My First And Last Day Teaching At Hogwarts

Good morning, students,

I’m glad to see you all here in my class, eager to start learning, so let’s establish classroom policies right away.

I see that some of you are still looking around the room, opening and closing your mouths and wondering why no sound is coming out. That, of course, is because I have invoked an extremely powerful Silencing Charm that blankets all the student seats. When you raise your hand, I will remove the charm for just long enough for you to ask a relevant question.

I see there are any number of questions all of a sudden, and I’m going to answer a lot of them right now. You may not go to the bathroom. Ever. You don’t really need to, because another spell that I have invoked is Xavier’s Extraordinary Excretion Exporter. The moment you crossed the threshold, all urine and feces were removed from your bladder and bowels, and deposited in the nearest bathroom. There will be no need for you to go yourselves.

Oh, look, suddenly there are no more questions.

I see that Mr. Mason and Mr. Ferreton have discovered that attempting to pass parchment or paper to another student in order to circumvent the silencing spell will result in the parchment bursting into flame when it is touched by anyone but the writer. You may go to the nurse’s office. Ten points from Sphinxgate.

Also, despite your best efforts, you will discover that the chairs will not move from the floor. They are exactly where I want them to be, and there is no need to move them. So no, you will not be able to shuffle them just a little bit nearer your best friend, nor tilt them backward against the wall.

And since I see that you have moved on to significant and exaggerated glances and attempts to mouth words to one another with all the subtlety of giants on Confunding Powder, allow me to demonstrate an amazing spell. With this charm I can place thin walls of churning air between you. They will distort your images enough to make them completely indistinguishable . Isn’t that amazing? I’ll show you how to do the same thing in the last class of your last year here.

I should now have your undivided attention, except for those of you who have chosen to fall asleep. They will discover in a few seconds that the wood desks have been enchanted to react to the human face by growing painful but harmless thorns with astonishing rapidity.

Now, if everyone will please take out their pencils and parchment… yes? No, you may not go and get pencil and parchment. However, I will be happy to provide you with some. Let’s see who knows an interesting fact: what is parchment made of? Yes, Miss… Farmer?

That is correct: dried skin. I’d like to demonstrate a simple pair of spells for you, using Mr. Shorttop there who needed parchment as a volunteer.

Mr. Shorttop, if you will now unroll the dried skin from around the flesh of what was your left arm, you will find that you now have a roll of parchment. The raw flesh will heal, and in the interim remind you not to forget your own next time. Your index fingertip has also been transfigured into a pencil point. Now. Let us begin.

Handwavio Obviosum: Harry Potter and the Woman Behind The Curtain

Read The Goblet Of Fire to my kids earlier this year, and it struck me that the Triwizard Tournament about which the story revolves is really a great example of an author wanting very desperately to have her cake and eat it, too. If Rowling has a strength as an author, it’s her ability to write characters we fall in love with and hate (because they’re all of us and the kids we went to school with) and her ability to pace her stories to keep us reading.

But she never was a gamer, and she doesn’t understand games. This should have been obvious with her creation of Quidditch, a game that exists for no other purpose but to catapult Harry alone to stardom, by placing him in the position on a team to always, 100% of the time, win (or rarely, lose) the game for his House.¹ And there are no other sports (seriously, when have you ever been to a school where there is ONE sport?) and they never play other schools (which is kind of odd, because there are WORLD CUPS in Quidditch, aren’t there?)

This was never more obvious than the Triwizard Tournament. Granted, Rowling has a serious problem, here: just making Harry the Hogwarts champion by random draw would be a coincidence of the first water, and unbelievable. Of course, she could have had Moody/Crouch make certain of that by using some previously-unknown spell to make him the real champion, but it would have been a dead giveaway since it is indeed only logical that junior and senior (6th and 7th year) students will be the most capable of doing ANY task in a high school. Plus, of course, it loses the entire reason that Cedric can be killed and for Harry to be hated throughout the book.

