Michael: Well, I think the closest we actually have to that… There is something that’s close to that that exists in the Potter canon, which is worth mentioning here, which is Tales of Beedle the Bard. While Rowling notes in her prologue, she makes a few notes about when Dumbledore wrote certain things. The major one is his reflections on the Deathly Hallows in “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” and she notes that he wrote this at a certain point in his work with Harry and in his work with the Deathly Hallows and Horcruxes, and so certain things he says here may not necessarily be the end result or what he believed or what he came to understand. But yes, and there’s definitely something to that when you read Tales of Beedle the Bard. You can see what Dumbledore was thinking and how his personal values affected how he tutored Harry, which is so perfect because Tales of Beedle the Bard, as we talked about at the top of this discussion, is all about taking the concept of fairy tale morality and moving it into the wizarding world. I see we have another one here from Alison about memory.

Alison: Yeah. I mean, obviously, I think this is one of the reasons why the movie makes me mad because it pretty much just shafts this whole idea, the idea of memory and the importance of memory and the importance of sharing memory and the fallibility of memory and changing our own memories of things and why we do that. I mean, the whole thing with Slughorn changing his memory, we get a visual representation of that. He tries to change his memory to make himself look better so he can live with himself, but it’s not really until he comes to face that memory head-on, give it to Harry, accept it, that anyone can move on and do something to actually to get rid of Slughorn’s guilt, I think, for what he did. So that idea of as much as you try [to] repress and bury and change how you remember things, it’s only when you look at them for what they are, you’re going to see where to actually go to be productive.

Paul: I think it’s a really wonderful moment as a story device and for Slughorn as a character. Because I mean, that’s an entirely widespread human phenomenon. I mean, we all, just by our own nature, try to remember things that make us happier and more accepting of ourselves. So it’s a totally normal thing for Slughorn to feel extremely, extremely guilty about the information that he gave Tom and to try to hide from that. But it’s an interesting linchpin in the story [laughs] that it really all comes down to this one man confessing something.

Alison: Well, even just the fact, I think, that Harry learns this story of Voldemort, and at some points even comes to sympathize with Voldemort through memory, it’s not necessarily… I mean, at this point, Voldemort is a physical force. He is causing mass havoc, the world is in chaos, but it’s the memory and this more ethereal kind of thing in the Pensieve that leads to Harry being able to face this physical, momentous being.

Michael: Which is why, while I was joking with how Harry reflects on the diary and then immediately rejects it, when Dumbledore says, [as Dumbledore] “Do you feel sorry for Voldemort?” Harry goes [as Harry] “No, no I don’t, I never said that.” But that is also something that he will come to face in Deathly Hallows as well, and that’s why he is able to communicate and articulate what he does to Voldemort at the end, is because he does understand and pity him.

Paul: Right. Right. Just to bounce off that, I mean, the memories are an opportunity for Harry to humanize Voldemort because he’s witnessing Tom Riddle growing up as a child and just…

Michael: Which is Voldemort’s greatest fear, is to be humanized, to be human.

Paul: Right. Yeah, so it’s curious. I wish we would’ve gotten a little more insight about how that factored into Harry’s mentality about whether it made it harder to defeat Voldemort or easier to accept that he had to kill Voldemort and how that influenced his decisions.

Kat: I think, too, that the memories and everything are really important to teach the lesson of temptation because that is the big, big, big, big, big lesson coming up in the next book, and I think that it really is set up here in Half-Blood. We learn everything about Tom Riddle and his past and who he was and how he really was tempted by the dark side, [laughs] so to say, to cross fandoms there for a moment. And it’s really important that Harry see what that does to a person so that he can resist it in Book 7.

Michael: Yeah, I feel like temptation seems to run throughout every single Harry Potter book and the choices that you make based on temptation. I think that ends up being a theme in each one, and the temptations often center around the MacGuffins of the book. Prisoner is a little shakier in that respect, but I think there’s definitely [Harry’s tempation to kill Sirius]. Sorceror’s Stone is the temptation of eternal life and just easy life, riches, rewards; Chamber of Secrets [is] the temptation of power; Goblet is the temptation, again, of fame; Order

Kat: But at least none of those things are things that Harry is seeking.

