Transcript – Episode 3

[Show music begins]

Noah Fried: This is Episode 3 of Alohomora!, for May 20th, 2012.

[Show music continues]

Noah: I’m Noah.

Kat Miller: I’m Kat.

Caleb Graves: I’m Caleb.

Rosie Morris: I’m Rosie. And this is Nicola, who is a psychology student at the University of Kent. Say hi, Niki!

Nicola Sansbury: Hello!

Kat: Hi! Thanks for being on the show.

Nicola: I’m glad to be here. Thank you very much for inviting me.

Noah: So, Rosie, you’re going to be a new staff on the show. Tell us a little bit about yourself real quick.

Rosie: I’m new to the show, but I’m an original staff for Alohomora!. I’ve been working with MuggleNet for about six years now on the fan fiction website, moderating and editing people’s work and just generally being involved with the Harry Potter fandom.

Noah: And how big is that community?

Rosie: Oh, it’s massive. I think we’ve got something like 15,000 authors on there.

Kat: Wow, that’s huge!

Rosie: It’s one of the biggest Harry Potter fan fiction databases online.

Noah: That’s really cool. So, Nicola, now you’re going to be our guest fan this week, and you’re a Slytherin. And – which is very important because we’re covering the Sorting Hat chapter this week, so all the houses are represented. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Nicola: Well, as Rosie said, I’m a student at the University of Kent. I have been a massive fan of Harry Potter since I was about ten years old when my best friend [laughs] threw the book at me and told me to read it.

[Noah laughs]

Nicola: And ever since then, I have loved her to pieces because I was introduced to the actual fandom in general through MuggleNet Fan Fiction when I was about sixteen. [laughs] And that was a little bit too late, but I’m glad I’m definitely involved. And it’s a brilliant opportunity to be here, so thank you again.

Kat: No, thank you for filling our Slytherin spot!

Noah: [laughs] Yeah, thanks for being on!

Nicola: And a very proud Slytherin it is.

Noah: Just to quickly explain what we are, we are on this podcast, we’re re-reading the book series and analyzing them, going through the chapters one by one. And we bring a new fan on the show every week. And I just wanted to also announce that a few weeks ago, we launched a new section for MuggleNet, not – some other different staff members on the site, called MuggleNet Academia, led by Keith Hawk and actually the Hogwarts Professor.

Kat: John Granger.

Noah: And with other various professors and also fans. They are analyzing the books as well. I mean, they’re not really going through book by book as we are, but they’re doing more collective theories, higher academic theories – so lots of crazy stuff. So, if you like Alohomora!, give MuggleNet Academia a chance too. Why not? So, this is part of MuggleNet’s overall initiative to get back to the book series, recover the magic, and have a good time while doing it. So, you should definitely check that out. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes.

Kat: Awesome.

Noah: We would like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors, Audible. Exclusively for fans of Alohomora!, they are offering a free audio download. They have over 100,000 titles to choose from, so head over to to get yours now.

Kat: Let’s jump right into the recap from last week’s show. We covered Chapters 4 through 6 of Philosopher’s Stone. We had some really great conversations happening on the main site and on the forums. SlytherinGirl says:

“Your conversation about Vernon’s attitudes to wizards and Harry really got me thinking. What if Dudley had been born a wizard? It could have happened, and surely both Petunia and Vernon would have considered this seeing as Petunia’s sister was a witch so there must have been magic ‘in the blood.’ How would Vernon have reacted? Would it have changed their relationship with James and Lily? Would Vernon have tried to stamp the magic out of Dudley just as he tried to stamp the magic out of Harry, or would he have been more accepting? Maybe they would have been more accepting of the entire wizarding world if their own son had been a wizard.”

What do you guys think about that?

Noah: I think it’s so interesting. I mean, it would have been a complete shift. I don’t know what they would do. I assume they’d try to stamp it out, but then Petunia would have had to explain to Vernon the full matter. And it’s inevitable. He would have had to go to Hogwarts, and it’s possible they could have played – it obviously would have played a more integral role in the series, but I’m not sure how they would have reacted.

Rosie: Petunia is so devoted to Dudley that I think she wouldn’t be able to just kind of cut him out of her life. I think she would have had to reconsider her whole standpoint, because the whole reason why she’s against magic was that she considered herself not special compared to Lily.

Noah: Oh.

Rosie: So, she just – because she was…

Noah: Maybe she would have…

Rosie: …cutting herself off…

Noah: Yeah.

Rosie: …she would have thought that Lily was a freak, and so – I don’t know.

Noah: Do you think she would have maybe had pride in Dudley a little bit?

Rosie: Yeah. She would have had to reconsider it and think that magic wasn’t necessarily a bad thing even though she didn’t have it. She had created something special enough to have it as well.

Noah: Yeah.

Caleb: Yeah, that’s true, but – I could see where she could maybe live vicariously through him with the magic, but – I still think that she would still – I don’t know. For some reason, I think she’d be even more bitter. I mean, even if it is her son. It’s something that basically just skipped her completely. It’s everyone else in her family, except her. I guess not her parents, but her sister and now her son. I don’t know. I feel like she would have been a little more bitter about it. Maybe that’s just me.

Kat: I mean, we would hope. It is her son, after all. But yeah, I…

Noah: We hope she would be bitter.

Kat: Yeah. No, not bitter. I mean, I would hope that she would be more accepting and, I don’t know, better about it in a way. But it is Petunia, I guess.

Nicola: I don’t think Vernon ever would have done. I personally think Vernon would have massive difficulty taking that into account. He has been brought up to think a certain way, and obviously now – and his entire world would have been completely changed. I mean, he works at a drills factory, gets up – everything is in order for him. I think Petunia could have done, but definitely not Vernon. I think that would have been a really big trauma in their family.

Kat: So, what would he have done? Do you think there are wizards who don’t end up going to school?

Nicola: I don’t think Dumbledore would have allowed that to happen. I think Dumbledore would have made Dudley go. I think Petunia would have encouraged that as well, and it possibly could have destroyed their family, for Vernon to…

Kat: Yeah, could have torn them apart. And this comment came from the forums, from SDA15. He or she says:

“You guys were discussing who owned vault 713. I believe that Flamel owned the vault since it was his stone. I believe at one point in the book, Dumbledore says that Flamel knew someone was trying to steal the stone so it was moved, for more safety, to Hogwarts.”

Caleb: Yeah, I think that’s definitely possible. I mean, I guess it would take a pretty good note for the goblins to let Dumbledore access the vault then if it was Flamel’s. I don’t know what it would take for them to let someone else access it.

Kat: Well, I think Noah was right.

Rosie: Maybe it’s a joint vault.

Noah: A joint account.

Rosie: A joint account.

Caleb: Yeah, you mentioned that.

Rosie: Because Flamel is Dumbledore’s partner, isn’t he?

Kat: Yes.

Caleb: Yeah, in alchemy.

Noah: Partner in alchemy.

Rosie: Yes. [laughs]

Noah: Yeah, I always thought it was the Hogwarts vault. It seems like a lot of different connections if it’s Flamel’s vault or the Hogwarts vault. I mean, we don’t see it getting used ever again, but…

Caleb: Which I think makes it – yeah, we don’t ever see – well, I guess we don’t see any really intense vaults except for when we get to the Horcruxes later. So, the fact that maybe it’s not used a lot, I think that may support the theory that it’s Flamel’s.

Kat: Flamel’s, yeah. That makes sense.

Noah: Okay. Interesting.

Kat: Great comment, SDA15!

Caleb: Yeah, definitely.

Noah: Yeah. You never think about it, but Quirrell got very far. And he managed to open the vault without touching of a goblin. Any scheme about how he might have done that?

Kat: Well, how do we know he didn’t use a goblin?

Caleb: Yeah, he may have killed a goblin or used the Imperius Curse.

Noah: Right. I mean, that seems to be the surest way being that you need their touch.

Kat: Right.

Noah: So, our next comment is from Aberforth from the forums.

Kat: I think it’s AbbyForth.

Caleb: AbbyForth.

Noah: AbbyForth! Oh okay. That’s very clever.

“Regarding Hagrid’s potential cruelty to Dudley, I think it’s more of a culture clash between the worlds. As we’ve seen later in the books, wizards have very different methods of punishment than Muggles. Although McGonagall disapproved, everyone else loved Moody/Crouch Jr’s ferret episode. Nobody took a moment to think that it may have hurt Malfoy or traumatized him. Even McGonagall only really seemed to care that Moody was breaking rules – not that Malfoy may have been hurt. Even in ‘Sorcerer’s Stone/Philosopher’s Stone’, we see that it’s apparently totally appropriate in wizarding culture to send a bunch of eleven-year-olds into the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night with minimal supervision for detention. I doubt he realized how different it was in a Muggle setting. While it was unnecessarily cruel, I don’t think Hagrid meant it very maliciously.”

Rosie: Relies on the fact that Muggles can’t undo the magic, whereas wizards can. So, whereas Hagrid might have thought he was giving him a tail until someone else took it off, because he forgot that they couldn’t actually remove it.

Noah: Right.

Caleb: Very good point.

Rosie: So, it would have been a lesser punishment in the wizarding world than it was in the Muggle world.

Kat: That’s true.

Caleb: And I love this point, bringing up the eleven-year-olds [laughs] going into the forest. It’s always something that stuck out for me, and it’s such a good point that – just sending a bunch of very young kids in this deadly forest, barely supervised. There’s definitely a different…

Noah: Yeah.

Caleb: …sense of what punishment to use in the wizarding world.

Noah: And we know that Argus Filch does not have the best punishment strategies. I feel like there are a few scenes where he talks about hanging kids up by their ankles in vengeance. [laughs]

Caleb: Yup.

Nicola: That would definitely stop some behavior. [laughs]

Kat: I’d say so, yeah. [laughs]

Noah: Oh my. [laughs] We’d love to read your comments and continue the discussion, so keep going there. And thanks again for submitting these, AbbyForth, SDA…

Kat: Yeah, they were great continuing the discussion. I love it.

Rosie: So, our special feature last week was the wands that everyone’s received on Pottermore, and obviously I wasn’t here and neither was our special guest for the week, Nicola, so we’re going to start by talking about our wands as well, and then read some of the comments and see if you guys, our fans, agreed that the wands actually are pretty accurate when it comes to personality.

Noah: That seems to be true.

Kat: Yeah, it seems to be. What’s your wand, Rosie?

Rosie: My wand is a 14 and a half inches hawthorn and unicorn tail wand. And it’s slightly swishy, which I always like.

[Nicola and Noah laugh]

Kat: Sounds nice. [laughs]

Rosie: It’s described as faithful and consistent, as well as complex and intriguing, which I think is quite a nice description of myself.

[Noah laughs]

Kat: Absolutely, it sounds like you.

Rosie: It also says that it’s good at healing but can also be good for curses. So, it’s quite nice that – I’m a peaceful person, but don’t cross me.

[Everyone laughs]

Noah: Yes. In the Hufflepuff spirit!

Kat: That’s right.

Rosie: Definitely. I can stick up for myself if I need to.

[Nicola laughs]

Noah: How does it feel to be slightly swishy?

Rosie: It’s always fun to be slightly swishy!

[Kat, Noah, and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: But yeah, I’m perfectly happy with my wand. Nicola, what about you?

Nicola: I’m 11 and a half inches, larch and dragon. Hidden talents and unexpected facts. [laughs] That is me to a tee.

Noah: Oh my. [laughs]

Nicola: Powerful and quick to learn with a touch of the flamboyant. I’m sorry, that – if you had to describe me, you don’t – that’s just it. When I read that, I couldn’t believe it. It’s perfect!

[Noah and Rosie laugh]

Nicola: Me and flamboyant. [laughs]

Noah: Yeah? [laughs]

Nicola: And it’s temperamental and easily turned to the Dark Arts. Well, since I’m a Slytherin…

[Caleb laughs]

Nicola: …and I have a particular interest in abnormal personality disorders, et cetera – yeah, not going to lie. [laughs] It’s perfect!

Noah: All right.

Nicola: I’m doing forensic psychology, et cetera.

Noah: That’s really cool.

Nicola: So yeah, that’s brilliant.

Kat: That’s good. I mean, that goes along with everything we said about how happy we are with our wands, and then – all the fans, too. Everyone that wrote in to us said that they were…

Noah: Everybody!

Kat: …incredibly happy with the wands that they had.

Noah: Yeah.

Kat: Which is amazing! That’s amazing.

Noah: Yeah. She should – Jo should be given a lot of credit for this because so much thought obviously went into the wands and the sorting test. There had to be. And I was happy with it, everyone has been, and they do seem to be accurate to a tee. Kind of weird, kind of crazy, but…

Nicola: I want to know how they’ve done it.

Noah: Yeah.

Nicola: How they’ve actually managed to make those questions so appliable to people. That was almost scary when I read mine, so… [laughs]

Kat: I wonder – is there anyone out there who didn’t like their wand? If you didn’t like your wand, you should write in and tell us because we’re curious as to why.

Noah: And you guys remember the test for it. Some of the questions seemed almost completely unconnected, like if you would rather walk through the forest or towards the beach or towards the castle.

Caleb: Yeah, that’s what baffles me. Because reading those questions – when I took the test, I was like, “How is this going to figure out my wand so perfectly?” And, like everyone has said, it comes out perfectly. That’s what’s so brilliant and mind-boggling about it, is these very obscure – seemingly obscure questions just pinpoint perfectly.

Noah: I mean, questions like that one I just said – they seem to be looking at more of your sensitivities, or your sort of personal feelings as opposed to with the sorting test. It seems to be what do you really believe, your preferences, your virtues. With the wand, it seems more reflexive, like your instinctual feelings in a matter. Also, with the – I think there’s an open chest and you can pick between various artifacts, between a mirror, a key, a scroll…

Caleb: Mhm.

Kat: Yup, I remember that one.

Caleb: Yup.

Noah: Yeah. And I remember very cleverly picking the key, because I thought it would be able to open the chest later and I could have all of them.

[Noah and Rosie laugh]

Noah: But…

Kat: I think I picked the scroll.

Noah: Yeah.

Kat: I don’t remember, though.

Caleb: I honestly can’t remember.

Kat: It was so long ago at this point.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: Thanks, Pottermore.

