Thoughts on the Crimes of Grindelwald Trailer

One of the first things I noticed watching the new Crimes of Grindelwald trailer was how heavily Hogwarts and Dumbledore feature into it. The very first shots show the familiar castle from  distance, before going inside and introducing the younger Dumbledore. But even aside from the little glimpses of the school and future headmaster, traces of their presence appear throughout the trailer. For instance:

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The Deluminator: this one was hard to get a screencap of, but the Deluminator was one-of-a-kind, invented by Dumbledore himself. It only occasionally appears in the Harry Potter books, up until Deathly Hallows, when it’s revealed that he left it to Ron in his will and that its powers go considerably beyond simply turning off the lights. Its first appearance, however, is in the very first chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone, when Dumbledore arrives at Privet Drive to drop off baby Harry. The scene in the trailer is highly reminiscent of the Sorcerer’s Stone movie, complete with lantern-shaped streetlights.

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Thestrals: these skeletal flying horses are creepy, but they turn out to be gentle creatures. The Ministry of Magic gives them a XXXX rating, meaning that they are dangerous and should only be approached by an expert. However, Hogwarts has a herd of tamed thestrals that live in the Forbidden Forest and pull the school’s carriages. It’s highly likely that whoever is riding in that carriage got it – and the thestrals – from Hogwarts.

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This brief glance at Dumbledore and Newt caught my attention because it reminded me a little bit of this:


The similarities are obvious. Both pairs have a sort of mentor/student relationship: Dumbledore was Newt’s teacher at Hogwarts and “Graves” presented himself as a mentor and protector for Credence. Their voices are soft, whispering, and what they are talking about is private. Grindelwald is asking Credence to find the obscurial, and Dumbledore is asking Newt to fight Grindelwald for him. They even show similar body language: standing close together, heads tilted toward each other, as if sharing a secret. But there’s one huge difference: Newt and Dumbledore are looking each other in the eye. That changes the whole dynamic. Not that Dumbledore was ever 100% open with anyone about everything he knew, but the shot of him with Newt implies a level of trust and respect for each other that is not present with Grindelwald and Credence.

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Finally, there’s this. The sign of the Deathly Hallows. The obvious link here is with Grindelwald, but remember, Dumbledore was after the Hallows, too. However, aside from the wand, none of the Deathly Hallows should come into play at this point in the timeline. Only the Potters know about the cloak, while the ring is passed down from the Peverells to the Gaunts. Dumbledore does not find them until many years later, as an old man, and Grindelwald never achieves his goal of uniting the Hallows.


A Deathly Hallows Christmas

Last Christmas there were parties and carols through the halls
Decorated Christmas trees and garlands on the walls
Last year our greatest worries were love potions and dates
Safe from the storm already brewing beyond the castle’s gates

This Christmas, nights are bitter; we wander in the cold
Searching for a glimpse of hope and missing days of old
Hiding from the looming shadows, trying to believe
Fighting for a life worth living on this Christmas Eve

Next Christmas, we will gather around the fireplace
With warm embraces, joyful smiles on each and every face
Next year this fight will only be a dusty memory
Singing Christmas carols, merry, bright, and free

Sorting Hat Saturday: “Mad Eye” Moody

Continuing the project I started last week of sorting adult Harry Potter characters whose houses are unknown, this week I’m looking at Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody. He was definitely a difficult one, both because he’s so secretive and because he embodies traits of every single house. He’s brave, he’s loyal, he’s intelligent, and he’s cunning. But which house does he fit into best?

Not Hufflepuff. That’s my first thought. While it’s true that he’s hard-working, as well as being loyal to Dumbledore and the Order, he’s so distrustful and paranoid that it’s almost impossible to imagine him among the team players of Hufflepuff. Ravenclaw is also unlikely. While Moody has a brilliant mind and is – like many Ravenclaws – a bit eccentric, he doesn’t seem to value knowledge for its own sake. He’s far too practical for that.

Gryffindor might be the logical choice. And yet, I’m not sure that’s a good fit, either. Moody’s bravery is different from Harry’s or Lily’s or even Dumbledore’s. In Order of the Phoenix, the portrait of a former Hogwarts Headmaster tells Harry, “We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not foolish … Given the choice, we would always choose to save our own skins.” There’s not a lot of evidence of that, though, in the characters’ actions. Many of the Slytherin characters are just cowards, no bravery involved at all, but then you’ve got Regulus Black sacrificing his life for a chance to bring Voldemort down – not exactly saving his own skin. I suppose Snape would describe himself as “brave but not foolish”, but I think it might be an even better description of Moody. For an Order member and an Auror, bravery is pretty much in the job description. But he is not “foolish” – ie. reckless and self-sacrificing in the way Gryffindors tend to be. In fact, he’s kind of paranoid about his own survival. He drinks only from his own flask because he’s afraid of being poisoned, and he trusts nobody, not even his fellow Order members.