Michael: But I think the books set up that he could if he chose to, but he chooses not to, so I think… And of course, like you said, Kat, that’s a perfect lead-up to Deathly Hallows because here comes Harry’s greatest temptation. He’s presented with these objects that can supposedly make him the master of death. And more than any of the books, this internal war that Harry has had with his relationship with death and what his parents mean to him and how he’s going to act upon that comes to its finale, to its climax here. He has the choice to… again, ring theory. The Mirror of Erised very much functions similarly to the Resurrection Stone, one of the greatest temptations that’s placed in Harry’s way, but he’s come so far. He doesn’t use the ring to dwell on the past; he uses it to strengthen his future and make the biggest choice he ever makes. So there’s one thing. [laughs]

Paul: Yeah, I think the way that desire and temptation play in with Harry’s “final moment” is really odd because Harry has to be counterintuitive and sacrifice himself in order to win, which is not generally how that works. So I think it’s interesting because Harry has to essentially release all sort of temptation and desire and just say, “Okay, I’m going to walk in there and die,” in order to defeat Voldemort, who is very, very driven by his temptation and desire. So it’s an interesting counterplay.

Michael: Well, then, apoiler alert – I’m just going to just tag this with that – for those of you who haven’t – or [don’t] plan to for whatever reason – finish the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, [Tris] dies at the end.

Paul: Oh, I was so mad about that! [laughs]

Michael: And the thing is…

Kat: That last book was so bad.

Paul: I know! I know. Okay, sorry.

Michael: But I think that what you guys are expressing was generally expressed by a lot of people who follow that series, and what I heard a lot of people… Because I didn’t read the series; I read half of Divergent and ditched. “DNF: did not finish,” as they say on Goodreads.

[Paul laughs]

Michael: But what I heard a lot of was that Tris’s death just doesn’t have as much justification as Harry’s. There were a lot of comparisons to Harry and his multiple reasons to die, versus Tris’s death…

Paul: That was one of the reasons I was so frustrated because I was like, “There is no reason.” She just walked in and was like, “Yep, I’m done. Shoot me.”

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: I think that’s what makes the Harry Potter series so special, because this sacrifice has been built up all through six previous books.

Paul: Right, right. And there’s a literary reason as well as a story-relevant causality to his sacrifice that all ties together and makes it make sense.

Michael: Yeah. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s been well established up to this point. But I see some other points here too.

[Paul laughs]

Alison: Yeah, I think… [laughs] Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Death! [laughs]

Michael: Oh, really? [laughs] Do people die in this book? I didn’t know.

Paul: Spoiler alert, kids.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Michael: Only the owl.

[Alison fakes sobbing]

Michael: That was enough to break your heart. Loss of innocence right there. Boom! Last connection to innocence.

Alison: [laughs] There we go.

Michael: Loss of humor. No more funny things.

[Everyone laughs]

Alison: The future?

Michael: That’s you, Alison.

Alison: Oh! [laughs] I think just the idea of… I mean, Harry has to come to grips with what death actually is. He’s gone through grief, but I think Deathly Hallows is the first time he actually has to think about death itself. Not the effects of death, which he’s gone through already, but the idea itself and what that means and how there’s some… He has to be a little bit passive and accepting of that to greet Death as an old friend, and I think that’s a huge thing for Harry in this book, coming to understand the stillness, the passivity he needs. One of my favorite lines is when he’s sitting at Shell Cottage and he just thinks he had never decided not to act and how he has to learn that lesson of everything must end. There has to be some stillness, some finality, to something for there to be anything at all.

Michael: Yeah. One of my favorite scenes from Hallows that doesn’t really get as much love, because usually “The Forest Again” tends to be the one that people go to… But one of the most heartbreaking scenes for me is the graveyard scene when they visit his parents’ grave, and it does hit Harry that there are elements of death that are final, that his parents are in the ground. They’re dead. And while he learns that there’s an inner strength they give him, it really hits him [that] he cannot bring them back. And he does have to go forward with the people that he is friends with now, with his life. He can’t dwell on that anymore. It’s kind of the opposite of the Mirror of Erised scene, actually.