Rosie: Yeah, so the general consensus is that these wands are incredibly accurate for personalities, and we’ve got some great comments from our main site. ScarletSnitch says:

“Saying the wood is magic and the core comes from a magical living being, we could assume (for this argument) that it is a sentient source of cognition. The wand imbibes the magic of the wizard as they use the wand and this act would increase the power of the magic over time. As the wand’s source is magic and ‘living’, it would probably recognize similar characteristics in the wizard looking for a wand.”

And that’s how a wand chooses the wizard. [laughs] Do you guys agree that it’s the wand’s kind of living personality that makes it seek similar characteristics, or can you have a wand that is contrasting your personality but still complimenting it as well?

Kat: I don’t know, because – I mean, especially with all of us, knowing our wands, everything about the wand compliments us so well. And the wood and the core and even the flexibility, so…

Noah: The combination of those two.

Kat: Yeah.

Noah: Of all of them.

Kat: I think it would be hard to have a contrasting wand. I feel like you would constantly be battling between – the powers between the wizard and the wand would be battling.

Rosie: Definitely.

Noah: Yeah. And if you remember with Meg’s wand, it was actually kind of an adamant thing and it needed a powerful person to kind of contain it, and that seems to match the attitude. So, maybe the wand is this sort of magical clone, or wand clone of the personality to the nearest participle, you know?

Rosie: So, thinking about that, when we have wands that are passed down from person to person, such as – Ron’s wand was passed down from one of his older brothers and then obviously there’s the myth of the Elder Wand.

Noah: Right.

Rosie: How do those wands reflect the magic of their owners?

Kat: Well, we actually got a great comment on the website about that specifically, from Lily James. They say:

“There are many cases of family wands being used: Neville uses his father’s wand, Ron uses his brother’s, and Draco used his mother’s for a time. All wands appeared to perform magic well, though Hermione’s wand, and even the blackthorn wand, didn’t perform to equal standard for Harry as Neville, Ron or Draco’s wands did for them. Yet one thing in common with all three wands, that differs for Harry’s use of the blackthorn and Hermione’s wand, is that they were all originally wands from within the immediate family – parents or siblings. Maybe this is because family members often have similar traits. If Ron is like his brother – which he is – Neville is like his father – which we are told he is – and Draco is like his mother – well, clearly – then it would follow that wands, who perform better with compatible owners, then those with similar traits and related to the owner would possibly be able to work with the wand.”

Noah: Yeah.

Caleb: Good point.

Noah: Do you think it’s possible that wands keep a sort of memory of past users? I know the Elder Wand had collected maybe some powerful magic from past users, but what if family wands also reflect a little bit of the power or the usage of past family members?

Caleb: Yeah, I think that is definitely possible. I mean, that just plays into how wands have this sentience where they’re able to grow with the user, and in this case it goes from one user to another.

Noah: Yeah. And the Elder Wand can do this a little bit more than other wands, I believe.

Caleb: Yeah, I think that’s something that is definitely true for the Elder Wand. It has this greater capacity to do so than probably these other wands.

Noah: And…

Caleb: Right, exactly.

Noah: Because of the wood, because of everything. And I believe it almost has, like, a blood thirstiness, because it traveled from so many different members, it adopted their – all these personalities.

Caleb: Right.

Rosie: The only thing we actually know about the Elder Wand is that it’s made from elder, isn’t it? We don’t know anything about the core at all.

Caleb: Isn’t the core…

Noah: A hair of a Thestral.

Caleb: Yeah, a Thestral.

Rosie: Oh okay.

Caleb: Yeah, yeah.

Rosie: So, what does Pottermore say about that? Can we look it up?

Caleb: I don’t know if it’s…

Kat: I’m not sure Pottermore says anything about it.

Caleb: Yeah, it doesn’t say anything about the Thestral hair.

Kat: I don’t think we have gotten there yet. But we know that it’s not – obviously, it’s not from Ollivander because he doesn’t use Thestral hair.

Noah: Right.

Caleb: So, let’s toss that to the fans. Tell us what you think the Thestral hair does for the Elder Wand.

Noah: It’s incredibly unique, and the connection to death. You can only see a Thestral if you’ve seen death.

Caleb: Yup.

Noah: So, we can say that Thestrals have some sort of affinity or connection to death and therefore the Elder Wand as well, otherworldly. So yeah, go into the forums and we’ll talk about it in the next episode.

Rosie: It works really beautifully with the story.

Kat: It does, and there is actually a commment on the forums made by SilverDoe25. They say:

“Last note on wands, do you ever wonder 1) what Dumbledore’s original wand was…”

Noah: Ooh, good, good.

Kat: [continues]

“…and 2) where is it since he began using the Elder Wand? Let’s have a peek inside Hagrid’s pink umbrella now!”

[Caleb laughs]

Noah: Oh! Really?

Caleb: Awesome.

Noah: That’s really interesting.

Caleb: Wow, I – yeah, I’m baffled at what Dumbledore’s original wand might have been.

Rosie: Come on, Jo! Let us know. [laughs]

Caleb: Yeah, seriously.

Noah: I think it’s…

Caleb: We need more for Dumbledore. [laughs]

Noah: Well, if any noble fans would like to go through all the wand woods and cores and try to find it, we can speculate.

Kat: Yeah, try and pick one out.

Caleb: Do you think that he even got his wand from Ollivander? I mean, I guess…

Noah: Oh, I’m sure he did.

Caleb: …it makes sense, but – yeah, I guess he would. So, we know that his core would be dragon heartstring, unicorn hair, or…

Kat: Well, phoenix would make sense, right?

Caleb: Phoenix tail feather, yeah.

Noah: Maybe it was a – well, it might. I would think a phoenix just because of his affinity for Fawkes, but you never know. It could be unicorn.

Caleb: I have…

Rosie: Ollivander’s shop has been there since the 1500s, hasn’t it? So he, potentially, is hundreds and hundreds of years old and would have been there…

Caleb: Oh, Ollivander’s? Ollivander’s has been there since 382 B.C.

Noah: Yeah.

Rosie: Okay. I got the wrong date. [laughs]

Noah: Good one, Caleb. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah. [laughs]

Caleb: Walking encyclopedia, I’m telling you.

Kat: That’s right. [laughs]

Rosie: So, do you think it was originally the same Ollivander or has there been generations of Ollivanders making wands?

Caleb: Oh, I think it’s generations.

Kat: Yeah, definitely generations.

Noah: I mean, Ollivander is an old guy, don’t get me wrong, but… [laughs]

Kat: So, we have one more really great comment on wands that we took off the forums by PatronusCaster. The comment is:

“Can different types of woods be combined to make a wand? What about cores? Does it make the wand more powerful or is it not possible? Can a witch/wizard use more than one wand on a spell?”

And, obviously, that last part we learn that yes, you can use more than one wand on a spell because in the last book – spoiler alert – when Harry takes all the wands and uses seven of them to get Lucius Malfoy.

Noah: Seven?

Kat: Oh, I don’t think – I can’t think of the number. Three? Four? It’s a lot.

Caleb: I do not think that woods can be combined or cores can be combined – they cannot be combined. That’s just my theory, but I don’t think they would work as well. I think it would dilute the uniqueness of each of those things.

Noah: And if we – we’re about to get on the question of the week where we talk about wands as being sentient life forms. If wands were people, and you talked about fusing them, you’re talking about a Frankenstein-esque wand that is a – oh my gosh, it’s horrible, scary to conceive of. [laughs]

Caleb: I think it definitely may have been attempted before but probably not to reach a good end.

Noah: Well, Ollivander, with his thirst for greatness, might have done a little bit of…

Caleb: He dabbles. He dabbles in some shifty experiments, for sure.

Noah: Last week, in response to all this wand argument, I actually created my question of the week, which was: knowing what we know about wands, their ability to choose their masters as well as possibly communicate with each other – as proven by the effects of Priori Incantatem – to what degree do we think wands can really think? Do they have thoughts? Do they have moods? We know that with a wood and a core, it creates certain effects and creates these almost moody personalites. So, to what degree can they act on their own? We know with the Priori Incantatem, the wand flipped over in Harry’s hand when Voldemort was chasing him, and that was because of the Priori Incantatem. And, on top of this question, I also said: considering the potraits of Hogwarts, chocolate frogs, and all these other potentially sentient things, if we accept that these things have a degree of intelligence, can magic legitimately inspire life or just duplicate the appearance of it? And we got a lot of great comments. But, just briefly again, what do you guys think of that?

Nicola: I think they’re shadows. I think there’s possibly a form of spell – possibly to create within the frame or something like that, of just a mixture of different memories and emotions, and only that can create this picture. And that’s how they can possibly interact. And only those shadows could create the emotions we see when Sirius Black comes in screaming from the Fat Lady. But only that, only the shadows – I mean, obviously we see – oh, I can’t remember his name now – Sir Cadogan. He’s so bolstering, exciteful. I think, possibly, he was a lot more like that in real life, and we only see a part of his personality, but no more than that.

Rosie: Yeah, I agree. I think they’re kind of the imprint of a person, not quite as much as a ghost. A ghost is kind of the whole personality that’s just not moved on.

Noah: Exactly.

Rosie: But the portraits seem to encompass them as they were in a particular moment, so as they were captured in that picture, so the Fat Lady is always in that party mode that she was…

Noah: [laughs] Yeah.

Rosie: In the movies, she’s definitely always slightly drunk or slightly showing off.

Noah: Yeah.

Rosie: Sir Cadogan is always about to start a quest and is always looking for that next excitement.

Noah: Right. Because what we came up with last episode was that a picture captures the full image, but a wizard photograph goes deeper and it captures these deeper levels in the instant as well, but it can see a hundred percent more. I don’t know.

Kat: I think you have it backwards.

Rosie: A portrait can talk.

Kat: Yeah, I think you have it backwards.

Rosie: A portrait can talk and the wizard photographs can’t.

Noah: Oh right, right. Sorry. Photographs versus portraits. Portraits, when you paint, those seem to capture the personality and, as you were saying, the essence of the person.

Rosie: What I really want to know is, do you think the portrait has to be made straight away when someone dies or it has to be there before someone dies for them to…

Noah: Can it be made during their lifetime?

Rosie: Yeah. But then, could you have a conversation with yourself if you have a portrait of yourself?

Kat: No, I think they have to be dead.

Nicola: With Dumbledore…

Rosie: In which case, could Harry commission a portrait of Lily and James or Sirius?

Noah: And was that really Dumbledore in the portrait, or had he really moved on? And if it was Dumbledore in the portrait, why are we sad that he’s dead?

Kat: Hmm.

Noah: A lot of ethical concerns, so let’s read some of these comments.

Kat: Go ahead.

Noah: This is from NightStrike91. He or she responded directly on the main page where we were letting fans answer the question of the week.

“My thoughts about the photographs and portraits are, what many people also seem to believe, that they are catching what’s in the frame at that exact moment. For photographs simply that one moment of feelings, expressions and thoughts. For portraits though, I believe the whole person, who he/she is in that moment, is captured. Every memory, every feeling, every relationship carries on past death, but the portrait won’t be able to evolve and change as a living person would have. Communicate and follow orders, sure. Learning names and recognize people, sure. But Dumbledore, for example, wouldn’t be able to love a new, unknown sister because he didn’t have any knowledge of her in real life.”

Kat: So, okay, so you can’t learn anything new. It’s just as he or she is saying, it’s just the existing knowledge or experiences of that person had that they can feed off of.

Noah: Now, how does the painter know all of those experiences and put that in the painting, or is that the actual soul? This is so problematic for me. I don’t – because it seems like, potentially, Dumbledore is alive and well in this painting and just chilling. And is he there for eternity?

Kat: Right, but he can only talk about things he already knows. He can’t learn anything new. But that’s not true either because Snape tells him things. I don’t want to get too spoilery here, but yeah, Snape tells him things and then Dumbledore gives him suggestions based on those things. So…

Noah: And Harry talks to him at the end.

Caleb: I think though that – so, thinking about this from a scientific perspective…

Noah: Ahh, very cool.

Caleb: …I think that it still makes sense that they’re able to have somewhat new conversations, but those conversations can only happen because it draws upon, in this case, Dumbledore’s knowledge of things that were going on while he was alive. He would have been able to give those…

Noah: That’s true.

Caleb: He would have been able to give those same pieces of advice had he been alive. So, I think it has a lot to do with – again, thinking science-wise – with the brain. You have memory stored in your brain in certain parts of your brain, and I think that there’s this some sort of magical connection between the experiences and the memories you have from life that are able to be used after – in this case, after you are dead.

Noah: But Caleb, I’m not sure if that’s necessarily true, because what about – we have countless other experiences of the portraits interacting with each other and learning new things, recognizing people after having seen them. The Fat Lady – not to spoil – Sirius Black has an interaction with her, and she remains scarred. [laughs]

Caleb: Hmm.

Noah: The painting was scarred and she remembers that.

Kat: But he was in Gryffindor, so she would know him already.

Caleb: That’s true. He was.

Noah: Oh, that is true, but I’m just saying that she remembers the fact of having been attacked, and that becomes a memory for her after having become a painting.

Kat: Well, yes, but what Caleb is saying is that what the portrait knows or experienced in their lifetime is the only things that can be draw upon. So, she knows Sirius because he was in Gryffindor, so that’s why she remembers and recognizes him. Although, again, that can’t be true because…

Caleb: Because she’s dead. She’s not – yeah, a living person. She learns those characters, she learns those students as a portrait. So yeah, I just thought about that at the same time. Hmm.

Noah: So, this is clearly a tricky subject. [laughs] Let’s have…

Rosie: I think portraits can learn from when they are portraits. They can experience things and remember those things that they experience.

Noah: As portraits.

Rosie: But they wouldn’t be able to learn anything…

Caleb: Right.

Rosie: …that happened in the outside world, because no one has introduced that to them.

Caleb: Hmm, yeah.

Rosie: Unless they’ve gone and seen it in someone else’s portrait.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: Oh, do you think they can take from each other like that?

Noah: Well, they all talk to each other.

Kat: Well, yeah, but do you think they can feed off each other’s experiences and that’s how they learn?

Caleb: Yeah. It’s almost like it creates a somewhat parellel universe where they are existing and learning from one another and interacting with the…

Noah: Yeah.

Caleb: So to speak, the more realistic universe. Ahh, baffling.

Noah: And I would agree that they’re still shadows, but they are these separate entities. It’s very strange.