So Rowling comes up with the whole fourth champion trick. Which serves every purpose except making any actual sense. Consider: the solutions that everyone but Dumbledore arrives at are quite sensible: 1) Don’t let Harry Compete, and 2) Give the other schools additional champions.
When these solutions are proposed, there is a lot of handwaving about some sort of “magical contract” that demands Harry compete, so that we do not pay attention to the woman behind the curtain who does not want the plot to go that way, dammit! But never a word is said about how it will be enforced. The Goblet, having chosen the champions, has no further role to play in the tournament.² There was no reason that Dumbledore could not have agreed to the quite reasonable solution of having Harry operate under impossible constraints (e.g. Giving Harry only one minute to accomplish each challenge). Or, since all the events but the final were judged, and the judges were under no constraints to judge fairly, by simply instructing the judges to give Harry zeroes no matter how he performed.  In fact, it’s kind of out of character that Maxime and Karkaroff don’t do that.
But even so, who does this magical contract punish if it’s not carried out? Hogwarts? How? Harry? Apparently not, because Harry drags his feet over the Second Task and goes into it completely unprepared, and the Tournament makes no move to punish him for his procrastination. This of course would have been the easiest way for Harry to avoid the opprobrium of his fellow students: just refuse to succeed.

So what can we learn from this? I suggest a few basic lessons: Firstly, don’t make things you have no interest in (like sport and games) central to your conflict. Secondly, if you create something like a “magical contract” it needs to have an enforcement clause. Real things have real consequences. Finally, handwaving to make people stop asking questions rarely works well.

¹This would have been easy enough to fix, by the way, and still let Harry do his thing. The obvious solution would have been to make the Snitch catchable by every player on the team and then make Harry a Chaser who was just really good at finding Snitches.

²This also would have worked as a partial fix. If the Goblet itself had magically spawned the challenges, this would have actually made sense. It would not have continued the tournament until Harry passed (or failed) his challenge, and additional challengers would have had no challenge to fight.


I Cast Missile Magicis: Hagrid Edition

You know how Hagrid “bought” Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback from “some bloke in a pub?” And how he always was getting creatures from people?

Yup, that’s right. The Leaky Cauldron is That Tavern where all the Parties get their Quests.

“Why are we going after Black Dragon Eggs?”

“I dunno. Some big guy in The Tavern with more gold than sense is paying top dollar.”

“Is this gonna be like the time with the three-headed dog? Because we lost the bard when we went after the Giant Flobberworms.”

“Are you gonna bring that up again? I didn’t know they didn’t have ears. I thought that’s what the so-impressive bardic knowledge was for.”

“Oh, well excuse me for thinking that a ranger might know something about animals.”

“Go screw a drider.”


Harry Potter And The Invisible Curriculum

It’s been a long day. Sick wife. Patreon Rewards due. Novel writing. Trying to land a more permanent day job. All (except the first one) good things, but tiring. So I’m just going to pen a short rant here:

It strikes me that the greatest feat of magic ever produced at Hogwarts was its ability to teach those kids things like grammar, composition, and basic math without ever having taught any classes in it. Harry Potter writes better than most of my juniors, and to my knowledge he was never assigned a single essay nor asked to read a single work of literature or piece of technical writing.

If I were a completely humorless scold obsessed with defending all aspects of my identity from the slightest hint of disrespect, I might scream at Rowling about this, as she obviously feels such instruction unnecessary, and I can only laugh bitterly at how wrong she is.

However, I can’t help thinking that there must be the potential for a whole treasure trove of secondary adventures at Hogwarts: Harry Potter and the Misplaced Modifier. Harry Potter and the Greatest Common Factor. Harry Potter and the Supporting Paragraphs. Harry Potter and the Law of Sines. Harry Potter and the Periodic Table. And of course, that page-turner, Harry Potter and the Five-Paragraph Theme of DOOM.

I may turn these into flash fiction for my Patreon supporters someday. Mention it in the comments if you’d support me in exchange for that.