Hermione Granger Chapter 11

Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism

Chapter Eleven, Aboard The Hogwarts Express

Next morning, Hermione woke up early to help Ginny put the finishing touches on her packing. Then she had a bit of toast in the kitchen before anyone else was up (except of course Mrs. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley seemed to always be awake). She went out into the garden in the rain (for it was still coming down in buckets) to look for her cat, and got her hair positively soaked, only to find Crookshanks had taken up residence in sitting room anyhow. Pushing clumps of wet hair out of her eyes, she scooped the massive cat up under the armpits, and carried him off to Ginny’s room, so she wouldn’t have to search for him last minute.

She got the last of Ginny’s quills sorted neatly into her trunk, and started to fold up her camp bed.

Ginny breathed a sigh of “thanks Hermione, I owe you, honestly!”

“It’s really no trouble!” Hermione said, now rummaging in her own trunk. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d really like to read this last bit, and I doubt very much those boys will give me very much chance on the train.”

Ginny giggled, and Hermione sat cross-legged on the floor, and happily read The Standard Book Of Spells Grade 4 until Mrs. Weasley called them to leave.

Dragging her trunk down the stairs, she heard Percy’s voice in the kitchen. “I just can’t justify taking more time off at the moment,” he was saying. “Mr. Crouch is really starting to rely on me.”

“Yeah, you know what, Percy?” George said rather seriously. “I reckon he’ll know your name soon.”

Soon three ordinary taxis pulled up to the rain-drenched burrow, to take them into London. She overheard Mrs. Weasley whispering to Harry, “Arthur tried to borrow Ministry cars for us, but there weren’t any to spare… Oh dear, they don’t look happy, do they?”

She wished she’d known, perhaps she could have been of some help. The taxi drivers were struggling to load all of the heavy trunks into the cars, but Pigwidgeon was making an awful racket. And of course, they had no way to know that the fireworks that went off when Fred’s trunk sprang open were Filibuster’s Fabulous No-Heat, Wet-Start Fireworks… and neither did Crookshanks… who unfortunately panicked and tried to crawl up the leg of the man carrying him.

She piled into the back of a car with Harry, Ron, and Crookshanks (who was still quite shaken up) and did her best to stop him from scratching anyone else. In that, she failed. Once they were out of the taxi, however, she was able to get him to curl up in her jacket as she dragged her trunk across the busy road. She was soaked by the time they got there, and wondered if her hair would ever be dry again.

But soon enough they were inside King’s Cross Station, and heading for the magical platform — platform 9 and ¾ — that the magical community used to get to and from Hogwarts. She’d ridden the train to school three times before, the first two years she was taken by her parents (who were quite as nervous as she had been, to be in the strange magical world), and last year she had accompanied the Weasley family and Harry. The group was so large, they had to go in groups to get onto the magical platform. First it was herself, Harry, and Ron, who leaned as casually as they could nto the solid barrier dividing platforms nine and ten, trying not to attract the attention of passersby. As they leaned, they felt the barrier give way, and suddenly platform 9 and ¾ materialized before their eyes.

The Hogwarts Express was a gleaming scarlet steam engine, and like most things in the wizarding world, it looked incredibly old for no particular reason. Witches and wizards did seem to adopt to muggle technology, of course, after all there had been a wizarding community for centuries before the invention of steam engines. But they seemed to adapt to new things very very slowly, and in a piecemeal kind of way. Most of the witches and wizards she knew were still afraid of electric lights, or at the very least viewed them as ridiculously useless, for example. And she’d tried many times to explain why a telephone was actually faster — and sometimes more useful — than sending a letter by flying bird… but no one would ever listen to her.

She supposed in another century there would be an ancient rotary phone in the headmaster’s office in Hogwarts, and the thought made her giggle.

Ron’s owl, Pigwidgeon, was hopping around excitedly in his cage, seemingly delighted to see so many other owls about. All around them there were other students with their parents, stowing their luggage and saying their goodbyes.

“Come on then,” she said to Ron and Harry, “let’s find seats.” And the two boys nodded, and they headed for the train while the rest of the Weasleys slowly made their way through the barrier to the platform. Once they’d saved seats and got their trunks and things on the luggage rack, they headed back out to say goodbye to Mrs. Weasley, as well as Bill and Charlie, who had come to see them off.

“I might be seeing you all sooner than you think,” said Charlie, while Ginny hugged him tightly.

“Why?” asked Fred.

“You’ll see,” Charlie said with a mischievous grin. “Just don’t tell Percy I mentioned it… it’s ‘classified information, until such time as the Ministry sees fit to release it,’ after all.”

“Yeah, I sort of wish I were back at Hogwarts this year,” said Bill, hands in his pockets, looking almost wistfully at the train.

“WHY?” said George impatiently.

“You’re going to have an interesting year,” said Bill, looking like a schoolboy even with his long hair and trendy clothing, “I might even get time off to come and watch a bit of it…”

“A bit of what?” Ron begged.

But at that moment, the whistle blew, and Mrs. Weasley ushered them all towards the train doors in a hurry.

“Thanks for having us to stay, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said once they’d all climbed aboard, and leaned out the windows for a final goodbye.

“Yeah, thanks for everything, Mrs. Weasley.” Harry chimed in.