Kat: Again, it brings it right back to that chalk zone where there’s this own little world that they live in, that they can experience and learn from each other in that world. It’s so strange.

Rosie: It’s really interesting if you think about how many aspects of the Harry Potter books are about the fear of death, and yet you’ve got all of these different ways of continuing to live after death, whether you’re a ghost, whether you’re a poltergeist, whether you’re a portrait.

Kat: Would any of you come back as a ghost or a portrait?

Caleb: No, not as a ghost.

Noah: No.

Caleb: Maybe as a portrait, because I would still in theory be moving on, but I would not come back as a ghost.

Noah: It’s like having a Horcrux, though. It’s like you can’t – and we still haven’t bridged the fact, is this the person or is this a new person? Because potentially the soul is at rest, like Dumbledore’s, and this is just a copy. Or something?

Kat: It’s like they took his brain and stuck it in the painting. Yeah, I don’t know.

Noah: Personally, I wouldn’t do it. After that – because otherwise you are just caught in this parallel spot. You see actively everything that is going on in the real world, but you can’t really touch it. You can’t really be there, almost like with the Resurrection Stone. [laughs]

Kat: Right.

Noah: Spoiler. But you know what I’m saying. It’s not a full life. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

Kat: Right. But Dumbledore obviously chooses it, so it can’t be all that bad.

Nicola: Well, you can’t choose it, though.

Noah: That’s true.

Nicola: With your actual self, your conscious self, as in you are in now, are you actually aware of this shadow or this imprint in the real world?

Noah: That’s what I’m thinking. I think maybe not.

Kat: We’re going to talk about this more when we get into ghosts later, but you definitely have to make a conscious decision about what you want to do before you die.

Noah: So, another part of that question, guys, was about how if wands can think or not. And I think this is a great comment from Snapesbeststudent, and I’m going to assume that he or she is because the name is that.

“I don’t think wands can necessarily think, but feel. I think trees have the ability to feel even if they don’t have the mind to process it. Since wands are made from trees, Ollivander and other wandmakers maybe enhanced these ‘feelings’ to almost thoughts. Because of all the different things wands are made up of, I think they have the ability to ‘know’ who is their true master through magic.”

That’s a pretty great comment.

Kat: That is great. It kind of reminds me of Treebeard from Lord of the Rings.

Caleb: That’s exactly what I was thinking about, how Tolkien – so obviously, we probably have some fans who are also Tolkien fans. You have so much personification to the trees in Lord of the Rings with Ents. And that also reminds me: everyone should go ahead and give some love to our sponsors, Audible. They have so much to listen to, over 100,000 titles to choose from in pretty much every genre.

Kat: Yeah, from fantasy, business, teen, fiction, non-fiction, romance, sci-fi, even newspapers and magazines.

Caleb: Yeah, exactly Kat. Audible is the best place for all your audio downloading needs. And right now, Audible has a really great special offer for our U.S. and Canadian listeners. They can visit our uniquely created specifically for them and get a free audio download. Today. Right now. So go! Go right now to

Noah: It’s funny that you actually mentioned Lord of the Rings because I actually just downloaded Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring the other day. And I’ve got to say, the quality is pretty good and I downloaded it right to my iPod. It was pretty easy. I think I’m going to go browse some more books, actually.

Rosie: I’m sure you can find something awesome on there. After all, Audible is the leading provider of digital audio entertainment.

Caleb: Yup, so every one of our listeners should take a minute to visit the site and start downloading directly to their computer. For easy listening on burned CDs, mp3 players, and even your iPad, iPhones or Androids. Again, the website made just for you is So, visit for your free download today.

Kat: Great, so let’s jump right into our discussion of the chapters this week. We are going to be covering Chapters 7 and 8: “The Sorting Hat” and “The Potions Master.”

Noah: Oooh.

Kat: Mwhuahaha.

Noah: So, I want to take this chapter because it’s just so interesting. So, McGonagall has just told the first-years that they’re about to be sorted. They’re very scared, and this is the same, actually, in the movie. The first magical influence we get before they even get into the Great Hall are the ghosts, the Hogwarts ghosts. And Harry is not really surprised, [laughs] as with a lot of things in the book. And I just want to talk about this briefly. How do ghosts work? We’ve already talked about portraits and wands, especially with the portraits and photographs potentially dead people living in some capacity on Earth. Now, we know ghosts for a fact are those souls who, in life, were scared of death and therefore consciously are not – chose to become ghosts and stay on Earth. So, I just want to have a brief discussion of those. How does one really become a ghost? And can humans do it, and how in general does ghostification work? I’m just really curious. And they seem to have a – like we said with the portraits, a parallel universe where only ghosts exist, talk to each other. We know they have clubs that don’t allow Nearly Headless Nick in. What do you think?

Kat: Well, J.K.R. has said very little, surprisingly, on ghosts. But the one thing that she has said over and over again is that only wizards can become ghosts, and that they have to choose the path before they die. So, it has to be a conscious decision.

Noah: Do we think Myrtle chose that?

Rosie: I think Myrtle wouldn’t have wanted to die straight away. She would have been too confused. So, I think she would have chosen what she considered life over death.

Kat: Yeah, because she was murdered essentially.

Noah: I wonder if in the instant of death you get like a wizard Morpheus. He gives you the red pill or the blue pill, and you can either become a ghost or you can go on. [laughs]

Caleb: Yeah, I’ve always wondered, how does that decision work? Is it some sort of split decision? Is there, like you said, a Morpheus? I don’t know.

[Noah laughs]

Kat: Well, I mean…

Noah: Or Dumbledore.

Kat: It’s just like drawing up a will before we die. Do we want to be buried or cremated?

Caleb: But then what happens to people like Myrtle, where the death is very sudden? Do you think…

Noah: Yeah, I doubt she considered it.

Caleb: Yeah, do you think those people who die suddenly, especially younger people, are much more likely to come back as ghosts?

Rosie: I think it’s the idea of – didn’t Nearly Headless Nick describe it as heading towards the light and deciding he didn’t want to go towards it? So, he just didn’t go through that door and just kind of remained behind.

Noah: Yeah.

Kat: Mhm.

Caleb: Yeah, that makes sense.

Noah: In this very first chapter, she’s – Jo is setting up so many ideas about how death actually works. We know that there is an afterlife. And Harry is not very surprised because he’s eleven. But there is an afterlife in Harry Potter, and you can choose – if you want to you can stay and be a ghost. I don’t know what the process of being a Hogwarts ghost is, but I guess Dumbledore and Hogwarts are just very welcoming to lost souls and you can come in. Or maybe, like in the case of Myrtle, she couldn’t help but haunt the U-bend and the bathroom where she died. But they just naturally become a part of existence, and Professor Binns – he died in his sleep and just woke up the next morning and continued his class. So, they’re very interesting creatures. Another thing I was thinking about is they – it’s actually – maybe it’s kind of silly, but they’re always wearing clothes, and I believe – when Nearly Headless Nick is dressing up for his party, I believe he changes his outfit. So, I was wondering, where do ghost clothes come from? No one ever talks about the ghost clothes. Do they – are these clothes that the people have died in? Or is there a ghost mall?

Kat: Like a personal shopper?

Noah: Yeah. Because they have clubs, they have – there’s some sort of civilization parallel. What…

Caleb: Yeah, when thinking about this initially, I was definitely assuming that they’re wearing the clothes they die in, but then I forgot about the party. I guess – yeah, I didn’t remember that he changes clothes. But this part also made me wonder, so as we see, there is a ghost who’s wearing tights. Do we think that this is maybe the Grey Lady who – well, spoiler alert – is Helena Ravenclaw? Do we think that may be her? Because there was always a point – I think J.K.R. said in some interview, much after Philosopher’s Stone came out, that we have seen the ghost of Ravenclaw before, but I could never find where she’s mentioned in the passage in the books before we actually learn her story. So, I wonder if this is it.

Kat: It must be.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: But yeah, I definitely think it’s the clothes that they wear when they die. I mean, the Bloody Baron is covered in blood.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: And obviously he was murdered, so…

Noah: Yeah. Wait, I thought he committed suicide.

Caleb: Yeah, he kills himself.

Kat: Oh, suicide, sorry. Wrong ghost.

Caleb: Right.

Noah: Spoiler alert. A little late. Sorry! [laughs]

Kat: It’s all right.

Caleb: It’s not the big spoiler, there’s more.

Kat: Not really.

Noah: But this is what really gets me, though. Those clothes – are those dead clothes? How do you kill clothes? Think about it.

Kat: Well, it – I don’t know. When you get a hole in it? I don’t know.

[Caleb laughs]

Noah: Sometimes they…

Kat: I think it just dies with the person.

Caleb: Yeah.

Rosie: I think to an extent you need to have a bit of artistic license here. I mean, having eleven-year-olds witness naked ghosts wandering around wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: Oh gosh.

Kat: No, probably not.

Noah: I’m just thinking about the ontological concerns about ghost clothes. I still can’t fathom that they exist, and if I’m going to say that ghosts exist, I have to say that ghost clothes – anyway, we can talk about that later.

[Noah and Rosie laugh]

Noah: What Jo means…

Kat: So, is there like a Mall of America? Is that what you’re saying? With ghost clothes?

Noah: Yeah, they just – they probably run into each other in the shop. [laughs] They flow right through each other, in fact. Anyway…

[Kat laughs]

Noah: Let’s jump right into a Sorting Hat discussion, because as we know, this is the time that all the first-years get sorted in front of everyone. Harry is scared. And we know of the Sorting Hat, it has a bit of a personality. There’s that one line in a later book where he’s talking about how the founders put some brains in him. So, we know that his personality is kind of a collaboration of all of them. And – did you say, Kat, that it’s a growing personality?

Kat: Yeah, back in an interview in 2000, Jo said that:

“The character you might be most surprised to see evolve is none other than the Sorting Hat. There is more to the Sorting Hat than what you have read in the first three books.”

Obviously, this was after Prisoner of Azkaban, but she continues to say:

“Readers will find out what the Sorting Hat becomes as they get into future books.”

So, obviously this is a…

Noah: Maybe she was even planning something a bit more for the Sorting Hat, other than of course giving Neville the sword later. But what a complex character, and to what degree do we think it can think? I know this has been a running theme in our shows, but let’s talk about him a little bit. Or her. What is its gender, while we’re at it?

Caleb: Well, I think given – well, I guess it’s really the movie that makes it a male voice, thinking about it. The book never really makes any indication if it’s a male or female voice. So, that’s interesting, actually.

Kat: It’s Pat!

Noah: It’s actually two females and two males.

Caleb: Yeah.

Noah: Right?

Caleb: Yeah, that’s – well, also you have to think that it’s Godric Gryffindor’s – it was originally his hat. So, I guess that sort of makes sense that it may be male, if it comes more from him.

Kat: It would make sense.

Rosie: Yeah.

Caleb: Yeah, I’ve always wondered how – like you mentioned, we know that they sort of collaborated to put the magic in it to use as a sorting mechanism, but how did they actually do that? What did they do to put their philosophy of what their house should be into this hat?

Noah: I think they – it was a matter of program. They literally took some of their – they put their brain or their personalities inside this hat, and it’s this great collaboration of all of them.

Kat: Yeah. Well, we’re going to talk about the Sorting Hat in depth a lot later in our special feature.

Noah: Yup.

Caleb: Yup.

Noah: So, as we know, Harry is deathly afraid that he’s going to be sorted into Slytherin. This is while we’re meeting these other Slytherins. And Millicent Bulstrode is called up and she’s described as – here’s a line from the narrator:

“Perhaps it was Harry’s imagination, after all he’d heard about Slytherin, but he thought they looked like an unpleasant lot.”

This is in regards to the entire Slytherin table. And the Bloody Baron is the Slytherin ghost and it’s all bloody and he’s generally a nasty guy, it looks like. Millicent Bulstrode – just the name of her, this random first-year Slytherin, who Hermione has that confrontation with later. They’re just – why are they so ugly? We see this – it’s just kind of like this with the Dursleys. The evil characters are painted as such – as these – you kind of want to hate them because they’re not very attractive. What do you think about this? We’re getting Slytherin prejudice at the very, very beginning.

Caleb: Yeah, I think it’s just like you said. Just like with the Dursleys but maybe even more so here. I think Jo is setting up this “us versus them” from the perspective of Harry very early, even though he doesn’t really know too much about the Slytherin house or people in it. He’s – it’s clear that he sees them as the opposite of what is good.

Noah: Yeah.

Kat: I don’t know, I think there’s going to be a lot of Malfoy fans out there that are going to disagree with that because he’s described as not ugly. He’s fairly kind of dreamy, but he’s described as “pale, pointed face with fine bones.” Ugly people don’t generally have fine bones, so…

Caleb: Yeah.

Noah: But Kat, Draco is a son of a banshee.

Kat: [laughs] That’s true.

Nicola: Draco is misunderstood.

Noah: He’s a unicorn turd.

Nicola: Misunderstood! [laughs]

Kat: Yes.

Caleb: Yeah, he definitely is.

Noah: Oh, I’m sorry, Nicola.

Caleb: He is.

Noah: In fact, you should be weighing in on this.

Caleb: I agree that he is misunderstood, but at this point we do not know that.

Kat: Right, that’s true.

Caleb: I think that they are all set up as the bad guys.

Rosie: I think there’s a big difference between being described as looking unpleasant and looking ugly. They’re not necessarily ugly-looking. They’re just mean, and they’re evil-looking.

Caleb: Right.

Noah: Why are Slytherins so mean?

[Noah and Rosie laugh]

Noah: I’m just a Hufflepuff here saying, but let’s be honest here. In the books, they’re a mean lot and – of course, we’ve got to be nice to them. Snape was great. But Snape is mean, dude. Like, why?

Caleb: I mean, at this point…

Noah: Why can’t we all just get along?

Caleb: Yeah, I think at this point there’s just – yeah, they are the mean guys, and that’s the author setting up that antagonistic aspect of the book.

Kat: Yeah, I mean, how boring would the book be if everybody was nice?

Caleb: Yeah.

Rosie: Exactly.

Nicola: Oh, I…

Rosie: Nicola, as a Slytherin, what do you think about this?

Nicola: I know we’ve been referred to as the wisest of creatures. I – we have! It’s written here.

[Noah laughs]

Nicola: And Merlin was a Slytherin.