What about the other Slytherin traits? He can be ruthless at times, for example suggesting that the Ministry take Karkaroff’s information and then send him back to Azkaban. And he’s cunning, too: while it’s the fake Moody who claims, “It was once my job to think as Dark Wizards do”, the comment seems fairly accurate and is taken in stride by those who know the real Moody well. Having been in the same House as many dark wizards at Hogwarts would only have helped him there. He’s clever and strategic enough not only to lay a false trail as to when Harry will be moved from Privet Drive, but also to realize that they still need to be prepared for battle. Besides, there’s the fact that his house was undisclosed in his Ministry file. That’s definitely something a Slytherin would do; a Hogwarts House gives valuable insight that could easily be used against you, or provide an element of surprise when the enemy doesn’t know exactly what to expect.

Dumbledore seems to trust Moody a great deal. Would he really place that kind of trust in a Slytherin? I think so, under the right circumstances. If Moody was a Slytherin, and if he went to Hogwarts during Voldemort’s rise to power (which he must have), he clearly chose not to associate with his future Death Eater peers, perhaps even gravitating toward Dumbledore as a teacher and role model. Dumbledore did not hesitate to trust Snape, and I strongly suspect that Mundungus Fletcher was also a graduate of Slytherin, so there’s no reason other members of the Order could not be as well.

Re-Reading Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban ch. 19-22

Time travel is never easy to write – or to read! More than any other kind of fantasy, it defies all the laws that govern our world. It’s far easier to imagine waving a wand to levitate a feather, brewing a potion, or discovering a magical beast than traveling back in time to change the past, because there is simply nothing even close to an equivalent in the real world. The past is untouchable. Set in stone.

Sure, we can think about what we’d do if we could travel in time. Would you take life-saving medicine back to the days of the Bubonic Plague? Would you try to stop Hitler’s rise to power? Would you copy down the winning lottery numbers and go back in time to buy a ticket? Could you do any of those things without risking irreversible damage to time itself? It all seems to depend on which theories you buy into. In some fictional worlds, messing with the past at all is a risky business, while in others, time seems to fall into place around the time travelers as if they’d always been there. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban seems to be the latter, but there are subtle hints that it is in fact the former.

In the movie in particular, Harry and Hermione’s actions in the past only seem to explain things that came out of nowhere before. The patronus that saves them is a big one, but smaller scenes are added, such as Hermione imitating a werewolf’s howl and Harry throwing pebbles at their past selves to make them realize they have to leave. However, in the book, Hermione explains how dangerous time turning can be:

“We’re breaking one of the most important wizarding laws! … Professor McGonagall told me what awful things have happened when wizards have meddled with time. … Loads of them ended up killing their past or future selves by mistake!”

If it’s possible to kill your past self, then it sounds like the Grandfather Paradox is in full effect here. The consequences of doing such a thing are not fully explained. However, in Cursed Child, Albus Potter’s actions in the past inadvertently cause his father’s death, erasing him from existence. I’m not sure whether to apply Cursed Child logic to Prisoner of Azkaban, since it was written so long after and the time turners there seem to follow different rules (or at least allow the user to travel back much farther into the past). However, there are hints even in Prisoner of Azkaban that time travel is a messy, dangerous business.

There is still one important moment, though, when it seems that Harry has already changed the past before he goes back in time to do so (which makes time travel seem more stable and less risky than it might be otherwise). During the trip back in time, he casts a patronus, saving his past self. If he hadn’t already been there to cast the patronus, he wouldn’t have lasted long enough to go back in time and do so. The only things they change are things that they didn’t personally witness the first time around, or things that they did see, but didn’t fully understand. Is this simply because Hermione is careful and knows to keep out of sight? Or is that just the way time travel works – and if so, why all the sinister warnings about wizards who ended up murdering their past selves?

Re-Reading Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban, ch. 1-3

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban starts out – like so many of the Harry Potter books – with Harry at Number 4, Privet Drive, missing his friends and counting down the days until he can return to Hogwarts. When his repulsive Aunt Marge comes to visit, he loses his temper, inflates her like a balloon, and runs away from home. This is when we’re first introduced to the Knight Bus, which travels around Britain picking up stranded witches and wizards and taking them wherever they need to go. It’s also when we first meet Stan Shunpike, the Knight Bus conductor, who will later be arrested for a crime no one believes he’s guilty of, sent to Azkaban, and put under the Imperius curse by the Death Eaters when they escape en masse. How fitting that Stan, who becomes sort of a symbol of the Ministry’s corruption in Half-Blood Prince, is introduced at the same time that we get one of our early glimpses of their two-faced nature.

When Harry arrives at Diagon Alley, Cornelius Fudge is waiting for him. To Harry’s surprise, though, he’s not in any trouble for using magic on his aunt. Fudge just wants to make sure he’s safe and book him a room at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry, who has previously been warned that using magic outside of Hogwarts will get him expelled, is naturally suspicious, and he notices Fudge “suddenly looking awkward” when he brings it up. What he doesn’t realize yet, although he will, is that the Ministry has no desire to expel the famous Harry Potter while there’s a murderer on the loose who may be trying to kill him. That would be bad for their publicity. Harry will be safer at Hogwarts, so he’s spared from punishment for the time being.