“Oh it was my pleasure, dears,” she said, and Hermione thought she might sort of miss Mrs. Weasley. “I’d invite you for Christmas, but… well, I expect you’re all going to want to stay at Hogwarts, what with… one thing and another.”

“Mum!” Ron said grumpily, “What d’you three know that we don’t?”

“You’ll find out this evening, I expect.” Mrs. Weasley responded, positively beaming, “It’s going to be very exciting — mind you, I’m very glad they’ve changed the rules —”

“What rules?” all the boys said in unison.

“I’m sure Professor Dumbledore will tell you… Now, behave, won’t you? Won’t you, Fred? And you, George?”

The pistons hissed loudly, and the train began to move.

“Tell us what’s happening at Hogwarts!” Fred shouted out the window at his mother and two eldest brothers, but they were speeding away from them, shrinking in the distance. Then he added “What rules are they changing?” in a quieter, hopeless voice.

The three Weasleys left on the platform smiled and waved. Then, before the train had quite rounded the corner, all three of them disapparated.

Hermione, Ron, and HArry headed back to the compartment they’d chosen earlier. The thick rain splattering the windows made it very difficult to see out of them at all. Pigdwidgeon’s cage was on the seat next to Ron, and the tiny owl was still hooting away merrily. Ron rummaged in his trunk for something, and then threw something gaudy and maroon in color over the top of the cage to muffle the noise.

“Bagman wanted to tell us what’s happening at Hogwarts,” he said, sinking into the seat next to Harry with a frown, maybe to get even further from the excitable bird. “At the World Cup, remember?”

Hermione heard a faintly familiar voice from the compartment next to theirs, but she couldn’t quite make it out.

“…But my own mother won’t say!” Ron went on, loudly, “Wonder what —”

“Shh!” she whispered at him, pressing her finger to her lips and pointing dramatically toward the next compartment so Ron couldn’t miss the message. Both boys seemed to cotton on, and turned to listen.

“… Father actually considered sending me to Durmstrang rather than hogwarts, you know.” said the drawling voice of Draco Malfoy. “He knows the headmaster, you see. Well, you know his opinion of Dumbledore — the man’s such a Mudblood-lover — and Durmstrang doesn’t admit that sort of riffraff. But Mother didn’t like the idea of me going to school so far away. Father says Durmstrang takes a far more sensible line than Hogwarts about the Dark Arts. Durmstrang students actually learn them, not just the defense rubbish we do…”

There it was, Draco Malfoy wished he could have been taught dark magic at school. She got up, slid the compartment door closed as quietly as she could, and sat back down. At least now she wouldn’t have to hear him.

“So he thinks Durmstrang would have suited him, does he?” she said, trying to control the volume of her voice. “I wish he had gone, then we wouldn’t have to put up with him.

“Durmstrang’s another wizarding school?” Harry asked.

“Yes, and it’s got a horrible reputation.” she said. “According to An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe, it puts a lot of emphasis on the Dark Arts.”

“I think I’ve heard of it,” said Ron somewhat vaguely. “Where is it? What country?”

She raised her eyebrows. It was one thing for Harry not to know about magical education outside of Britain, but surely Ron must be a bit more aware of it. “Well,” she said politely, “nobody knows, do they?”

“Er — why not?” said Harry Potter.

“There’s traditionally been a lot of rivalry between all the magic schools.” she explained. “Durmstrang and Beauxbatons like to conceal their whereabouts so nobody can steal their secrets.”

“Come off it!” Ron laughed. “Durmstrang’s got to be about the same size as Hogwarts — how are you going to hide a great big castle?”

Her jaw dropped. “But Hogwarts is hidden. Everyone knows that…” she said, “well, everyone who’s read Hogwarts, A History, anyway.” she corrected herself.

“Just you, then,” Ron said rudely. “So go on — how d’you hide a place like Hogwarts?”

Ignoring the rudeness as best she could, Hermione went on to explain that magic spells existed to the boy who had lived all his life around witches and wizards. “It’s bewitched,” she said, aware of how ridiculous she must sound. “If a muggle looks at it, all they see is a molder old ruin with a sign over the entrance saying DANGER, DO NOT ENTER, UNSAFE.”

“So…” said Ron, evidently thinking it over, “Durmstrang’ll just look like a ruin to an outsider too?”

“Maybe,” she shrugged, “or it might have Muggle-repelling charms on it, like the World Cup stadium. And to keep foreign wizards from finding it, they’ll have made it Unplottable —”

“Come again?”

Hermione looked from Harry, to Ron, and back again. “Well,” she said slowly, “you can enchant a building so it’s impossible to plot on a map, can’t you?”

“Er… if you say so.” Harry said.

“But,” she went on, trying not to show her surprise and hurt his feelings, “I think Durmstrang must be somewhere in the far north. Somewhere very cold, because they’ve got fur capes as part of their uniforms.”

“Ah!” said Ron, his tone changing at once. “Think of the possibilities… It would’ve been so easy to push Malfoy off a glacier and make it look like an accident… Shame his mother likes him.”

As the train moved farther north, the rain became, if possible, even heavier. The sky was so dark and the windows so steamy that the lanterns were lit by midday. It was nice to be riding the train to school with her friends again, away from the bustle of the Weasley household. When the lunch trolley came rattling along the corridor, Harry jumped to his feet and ran to the compartment door. He came back with a large stack of Cauldron Cakes, which the three of them shared.