Noah: No, no, I know.

Nicola: We…

[Kat laughs]

Nicola: I believe Slytherins – we have greatness inside us, and Slytherin will help us that way. Though, I’m not going to lie, I can’t deny, as our prefect says on Pottermore, dark wizards have come out of this house, but they have come out of every other house, too. That definitely is not shown within…

Noah: Yeah.

Nicola: …the first few pages of the book. But we get respect because we are good at what we do. We have won the House Championship, as we are told, six times in a row. And Snape is proud of us, and he is good…

Noah: Yeah.

Nicola: …to his Slytherins because he knows we have the potential inside us to be great and be amazing. [laughs] And I know Voldemort is evil, but my God, he’s good!

[Kat laughs]

Noah: Yeah. [laughs]

Kat: You sound like Ollivander.

Nicola: [laughs] I have to agree. And we look after our own. We don’t clamber over each other, as it says in the Pottermore introduction. We are brothers and we are family, so…

Noah: Oh, that’s great.

Nicola: …I definitely think that puts Slytherins apart. And yes, okay, that sometimes might make us fearful and evil, but you always…

Noah: Deal with it. [laughs]

Nicola: You always need someone who is going to put what they want – what is going to be best, even if it causes great evil now but whatever is best in the future. The greater good is what I’m getting at.

Noah: The greater good.

[Nicola laughs]

Noah: I think you made a lot of Slytherin fans happy.

Kat: Yeah.

Caleb: I agree.

Noah: And I don’t mean to bash them, I just mean in this context they do – Jo makes them ugly.

Nicola: Yeah, I agree.

Noah: Warner Bros. also made them ugly.

Caleb: Yeah, I think we don’t get what you just mentioned until much later, which I think…

Kat: Wait…

Noah: Yeah.

Caleb: …makes it even more interesting.

Kat: Noah, did you just say Warner Bros. makes them ugly?

Noah: Yeah, they do.

Kat: You’ve got a lot of angry Tom Felton fans yelling at you right now.

[Nicola and Rosie laugh]

Noah: No, Draco is great. I’m talking about the Slytherin Quidditch team. You got the Quidditch captain, the entire team…

Caleb: Flint, yeah.

Noah: You can’t deny that they’re kind of big and hulking with the teeth and…

Caleb: Yeah.

[Rosie laughs]

Kat: I suppose. All right, I’ll give you that one. But little Harry doesn’t want to be in Slytherin, as we see on page 121.

Noah: “‘Not Slytherin, eh?’ said the small voice. ‘Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that – no? Well, if you’re sure – better be… GRYFFINDOR!'”

Caleb: Yeah!

[Rosie laughs]

Noah: So, what do we think about this? Did Harry choose his own house? Can you choose your house? Was the Hat really going to place him in Slytherin first? Notice the repeat of “great” here, just like Ollivander was talking about great and greatness. It seems the Hat is almost impartial to good and evil. So, I guess my main question is, did Harry have a big choice here, and when you’re sorted do you really have a choice?

Caleb: Well, I think it definitely is his choice. I think it’s later in the series – I could be wrong – that Dumbledore mentions the reason the Hat almost put him in Slytherin was because of this connection that he has with Voldemort, which we’ll obviously break down later as we get more into that. But I think all in all that it is his choice. I think that’s what the series is built on – Harry’s choices, choices in general. And the Hat is definitely taking his choice into consideration as he places him there.

Kat: Well, there’s a great bit on Pottermore about this, actually, in the Hatstalls section. It talks a little bit about choice and arguing with the Hat. I’m going to read what it says. It says:

“Of Harry Potter’s contemporaries, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom came closest to being Hatstalls. The Sorting Hat spent nearly four minutes trying to decide whether it should place Hermione in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. In Neville’s case, the Hat was determined to place him in Gryffindor. Neville, intimidated by that house’s reputation for bravery, requested a placing in Hufflepuff. Their silent wrangling resulted in triumph for the Hat.”

So yeah, it sounds like you can definitely choose. I mean, Neville lost the battle but Harry won it.

Caleb: Yeah, I don’t think…

Rosie: Oh, we would have happily had Neville! [laughs]

Caleb: I think it’s their silent wrangling where Neville was not as committed to that decision for Hufflepuff, where it seemed like Harry – from this description – sounds like he was much more committed to demanding something other than Slytherin.

Kat: Right. Neville was doing it because he was scared. Harry was doing it because he didn’t want to be what he had heard about Slytherin.

Caleb: Right.

Noah: Keep in mind that the Hat knows what Neville went through.

Caleb: Mhm.

Noah: The Hat knows everything, because every time it goes on someone’s head it, like, downloads the consciousness. So, the Sorting Hat got both of his parents, and as soon as it was placed on Neville’s head, and maybe a few others, it learned what happened to the…

Caleb: Longbottoms.

Noah: …Longbottoms.

Caleb: Yeah.

Noah: And maybe out of a personal feeling, the Sorting Hat knew he had to put him in Gryffindor because that’s what his parents would have wanted, because that’s what Neville wanted deep down.

Kat: What do you think about in Hermione’s case? Do you think she had a say in it, or she just kind of sat there and let it happen?

Noah: Hmm.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: Because we as readers – I mean, everybody wonders, “Why isn’t she in Ravenclaw?”

Noah: Well, of course, you can be smart and be put in Gryffindor.

Kat: Well, of course.

Noah: I think it’s a matter of your preferences and your beliefs.

Caleb: Yeah.

Noah: Like, she knew – we know at the end – I’m not sure if it’s in the book as well, but at the end of the movie Hermione is saying intelligence is great but bravery is this true something. So, maybe – as much as she loves intelligence, we know at the end of Deathly Hallows she’s going to go out and fight. She’s going to make some reckless calls, and we know she personally values bravery and courageousness a bit above intelligence.

Rosie: I’ve always found Hermione a really fascinating character, mainly because she spent so much of this first book on her own, before the whole Halloween thing and before she finally found Ron and Harry.

Noah: Yeah.

Rosie: She was always teased, she was always just told to shut up and told to go in the corner and told to just stop volunteering her ideas. And to continue being that person and not shutting herself off and not just kind of withdrawing into yourself is an incredibly brave thing to do.

Noah: Yeah.

Rosie: To stand up for herself as a Gryffindor with all of this intelligence, she needs to be a Gryffindor. In Ravenclaw, it wouldn’t have been the same effect.

Caleb: I completely agree. As a Gryffindor, what you said is completely accurate. Her journey, especially in this book, just starts to really show why she is a Gryffindor. Yeah, she’s one of my favorite Gryffindors for that reason.

Kat: Yeah, Rosie, I never thought about it like that, that her bravery really shines through and the fact that she just pushes on no matter what people say or think about her. I never thought about that. Good point.

Noah: So, next in the chapter, we get a few more lines. Dumbledore is there, and there is this peculiar sentence from the narrator on page 122 of the U.S. edition:

“Dumbledore’s silver hair was the only thing in the whole hall that shone as brightly as the ghosts.”

So, I was wondering – normally I would have missed it but I was really looking at the chapter – was this merely descriptive or has Jo just aligned Dumbledore with the ghosts? Is this foreshadowing of his eventual death, like a death clue? Or is it commenting that he has a connection to the other side, he’s kind of otherworldly, or has some spiritual knowledge of death? Because we know that in a few biblical stories when you’ve just seen God or you’ve seen some sort of intelligence, your hair gets gray, and this is kind of symbolic knowledge. But what do you think of this?

Caleb: Yeah, I definitely think it’s more the otherworldly characterization. Because the first time I read it, not knowing really who Dumbledore was yet, he immediately seemed as this enigmatic, mystical person no one really understands and is kind of set above everyone else. I didn’t really think about the ghost alignment. That’s interesting. But yeah, for me it’s just this very mystical creature that we don’t really know about.

Kat: Yeah, we’re only a couple of chapters in and we already know so much about how amazing he is as a wizard. I mean, we constantly get praise for his skills, him being the only one that You-Know-Who was ever scared of. So, I think this is just Jo’s way of saying, “Yes, he’s amazing, he’s great. Trust him.”

Noah: Yeah. And then the silvery-ness, and we know the ghosts are friendly to a degree and we want to trust Dumbledore, too. It’s this whole sense of mystical power that emanates from him.

Kat: Yeah, absolutely.

Noah: Okay, so then he comes up, he talks a little bit about the school to the new students and the old, and he has everyone sing the song. The point of the song is to sing it with whatever tune you like. So, I thought it’d be interesting and kind of fun…

[Kat and Rosie laugh]

Caleb: Oh no, oh no. [laughs]

Noah: …if we did it!

Kat: Okay.

Noah: And we can’t – you’ve got to purposely try to go out of rhythm with the others. Some people in the forums were like, “I wonder how this really would have sounded.”

[Rosie laughs]

Caleb: Yeah, I really want to hear Fred and George’s funeral march version.

Kat: Someone should do that. I’m going to do a rap.

Noah: Oh great.

Rosie: Caleb, you do the funeral march.

Caleb: I cannot pull off a funeral march, there’s no way.

[Rosie laughs]

Kat: Come on, Noah. You can do it.

Noah: All right, let’s give it a – well, let me just bring up YouTube just to – no, I’m just going to go on my own.

Kat: Just do it.

Noah: There’s no music in the books, why should I – okay.

Kat: That’s right.

[Rosie laughs]

Noah: Let’s give it a try.

Kat: Okay.

Noah: Three, two, one, go!

Kat: Okay.

[Everyone sings in different styles and at different paces]

“Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald,
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling,
With some interesting stuff,
For now they’re bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we’ve forgot,
Just do your best, we’ll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot.”

[Everyone cheers]

Caleb: Oh, God. That was so embarrassing.

Kat: That was awful!

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: So, I think we can all say that that would have sounded awful.

[Everyone laughs]

Caleb: Yup, yup, yup, yup.

Kat: I couldn’t stop laughing.

Noah: And now to get really serious, there is a forum in Noah’s Nook, which is my special forum where fans can go in and discuss the chapter with me prior to the podcast, and this is actually a comment from user Mischief Managed:

“I was reading the Hogwarts song, and I’ve always loved the song because it’s, well, the Hogwarts song. But as I read it again, I was struck by its words and message. I was really struck by the negative undertones of this song. It speaks of empty-minded students, of the fact that they’ll have forgotten everything they learned before, and learning until their brains rot. While some parts of the song are definitely positive, such as the idea that Hogwarts has something to teach, no matter how young or old you are, and the bits like ‘things worth knowing,’ ‘interesting stuff’ and ‘do your best, we’ll do the rest’ which places student responsibility in learning, to me these are almost completely overshadowed by the negative messages presented in the song, especially when the last line is ‘learn until our brains all rot.’ This isn’t exactly the image I feel like I’d want to give a school.”

[laughs] I mean, you wouldn’t think about that, but when you read the song it is kind of disgusting.

Caleb: Yeah, I never took a close enough look. Thanks for bringing that up.

Noah: [laughs] Thank you, Mischief Managed. Yeah, “until our brains all rot.” So, I mean it’s kind of silly playing around with death, but we know that’s what Dumbledore and Hogwarts is all about. Death is ever present, but you have to be kind of humorous in the face of it.

Kat: Well – and I mean to – [clears throat] excuse me. What – all the kids sing gross little songs when they’re that age, so I guess I don’t really see it as being too out of place.

Noah: Well, this is the Hogwarts song. This is like the…

Kat: National anthem – yeah.

Noah: It doesn’t come back, but this is – huh?

Kat: The national anthem, so to say. Yeah, I know what you mean.

Noah: Right. Well, just of the school. So, this somehow must reflect the essence of the school.

Kat: I think when Dumbledore is there. Yeah, absolutely it does.

Noah: Yeah, just an interesting thought. Thanks for that, Mischief Managed. Mischief is managed now. [laughs] So, then as he is closing out the semester, he has a few words before the food. He says, “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” And there’s actually a great article by the Hogwarts Professor – who is doing that other podcast, MuggleNet Academia – and he goes on about how each of those words is actually the putdown of various houses, as in a “nitwit” would be something a Ravenclaw would call an un-smart person.

Kat: Huh.

Noah: And I thought – and actually his references kind of make sense. We can put the link in the show notes. What is Dumbledore doing here by just sort of basically silently announcing the strife of the houses? Is he sort of commenting on that a little bit?

Kat: Hmm.

Noah: Would you say?

Caleb: Yeah, I’m at a loss for – this is something that I was never able to make sense of.

Kat: Yeah, without reading the article, I’m not sure how much I can – I don’t know.

Rosie: I always just thought they were just fun-sounding words. It’s just Dumbledore being slightly strange and crazy like Harry thinks he is.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: Right. A little mad.

Noah: That’s what I thought, too. Let me just read you something from the article:

“Blubber, in contrast, is a word used on playgrounds in the English speaking world for ‘fat.’ It is disparaging because children use it to be unkind to their peers who are heavier than the average kid and probably less athletic. Gryffindor, the jock or frat house, sees the ‘other’ as less physically bold or courageous, for which condition, an eleven-year-old would probably find ‘blubber’ a handy signifier.”

So, that would just be – so “blubber” would be the one for Gryffindor, as in they are these kind of – in John Granger’s mind, these jockey types.

Caleb: [laughs] So interesting he calls Gryffindor “the frat house.”

Noah: He’s kind of an open, funny guy.

Kat: I don’t know, I can see that. As Gryffindor as the frat house.

[Caleb laughs]

Noah: And here’s one for “oddment” which is Slytherin. Let’s see if he backs this up well:

“This is a word from the world of sewing and fabrics. An oddment, if memory serves, is the remainder from the bolt of cloth, a remainder not large enough to be usable in making anything significant. Slytherins are lovers of ‘pure-blood’ and, in this, ‘wholeness’ or ‘integrity.’ The ‘other’ to a Slytherin is any witch or wizard born with insufficient purity, an insufficiency that makes them an oddment of less, even no value.”

Meh, that’s pretty good. I mean, so it’s just cool that people are reading meanings into things that previously we thought, “This is Dumbledore just saying random stuff.” But there – he is the sort of character that Jo is going to put lots of meaning into his words.

Kat: Wait, are you purposely leaving out “tweak” because it’s a Hufflepuff one, and you don’t want to make your own house look bad?

Noah: How dare you, Kat. I’m going to read that now.

Kat: Okay.