It’s easy to overlook this, since, after all, it’s to Harry’s benefit. He won’t be so lucky a few years later, when he uses magic in a truly life-threatening situation and ends up facing a full-scale criminal trial for it. By that point, he’s making things difficult for the Ministry with his insistence that Voldemort’s back, and they’d like nothing more than an excuse to kick him out of the magical world. Fudge has a tendency to change the rules as it suits him, which Harry benefits from now but will eventually suffer from once he starts voicing truths the Ministry wants kept quiet.

There’s a lot about injustice in Prisoner of Azkaban. I actually wrote an essay on the topic in college – easiest, most enjoyable school paper I’ve ever written – and I’m sure some of that will come to the surface as I read through it again. By the end of the book, it’s more certain than ever that the Ministry of Magic is fallible and flawed, that their mistakes can ruin an innocent person’s life, and that they don’t always listen to reason. Already, in the earliest chapters, we have our first subtle hint at that unpleasant truth.

Re-Reading Harry Potter

Because I totally needed another summer project, I got the idea to do a complete re-read of the Harry Potter series, from The Boy Who Lived all the way up to Nineteen Years Later – and to blog about it. After all, this summer is the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, and this fall is when that once-distant epilogue finally takes place. That seems like as good an excuse as any to re-read the series.

Like most Harry Potter fans, I can remember pretty clearly the first time I read that very first chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone. I was in fifth grade, and a lot of my classmates liked it, but I doubted it would live up to the hype. Still, I had to at least try it. I cracked open the spine and started to reading.

Before I knew it, I’d finished that first chapter … and another … and another … and eventually, the whole book. It did indeed live up to the hype, and from then on, I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve read each of the Harry Potter books more times than I could possibly count. But I don’t think I’ve ever re-read them all in order, and I know I haven’t blogged my way through them the way I’m planning to now. This seems like as good a time to do it as ever.

Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapters 1-3

 “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

There’s something very special about this line, at least if you’re a Harry Potter fan. It’s nothing special in and of itself. Most of us in the real world know plenty of people like the Dursleys. But it’s a familiar opening to a beloved story, and reading it is like seeing that Warner Brother’s logo with the Harry Potter soundtrack playing in the background. You know something extraordinary is about to start.

Sorcerer’s Stone starts the trend of introducing the reader to the Muggle world first, which is repeated in almost every single book. I’ve written a lot more about that here. In this book, it’s by introducing the Dursleys, with their fear of magic and stubborn refusal to notice the owls and people in cloaks that flood the streets that day. Then, many pages later, Dumbledore enters, and we start to see a little more of this world the Dursleys are so afraid of. Because we’re set up to dislike them, it’s easy to like the strange group of people who show up unwelcome at their doorstep, and even easier to sympathize with the unfortunate child left in their care.

Speaking of that unfortunate child, the first few chapters of Sorcerer’s Stone are much darker in hindsight. Now that Fantastic Beasts is out and we know exactly what can happen when muggles try to “stamp out that dangerous nonsense” from a magical child, the way the Dursleys treat Harry is even more horrifying.

I can’t imagine that J.K. Rowling knew what an Obscurial was when she wrote these opening chapters, but there is a ton of foreshadowing in them. There’s Harry speaking Parseltongue, although he doesn’t realize it yet. We hear the word “Muggle” for the first time and learn that they’re not supposed to know about magic. We also see a first glimpse at the Order of the Phoenix, although we don’t know that’s what they’re called yet. While the ordinary witches and wizards are out celebrating Voldemort’s downfall, the few who truly fought against him are busy mourning the Potters’ deaths and making arrangements for their son.

And, of course, there’s a lot happening outside of the narrow little glimpse of the magical world that we see. Somewhere, Peter Pettigrew is preparing his escape and Sirius Black is still unaware of how much he’s about to lose. Snape is making a promise to protect Lily’s son. Barty Crouch Sr. is cracking down on Voldemort’s followers, unaware that his own son is one of them. The Lestranges are still searching for their Dark Lord, while other Death Eaters lie and bribe their way out of trouble. Minister of Magic Millicent Bagnold is defending her people’s “inalienable right to party” as they ignore the statute of secrecy and celebrate in the streets. As readers, we don’t get to see all that right away, but it’s part of the story, nonetheless.

Poem: Graduating Hogwarts

Graduating Hogwarts
Standing hand-in-hand
Ready for the future
And whatever it has planned

Graduating Hogwarts
After seven years
Pouring over spellbooks
And facing all our fears

Graduating Hogwarts
Memories preserved
In moving photographs
One final feast is served

Graduating Hogwarts
We sail across the lake
Houses stand together now
Badger, lion, eagle, snake

Graduating Hogwarts
But the story never ends
We’ll always have the memories
The magic, and the friends