In the afternoon a few of their fellow students stopped by their compartment for a chat. Hermione knew that Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas were really there to see Harry and Ron, and not her, but she tried her best not to think of it. At the very least, when Neville Longbottom came into the compartment, he looked genuinely pleased to see her, saying “Hello Hermione, have a good holiday?”

Neville was a kind boy, forgetful and a bit foolish, but over the years of helping him with his work in potions lessons, she’d become quite fond of him. He’d been brought up by his grandmother, who was very strict and quite hard on him. She suspected that some of his trouble in school might be nothing more than a lack of self esteem.

But even Neville was not immune to the other boys’ endless discussion of the Quidditch World Cup. With five boys in the compartment reliving the match over and over again — and Seamus Ireland rosette feebly squeaking the names of the Irish players still — it was positively impossible to get a word in.

“Gran didn’t want to go,” Neville said, sounding heartbroken to be left out of the fun. “Wouldn’t buy tickets It sounded amazing though.”

Hermione realized that she would have a chance to read on the train after all, and hastily opened her copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4.

Several moments later, however, her reading was interrupted by a familiar rude and drawling voice, coming from the compartment door, which Dean and Seamus had left ajar. She didn’t quite catch what the voice said.

“Don’t remember asking you to join us, Malfoy,” Harry said.

Through the predictable exchange that followed, Hermione did her best to focus on her book, but it was impossible. First, Malfoy snatched the weird bit of maroon fabric off of Pigwidgeon’s cage… and it turned out to be very old fashioned dress robes, for formal wizarding gatherings. Hermione recalled seeing that style in one of her books on wizarding history, but they were far from the current wizarding fashion. Draco Malfoy seemed positively delighted, crying “Look at this!” to Crabbe and Goyle (his cronies had evidently followed him in).

“Weasley, you weren’t thinking of wearing these, were you? I mean — they were very fashionable in about eighteen ninety…”

Well, wizards did have superior fabric preserving methods.

“Eat dung, Malfoy!” Ron shouted. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle all howled with laughter in unison.

“So…” Malfoy said, “going to enter, Weasley? Going to try and bring a bit of glory to the family name? There’s money involved as well, you know… you’d be able to afford some decent robes if you won…”

“What are you talking about?” snapped Ron.

Are you going to enter?” Malfoy repeated. “I suppose you will, Potter? You never miss a chance to show off, do you?”

Hermione sighed, and looked up over her book. “Either explain what you’re on about or go away, Malfoy.” she said.

“Don’t tell me you don’t know?” Malfoy said, his voice positively dripping with happiness. “You’ve got a father and a brother at the Ministry and you don’t even know? My God, my father told me about it ages ago… heard it from Cornelius Fudge. But then, Father’s always associated with the top people at the Ministry… Maybe your father’s too junior to know about it, Weasley… yes… they probably don’t talk about important stuff in front of him…”

Then, in fits of laughter, Malfoy left the compartment with Crabbe and Goyle. Ron immediately got to his feet, and slammed the compartment door shut so hard that the glass shattered everywhere.

Ron!” she said, setting her book aside to pull out her wand. “Reparo!” she said, performing a very basic charm which cause the shards of glass to fly back together into a single pane in the door once again, before they got scattered too far. It was against wizarding law for witches and wizards in training to do magic outside of school, but no one cared about on the train.

“Well… making it look like he knows everything and we don’t…” Ron said moodily. “Father’s always associated with the top people at the Ministry… Dad could’ve got a promotion any time… he just likes it where he is…”

“Of course he does. Don’t let Malfoy get to you, Ron —” she reassured him.

“Him!” he shouted, “Get to me!? As if!” And then he picked up one of the remaining Cauldron Cakes, and squashed it into a pulp in his fist. Hermione blinked hard. There was no use talking to him when he was like this.

Ronald stayed in a bad mood for the rest of the journey. As much as Malfoy hated Hermione for being muggle-born and Harry for being famous, he hated Ron Weasley for being poor. And though he’d never admit it, Ron was very self conscious about his family’s position in the wizarding world, which, Hermione reminded herself, was the only world he really knew.

But soon enough they were changing into their school robes, and shortly after that the Hogwarts Express was pulling into Hogsmeade station. It was pitch black now, but that was the only thing that had changed, the rain was still coming down in buckets. Hermione carefully bundled Crookshanks into her cloak before stepping off the train, maybe she could keep him dry enough to avoid getting another nasty scratch.

Out on the platform, she lifted her eyes long enough to see Hagrid, the gigantic gamekeeper and Care of Magical Creatures teacher, waving enthusiastically at Harry. “See yeh at the feast if we don’ drown!” he boomed, and then he went back to corralling the first year students. It was traditional for Hagrid to take the first year students to the castle by crossing the lake in a series of small boats.

“Ooooh, I wouldn’t fancy crossing the lake in this weather!” she said, with a little shiver. Harry and Ron were too waterlogged to respond, and they walked onward, to the hundred horseless carriages that waited outside the station. She climbed into one along with Harry, Ron, and Neville, and opened her cloak to check on her poor cat. He was mostly dry, but in very bad spirits.

Soon enough, the carriage lurched forward. Crookshanks finally did scratch Hermione, in surprise from the sudden movement. And then they began to move in earnest, along the road with all the other carriages to Hogwarts Castle.