Noah: [laughs]

“Hufflepuff is the Hogwarts House for magical folk who were not smart, bold, or pure enough for the three Houses described above.”

[Nicola laughs]

Rosie: That’s not true.

Caleb: Wow, I…

Kat: Wow, that’s rough. I’m sorry.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: You shouldn’t have read that.

[Rosie laughs]

Noah: Oh yeah.

Caleb: I don’t buy into that.

Noah: Hogwarts Professor, you’re killing me.

“From Malfoy’s comments in Madame Borkin’s in ‘Stone,’ they seem to be the dustbin house, where the nobodies wind up.”

Rosie: Ouch.

Kat: That is rough. Oh my gosh.

Caleb: Don’t like it.

Noah: [continues]

“Cedric’s success in ‘Goblet’ also suggests that glory is something of a stranger to Hufflepuff champions.”

Caleb: Hmm.

Kat: All right, I think we should move on. I don’t want to hear anymore of that.

[Rosie laughs]

Kat: That’s awful.

Noah: No, we’ve got to finish.

“I have to doubt this is the Hufflepuff self-understanding. They look at the ‘other’ and see ‘excess’ or ‘imbalance’ not ‘excellence’ and ‘virtue’ they lack. Hufflepuff witches and wizards are down-to-earth, humble, and real people. The ‘other’ needs to be ‘tweeked’ or adjusted to refine their excess and bring it to the mean, which as Aristotle teaches, is where virtue really lies.”


[Rosie laughs]

Kat: Okay.

Rosie: I don’t think we need to tweak people.

Caleb: Yeah, I don’t buy that one. I agree with the other three, to an extent…

Rosie: No, I think that’s a bit… [unintelligible]

Caleb: …but I don’t buy that one.

Noah: All right. Well, just a theory we’re trying out. If you’d like to discuss the article, it’ll be in the show notes and you can go right into the forums. Okay, so at the – so Harry goes up to Gryffindor Tower with Ron, and then he has a dream, which he immediately forgets. So, I’m convinced that we’re supposed to know about this and – really, let’s think about it. So, I’m going to read it out, and then we’re going to do a little bit of an analysis, and also we’re going to bring in some comments from the forums. Here’s the quote:

“Perhaps Harry had eaten a bit too much, because he had a very strange dream. He was wearing Professor Quirrell’s turban, which kept talking to him, telling him he must transfer to Slytherin at once, because it was his destiny. Harry told the turban he didn’t want to be in Slytherin; it got heavier and heavier; he tried to pull it off but it tightened painfully – and there was Malfoy, laughing at him as he struggled with it – then Malfoy turned into the hook-nosed teacher, Snape, whose laugh became high and cold – there was a burst of green light and Harry woke, sweating and shaking.”

So, at first I just saw this dream and I was like, okay, it’s a collaboration of all of Harry’s various bad guys who – not bad guys, but with Quirrell thrown in the mix, he has a bad feeling towards Malfoy and Snape, obviously. But we actually got some pretty interesting comments from the forums. What are your guys’ initial reaction?

Kat: I think it’s a great bit of foreshadowing. I mean, Voldemort is already in Harry’s mind, even I think in a kind of unconscious way. I think it’s great.

Noah: Yeah. Here’s something from Snapescape:

“I think it’s pretty symbolic of what the near future holds for Harry. Bear with me here because some of this may be a little far-fetched (but you said you liked wacky theories, right?). In the dream, the turban is talking to Harry and telling him to transfer to Slytherin because that’s supposedly his destiny. Now, on first thoughts, I believed this to be Voldemort somehow communicating with Harry through the dream. But after a bit more thought, I came up with another idea: what if it was the part of Voldemort lodged within Harry (the Horcrux)…”

Spoiler. [laughs]

“…that manifested itself in the dream? What if Harry’s conscience is intermingled with this part of the Dark Lord and that he’s having a sort of inward battle during the dream (‘Harry told the turban he didn’t want to be in Slytherin’). After this, the narrator states that the turban gets heavier and heavier. I think that this symbolizes the hold that Voldemort gains over Harry in the years to come. Not only emotionally as he murders his friend Cedric but also mentally, as Harry begins to see things through Voldemort’s eyes, and physically as he feels his scar prickle. The narrator goes on to say that the turban ‘tightened painfully’. Could this be a foreshadowing of the burning of Harry’s scar that he has to deal with later on? I’m still trying to figure out why Malfoy turns into Snape and there’s a flash of green light, so I’ll leave that up to someone else to try and figure out!”

Okay, so that’s pretty cool. Snapescape is suggesting that this whole dream is like a microcosm of the whole book to come, and that it’s already a suggestion of the Horcrux.

Kat: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I mean, in so many interviews Jo has said she knew exactly what she was going to do from the first book, and I think this cements that. Absolutely.

Noah: Yeah.

Kat: A lot of really good foreshadowing.

Caleb: Mhm. Definitely.

Noah: And already the connection between Voldemort and Quirrell, so much it’s a – yeah, Quirrell is this curious character. I love – you just said all the foreshadowing. Very, very interesting.

Rosie: It builds on the idea of Harry’s prophetic dreams as well, which obviously becomes such an important part of later books like Order of the Phoenix.

Noah: Order of the Phoenix, yeah. I just think that dreams in fiction are just great places to close-read and to think about. And the fact that the next line is, “Harry forgot it the next morning,” I just can’t leave this alone. I feel like there’s something here to be discussed.

Kat: Great, so that’s the end of Chapter 7.

Rosie: Okay, so Chapter 8 is “The Potions Master.”

Noah: [in an English accent] “The Potions Master.”

Rosie: And we begin with a change of pace. We’ve been introduced to so many wonders of the magical world in the last couple of chapters that now we’re taking a small step back and being introduced to the kind of everyday, mundane life of Hogwarts. And the first thing we’re greeted with are the whispers in the hallway following Harry around. And we really get to see the extent of Harry’s fame now that the wizarding world can put a face to the legend that is Harry Potter. One of the first things that he says, however, is about the Hogwarts staircases which seem to move, and he’s never quite sure where he’s going, [laughs] which isn’t really particularly useful in a school where…

[Noah laughs]

Rosie: …you’ve got a huge, new class of students trying to find their way around. We’re also told that the ghosts and the portraits don’t really help give directions or anything like that. So, do you think that the teachers would accept the story about Peeves being a reasonable reason to be late, or not?

Noah: Not McGonagall.

Rosie: [laughs] Not McGonagall.

Kat: Maybe some of them would be more forgiving, yeah. But I mean, he’s – Peeves is so troublesome to everybody. [laughs]

Noah: And evidently controlled by the Bloody Baron, strangely.

Kat: Right. Not even prefects, as Percy tells us.

Noah: Let’s give a quick brief about what a poltergeist is because it’s not a ghost, it’s slightly different. So, according to the Wiki:

“A poltergeist is a paranormal phenomenon which consists of events alluding to the manifestation of an imperceptible entity.”

Okay. [laughs]

“Such manifestations typically include inanimate objects moving or being thrown about; sentient noises such as impaired knocking, pounding, scratching, or banging; and on some occasions, physical attacks of those witnessing the events.”

Poltergeists seem to be a manifestation of events by nature kind of problematic and destructive. However, in the case of the Hogwarts’ poltergeist, it’s an actual kind of person, which is something like half-ghost, half-person which is just causing reckless trouble with a personality.

Kat: Yeah, I mean, Jo describes him as, “Not a ghost, but an indestructible spirit of chaos that haunts the halls of Hogwarts.” [laughs] I mean, that sounds pretty mischievous.

Rosie: I think it’s really interesting that he is solid-looking rather than pearly-white and transparent like the other Hogwarts ghosts.

Kat: Yeah, yeah.

Rosie: Why is it that he’s so different from the other ghosts? Why does he have this kind of physical presence in Hogwarts whereas the others don’t?

Caleb: Right. Because he’s able to pick things up and throw them at – throw things at the students, so he obviously is able to come into contact with physical things better than ghosts can. But then there’s also the aspect of why does the Bloody Baron scare Peeves into fixing his behavior? What can the Bloody Baron do to Peeves? Because…

Kat: Right, because we know ghosts can’t touch things.

Caleb: Right.

Kat: So yeah, what can he do?

Caleb: Is there some way…

Rosie: What does Peeves…

Caleb: …that ghosts can interact, cause harm or something, and Peeves, because he’s sort of in limbo between the human world and the ghost world, he’s privy to both? I don’t know.

Nicola: Was Peeves actually a human or a witch? Or a wizard, sorry. Do we know that?

Kat: I don’t – no, actually I don’t think we’re ever told. I tried to find that earlier and I couldn’t find it.

Nicola: Yeah, because if he’s not, the Bloody Baron might just have…

Noah: Where does he come from?

Kat: We don’t know.

Nicola: …an air of respect about him, of fearsome. And if he is a different entity, then there’s no – there’s nothing telling us the Bloody Baron can’t cause harm.

Rosie: The concept of poltergeists is just really interesting. In kind of paranormal theory, they are thought to be manifestations of emotions and of events rather than of actual people.

Noah: Oh, I know what you’re saying.

Rosie: So, you don’t actually necessarily had to have someone die and have an actual spirit in that area for a poltergeist to be created.

Nicola: So, we need to blame the Marauders, then, for their very mischievous attitude.

[Noah and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: But Peeves could either be maybe the physical manifestation of all of the turmoil that created the ghosts of the Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron. Maybe the suicide created Peeves.

Kat and Noah: Oh!

Kat: So the…

Noah: Wow!

Kat: Okay.

Nicola: I like that.

Kat: That would make sense.

Nicola: Oh, I like that very much.

Kat: I do, too.

Noah: It’s possible. And that’s why they’re all connected.

Kat: And that’s why Peeves listens to him. That makes sense.

Noah: And why he’s horrified of him.

Kat: Right.

Noah: Ooh!

Rosie: It wouldn’t necessarily describe his – it wouldn’t create his appearance. So, why is he a little man with a bell covered hat and an orange bowtie? We’ll never find out.

[Noah laughs]

Rosie: But it would explain the connection, and it would explain why it’s such a chaotic figure.

Noah: Yeah. Well, it’s not canon but I’ll take it. I like it.

Kat: I do, too.

[Noah laughs]

Rosie: So, yeah. Even worse than Peeves, however, was the caretaker, Argus Filch. Harry and Ron manage to get on the wrong side of him on the very first morning. We’ve talked about Filch a tiny bit, earlier on, but I want to really go into detail about him here. How do you guys think Filch ended up at Hogwarts? We know that he’s a Squib and he probably never attended Hogwarts himself, so is he the child of a magical family and that’s why he doesn’t really like magical children in the same way that…

Noah: I believe he is.

Rosie: …Petunia doesn’t like magic?

Noah: I feel like we know this. Wasn’t he – he was the child of a magical family and he loved Hogwarts so much that he actually – he was able to stay there.

Caleb: Yeah, I really like the comparison to Petunia because I think there is probably – I mean, even though he may have loved Hogwarts, there’s probably some bitterness toward those who do have magic, something he clearly can’t do.

Noah: Yeah. And we know with his secret Kwikspells, he desperately wants to get involved.

Caleb: Right. Just like Petunia…

Noah: That’s got to be…

Caleb: …tried to send a letter to Dumbledore to get in.

Noah: Yeah. Being a Squib just sucks. You’re in the middle of two worlds and you’re conscious of the magical world but you can’t reach. And you know you never will. So, this is a little bit of insight into Argus Filch’s character. He’s just – part of why he’s so bitter is he feels so dis-useful. Or not full. Not full…

Rosie: So, why would you stay at somewhere…

Noah: …to his fullest magical…

Rosie: Why would you stay at somewhere like Hogwarts if this is something that’s been denied for you? I mean, we see Mrs. Figg as the main other Squib that we see in the tale, and she’s obviously living a happy life with her cats. What is the connection with cats and Squibs, maybe? But…

Noah: Ooh! [laughs]

Caleb: Oh, that is interesting.

Rosie: But why…

Kat: Well, we know that they’re – we know from Fantastic Beasts that they’re Kneazles, right? So…

Rosie: Yeah.

Kat: They’re not just regular cats.

Caleb: But does Mrs. Figg have Kneazles?

Kat: Yes.

Caleb: She does? Okay.

Kat: I’m fairly sure that she does.

Caleb: Okay.

Kat: Yeah. I think that that’s even said in Pottermore.

Caleb: Okay.

Noah: I think Filch just had an incredible love for the school. Even towards the end.

Caleb: Hmm.

Noah: And with that love is also his bitterness. He’s feeling bitter, but he’s as close to the magic as he can possibly be, you know?

Rosie: Yeah.

Caleb: I agree.

Rosie: I think it’s very easy to understand him a lot more when you think about how he’s always watching these children mess around with magic and kind of disrespecting it, and not following the rules, and not appreciating what they have.

Kat: I don’t know. For me, I think if I was a Squib, I think it’d be better to be – I mean, I would feel better being in the community and not being able to participate. At least then I’m surrounded by something that I love, regardless of whether I can do it or not.

Caleb: Yeah, he clearly latches onto some hope that it can still happen for him, otherwise why would he be messing with Kwikspell?

Kat: Right.

Caleb: So, I mean, it’s the closest thing he could get and maybe there is a chance that he could still acquire it.

Nicola: Especially if the entire of his family were part of the wizarding world. You can’t sort of differentiate yourself from your entire support system. You would have to stay within that area. I mean, we don’t know if he has any family, but I’m sure his parents were alive when he started working as a caretaker at Hogwarts. Just something to do within that world, instead of just completely alienating himself in the Muggle world, which would be very difficult for someone who was brought up in that for eight, twelve years of their life.

Kat: Yeah, I’m looking on the Lexicon, and there isn’t any information about his past whatsoever. So, I don’t know, it just says that he’s a Squib which means he was born to a wizarding family but can’t do magic. That’s it.

Caleb: Yeah. Like McGonagall, I really hope his background comes out in Pottermore eventually.

Kat: Yeah, I hope so too.

Rosie: Me too.

Noah: I’m sure it will. Probably in Chamber of Secrets.

Rosie: The interesting thing about Filch in this chapter is that he catches Harry and Ron trying to get through the door on the third floor corridor. They don’t know, at that point, where they are; they don’t realize it’s the third floor corridor, which has obviously been banned. But they are rescued from Filch by Quirrell, who was just “passing.” So, is this foreshadowing, or are they unknowingly stopping Quirrell from investigating the corridor again?