Paul: That’s a good point.

Michael: He lets it go in a healthy way. He dwells on it and he lets it go. And the other thing that’s different about that, too, of course, is that, for the most part – sans Dumbledore’s little education lesson at the end – he was there alone. But he had Hermione with him in that moment to have company, to have somebody who could at least sympathize and get him through that moment, rather than just standing there alone, which he ostensibly could have done. So yeah. Of course, that also brings around the idea of Harry not being alone on this journey. Which of course always makes it sad that Ron didn’t get to go with them.

Kat: I think that that’s always been an important thing that Ron wasn’t there. Because Hermione, in a different way, is feeling the emotions that Harry is feeling [at] that moment. Because while her parents are not physically dead, they are dead. As she knew them, as they knew themselves, they’re dead, and she may never see them again. And it’s the same kind[s] of emotions that Harry is feeling but in a very different way. So I think it’s really important that she’s there, and I’m glad that Ron wasn’t there. I feel like he would have taken some of the validity out of that very honest, real moment.

Paul: I think it would have been interesting for all three of them to be there because they are standing from different vantage points in relationship to their parents because, obviously, Harry’s parents are deceased, and like you mentioned, Hermione’s parents are dead in a way, but I think Hermione is afraid of her dying and her relationship to her parents dying in that way. And I think that Ron, being separated from them, is afraid of his parents dying. So they’re all…

Michael: … at a different stage.

Paul: … viewing the same… Yeah, at a different stage and just viewing that potentiality from a different vantage point. And I think that, I mean, we can talk about Harry’s relationship to his parents in this book all day because it’s loaded with significance, but I think that Harry really becomes his parents’ son when he walks into the woods and greets death because then he’s repeating, in a way – more of a symbolic way than literally – his mother’s act.

Michael: And I think, too, that we’ve been talking a lot about Harry’s journey of learning to cope with his parents’ death and becoming his own self from that, and I think it’s worthwhile mentioning, too, that Dumbledore also goes on a little bit of that journey with his relationship to his sister, which culminates in, of course, the King’s Cross scene. And Dumbledore has gone through this major change as well. And of course we also get that change with Snape. A lot of these characters who[m] we saw them as at the beginning are not the same people by the end. Yet another satisfying thing about this series that doesn’t [laughs] always happen, actually, in juvenile and young adult literature, these characters are not the same people by the end of the series, and what’s, I think, so important about how they were written and how Rowling got her themes across is because she did not kowtow to what people wanted her to do at all. She just did what, apparently, she had envisioned the whole time. And then of course the way it ends, not considering Cursed Child – we’ll talk about that later – is that, as Rowling has stated and what some people have difficulty with – depending on how you view the epilogue – is that the thing she always wanted Harry to have was a family. He starts off with no family and he ends up with an enormous family by the end. And he’s surrounded by people who love him and care about him, and he, ostensibly – again, not counting [laughs] the events of Cursed Child – gives that love back equally. And I think a lot of people, again, have problems with that, I think, and have expressed issues with that because of the trauma that Harry has gone through. And as I’ve mentioned before on this show, there’s been that frequent comparison to the ending of Lord of the Rings, where the Hobbits are like, “Yeah, that was traumatic. We can’t go back to the way things were.” And how people view that in comparison, but it makes sense to me. And to me, it’s a satisfying enough ending that Harry gets the one thing he always desired, which is a family, and he’s learned to move on from that old family so that he can have that new family. He’s made that full journey. So we take all of that and what are the overarching themes?

[Paul laughs]

Michael: Harry Potter summed up in one word!

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: So many. [laughs]

Michael: Just kidding, that’s not possible. And I didn’t even go in-depth into Snape’s stuff. Because you…

[Alison laughs]

Paul: Oh yeah, I could talk about Snape and Dumbledore for hours.