***

Mrs. Weasley orders ordinary muggle taxis to take her entire wizarding family to London to catch the magic train to magic school. Sure, why not? I mean, they wouldn’t get ministry cars, so what choice does she have?

It isn’t as though they could have traveled to the Leaky Cauldron via flu powder, and then taken the bus to King’s Cross station (I have never been to London and I don’t know how far that would be, but they’d be in the same city, at least).

It isn’t as though Portkeys could have been set up to get wizarding families safely to the magic platform to go to magic school.

It isn’t as though side-along apparition exists and therefore the older ones could have taken the younger ones along with them (though it’s entirely possible that Rowling just hadn’t thought of side-along apparition yet, it doesn’t come up until book six).

So our wizarding family, the father of which has a condescending obsession with muggles that basically amounts to “awe they’re cute, helpless fools,” has no choice but to risk the exposure of the wizarding world (which is supposedly a very big deal) by transporting six teenagers with trunks, two owls, and a cat who is apparently just… loose… by taxi. But hey, at least they’re all wearing jeans or whatever to blend in, right? Makes…. Sense?

While we’re on the topic, this is a bit out of the way, but why do wizard children wear muggle clothes during the summer holidays? Why is this generational? Arthur and Molly wear robes most of the time, and appear to have one or two muggle outfits they use only when they have to interact with the muggle world (this makes zero sense in Arthur’s case, he should *always* be ready to interact with the muggle world because of both his line of work and his personal interests, hell, you’d expect him to collect button down shirts or soemthing). But the kids are cool and modern so they wear muggle clothing seemingly every second of their lives that they don’t have to be in school robes. Why? Where do they get them from? Did their parents put them in muggle clothing when they were small? Is it an acquired teenage fashion? For wizarding children like the Weasleys, this makes no sense at all. And there were muggle-born witches and wizards, as well as “half-bloods,” in Arthur and Molly’s generation as well, so why should they be so rigidly attached to wizard clothing? This has always bothered me, and frankly the movies make it even worse, reducing the Hogwarts uniform (described in-text as “plain work robes, black”) to a sort of preppy boarding school uniform that occasionally has a loose flowy robe thrown over it. I wanted to see some weird magic people, and all I got were all these ties and sweater vests.

But anyway, yeah, the Weasley’s take taxis to London, because why not. They obvious have to, there are no viable other options since they couldn’t get private official government magic cars. Ok. I’ll remember that next time someone says something about the things muggles do to “work around” their not having magic.

Now, let’s talk about our buddy Ronald Weasley, isn’t he just the cutest? Ron Weasley is a wizard, raised by wizards, in a family of wizards. All of his aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents were wizards (I believe in the first book it is mentioned that there might be one squib in the family but “we never talk about him” which is just charming). He goes to magic school. He takes the magic train to magic school every year, this is his fourth year of magic school. In Ron Weasley’s world, it is normal for newspapers and posters and books to have moving photographs. It is normal for your mother to use magic to make dinner. It is normal for damn near everyone to always carry a wand. And his father works for the Ministry of Magic, which is primarily concerned with making sure non-magic folk don’t find out about all of this magic. He just went to the Quidditch World Cup, and quite possibly overheard his father explain the spells that had been put on the moor to keep muggles out. Not only that, but his father puts spells on various things (some of which are illegal, like the car) all the damn time.

But it has never occurred to him that the magic school he goes to might be magically enchanted by magic spells to magically keep non-magic people from just wandering up to the gates. Not only does he not know this, he doesn’t believe it when it’s explained to him.

Here’s the thing.

It is very very tempting to wave this away as bad writing. And it is, to some degree, bad writing. Is this just another case of Harry and Ron taking turns asking stupid questions to get info from Hermione to the reader? Maybe… but I also believe it to be in character for Ronald Weasley.

Ron Weasley is an anti-intellectual. He is (or at least he grows to be, throughout the books, for our purposes here in book four he is) basically against knowing stuff. Ron’s dream is to know just enough stuff, the bare minimum, to become a wizard cop. But if he can’t get it, he isn’t surprised. He’s not going to try to hard. Knowing stuff is for nerds. And knowing stuff about school is for super duper nerds. And the fact that Hermione read a book about the school that they go to which wasn’t required to be read by said school makes her the brainiest of brains, worthy of constant mockery.

Ron Weasley doesn’t know that Hogwarts is magically protected from muggles because he has literally never thought about muggles when he wasn’t being told “there might be muggles here, watch out and don’t scream ‘I AM A WIZARD KID’ at the top of your lungs.” And because wizards are generally pretty lax about hiding themselves from muggles, and count on the ministry to clean up behind them by modifying muggle memories, he’s never had to worry about it too much. He goes to wizard school, why would he think about what would happen if muggles came to wizard school? Muggles aren’t even wizards!

And he isn’t going to find out about it by reading a book for the reasons we already discussed.

And he resents Hermione for knowing things about the wizarding world that he doesn’t know, even though he doesn’t want to know stuff because knowing stuff isn’t cool. And whether he believes it or not, part of his annoyance with her (and you can disagree with me here, that’s fine) is because she’s muggle born.

Ron Weasley is a poor kid who wants someone else to be beneath him. In his world, that’s muggles. Hermione comes from muggles, she was raised in the stupid and backwards muggle world. How dare she come here and try hard and do better than us wizards. I don’t think these are conscious thoughts for Ron, but I do think they motivate him as a character. He’s deeply jealous. He’s jealous of his brothers, he’s jealous of Harry, and he’s jealous of Hermione.