Noah: I thought this was great. I mean, Quirrell was clearly just scoping it out, because at this point, he’s pretty sure that the Stone is there, but he can’t be positive. And great on Jo for just putting that in there. We as readers, the first time, we obviously wouldn’t know it, but going back – clear foreshadowing. And maybe Harry and Ron did accidentally kind of [laughs] dupe him, which is kind of funny.

Caleb: Yeah, I agree. As you mentioned, I definitely didn’t catch it the first time. And I do think it’s a little bit of both. Yeah, looking back at it now, I think it is definitely likely that they inadvertently stopped him from getting a little too close to the corridor, to the door.

Noah: Yeah. And we’ll keep noting signs where he is mentioned, like near the third floor corridor.

Caleb: Mhm.

Kat: Which is quite often, believe it or not. Yeah.

Caleb: Yup.

Noah: Yeah.

Nicola: I also love how it was – that he was rescued by Professor Quirrell. Jo is obviously not even giving an inkling of how – of his actual motives. She’s not even allowing us to think about it. It creates the twist at the end with so much more brilliance.

Caleb: Yeah.

Nicola: It’s the odd word here and there. Even with the foreshadowing, it just gives you more of a shock towards the end. So, I always like that part.

Caleb: Yeah.

Rosie: Definitely. He’s always present at the place where the bad thing happens, but we never kind of align him with evil.

Caleb: Mhm.

Kat: Right.

Rosie: Just a slightly dodgy smell. So, after Harry straight away manages to find himself at the third floor corridor, he eventually finds his way to his lessons, where he finds out that “there was a lot more to magic than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.” Immediately, we are introduced to the idea that we have Astronomy every Wednesday, Herbology three times a week, we’ve got History of Magic, Charms, Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Potions.

Noah: Reading the Transfiguration scene, McGonagall turns a desk into a pig and then back again. And I was like, “Well, wait a second. Did she just create a pig out of nowhere? Did she transfer a pig from some foreign location, or is that desk really a pig on the inside?” And what are the ethical and ecological concerns of this, because it seems like there’s some environmental issue here. Did she just create an animal? What exactly is this?

Caleb: Yeah. I don’t know, I would think that she did not create a brand new pig. I don’t know, because if she did, then I think there is a lot of, as you mentioned, ethical concerns. But if…

Noah: And then she turned it into a table.

Caleb: Right, and if she…

Noah: She killed a pig!

Caleb: But if it’s not a real pig, then what in the world is it? Is it just some sort of – we would assume it’s some sort of – it appears to be breathing and living, so…

Noah: Yeah.

Rosie: It is, yeah.

Noah: Or some king of illusion, maybe.

Rosie: It’s a desk that turns into a pig. I don’t think there’s a problem with inanimate objects becoming animate objects. We see later on that there are goblets that become birds, and Hermione obviously conjures her little birds later on to attack Ron.

Caleb: Yeah.

Noah: Yeah.

Rosie: I don’t think there’s a problem with creating animals…

Noah: Are you creating consciousness?

Rosie: …but they always have to be based on…

Noah: Are you creating life, though?

Rosie: They always have to be based on something.

Noah: Yeah.

Kat: I mean, yes, I think essentially you are creating life, but like we’ve already talked about, they don’t seem to place any real…

Noah: Concern on it.

Kat: Yeah, exactly.

Caleb: I think it’s new life.

Noah: And then, what about when you have Ron, who’s just sort of messing about, and he creates a goblet – half-goblet, half-rat or something to that effect?

Caleb: Yeah.

Noah: This is torturing animals.

Kat: I think that’s in the movie.

Noah: That is in the movie, but I’m sure there’s some equivalent in the books where you get a half-animal with a half-inanimate-object appeal.

Rosie: Yeah, you’re transfiguring Scabbers. That’s always been interesting to me because you’re transfiguring Scabbers, who is actually Peter Pettigrew.

Noah: Yeah.

Kat: Oh. Yeah, that’s – oh, right. How is that even possible? Right.

Rosie: Exactly. [laughs]

Noah: How many levels can you transfigure a desk into food?

Caleb: No, I don’t think so.

Kat: Well, I mean…

Rosie: You could transform a pig…

Noah: You could transfigure it into a pig and then you eat the pig.

Caleb: I don’t think – I don’t want to eat that pig. I’m not going to eat that pig.

Kat: I don’t, either. There’d be, like, pencils in it or something.

Caleb: Yeah, I’m not going to eat that pig.

Noah: No, I’d think it’d be a real pig.

Caleb: No.

Kat: Plus, I don’t eat pork anyway, so…

Noah: I think if the wizards and the Muggles did join, they could actually fix world hunger.

Caleb: No.

Kat: No.

[Noah laughs]

Caleb: I disagree! [laughs]

Noah: Okay. [laughs]

Caleb: No, you have a good point. I just – I don’t – I’m not eating bacon that comes from a pig that comes from a desk.

Kat: [laughs] No. Yeah, me either. Especially, what if that desk was a person pretending to be a desk?

Caleb: Oh God.

[Rosie laughs]

Kat: Cannibalism. Hello?

Caleb: This got really far.

[Caleb and Kat laugh]

Rosie: So, yes, that was a good discussion about transfiguration.

[Kat laughs]

Rosie: What about all of the other lessons that these wizards do not seem to have at their schools? Do wizards not need to know about maths and science and literacy when they’ve just got all of their magical lessons and nothing else?

Caleb: Yeah, I think about this a lot, especially – where do they get exposed to literature? I mean, obviously they’re reading for wand theory or history, but are there any good literary works in the magical world similar to how…

Noah: A History of Magic!

Caleb: …we Muggles have Shakespeare and Dickens? I would hope!

Rosie: They have Beedle the Bard.

Caleb: Well…

Noah: They do. [laughs]

Kat: Well – and they also have magazines, because we learn that Dumbledore writes for Transfiguration Today.

Caleb: Yeah, that’s true.

Noah: The Daily Prophet, The Quibbler.

Kat: Oh. Yeah, like those are quality reading materials.

Caleb: I want to know there’s good literature there. I guess there’s some mention in the books, but maybe that’s just me that likes that.

Noah: I mean, Dumbledore says there’s a value on music, the greatest magic of all.

Caleb: “A magic far beyond what we do here.”

Noah: So, I assume writing and art, there must be some. There isn’t much – is there art in the Harry Potter series? Expression?

Kat: No, but – I mean, not in a painting kind of way, but I think that that’s…

Noah: Well, there are paintings.

Kat: I think that – well, I know, but I think that that’s where Charms comes in, because that’s where you can be creative.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: Like – spoiler alert – in the Half-Blood Prince movie, when they’re talking about with the fish. That’s artistic.

Noah: Yeah, Lily’s fish.

Kat: Mhm.

Noah: Wait, no, the fish is – yeah, right, the movie.

Kat: But it’s artistic, is what I’m saying. So, I think that you use spells…

Noah: But it’s not canon. We can’t talk about that.

Kat: It’s in the movie.

Nicola: And the Weasley Twins are incredibly artistic with their – spoiler – the marshes and the amazing fireworks they have. And the Puking Pastilles, and they’re amazing. That alone is brilliant.

Kat: Right.

Noah: That is a good point, good point.

Rosie: Okay. So, the next lesson is obviously the title chapter. It is Snape and it is “The Potions Master.” And we have a double lesson of Potions, with the Slytherins. And immediately, we’re introduced to the idea that – “Harry Potter, our new celebrity.” Snape hates him straight away and Harry doesn’t know why. And so, obviously Harry isn’t James, but why does Snape never give Harry a chance? Is it just because he looks so much like James that he’s kind of always got this physical reminder, he’s always kind of mocking him, and the loss of Lily?

Kat: Yeah, I think that’s a huge part of it. I mean, at this point, we don’t know that, because technically, we haven’t learned that stuff about Lily. But yeah, I think that – and I think it also plays into the prejudice that Harry is in Gryffindor and he’s not in Slytherin, so Snape just kind of hates him because of who he is, and where he is, and the House he represents.

Caleb: I think it’s Rowling setting up Snape as the bad guy for the book. She’s definitely trying to take, as we’ve mentioned already, a lot of attention off of Quirrell, and trying to make Snape seem like this really bad guy that’s always against Harry.

Rosie: So, what we’re learning from this is that we should never trust Jo. She sets Quirrell up as the good guy, Snape up as the bad guy, we later find out more about Dumbledore that we definitely didn’t expect.

Kat: Yup.

Rosie: [laughs] But yes, Snape spends the good part of the opening of this chapter really kind of deliberately shaming Harry. He knows that Harry has been with the Dursleys for ten years. He – Snape actually personally knows Petunia. So, he knows that Harry would never have had a chance to learn all of the answers to the questions that he will then give him. So, memory test, guys! I want you guys to answer this question. Okay, what would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?

Kat: Ding ding ding ding ding! The Draught of Living Death.

Rosie: Yay!

[Noah laughs]

Kat: Yay!

Rosie: [laughs] Where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?

Caleb: Ding ding! From the stomach of a goat.

Kat: Yay!

Rosie: Which is, of course, incredibly important later on.

Caleb: Mhm.

Kat: Yup.

Rosie: Or, at least, it is to Ron Weasley.

Noah: [laughs] Yes.

Rosie: And tell me, what is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?

Kat: They are the same! Oh. Ding ding ding! They are the same.

Rosie: Bonus if you can tell me the third item.

Caleb: Ding! Aconite.

[Nicola laughs]

Noah: Aww.

Rosie: Yay!

Noah: Good job, guys.

Rosie: [laughs] Well done, everyone.

Kat: Yeah. Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, they rule.

Rosie: And of course, Hermione knows the answer to every single one of these questions. She puts her hand up every time, but Harry doesn’t know. So, we get the brilliant, brilliant line from Harry saying, “I don’t know, sir, but I think Hermione does.”

[Noah laughs]

Rosie: For which Snape only takes one single point from Gryffindor for cheek.

Kat: Because he knows he’s being a jerk. [laughs]

Rosie: [laughs] He knows he’s being a jerk, exactly.

Noah: One point is not too bad.

Rosie: But – no, that’s the point. It’s not too bad at all. You would expect Snape to take more points, maybe – five seems to be the set number for most people. Which makes me ask, how does the point system at Hogwarts work? Who decides how many points can be taken for each offense, and is talking back to a teacher really only worth one point?

Noah: I think it’s pretty arbitrary. And especially in the beginning of the course, he knows that he can create a lot of drama just by a single point. And it will continue to increase in points as they learn a bit more about how it works and they get more comfortable, you know?

Kat: Right. As they grow up and they should know better, they get more points taken away.

Noah: Yeah, So, actually I think he was being incredibly fair, inasmuch as he was being unfair. [laughs]

Caleb: I think it’s interesting, we – unless I’m forgetting some things – it’s only Professors Snape and McGonagall, maybe Umbridge later, that we ever see taking points away. I don’t ever remember hearing Sprout or Flitwick or even Trelawney taking away points.

Kat: No, they’re always giving them, aren’t they?

Caleb: Mhm.

Kat: That’s true.

Caleb: Yup.

Kat: Well, they’re also seen as the kind of harsh teachers.

Caleb: Right.

Kat: The ones not to cross. So, they are probably more apt to give out – or to take away points.

Noah: What did you guys think of Snape’s little speech? I mean, even Ron – Harry was like, it was kind of a bit overdramatic.

Kat: Well, that’s Snape, right?

Noah: This is the most theatrical we see Snape, I think. The simmering cauldron – how does it sound in that Potter Puppet Pals episode?

[Noah plays Potter Puppet Pals clip]

Snape: …cauldron with its shimmering fumes.

Kat: Noah.

Noah: Yeah?

Harry: Oh, not this again.

Snape: The delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins.

Ron: Eww!

Snape: Bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses.

Hermione: Ooh!

Snape: I can teach you how to bottle fame…

Harry: Don’t need it.

Snape: …brew glory…

[Kat laughs]

Ron: Ooh la la.

Snape: …even put a stopper in death.

Hermione: No, you can’t.

[Clip ends]

[Caleb laughs]

Noah: But anyway, that, as much as it’s silly, it’s kind of accurate. Snape is a character. He’s a silly – he’s very overdramatic, he’s into his art. And speaking of arts, potion-making is an art to him. And a passion.

Rosie: So, from one big character to a giant character, [laughs] we then move on from Snape to go and visit Hagrid in his hut. And Hagrid’s hut is very much the woodsman’s hut. It’s filled with pheasants and hams and it’s got patchwork quilts everywhere and there is a roaring fire. And you really get an idea of this kind of almost pagan aspect of the man from the woods with Hagrid. He’s a bit like the green man and he’s a bit like this very in-touch with nature, in-touch with the animals, kind of character.

Noah: Mhm, yeah.

Rosie: And straight away, Hagrid talks to Ron about Charlie and the dragons, which is both a reminder of Hagrid’s obsession and also foreshadowing for Norbert. How important do you guys think this moment is?

Noah: I think it’s great. There’s actually an essay in the Alohomora! section called “Nature and Hagrid” by – [attempts to pronounce “skgai”] skay? Sky? Anyway, a great user, and just going into detail about how Hagrid really reflects nature, and as you said, Kat – who’s that character from Lord of the Rings? The Ent?

Kat: Treebeard, Treebeard.

Noah: Treebeard. Even Tom Bombadil if you want to go all Lord of the Rings. But this is true. He is nature, and it’s kind of funny in this essay, [attempts to pronounce “skgai”] skay or sky was also talking about how that connects him to love and these natural forces that permeate the whole Harry Potter series. So, maybe we can sort of pick Hagrid as the source of the morality of the series, and very connected to the natural myth of nature and just naturalness. So, it was great to see that essay, and we’re going to be putting up many more as we go on. So, thank you for that, skgai. But yeah, an incredible moment for Hagrid right here, meeting the group. And obviously he wants to be friends with Harry because he sends that letter, and because he cared about his parents. So, it was really cool to see him in this very first chapter of Harry fully being in Hogwarts.

Kat: Yeah, and we learn so much…

Noah: Yeah.

Kat: …in this one little chapter. I mean, we don’t know that we learn it until later, but we do.