Michael: Yeah, they’re a whole episode unto themselves. [laughs]

Alison: We have. [laughs]

Michael: We have other episodes for that.

[Paul laughs]

Michael: But I mean, okay, how would you guys…? What are the main things that you guys would each choose?

Alison: I think the biggest ones are all sorts of love and fact that so much of the most powerful magic in this series are all representations of some form of love. Because there’re so many different forms. I mean, you have Lily’s love, you have Patronuses, which come from happy memories, which are usually, we see, it’s people thinking about people they love. You have all the friends, you have Ron, Hermione, and Harry, you have Harry getting his family at the end, you have Harry’s parents at the beginning, you have Tonks and Lupin, you have Ginny and Harry [laughs] and their whole journey, you have Ron and Hermione and their whole journey. [laughs] I mean, you have Dumbledore’s love for Harry and what that causes him to do and what that causes him to not do. You have Petunia’s love for Lily that is faded and twisted and ends up being all these different things. There'[re] so many themes and different fragments you could go off of just with love.

Kat: For me, it’s always been choices as the one that I personally have always clung on to and because I always try, in my own life, before I make a decision, to look at the situation and really think about it: Is what I want to do going to be helpful? Is it going to hurt anybody? Is…? All of that. And I’ve always related to that theme of choices in Potter specifically because I take such care in my own personal choices. It’s everything you do, you could hurt somebody or you could help somebody, you could tear somebody down [or] you could lift them up, you could end the world or you could save it. And it’s always been choices for me. It’s always been that, always comes back to that. At the end of every book, I always sit there and I think, “Man, you truly are exactly what you make yourself out to be by your actions because actions speak louder than words.”

Michael: How about you, Paul?

Paul: I think after everything we’ve discussed, I really think one of the primary themes is coping and just really “How do you deal?” I mean, of course, Order of the Phoenix is, I think, a really potent example of really examining how Harry deals with grief and stress. But how do you address a challenge? How do you deal with difficult situations in your personal life with your friendships, with your relationships? How do you deal with potentially omnipotent evil wizards? [laughs] To me, it’s all about “How do you face the challenge and how do you deal with it and how do you get through it and still try to come out the other side as a kind-hearted, whole person?”

Michael: Yeah, and I mean, that’s something Dumbledore, I think, notes by Order of the Phoenix, that he’s just astonished that Harry continually came out of a challenge a good person, because he didn’t have to, but he did. I think, for me, the three main ones are love, death, and choice together because I think as we’ve seen throughout our discussion of each individual book, those three are the ones that collide the most often. Because I feel like the subthemes that we were talking about of politics, education, prejudice, fate, and temptation, all of that, I think those all end up falling into those three themes, for me. And what has been definitely most fascinating for me about this conversation that I look forward to in future rereads of the series is where I can find those literal versus metaphorical examples of themes and life lesson that Rowling is attempting to communicate in each book. I think that’s really wild, and it makes it more interesting to look at the “MacGuffins” of each book as something a little more than that. They’re not just the thing that drives the plot, but they actually do have, perhaps, a literal significance as “I represent this theme of the book. This is the thing that Harry could have or that he could choose to have or that any of the characters could choose to go after or use to their own ends.” And how they interact with these objects determines who they’ll be. So yeah, choice, love, and death, I would say. To wrap up this conversation, I did want to cite these two articles that… And there'[re] many more articles on this. I hunted down to the roots of where these articles were. And I think the time that they were released is also very valuable. Both the New York Times and the Pacific Standard in 2014 released major articles about… The New York Times [article] is called “Can ‘Harry Potter’ Change the World?” The answer is obviously yes. [laughs] Really? Gee, golly.

Alison: What? [laughs]

Michael: They caught up with us. The New York Times finally caught up with our fandom. And the Pacific Standard released an article called “HARRY POTTER AND THE BATTLE AGAINST BIGOTRY,” which I’m sure was one of Rowling’s discarded titles.