Hermione has even less status than Ron does, so she has to take him ridicule and mockery, the same way Ron has to take it from nearly everyone else.

The original text is on Ron’s side here, by the way. While relying on Hermione to get all of this information to the reader, it makes it pretty clear that she’s an annoying and insufferable know it all. Ron thinks she’s annoying just for knowing stuff he doesn’t know, but the narrative thinks she’s annoying for being pushy about sharing her knowledge. It really wants us to believe that Hermione is stuck up and snobby and rude and just won’t stop talking.

But that’s not true. Hermione Granger barely freaking talks. At least thus far, she spends most of her time silently waiting for the fellas to sort things out. Hermione Granger is not a bossy know it all who can’t shut up. Hermione Granger is an extremely intelligent young woman who is almost constantly holding her tongue. Hermione Granger has more self control than I ever imagined was possible for a human being.

This past month in the Slacktiverse, March 25th, 2017

(posted by chris the cynic; written by members of The Slacktiverse)

The Blogaround

  • Storiteller has been juggling political rallies, handling the needs of two small people, and staying awake. Here’s what she’s been writing about:
  • chris the cynic wrote:
    • First off, sorry.  It’s bad enough when I miss a week of updating.  Missing two three in a row really sucks.
    • I had five bits of fiction:
      • Set in my superhero universe, a former hero meets her old team for the first time in her new career as a thief (partner to her girlfriend whom she left the team for.) This is extremely unpolished, in fact it’s an incomplete draft that’s been sitting behind the curtain of Stealing Commas.  There was a period when I couldn’t write, so I dug this up and posted it.
      • Sometimes I think of ways to explain game mechanics in-universe.  They tend to be a bit on the weird side.  This conversation is an explanation of health regeneration where low health fades to grayscale and full health returns all colors.
      • In a zombie apocalypse setting I had a thing which was hopefully heartwarming, but it required a lot of set up explanation before I actually got to it
      • Discussion at Ana Mardoll’s led to me writing a rough draft of the climax of Ash.  Ash is my trans* Cinderella in high school story.
      • It doesn’t really make sense for a small group at a single age level to be the only people in a Hogwarts-sized school that breaks rules and saves the day.  So, going on the theory that other groups are busy being the heroes of other stories, I had the canon heroes meet one such group in passing.
    • I proposed two video games:
      • My own situation and The Last of Us beginning with someone rendered immobile by what looked to me like an ankle injury had me thinking about a game in which the player character faces the zombie apocalypse on crutches.
      • I proposed a game where you play not as the action hero who saves the day, but the sidekick with a handheld video camera who is recording everything (and trying to get the very best shot) for the eventual documentary/exposé/whatever.
    • I had some miscellaneous stuff:
      • I didn’t want everything to be all ankle stuff (this is a month’s worth of stuff, remember) so I copied and pasted a comment about weapon durability mechanics and how irked I get by games dangling what would be better and more durable weapons in front of you and not letting you pick them up.
      • A poem I wrote came up in court.  I wasn’t there, but when my sister told me about she opened with saying I was a rockstar now.
      • I did my allegedly monthly finance post for the first time since November.
      • I wrote about a handful of things needed or wanted at the moment.  It’s sort of ankle-adjacent, but far enough that I’m not lumping it into that section.  Also the most recent want/need list.
    • And there was a lot of broken ankle stuff.
      • The first thing I had was ways you could help me, though it’s somewhat outdated by now.
      • A week after the break it turned out that I hadn’t been immobile or foot-above-heart enough to make the swelling go down.  Surgery was postponed and I was left to spend my time laying on the floor, foot on a chair, with controller in hand.
        • If anyone’s wondering, this is when I stopped taking my hormones because of surgery and post surgery risks which has resulted in a depression-like state.  I’m not allowed to go back on yet.
      • Two weeks after the break I had surgery, and was told to keep elevating my foot a bunch, but apparently my bloodflow was less or something because that worked out really badly, I wrote a post on all that was happening three days after the surgery.
      • I wrote a rather less out-dated things you could do to help post.
      • After my computer, which had also been broken, returned to me I wrote a general update on everything in my life, and by then the off-hormones pseudo-depression was really showing.  I had another update when my foot was free and I got some information on when I’d eventually be able to go back on hormones.
      • When I was feeling extremely useless, I did something extremely stupid (I wasn’t thinking), which hurt like hell.
      • After being away, I returned home, I wrote about the trip and homecoming.  It has a lot of things that amount to “I got exhausted, had to stop and drop to the ground to rest, people wondered if I might be dying.”

In Case You Missed This

No submissions this week.

Things You Can Do

No submissions this week.

–Co-authored by the Slacktiverse Community

Deconstruction Roundup for March 24th, 2017

(by the Slacktiverse and others; collected by Silver Adept, who made a decision, and will pay for it later, even as bigger decisions loom in the future.)

The point of these posts is threefold:

  1. To let people stay up to date on ongoing deconstructions. (All ones on our list, including finished and stalled ones, here.)
  2. To let people who can’t comment elsewhere have a place to comment.
  3. To let people comment in a place where people who can’t read Disqus can see what they have to say.