Noah: Right, right. The classes, it flows nicely, and then we get that little bit about the break-in at Gringotts.

Rosie: Definitely. This shows that Harry is amazing at details. He gets all of these little clues throughout all of the stories and he’s the one that’s always the one to put it together and to connect the dots and to find out what’s really happening. And I think you really see that in this chapter with the Gringotts break-in where he sees that it was on his birthday and he sees that it was that date that everything happened.

Kat: He’s very clever.

Noah: For eleven. Yeah.

Kat: Just like – I think we brought that up in Episode 1. Yeah, for eleven, he is very clever. But there is one bit right here where Hagrid – Harry is telling Hagrid about how Snape seems to hate him, and Hagrid says, “Rubbish, why would he hate you?” And Harry is pretty sure at this point that Hagrid is hiding something.

Noah: Yeah, Hagrid – the line says that “Hagrid didn’t quite meet his eyes when he said that.” So, I was thinking, what does Hagrid really know? And this is yet another clue where he seems to have this hidden information, either from Dumbledore or elsewise. And I didn’t realize that he knew about the whole Snape – how much does he know about Snape and the Potters?

Caleb: Yeah, I think, kind of playing on that in general makes me wonder what Harry would have been able to figure out without Hagrid being pretty terrible at keeping things secret. And it kind of makes me wonder – Dumbledore, we know from earlier in this book, trusts Hagrid so much. But he’s terrible at leaking things to the trio. Is it exclusive to just those three, or is he bad in general at keeping information secret?

Kat: Well, I think he’s definitely bad in general. I mean, later in the book in the whole bar scene at the Hog’s Head.

Caleb: Mhm.

Kat: He’s got loose lips, that Hagrid.

Noah: And unfortunately, not many other characters like to speak with Hagrid, especially the children. It’s really just the trio, and it’s just because he seems so intimidating even though he’s fluffy on the inside.

Rosie: So, what do you…

Kat: He knows a lot more than he lets on, I think.

Noah: Oh, and he lets it on, anyway. [laughs]

Rosie: In this moment, what do you think it is that he is actually avoiding saying when he doesn’t meet his eyes? Is he avoiding saying that Snape was a Death Eater, or is he avoiding saying that Snape doesn’t like Harry because of his parents?

Kat: I think it’s everything. All of that.

Rosie: If you remember Hagrid’s age, he was at school with Tom Riddle. He would have been at Hogwarts through the entire time the Marauders were there.

Noah: That’s true.

Caleb: Yeah, so he definitely knows about…

Rosie: He would have seen the Snape and Lily thing first-hand.

Caleb: Yeah, he definitely knows about Snape and Lily.

Noah: Does he? I don’t know if he knows about that.

Kat: No, no, no. Hagrid was at school with…

Noah: Voldemort.

Kat: Tom Riddle, not with the Marauders.

Noah: Right, but he would have been groundskeeper while they were at school.

Rosie: Yeah, he would have been gamekeeper.

Noah: I don’t know if he knew about…

Kat: Oh right, okay. I thought you meant as a student, I apologize.

Noah: I think we can speculate about how much he knew about the love. I don’t think he knew that much.

Kat: No, I don’t think Dumbledore told anybody about what Snape told him.

Caleb: But if he would have seen them on the grounds, I think he could have figured it out.

Noah: Yeah, but this isn’t an extra layer of socialness that I think Hagrid was probably excluded from. Snape’s feelings for Lily, I don’t think he even revealed to James, like everyone else did…

Rosie: Maybe not his feelings but his friendship was definitely there. I think the idea that Lily would always stand up for Severus, that seems to be clear throughout the whole of the worst memory thing. That worst memory is the moment where she decided to stop sticking up for him, and that’s when they’re doing their O.W.L.s, isn’t it?

Noah: This is true.

Rosie: They’ve had five years of this friendship at Hogwarts.

Noah: It’s kind of unclear to what degree Hagrid had a part of the Marauders’ history. I really don’t know.

Kat: But see, I think Hagrid is a little dense. As much as I love Hagrid, I think he doesn’t pick up on subtle things very much.

Noah: Exactly.

Kat: So, I honestly don’t think he would have figured that out.

Noah: Yeah, lovable guy.

Rosie: So, do you think he’s just hiding the Death Eater?

Kat: Yeah, I do.

Noah: That’s probably it.

Nicola: Or he could just be hiding the fact that James was horrible to Snape when he was younger. I mean, no one really wants to find out that their father was so malicious to another pupil. It could just be that.

Kat: Yeah, that’s true.

Noah: It could be a collection of all those things. But we’ll never know inside the mind of Hagrid.

Kat: Maybe we will. Maybe it’ll come out on Pottermore, or the encyclopedia.

Noah: That’s true. [laughs]

Kat: This encyclopedia better be huge, that’s all I’ve got to say.

Caleb: Yeah, I agree.

Kat: Like 12,000 pages.

Caleb: I would read every page.

[Noah laughs]

Kat: Me too. So, if you have any comments on that, you should head over to You can comment right on the main page or click on the “Forums” tab and comment on any of the threads that are in there.

Caleb: Yeah. So, just in general, any of those comments we made because that pretty much wraps up our chapter discussion for this episode, and we’re going to go ahead and move into our special feature for this episode, which is Noah’s Close Read.

[Noah makes a spooky noise]

Caleb: So, I’ll pass that on to you, Noah. How do you want to introduce that?

Noah: Well, the whole idea with a close read – and it’s really something we do in the English major, and any sort of literature and analytical studies – you take a passage, a single passage, and you analyze it. And you kind of pull things out, theories, you look at the words specifically and you build from that. So, I asked the fans in Noah’s Nook to take a look at the Sorting Hat Song, and I think it would be great if we just used this passage to talk about Sorting in general. And this is the first time the Hat is telling us anything about Sorting, so I think we should really take a listen and see what we come up with. How does it work, in the Hat’s words.

Kat: Okay, sounds good. Let’s hear it.

Noah: [impersonating the Sorting Hat]

“Oh, you may not think I’m pretty,
But don’t judge on what you see,
I’ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can top them all.
There’s nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can’t see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you’ve a steady mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
So put me on! Don’t be afraid!
And don’t get in a flap!
You’re in safe hands (though I have none)
For I’m a thinking cap!”

Caleb: Hurray! [laughs]

Kat: Wow, that Sorting Hat sounds a lot like you, Noah.

Noah: Here’s a interesting line: “There’s nothing hidden in your head the Sorting Hat can’t see.” So, we know the Sorting Hat is a Legilimens but he’s also this unconscious invader, and as soon as you put this hat on, it seems that he downloads all of your thoughts. This is incredibly intrusive for a first-year, wouldn’t you say? But I guess it has to be done.

Nicola: I would hate that, for someone to know everything.

Rosie: Does the Sorting Hat…

Noah: I think it knows everything and remembers everything, so it’s this growing library of consciousnesses. I wonder if that’s the proper plural. [laughs] Anyway…

Kat: I don’t think he holds on to them. I think he lets them go as soon as the Hat is gone.

Noah: No, but he remembers the accounts like when he sees Harry. He says…

Kat: Well, that’s one thing to remember them, but – no, I don’t know.

Rosie: But isn’t that wording interesting? There is nothing in your head that the Sorting Hat can’t see.

Noah: Nothing.

Rosie: Because we know about – or at least we will later know – that there is something in Harry’s head that no one else can see.

Noah: Which is troubling.

Rosie: Does the Sorting Hat know?

Noah: I think magically it remembers all, and that’s why after each year it gives an account of – it’ll give a different sound about the chaos in the wizarding world. And we know it doesn’t read the newspaper or the Daily Prophet. It knows everything it knows from the student minds that it’s read over the years.

Kat and Noah: And from listening to Dumbledore.

Noah: “Those cunning folks use any means to achieve their ends.” And that’s what it means, so that is the dignifying characteristic of Slytherin. You get what you want at whatever cost.

Nicola: Yeah, I can understand that.

Noah: Nicola, does that really speak to it?

Nicola: Yes, that explicitly says we will climb over anyone to get what we want. When it comes down to it, not necessarily, explicitly, a bad thing, because…

Noah: Exactly.

Rosie: I don’t think it says that you’ll climb over anyone, because the line immediately before that is: “You’ll make your real friends.” So, as long as you are a Slytherin, you are okay.

Nicola: True. So, as in the family sort of aspect of Slytherin, you bind together to create a loyal conglomeration of people who will go around any means, [laughs] be it slightly illegal, to achieve your goals and possibly…

Noah: To do what you’ve got to do?

Nicola: Yeah. And then again, as I said, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. [laughs] It can definitely be, but not necessarily always.

Noah: No, I like it. And it seems to be tied to this, as we were saying: “You’ll make your real friends.” That is one thought and the next line is the other half of that thought.

Nicola: Yeah.

Noah: So, it’s as if with your Slytherin group, you ignore social conventions of conservative behaviour and you just do what needs to be done. And you do for you because it’s your life and you also think it’s good.

Nicola: You create an elite.

Noah: Yeah. But to a degree, you’re self creating elite because the whole notion of being an elite is isolating yourself.

Nicola: True.

Noah: So, Slytherin creates itself – these are all tied ideologies. It’s really cool that Jo created the system of houses, that people really are this. This is a personality test that is quite real.

Nicola: I love how it says in the Pottermore instruction thing for Slytherins: “Ravenclaws are famous for clambering over each other to get good marks whereas we Slytherins are brothers.” I like that.

Noah: Yeah, you’re family.

Nicola: And then it’s also: “In the corridors of Hogwarts you can always be glad you’ve got a serpent on your side.” That’s nice to know. It just shows that we are powerful, we will do what we want, and it sort of – we get respect for it. And I think for some people that is more than anything we need. It’s very much our prized trait. Sorry. [laughs]

Noah: No, I’d agree with that. I think the entire series we get Slytherin through Harry, so we don’t really see the true version. We only see the bad stuff. But there’s a lot to be seen here. I hope in the encyclopedia we get even more about the inner workings of Draco, of other key Slytherins, and just Slytherin House in general.

Nicola: I’m definitely looking forward to that as well, yeah.

Kat: So, what houses did you guys get sorted into on Pottermore?

Caleb: I am a Gryffindor and definitely proud of it.

Kat: Yeah, I’m in Ravenclaw myself, which was surprising.

Rosie: I was a Hatstall, but I chose Hufflepuff over Ravenclaw.

Noah: I was actually a Hatstall the very same, it was between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. And, to be honest, when I first went into the test, I did think that Hufflepuff was kind of wrong for me because I do have a slight bit of ambition and kind of an ego, and I always saw Hufflepuff as being without an ego, in a way. Or sort of being very respectful and kind. I’d say I’m a pretty good guy, but I’d never really considered Hufflepuff until I read an essay on the MuggleNet Quibbler that someone submitted. A few essays really defending Hufflepuff as just people who – they kind of see that all the houses are kind of really biased, even theirs to a degree. And they just want – they really see the excellence in bringing in all wizardkind together or having a group where it doesn’t really matter what you are. You can be a collaboration of all different values and still fit. So, while taking the test that last time and while I was the Hatstall, I was thinking that Hufflepuff was just a very logical and good place to be.

Kat: And, Nicola, you’re a Slytherin, right?

Nicola: I am, yes. Definitely.

Kat: Wonderful. Well, on Pottermore, we actually get a really great bit of information about the Sorting Hat. I mean, we touched on this briefly before.


“The famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat gives an account of its own genesis in a series of songs sung at the beginning of each school year. Legend has it that the hat once belonged to one of the four founders, Godric Gryffindor, and that it was jointly enchanted by all four founders to ensure that students would be sorted into their eponymous houses, which would be selected according to each founder’s particular preferences in students.

The Sorting Hat is one of the cleverest enchanted objects most witches and wizards will ever meet. It literally contains the intelligence of the four founders, can speak (through a rip near its brim) and is skilled at…”

I can never say this.

Kat: “Legilimency.”


“…Legilimency, which enables it to look into the wearer’s head and divine his or her capabilities or mood. It can even respond to the thoughts of the wearer.

The Sorting Hat is notorious for refusing to admit it has made a mistake in its sorting of a student. On those occasions when Slytherins behave altruistically or selflessly, when Ravenclaws flunk all their exams, when Hufflepuffs prove lazy yet academically gifted and when Gryffindors exhibit cowardice, the Hat steadfastly backs its original decision. On balance, however, the Hat has made remarkably few errors of judgement over the many centuries it has been at work.”

Kat: What a great description. I love that it just – it seems like the Hat really is truly alive, like it’s a real person. I love it.

Noah: Yeah, yeah, it certainly is.

Rosie: But why does Jo have to say the “academically gifted” thing? Again, it’s another thing about Hufflepuffs not being clever and it’s just not true. [laughs]

Noah: Well, it seems like whatever house you are, you can be brave, you can be courageous, intelligent, or ambitious. It really doesn’t seem to matter.

Kat: But I think that there’s one trait for each house that is the top of the pyramid. So, 98% of Ravenclaws are smart, 98% of Slytherins are cunning – I think that there is that one key trait that is what puts you in that house. And you can have traits from all the houses, but I think it’s that one at the top of the pyramid that determines where you belong.

Noah: You see…

Caleb: And kind…

Noah: Yeah, what do you think, Caleb?

Caleb: Well, I was going to play off what Rosie said, because I thought about that also the first time I read it, but I think more with that description about Hufflepuff, it’s that they usually work really hard and they earn good – in this case, good marks because of it. So, I think this is more playing on – they’re still getting good marks without really working for it. So, I think in a way it’s not trying to slam Hufflepuff, but it’s showing that it would be odd if they weren’t working hard for something.

Noah: Well, my personal philosophy with all the houses is it doesn’t really matter what kind of traits you have. The Sorting Hat actually sorts you based on your preferences of how you value intelligence or how you value courageousness. Irrespective of what you actually are, maybe. That would mean that it is all in the choice, in a way, which would be – which is kind of an interesting reading. That’s my personal philosophy about it.

Rosie: We should talk about some interesting sortings, such as Peter Pettigrew, who is placed in Gryffindor but is definitely not brave.

Kat: No, not at all.

Noah: Exactly. But he probably saw his friends being sorted into Gryffindor. I mean, Sirius Black – Black, so he was sorted one of the first into Gryffindor. James Potter, that’s after him. Lupin, that was before.