[Everyone laughs]

Michael: But both cite that the Harry Potter series changed and shaped a generation. Probably the most major ways that they cite that is that Millennials are considered to be a very empathetic generation thanks to Harry Potter, at the very least, sympathetic. They also tend to be more open-minded, and they are willing to consider alternative viewpoints to theirs and to listen to others more because of what Harry Potter has taught them. They also tend to be less racist and prejudiced, which… [laughs]

Paul: Wow!

Michael: Wow! Who would’ve thought?

Paul: Who would’ve thought, yeah.

Michael: And that was in 2014, long after the series was over, both the movies and the books. And these studies are starting to be conducted. Harry Potter is really having a huge uptick in how it is being viewed in the academic world and actually being studied and quantified. But I thought that was an important point to lead into this ending question, and we can spend a few minutes perhaps on this topic before we wrap up: What has Harry Potter done for each of you, individually? How have you taken these life lessons and themes and applied them to the real world? Because I think it is important to note. And this is something I’ve studied in film criticism more so than books, but it is very easy to read a book or watch a movie or take in any piece of media and discard it and just say, “Well, that was entertaining.” And people can even do that with Harry Potter. If you look hard enough, you can encounter people who did not take anything from Harry Potter other than entertainment. My favorite film example to use is WALL-E because Pixar made it that way intentionally. You can see it as a little love story between two robots or you can see it with that in addition to a story about the fate of humanity and how we treat the Earth. And there were many different viewpoints and ways that people took in that film. So how do you guys take in Harry Potter and apply it to your real-world experiences?

Kat: Well, I read Harry Potter later in life. I started it in my early 20s, as I’ve said before on the show. And for me… So growing up I was, if you can believe it, an incredibly shy very introverted girl who had a couple of close friends, who was a book nerd. I read all the time; that’s all I did ever. And then I went through a phase where reading and stuff just wasn’t cool anymore. I wanted to branch out, I wanted to become somebody different, so I put down the books and I tried to go out into the world. And I realized that the world sucks, and it’s scary.

[Michael laughs]

Kat: So I ended up retreating back into my books and turned into this quiet, shy person again. And I started reading Harry Potter because of a friend who I’d met only a… She was a brand-new friend. I met her, she was a huge fan, I started reading it, and through reading the books and also being coupled with finding this person who was so alive and so open and smart and kind and funny and that friend who helped bring me out of my shell, Harry Potter helped me get confidence in myself and to believe in my convictions and to realize that my opinions are valid, even if they’re only mine. If nobody else ever agrees with me, that’s fine. And I have become a more confident, stronger, independent, inquisitive person because of Harry Potter. Man, 15-year-old me wouldn’t recognize myself now. Which, thank goodness, because that was 20 years ago. I hope I wouldn’t be the same person I am now as I was when I was 15.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: But you would’ve never guessed that I would be that person.

Michael: Wow. Alison, what’s Harry Potter done for you? And I also ask that specifically, too, because as you mentioned before and as the listeners know, you are an educator.

Alison: Yes. I teach Harry Potter. Actually, that was the first book I read with my students this year, much to some of them not appreciating that.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Alison: Some of them did, though. But it’s hard to qualify in a lot of ways, I think. I started reading them when I was five, and they’ve been a constant ever since. [laughs] So it’s interesting to see… I mean, I think about the theme of love, this huge theme of love and friendship, which is something that I don’t want to say I struggle with, but well, backing up, one of the reasons I love Prisoner of Azkaban is actually Dementors and Patronuses as a representation [of] depression because I have depression. And one of the things that happens in my depression is, I have a hard time seeing love directed [at] me and recognizing different forms of it directed [at] me. And so to see representations of how people show love, I think, has been helpful in recognizing it as it is directed [at] me, if that makes any sense. And seeing the things that can help build the “Patronuses” to my own mental illness. And seeing especially how love and friendship and goodness change this magical world helps me feel more hopeful for our world, that if we could harness love, respect, friendship, if we could beat all these things that you could draw parallels to and the things that Harry fights with (love, friendship, goodness), we might be able to improve our own world in those ways.

