Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Dementor

Alright, I am back! I'm not completely healed, but I'm better enough that pain is not the foremost thing on my mind. Though I do continue to rock a look very similar to this. Ah well, enough about my accident-prone self, let's get back to Harry!

Harry wants to talk to Ron and Hermione about what he overheard the Weasleys talking about the night before, but there's far too much going on to do it that morning. At the train station, Mr. Weasley pulls him aside and Harry reveals that he overheard the conversation the night before. Mr. Weasely asks Harry to promise he won't go looking for Sirius Black, to which Harry's all "duh".

On the train, the trio ends up in a compartment with the sleeping Professor Lupin, whom Hermione surmises must be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry tells Ron and Hermione about Black being after him and they freak out. Hermione asks Harry to promise he won't go looking for Black at which point Harry is mildly insulted that everyone seems to think he's a giant moron. Harry's sneakoscope goes off and everyone assumes it's broken, they talk about Hogsmeade, Malfoy comes by and gets scared away by the sleeping Lupin, and the train goes dark while stopping in the middle of nowhere.

Neville and Ginny find their way to the compartment in the dark and Lupin wakes up just in time for a hooded figure to show up before Harry hears a scream and passes out. When he wakes up he finds out that the hooded figure was a dementor, an Azkaban guard, and that he was the only one to pass out. Lupin passes around some chocolate, which helps Harry feel better and they finally arrive at the school. Neville wastes no time telling Malfoy about Harry fainting (What the crap, Neville?!) and to make matters worse, Harry is taken upstairs to be fussed over by McGonagall and Madame Pomfrey. McGonagall also meets with Hermione and then the two head back downstairs to find they've missed the sorting. Dumbledore gives his usual speech, mentions the dementors and everyone eats then heads to the dormitories.

This chapter is full of foreshadowing and setups for later; the sneakoscope and Crookshanks both freaking out when Scabbers is nearby, the effect the dementors have on Harry (and Ginny), and all the don't-go-after-Black stuff; but most of that will be discussed later on.

A lot has been said about the dementors by others. Everyone knows that Rowling based the dementors off of her own bout with depression and that they are the manifestation of the emptiness one feels when dealing with that disease. I myself have fought depression in the past and I find the description pretty accurate. But my favorite thing about this chapter is the chocolate.

As you may know, chocolate releases endorphins, which are our body's natural stress and pain relief. It's pure genius to use magical healing properties of chocolate.

On a related note, Ron's list of sweets to be found at Honeydukes makes me extremely excited to head to Florida and try some of them out myself!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why I'm not Posting...

I sprained my toe last Friday and until I can come home after a full work day and not have my primary thought be "owowowowowowowowowow!" I will not be posting. Mainly because I'm afraid that I wouldn't be able to concentrate on reading enough to have anything interesting to say. Now according to the doctor, I should be feeling better after a week or so, but if I'm not, I'll let you know! A big apology to the few people who yell at me when I don't post often enough (all of whom are related to me) and anyone else who feels put out when I don't post!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Leaky Cauldron

Harry spends much of the next couple weeks wandering around Diagon Alley, purchasing school supplies, doing homework and ogling broomsticks. Eventually, other Hogwarts students start showing up and finally, on the last day before term, Ron and Hermione appear. Scabbers is looking a bit worse for wear and Hermione wants to get an owl, so the trio head to a magical creatures store, where Scabbers is attacked by a cat that Hermione subsequently buys. That night Harry and Hermione join the Weasley's for dinner at the Leaky Cauldron. After dinner, Harry overhears Mr. and Mrs. Weasley arguing over whether Harry has the right to know that Sirius Black is after him. Harry's not really all that phased, it's not like Black's the first person to want to kill him after all, and Harry feels quite safe with Dumbledore around.

This might be one of my top three favorite chapters in the entire series; it certainly makes the top ten. Basically, I desperately want to stay in the Leaky Cauldron and wander around Diagon Alley all day for two weeks, it sounds like the best vacation ever! As I've said before (I think, though I can't seem to find it to link it right now) what keeps me coming back to Harry Potter is the wizarding world and how much I wish I could live there. That's one of the big reasons I so enjoy this chapter, the first half in particular. There's no real plot developments (yes we learn about the Firebolt and the Grim), it's mostly just Harry enjoying the world, and we get to come along for the ride! I'm going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida with a bunch of fellow Potterheads this winter and the thing I look forward to most is meandering through Hogsmeade, exploring the shops and drinking butterbeer. This chapter is exactly what I'm hoping for from the trip.