Ana Mardoll: Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

Fred Clark: Slacktivist

Froborr: Jed A. Blue

Mouse: Mouse’s Musings

Ross: A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

Vaka Rangi: Eruditorium Press

Katherine DM Clover: Here on the Slacktiverse

Silver Adept: Here on The Slacktiverse

Let us know, please, if there are errors in the post. Or if you don’t want to be included. Or if there’s someone who you think should be included, which includes you. We can use more content. Or if you are looking for a way to find more time to be more social arms more introspective. Or for any other reason, really.

All The Weyrs of Pern – A New World Approaches

Well, then, we’ve firmly crossed genres now. What started as an exercise in Our Dragons Are Different has fully transformed itself into a hybridized science fiction story and the technology of the Ancients is now rushing in to fill what was a gap. With the rediscovery of the artificial intelligence in the South, clearly Pern is about to undergo a massive change. Not even the Harpers can stop what’s coming next.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Prologue and Chapter One: Content Notes: Misgendering

A mercifully short Prologue (without the backported spoiler data, now that the truth is known) opens with AIVAS returning to awareness after a long sleep, plugging a hole about how it could have stayed functional – occasionally the winds swept the ash and dust off the solar panels so that the batteries could recharge. We’re also told that AIVAS was tasked with the function of destroying Thread before it went to sleep as a primary priority task, which I don’t recall happening anywhere in Dragonsdawn, and also, I find it unlikely that an intelligence that was being used to help run Landing and several other stakes would prioritize Thread over continued operations. Then again, I’m also not a colonist, nor an author fighting with a story that’s clearly a square peg being sanded down to fit the round hole.

AIVAS observes Ruth, and categorizes him as an anomaly, but is as excited and nervous as an AI can be that has been waiting 2525 years for humans to come back, wondering if Thread has already been defeated and what new tasks will await if this is the case.

But then comes Chapter One, and while the AIVAS remains the narrator, sort of, the timekeeping system in place returns to the native Pernese one. Present (Ninth) Pass, 17th Turn. That’s a near-Whatfruit problem by itself, because AIVAS would have no conception of the time, since all it has done at this point is make a magical shift to comprehensiblity and then tell the story of the Ancients that we have collected in Dragonsdawn. There hasn’t been time to learn the strange timekeeping system the descendants have.

Anyway, the narrative picks up as AIVAS is telling the story to an increasing audience of Lords Holder, Craftmasters, and Weyrleaders, with accompanying pictures and graphics to illustrate. Once finished, everyone sits in awe for a moment. Robinton asks why the story stops so abruptly, and AIVAS points out that it received no new inputs. Fandarel wants to know if AIVAS can help rebuild the lost technology of yesteryear (affirmative), and the Benden Weyrleader…wants the place cleared out before more questions can be asked and nobody allowed in without express permission.

It falls to Lessa to be the amazed character, expressing wonder at everything seen and heard (rather than, say, Piemur, who would fit the bill nicely, or Jancis, if it had to be a woman), which AIVAS deflects by asking about whether the dragons are the descendants of Kitti Ping’s efforts. We’re told that Ramoth is the largest dragon on Pern, to Lessa’s discomfort, and the characters find out that AIVAS has external sensors it can access.

And then there’s the question of Ruth.

“And the white one?” Aivas went on. “It–”
“He,” Jaxom said firmly but without rancor, “is Ruth, and I am his rider.”
“Remarkable. The bioengineering report indicated that there were to be five variations, imitating the genetic material of the fire-dragons.”
“Ruth is a sport,” Jaxom replied. He had long since stopped being defensive about his dragon. Ruth had his own special abilities.

On the one hand, hooray for proper pronoun insistence, about twenty or so years before it became a social issue, not that the author could have foreseen it. On the other hand, here’s another one of those impossible slang pieces showing up. Admittedly, my variation of English doesn’t use “sport” to mean “an entity with genetic variance” in common speech, even though it does exist. The only other place I’ve seen it is in A Wrinkle In Time, and there it seems to have a pejorative meaning, even if everyone seems to be using it positively, as Jaxom is here. But there’s no reason for me to believe that the people of the Ninth Pass understand genetics well enough to understand mutations and variations enough to have a slang word for it that matches the slang of 20th c. Terra. Ruth is quite literally the first dragon on record to have a variation like this, after all. Perhaps the Masterfarmers and Beastmasters and herders have a basic grasp, since they likely engage in all sorts of breeding for traits, but there’s no evidence, unless we take it as truth that the Harpers were able to arrest the language so completely, that this word would survive Pern’s environment.

After talking about Ruth, there’s a little bit about proper titles to use when addressing the assembled crowd. AIVAS indicates surprise at the presence of Lemos Hold, considering it knows far more about Bart than the descendants do (just wait until they mention Bitra Hold), but shifts quickly to happiness at the idea of Telgar Hold. The Benden Weyrleader refocuses the discussion by asking AIVAS what it knows about Thread.

The standard scientific explanation of how Thread gets to Pern and its periodic return goes entirely over everyone’s head, including Fandarel. But there is a temporal calibration moment, from Robinton.

“With due respect, Aivas, we do not understand your explanation,” the Harper said wryly. “A great deal of time has passed since Admiral Benden and Governor Boll led the settlers north. We are currently in the seventeenth Turn–what you call a year, I think–of the Ninth Pass of the Red Star.”
“Noted.”