Michael: I certainly hope so. [laughs]

Paul: Yeah, we’re in trouble otherwise.

Michael: Yeah. Paul?

Paul: Well, wow, hard to follow that. It’s so good to hear those answers. They’re really amazing, and it just goes to show you that stories are so powerful and that they can really [affect] who you are. For me, I think the biggest applicable takeaway that I’ve had is really just being almost overly… What’s the word? Maybe not “empathetic,” but I am so hesitant to judge anyone anymore. When someone is cruel or perhaps makes a mistake or does anything to slight me or whatever, I always take the first step and think: You never know what they’re going through, you never know how they were raised, you never know what kind of day they’ve had. And really just trying to see the best in everyone and hold off on judgment and those sorts of things for as long as you can. And just in a more general way, it taught me a lot about being a friend and being a son, interestingly. So I, just reading the story, have come to understand the parent-son relationship a lot more and appreciate it a lot more. So I think a lot of my takeaways from Harry Potter have to do with how I relate to other people and how I try to treat other people. Because I think a lot of the series deals with just how we interact…

Michael: A shining example of the Potter generation having empathy for others.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Michael: Always good to hear firsthand. I definitely have already expressed many times on this show what Harry Potter has done for me, but I actually think when I reflect on it, a lot of those things that I’ve mentioned before are things that I already understood and that it was nice to see it reinforced by a piece of material that I was so in love with. It was nice to see characters like Harry [and] Lupin who were such kind male figures. I think [it] was really refreshing for me. And to see some characters like Hermione who were so confident in themselves and their knowledge and weren’t too terribly concerned with what others thought, as long as they were doing what they thought was best to help themselves succeed… It was nice to see that Hermione had that brilliance, that confidence in her brilliance. And to see characters like Ariana who reminded me so much of my brother and were portrayed in [such] a way… and Dumbledore with that struggle of how to deal with his sister and how to deal with the loss of his sister and the grief and the choices that he made in relation to his sister was really interesting for me in my journey with my brother. But really, the one thing I still think about – the two main things are the big lines I still take away from Harry Potter – [is] the choices line from Chamber of Secrets. I’ve always loved that line. It’s a nice reminder for me every day about the choices that I make and the choices I’ve already made when I reflect back on them. I tend to not have very many regrets anymore in my life because I know how much those things have shaped me, the choices that I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had. I very rarely regret things anymore, if at all. And the other line that I just adore is… Well, there'[re] really two that interlock with each other from Dumbledore, and it’s that “Death is but the next great adventure,” and “Do not pity the dead… Pity the living and… those who live without love.” And it’s amazing, this toolkit that Rowling has given this generation of how to approach death.

Kat: Ooh, I envy you because death still scares the living bejesus out of me.

Michael: But that’s the thing too. I think what Hallows clarifies is that death isn’t something to face just head on with no fear. You have to be fearful of death to understand it.

Kat: And I guess for me it’s not even the death so much; it’s the loneliness in being left behind.

Michael: And there are those moments when I’ve had those horrible philosophical moments where I’ll just be staring at the ceiling and being like, “Oh, God, I’m going to be dead someday.” [laughs] We all do it; it’s happened. You think about it sometimes, and then you get terrified. But it is comforting to have these words from these characters and the experiences they’ve had that Rowling so honestly put forth based on her own experiences with death, that death is scary, death is painful, death is full of grief and so many things we don’t understand, but it is a natural part of things, and as Dumbledore puts it, it’s the next great adventure. Who’s to decide that there’s nothing afterward? If you so choose to believe, maybe there is more.

Kat: Good. End it on a happy note, thank you.

[Alison, Kat, and Paul laugh]

Michael: And while we’re alive, we have so many friends who love us throughout the journey anyway, so you’re never really alone in that respect. Love, death, choice… Bam! [laughs] There it is. But I think it’s also important to leave as well with the note that the world is facing some very difficult times right now, and the one thing I am so grateful for is that there are these studies that came out – these pieces that have come out – the evidence that I see on the daily of the empowerment Rowling gave this generation to be mindful, to be active, to make choices, and how their choices will affect the future. While it’s terrifying, it’s also really heartening to see that there are so many of us out there who aren’t just sitting back and accepting things for what they are. We’re a generation of questioners who want better than what we’re being dealt right now, so that’s very exciting in such a difficult time. It’s good to see that that’s happened. And yes, New York Times, Harry Potter can change the world. There’s the answer to your question.