Caleb: He is definately a smudge on – as a Gryffindor, I would say he is a smudge on our house. I don’t have the answer as to why he was…

Noah: What about the end when he protected Harry? Of course, it was a life debt. He had to. But…

Kat: Well, that’s because…

Caleb: He owed him.

Kat: He owed him. But do you think Pettigrew asked to be in Gryffindor?

Noah: I’m sure he did.

Kat: What house do we think he belongs in?

Caleb: I don’t – yeah, that’s another good thing. I don’t know where else to put him.

Kat: I don’t want to say Slytherin.

Nicola: [laughs] I was waiting for that!

Kat: That seems like the obvious answer.

Caleb: I definitely do not. I think Slytherin is the last house he belongs in. He is not cunning…

Kat: Yeah.

Caleb: …he is not…

Noah: Not particularly clever.

Caleb: He does not belong in Slytherin at all.

Noah: Well, to live as a rat…

Kat: But wouldn’t that leave him in Hufflepuff? And I feel like he is way – Hufflepuff is too good for him.

Caleb: Yeah.

[Rosie laughs]

Noah: To disguise himself as a rat and to allude the Marauders at the end, that is pretty clever.

Rosie: I would think I would put him in Hufflepuff as well, despite being a Hufflepuff myself. I think the committment that he showed to being a rat for so long…

[Kat laughs]

Rosie: …proves that he is hardworking.

Noah: Ooh. Very good.

Rosie: And he is weirdly loyal. He is not loyal to his friends, unfortunately, but he is loyal to…

Kat: Himself?

Rosie: Himself.

[Kat laughs]

Caleb: Hmm.

Rosie: And he is loyal to the Dark Lord when it happens, and he is loyal to Harry when he has the debt to repay. So yeah, I think he would be more of a Hufflepuff, really, than a Gryffindor.

Kat: I could see that. I just didn’t want to insult you.

Noah: He has certainly put himself in Gryffindor, probably begged the Hat silently.

Rosie: We’ve been asking on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook for all of our fan reactions to their houses and what they feel about their specific houses.

Noah: Yeah.

Rosie: So, some comments from Twitter. We’ve got @jhewlist who says:

“I love Gryffindor’s chivalry. It is a bit of an old-fashioned notion, but brings with it strong morals, honor and fairness.”

And I really like that comment.

Kat: I do like that, that is nice.

Caleb: I love it also. As the token Gryffindor.

Rosie: [laughs] We’ve got @SeraphynRBE who says:

“Slytherin is determination, cunning, and intelligence.”

@blackinkpen who says:

“A Ravenclaw’s willingness to go above and beyond to seek knowledge and truth is incredible.”

Kat: Absolutely, I would agree.

Rosie: @StupefyMenezes says:

“Hufflepuff’s welcoming nature, no one is ever rejected, and their moral to value family and friends above all else.”

Noah: That’s my motto.

Rosie: So yeah, there’s been plenty of brilliant responses out there, so thank you guys for sending them all in.

Noah: Yeah. And if you’d like to write a short essay or create a piece of art reflective of your house, or if you would like to continue this debate, submit something to the Alohomora! section and we would love to feature it.

Kat: So, do you guys remember any of the questions that you got while you were sorted in Pottermore? I thought we could maybe talk about those and our responses if more than one of us got the same question.

Noah: Yeah, I got a really tough question. It was: “Which would you rather be? Feared, liked, praised, imitated.” Did you guys get that question?

Caleb: Yeah, I remember getting that one. I’m trying to think of…

Noah: Or trusted, that was the other option.

Rosie: What were the options again? I don’t think I got that one. I don’t remember that question.

Noah: It was: “Which would you rather be? Feared, trusted, praised, liked, or imitated.”

Caleb: Or envied.

Noah: Or envied, right. And that threw me off and I spent maybe half an hour with that one. [laughs]

Caleb: I spent a long time on this one.

Noah: Yeah.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: How long did it take you guys to sort? I mean, did you just…

Caleb: A very long time.

Kat: Yeah, me too. It took almost an hour, I think.

Noah: I really thought about it. I wanted to get it right.

Kat: Me too.

Noah: I think I picked trusted because even though I do generally want to be liked and – I really totally picked that one, but it seemed very selfish and I wondered how selfish was I, and I really had to struggle with that. But then I realized that going further, I liked to be trusted. I’d want people to come to me and talk about – not necessarily their deepest secrets, but feel that closeness that they could do that. And looking back, I guess that’s essentially Hufflepuff, to want to be that close to people or be open. Or maybe it’s even Slytherin, or maybe it’s all houses and I’m totally wrong. But…

Nicola: I chose trusted. I remember.

Caleb: Yup, I also chose trusted also.

Noah: Yeah, it clicked with me.

Kat: I think I would have – if I had that question, I probably would have chosen liked, believe it or not.

Noah: That was my second. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah. I do remember one of the questions I got. It said: “Once every century, the Flutterby bush produces flowers that adapt their scent to attract the unwary. If it lured you, what would it smell of?” And the choices were: “The sea, fresh parchment, home, and a crackling log fire.”

Noah: Ooh.

Rosie: I had that question as well.

Kat: Yeah. Did anyone else?

Caleb: I did not.

Kat: Well, I definitely chose the sea because I love the sea. I love the water and anything having to do with water, I love it.

Rosie: I chose fresh parchment.

Noah: As did I.

Rosie: I think that – as a literature student, that’s kind of my thing. I just – the smell of books…

Noah: Open up a relatively old book.

Rosie: …and the smell of paper and writing. Yeah.

Noah: Oh man.

Caleb: I would have picked home.

Noah: All right.

Kat: Home, hmm.

Noah: We can speculate about how these touch on various houses, but I can’t think of it right now. It just seems so abstract.

Caleb: Another…

Kat: Well…

Caleb: The question that I really probably sat for ten minutes trying to answer was: “Black or white?” Did you guys get this question?

Kat: I did!

Rosie: Black or white?

Caleb: It was a terrible question. I mean, terrible – I was just so agonized.

[Noah laughs]

Caleb: I was agonized over it. I could not figure out…

[Rosie laughs]

Caleb: …what I was going to pick.

Noah: [laughs] How about “Heads or tails?”

Kat: I didn’t get that one.

Caleb: I didn’t get that one.

Noah: Yeah, “Heads or tails?” “Moon or stars?”

Kat: No, I chose…

Caleb: I definitely got “Moon or stars?”

Kat: I got “Moon or stars?” too. But I chose white because in my real life I am a photographer.

Caleb: Hmm.

Kat: And the white light and everything is all about what I do. So, that’s why I chose white.

Noah: White seems to me…

Caleb: I’m pretty sure I ended up choosing…

Noah: …to reflect goodness and justice and strength, and darkness…

Kat: Yeah.

Noah: …seems to be all negative, all related to – obviously darkness. If you want to go good and evil – I don’t know how much it weighed on the actual – I mean, I’m sure it did, but…

Kat: What did you choose, Caleb?

Caleb: I chose black.

Kat: Huh.

Caleb: Because I don’t think it’s simply black is evil, white is good, so that’s why it was very challenging for me. And the fact that it was only one or the other for your options.

Kat: Right, no gray.

[Noah laughs]

Caleb: I don’t know what ended up making me go with black, but that’s what I went with.

Kat: What about “Moon or stars?” We all said we got that. What did you choose?

Caleb: Oh, I have to think. I think I ended up going with stars.

Noah: I chose moon.

Kat: Yeah, I chose stars.

Noah: Because I think stars – this is just me brainstorming on MuggleNet, I wrote something up. It seemed to me that the stars spoke to larger universe thinking. You expand past your own – other galaxies, past your planet, because you want to seek the other reaches. There’s something out there for you. And moon to me felt like…

Kat: Right.

Noah: The moon in literature is always tied to human concerns. We like to put our symbolism on the moon. And that seemed to be closer to home and therefore a less expansive mind – or speaking to a sentiment of a person that doesn’t want to expand too far, is quite comfortable where they were. So, I just – for me, the moon was like – it has this power, this sort of unearthly power in our culture, and I picked that one.

Kat: That doesn’t sound like you, though.

Noah: I know! [laughs]

Kat: [laughs] So, why did you – okay.

Noah: But then I had the other side. I want to seek out – I want to get that grand truth. That’s why I was a Hatstall, I think. I think it was between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.

Kat: Oh right, between the two. Right. Okay, that makes sense.

Caleb: Another question that I found really interesting was: “How do you want people to react when they hear your name after you’re dead?”

Rosie: Yes.

Caleb: The options were: “Miss you and smile; want to hear more stories about your adventures; think about your achievements; or I don’t care what happens when I’m dead, it’s when I’m alive that matters.”

Noah: That was tough.

Kat: I don’t think I had that question.

Rosie: I did.

Caleb: I answered “Want to hear more stories about your adventures.”

Kat: That makes sense. Gryffindor. [laughs]

Rosie: I think I actually – I chose the “I don’t care what happens…”

Nicola: Same here.

Rosie: “…it’s when I’m alive that matters,” I think.

Caleb: Interesting.

Noah: Yeah.

[Nicola laughs]

Caleb: That sounds like a very Slytherin answer.

Nicola: [unintelligible] …it works. [laughs]

Rosie: I think it’s a Hufflepuff one as well. [laughs]

Noah: Think about how intense these questions are, and I imagine a lot of kids – or younger people did these questions of all. These are tough questions. You really have to think about them.

Rosie: They’re proper soul seeking.

Kat: Yeah. I mean – and this is nothing against younger people, but does an eight-year-old – if there’s an eight-year-old signing up, do they really know how they want people to react…

Noah: When they’re dead?

Kat: …when they hear your name…

Noah: Yeah.

Kat: …after they’re dead?

Caleb: Also…

Kat: Have they had enough time to think about that?

Caleb: Yeah, as an eight-year-old, do you – have you become the person you are, really, by that point to be able to answer these accurately?

Kat: No, and I think that that’s actually brought up several times in the books, saying that they sort too early.

Noah: Dumbledore and Snape.

Kat: I mean, eleven is probably even too early. Yeah.

Noah: And yet, maybe not because it is eleven up. I don’t know.

Kat: I think for some people, it might be too early. For others, it’s not.

Caleb: Yeah.

Kat: I don’t know. Who’s to say?

Caleb: J.K. is.

Noah: She is.

Kat: [laughs] Oh yeah.

[Noah laughs]

Kat: The master of the universe.

Caleb: Right.

Kat: The Harry Potter universe, anyway.

Caleb: I would be okay with her being the master of all universes.

[Rosie laughs]

Kat: Yeah, I think most of us would be. [laughs]

Noah: Okay, so should we move on to the Posed Question of the Week?

Kat: Yeah. What have you got for us, Noah?

Noah: Okay, well I think this entire episode has been a great deal about the Sorting Hat, the Sorting, and what I’d really like to ask the fans is: When you get sorted, how much weight does your choice have in the matter? Is it end all, be all, or is it really based on some objective traits that you have? And if it is, does that mean that some people are just essentially more intelligent than others? Is Jo making some commentary about intelligence existing in some perfect objective form? Because as far as I’m concerned, and some other people believe that intelligence can be of many different kinds. So, how do we judge this? Is it based on where you want to be, or is it based on something you essentially have? And that’s the question, so just leave your responses in various places. The best place to do it is right on the front page of Alohomora! and we’ll read some of the best responses right on the next episode. Sound good?

Caleb: Awesome. I’m ready to hear your responses on that.

Kat: Yeah, it sounds good. I can’t wait to hear what people have to say.

Noah: Okay.

Rosie: So, that’s the end of Episode 3 of Alohomora!. A special thanks to Nicola for being our guest fan of the week.

Nicola: Yay! [laughs]

Caleb: I think there’s definitely a lot of Slytherins out there who are very appreciative of the way you defended them.

Kat: If any of the fans listening right now want to be on the show, there are several ways that you can do that. The first is you can submit content on the Alohomora! main page or on the forums. That’s at We read them all the time. We comment on them, we contribute in the conversation. And if you are contributing and you give us good theories, like many of the ones we read on the page today, we will contact you and ask you to be on the show. The second way is that you can e-mail us a clip of yourself analyzing a portion of the Harry Potter books. You can send that to alohomorapodcast at gmail dot com. Please note that you need to have proper audio and recording equipment to be on the show. And also, just as a note, we’ve been getting a lot of recordings from later books, like Deathly Hallows. If you send us a recording from Deathly Hallows, that’s great, but we tend to think that that’s the book you’re interested in analyzing. So, if you want to be on a Sorcerer’s Stone show or a Chamber of Secrets show, send us something from that book. That way, we can hear you analyzing material that we’re actually going to get to in the next year.

Noah: Mhm.

Caleb: Yup, and we look forward to having a lot of you on the show. And just in general, if you find the need to contact us or connect with us through social media, just a quick reminder: as Kat just mentioned, our e-mail is alohomorapodcast at gmail dot com. Make sure you’re following us on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN, and our Facebook, Also, make sure you check out us at And just a brief reminder that our main website is

Rosie: If you missed any of those addresses, you can find links to all of them on our Alohomora! main page. And you can also subscribe to us on our iTunes or Android feed. Make sure you do that so you get every single episode of our podcast downloaded straight away when it’s released.

Noah: Is it true that we’re going to have transcripts of the show soon, guys?

Kat: Yes, we are. Actually, our transcription team is working on them as we speak. They should be up by the time the episode is out.

Noah: Those are going to be on the Alohomora! section on MuggleNet, so you’ll be able to go in there and comment directly on the episodes and have even more discussions.

Rosie: Great. So, thanks a lot, guys.

[Show music begins]

Rosie: Once again, thank you to Nicola. I’m Rosie.

Noah: I’m Noah.

Caleb: I’m Caleb.

Kat: And I’m Kat. Thank you for listening to Episode 3 of Alohomora!.

Noah: Open the Dumbledore!

[Show music continues]

Noah: One sec, guys. My parents are knocking up because they have no idea I’m recording a podcast. Damn it!

Kat: Ahh! Parents! That’s all right, I’m going to eat a Goldfish because I’m hungry. I’m hungry!

[Rustling noises in the background]

Kat: Do you not have those in the U.K.?

Rosie: Nope.

Kat: That is so sad!

[Rosie laughs]

Kat: Goldfish are amazing!

Noah: Are we still talking about wands?

[Nicola laughs]