No, no, no, no, no! Not just “Noted.” There’s no reference point for that to make any sense. In a non-quoted part of the explanation, AIVAS admits that there’s up to a decade of potential variance between when Passes start and end. All it knows is that there have been eight passes before this one and this one is currently in year seventeen. Eight Passes of fifty years plus 17 = 417 years. Plus eight intervals of 250 years = 2417 years accounted for. AIVAS indicated it had been 2525 years – 2525 – 2417 = 108 years of flux that has to be dealt with. Not to mention that it hasn’t actually been definitively established that the Turn and the year are identical. What if the colonial calendar developed leap years? Or any number of timekeeping oddities that could have developed. The AI should still be getting to relate to things in Landing terms, not Ninth Pass terms.

Anyway, the Benden Weyrleader, after finding out that AIVAS has some theories about how and where Thread comes from, asks the big question – can entropy be reversed…err, is it possible that the threat of Thread can be removed? AIVAS answers in the affirmative – if Pern is willing to relearn what the colonists knew, is willing to reconnect AIVAS to the databases on the starships, and is willing to put in the time and effort to perfect all of this new knowledge.

The Benden Weyrleader is on board, because Sacred Duty. The Lords Holder are definitely on board, because no longer having to pay tribute or defer to the Weyrs would be highly profitable for them.

AIVAS only now asks for the Records of the various Halls and Holds so that it can make an assessment of the planet’s current tech levels and scientific understanding and formulate a plan to get Pern up to an appropriate level to beat Thread. After that, the assembled leaders determine that it would be best to restrict AIVAS to only those present in the room and Jaxom, so as to avoid having everyone making requests of it or getting to monopolize its time. A short discussion breaks out about who gets to use the machine first, when AIVAS points out that it doesn’t have to be limited, assuming some parts of technology are still intact. (They are.) AIVAS shows the necessary parts and says that they can be assembled, if all intact, into twelve workstations, which would both solve the problem of access and provide a foundation of knowledge and application toward building the technology needed to defeat Thread. AIVAS prints the necessary blueprints and component lists, mentions it will need some extra material (and that paper will do in a pinch, causing some grins), and then Lessa insists everyone gets sleep. Robinton will have none of it, of course, but his objection is curtailed by the fact that Piemur spiked his wine cup with fellis juice.

Fandarel takes charge of finding the materials and getting people to assemble everything for the morning, and most of the assembled file out for the night, leaving Piemur alone with the AI for a bit (even though Jancis is sleeping and Menolly and Sebell have arrived). AIVAS tells Piemur that it’s going to need more power than the solar panels to be able to run itself, and suggests rebuilding the hydroelectric facility in some way to do it.

AIVAS also solicits from Piemur, by only understanding what colonists would understand about a harper, and not knowing the extra functions of the Harpers, what exactly the Hall does, Sebell and Menolly, Robinton’s special status as retired Masterharper (and he uses the words heart attack to describe what happened to Robinton – not necessarily wrong, given what little we know of Healer terminology and knowledge, but not necessarily what I would expect someone on Pern to call it), and useful cultural data about who can be addressed without title and who insists on it, as well as new knowledge for AIVAS about the abilities of dragons.

“The culture and societies of your present-day Pern have evolved and altered considerably from the early days of the colony. It is incumbent on this facility to learn the new protocol and this avoid giving unnecessary offense.
[…]
Without intending any offense, is it currently acceptable to maintain the sports of the breed?”
Piemur snorted. “You mean Ruth? He and Jaxom are exceptions–to a lot of rules. He’s a Lord Holder and shouldn’t ever have Impressed a dragon. But he did, and because they thought Ruth wouldn’t survive long, he was allowed to be raised.”
“That is contradictory.”
“I know, but Ruth’s special. He always knows when he is in time.”
[…AIVAS asks for more information, having known about the ability to go through space…]
…So if a dragonrider times it without his Weyrleader’s express permission, he gets royally reamed–if he hasn’t come to grief messing around with timing, that is.”
“Would you be good enough to explain in what circumstances timing is permissible?”

Today is apparently slang day on Pern, as a “reaming” is not something I would expect anyone on far-future Pern to use correctly. But also, it kind of makes sense for it to be Piemur involved in all this casual conversation with AIVAS.

Piemur tells AIVAS the story of Lessa’s Ride, which prompts the AI to ask how many Long Intervals there have been (hey, look, chrono-correction! It’s like someone has been listening to me well before I started). Sebell and Menolly arrived with the records. Piemur hopes to get them to startle when AIVAS talks to them, and so introduces Sebell (described as “browner than ever”, which I can’t decide is a comment about a tan or that Sebell has actually been brown and nobody has thought to mention it) and “Master Menolly, Pern’s ablest composer.” (emphasis mine).

Menolly passed her Master exam! Woo-hoo! Couldn’t we have seen this as the B-story to Renegades, instead of the retreading of Dragondrums? I’m sure it would have been a lot more interesting and told a lot more about Pern.

Belatedly, Piemur remembers the security setup, and so has to ask Menolly and Sebell to leave so that he and Jaxom can feed the records into AIVAS. Menolly drags Piemur to bed, so it’s just Jaxom and AIVAS and a long night of scanning. And talking about Ruth’s time sense and the dangers of hopping about in time, at least to start. AIVAS is them also able to extract a working knowledge of roles, responsibilities, and politics on Pern while Jaxom turns pages. Jancis (who has also apparently passed her Master examination at some point? I thought she was introduced as a Journeywoman in the last book…) takes over for a bit before AIVAS calls a halt due to low energy reserves. Jancis then goes to brew klah and Jaxom and Ruth exchange a worry about whether the dragons will become superfluous when Thread is permanently beaten. And a good example of expected Pernese slang.