[Kat and Michael laugh]

Paul: Send them an email.

Michael: Yes, I will.

[Michael and Alison laugh]

Michael: That’s the end! [laughs] But not really. There’s so much more to say about… I mean, we could easily come back to this topic again on a future episode. I think the other thing to note, too, of course, is, listeners, I’m expecting well over 100 comments this week on… [laugh]

Alison: We talked about so much!

Paul: I will be reigniting my account and getting back into the forums. I’ve been away for a long time.

Michael: I was going to say, “Paul, what’s your username?”

Paul: I am Slythinpuffdor on the forums.

Michael: You’re Slythinpuffdor? Oh my God!

Kat: Cool.

Michael: I know you!

Alison: Oh!

Paul: Yeah! My comments were mentioned a few times, but I’ve been on a hiatus from the forums. [laughs]

Michael: Well, what a welcome back for you, right? [laughs]

Kat: Well, you’re also a patron too, are you not?

Paul: Yes. Yeah.

Michael: Yes, he is.

Kat: I thought so.

Paul: I’ve got to support stuff like this, I think, so…

Michael: So he’s going to get access to those video game Let’s Plays pretty soon here.

Paul: Yes. I’ve actually never played any of the video games, shockingly, because I love video games. So I’m excited for that.

Kat: “Shockingly” for sure. Oh my goodness.

Michael: I will do my best to entertain, sir.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Kat: Well, aside from thanking you so much for being a patron of the show, we want to thank you for joining us on this incredibly broad episode.

Paul: Oh, it’s my favorite. So I’m super, super, super happy that I could be on. And thank you so much. This has been absolutely wonderful.

Kat: Oh, thank you for joining us. You are a fantastic guest.

Paul: Thank you very much.

Michael: Yeah, thank you again, Paul. I was thrilled, again, to see that you had submitted again for another topic even though you missed the first…

Paul: Couldn’t let it go. Had to give it another shot.

Michael: No, that was excellent. That was great. Paul is a shining example again, listeners, of why you should keep trying even if you haven’t gotten a response yet or if you’re hoping for another topic. Don’t give up. We do have a lot of people who want to be on the show, but we want you to be on, so… Topics will always come up again, and as Paul found out, sometimes they can be exceptionally broad.

[Michael and Paul laugh]

Michael: So you’ll get a chance to talk about what you want to talk about in relation to Harry Potter on the show. So thank you again, Paul.

Alison: And speaking of something that might be a little broader, at least broad opinions, our next topic is going to be all the reasons why Cursed Child is canon.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Kat: Whoa, whoa, whoa. That is not the topic.

[Alison, Kat, and Michael laugh]

Alison: Just kidding. We’re going to debate if Cursed Child is canon.

Kat: And oh, a debate it shall be.

Paul: Oh my. [laughs]

Michael: The Internet will just crumble in upon itself because this is the explosion of so many things.

Kat: And we really want to be sure that we have all viewpoints covered. We don’t want another accidental one-sided Snape episode. So guys, if you are interested in talking about Cursed Child as canon at all, in any way, shape, or form, any opinion you have, please go submit to be on the show. We truly, truly, truly need your opinion. There are several of us who think the same thing, and so we want to make sure, depending on schedules, that we can be very well rounded. I cannot stress that enough. So please go over and audition. Send in a clip. And we’ll be looking for very specific viewpoints depending on [which] hosts are on the show. So keep that in mind.