Now that I've finished rhapsodizing, I do have a couple questions that came up as I was reading:
*What's the difference between a wizard and a warlock?
*Why can't you just pass through the entrance to Diagon Alley like Platform 9 3/4?
*How does Harry manage to eat a sundae every half hour without being violently sick?
*Why on earth would anyone give away a free sundae every half hour to the same person?
*Where is Mrs. Weasley's sense of humor?

My brain also went off on a more lengthy tangent when the trio went to the Magical Menagerie (pet store). I wondered if there are magical pet rescues where one could adopt magical creatures or whether there were magical creature mills (like puppy mills) turning out magical creatures to meet the high demand. Obviously, as a pet store, they don't seem to bother much about whether the witch or wizard purchasing the animal will be a good pet guardian, just that they can lay the money down to take it home. Also, is the witch working at the store a magical vet? Did she take other courses of study beyond Care of Magical Creatures (which doesn't exactly seem to focus on domesticated magical creatures) for her to be able to give care advice?

People had mixed feelings about my concerns about mandrake ethics, I'm curious to know your thoughts on other magical creatures. The domesticated ones in particular. Also, if anyone would like to take a crack at trying to come up with an answer to any of my other questions or just agree or disagree with my thoughts on the awesomeness of Diagon Alley, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Knight Bus

Once again I must apologize for my somewhat prolonged absence. I unexpectedly developed a social like last week. Not to worry, it's unlikely to happen again soon. At any rate, when last we left Harry, he'd just stormed out of the Dursley's house... is common after any rash action, Harry soon realized he might have made a mistake. His Aunt and Uncle were likely pretty cheesed off and the Ministry of Magic was likely to expel him. Harry had just decided he may as well do a bit more magic to get to London so he could retrieve his money and begin life on the run, when he felt a presence nearby. He lit his wand and saw a huge black dog in the bushes across the way, but before panic could set in too badly, a purple triple-decker bus nearly ran him over.

The conductor of the bus, Stan, soon explains that the Knight Bus picks up stranded witches and wizards and takes them where they need to go. Harry climbs aboard and sees that instead of seats there are beds which slide around as the bus itself jumps from location to location with a loud bang. Stan is reading The Daily Prophet and Harry sees that the escaped prisoner he'd seen featured earlier that week on the Muggle news is in fact a wizard, Sirius Black. Stan tells him that Black was one of Voldemort's followers and he was sent to Azkaban for killing 13 people with one curse.

Eventually they arrive at the Leaky Cauldron, and Harry is surprised and nervous to find Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge waiting for him. Fudge tells Harry that Aunt Marge has been set to right and her memory erased, that the Dursley's have agreed to let him come back the following summer, and that Harry will be staying at the Leaky Cauldron for the last two weeks of the summer (though it should be about August 7th at this point and the Hogwarts Express departs on September 1st, so it should actually be 3 weeks, but who's counting?), just asking that Harry not stray into Muggle-London, but stick to Diagon Alley. After Fudge leaves, Tom takes Harry up to his room, where he's delighted to find Hedwig waiting for him. He falls right to sleep.

I've always wondered why the Knight Bus drives at all if it can just jump from one place to another. The only thing I can come up with is that perhaps it needs to reach a certain speed before it can make the jump (like a Delorean) and then it needs space to decelerate. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the Statute of Secrecy, since stationary objects like buildings keep jumping out of the way.

To a lesser extant I wonder why they don't magically bolt the beds (and armchairs) to the floor to keep them from sliding around. You'd think that it might help with the illness many passengers seem to experience. While it seems likely that Stan (and Ernie) might not care enough to bother, I see no reason the passengers themselves shouldn't cast a quick charm on their furniture.

Still, I love the Knight Bus and Stan and Ernie, it's one of my favorite magical methods of travel. It's certainly the most interesting to read about, since we get to hear about more than just the way it makes Harry feel and provides time for conversation, which few if any do (an argument might be made for brooms).

How do you feel about the Knight Bus? Love it? Hate it? Would you want to take a ride? (Might make a better roller coaster than a Hippogriff anyway).