Michael: And with that said, the way to do that is you can go to and you will see a section for how to be on the show. Make sure [to] use that to submit to be on that particular episode. You’ll even see a drop-down menu now that we have for upcoming topics, so you’ll know what’s coming next. So if duking it out over Cursed Child is not what you want to do, there are some other things to talk about that will be coming up. And you can submit for those as well. You can also, on a separate section of the Alohomora! main site, submit a topic that we might not have listed as coming up yet, something that maybe even was triggered by this discussion that you’d like to examine more on Alohomora! Because this show is very much made by you, the listeners. So please head over to to suggest your topics and audition. If you have a set of headphones as well as something to record with, like a microphone and a recording program on your computer, you’re all set! We really don’t require a lot of fancy equipment. They don’t even have to be Apple headphones, you guys; they can just be headphones.

Kat: Whoa.

Michael: If you’re really daring.

Kat: [laughs] And in the meantime, if you want to keep in touch with us, you can do so over on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN [or on Facebook at] Our website, as Michael just said, is And don’t forget, you can always send us an audioBoom. Head over to, click the little button in the right-hand menu, and keep your message under 60 seconds and you could hear yourself on the show. Send in a question, an audition, a response. Literally anything, send it in. We really like poems and songs – just throwing it out there. Yeah, and you could hear yourself on the show.

Michael: And one more reminder, please check out our Patreon page at, where you can sponsor us for as little as $1 a month. It’s what helps to keep the show going. We are doing our best. As you’ve heard, we’re finally drumming up all of these special gifties that we’ve been really wanting to do for you guys. I just can’t wait for my computer to tell me that it’s not going to play Sorcerer’s Stone, but I’m going to force it, and you’re going to get those Let’s Plays. But it really does help us to keep the show going. Just like we said before, you guys make the show. You guys are the ones who are helping us host all of these files that we have because we now have a main show file and a recap file. It ensures that we can keep those up at that space for you guys to download. It really helps us out so that we can keep talking Harry Potter with you, and we really appreciate it. So check it out: But for now, we’re going to take these life themes and lessons and we’re going to go take them out into the real world.

[Show music begins]

Michael: I’m Michael Harle.

Kat: I’m Kat Miller.

Alison: And I’m Alison Siggard. Thank you for listening to Episode 214 of Alohomora!

Michael: Oh, just open the Dumbledore.

Kat: Aww!

[Michael laughs]

Michael: Just open it! Gosh!

Alison: Just open it! Gosh!

Kat: Fine. If I have to. Open the Dumbledore. It’s not fun if it’s not something fun.

[Alison laughs]

Michael: Maybe you can tell them that they have a choice. Maybe you can do the Dumbledore voice and tell them that they have a choice to open the Dumbledore.

Kat: Oh, I can’t do a Dumbledore voice.

Michael: Sure you can. Try it.

Kat: [as Dumbledore] Should I open the Dumbledore? [back to normal voice] Come on, that’s terrible! That’s absolutely terrible.

[Alison, Kat, and Michael laugh]

Michael: That was beautiful.

Paul: I loved it.

Kat: [as Dumbledore] On [the] one hand, I could open the Dumbledore, and on the other hand, I could open the Dumbledore.

Paul: [as Dumbledore] Open the Dumbledore because I told you to!

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Michael: [as Dumbledore] You have a choice to open the Dumbledore, but you’re going to open the Dumbledore.

[Alison, Michael, and Paul laugh]

Alison: Just do them all!

[Show music continues]

Kat: I almost burst out laughing because – Patrick, cut this – you said they couldn’t be in the Order of the Phoenix.

Alison: [laughs] I thought I was the only one!

Kat: It sounded like you said they couldn’t pee in the Order of the Phoenix.

Alison: I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who heard that.

Kat: I was like, what?

Michael: That’s definitely not what I said, but I’m…

Kat: I know it’s not what you said, but it’s what my…

Michael: I need to differentiate between my B’s and my P’s.

Kat: It’s what my ears heard, and I was like, “Keep it in Kat, don’t laugh, don’t laugh, don’t laugh.”

Michael: They couldn’t buh-ee in the Order of the Phoenix.

[Alison and Michael laugh]

Kat: Yeah, anyway.

Michael: Buh-ee. Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh. Bbbb!