“A most felicitous happening, dear friend, not that it matters a lead mark how you and the other dragons came to be,” Jaxom said stoutly.

Although it does raise some other questions, like why Pern considers lead coins to be worthless, since it was supposedly a resource-poor world.

There’s also a little bit more about pronouns in a bit of a reversal of how AIVAS initially treated Ruth.

It? He? Referring to this–this entity–as an ‘it’ seemed impolite. The masculine voice was so rich and lively. Yet Aivas called it/himself a machine, the product of an advanced technological culture and, for all its knowledge, an inanimate device. Jaxom felt more comfortable thinking of Aivas as real, real as his own flesh-and-blood self.

Use the pronouns that the entity prefers, rather than your own ideas, but of course, someone would argue that this particular issue isn’t a relevant thing yet, so how could the author have known?

The rest of the chapter is the arrival of many dragons and important people. Lessa seems a bit put out that AIVAS is asleep when she has all these dignitaries present to see him, and the assembled crowd are told of how Sebell and Menolly couldn’t do anything, prompting the Benden Weyrleader to approve based on the obedience to orders and Fandarel to approve based on the fact that it’s a machine doing exactly as requested.

With no computer to talk to, Fandarel decides to make efficient use of time and go to the caves to gather the materials requested for making workstations.

It’s a magical world out there, once again. Time to go exploring.

Writer Workshop March 22nd, 2017

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Those of you who also frequent Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings will find this somewhat familiar.  Here, as there, it was requested that there be a regular post to talk about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). Thus this post exists.

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Are there any questions you’d like to ask or frustrations you’d like to vent?  Writing workshop below!

Open Thread: Spring, March 21st, 2017

(by chris the cynic)

Yeah. . . I got nothing so let’s talk about axial tilt.

 

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]

Hermione Granger Chapter 10

Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism

Chapter Ten: The Scar And The Prophet / Mayhem At The Ministry

 

Hermione lay awake in the dark tent, listening to Ginny’s steady breathing, for a very long time. Finally, the quality of the darkness shifted ever so slightly, and she heard a bird singing somewhere in the forest nearby. Then she heard the zip of the tent flap, and Mr. Weasley carefully stepped inside, tip-toed to Ginny’s bed, and said in a whisper “Ginny dear, time to get up, we’ve got to get home.” His voice sounded worried and anxious, and only after he had roused Ginny did Hermione sit up.

It had been a very long night.

She dressed quickly, and then stepped outside to see the others, as the horizon began to grow faintly lighter. Nobody said much of anything. Mr. Weasley used magic to pack up the tents, apparently now speed was more important than anti-muggle security.

When they left the campsite, they passed the Roberts cottage once again. Mr. Roberts looked dazed, and he waved them off, muttering “Merry Christmas” in a far away voice.

Mr. Weasley must have seen her face, because he quickly whispered “He’ll be alright. Sometimes, when a person’s memory’s modified, it makes him a bit disorientated for awhile… and that was a big thing they had to make him forget.”

She didn’t ask about all of the previous charms. She just hoped he was right, willed herself to believe that he was right, as they marched off along the moor.

The area where the Portkeys lay was crowded and noisy, with a crowd of people clambering around Basil. She guessed after the events of the night before, everyone was in as much a hurry to get home as the Weasley family. Mr. Weasley pushed through the crowd, and had a hurried discussion with Basil. Then it was only a short wait in the queue before they were able to take an old rubber tire back to Stoatshead Hill. They walked back through Ottery St. Catchpole as the sun rose in earnest now, and then up the damp lane toward the Burrow. Nobody was chatting on this early morning walk, each person seemed lost entirely in his or her own thoughts.

As they rounded the corner, a familiar voice came echoing down the lane.

“Oh thank goodness, thank goodness!”

Mrs. Weasley came running toward them on slippered feet, her face pale and strained with worry, a rolled-up copy of the Daily Prophet clutched hard in her left hand.

“Arthur!” she cried, flinging herself into her husband’s arms, “I’ve been so worried, so worried!” and the paper she’d been gripping fell from her hand and to the ground. It no longer mattered. The headline read: SCENES OF TERROR AT THE QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP and included a twinkling black-and-white photograph of the Dark Mark itself.

The reunion scene was sweet, and Hermione thought instantly of her own parents again. For a moment, she wanted to ask at once to borrow an owl and write her own mother. But no, it was stupid, mother didn’t even know, she didn’t read the Daily Prophet. There was no rush, and really, why bother her at all?

“You’re alright,” Mrs. Weasley was muttering, now releasing her husband and staring around at her children, “you’re alive… Oh boys…” and then she seized Fred and George even more tightly than she had Mr. Weasley.

“Ouch! Mum — you’re strangling us —”

“I shouted at you before you left!” she said with a little sob. “It’s all I’ve been thinking about! What if You-Know-Who had got you, and the last thing I’d ever said to you was that you didn’t get enough O.W.L.s? Oh Fred… George…”

“Come on, now, Molly, we’re all perfectly okay,” said Mr. Weasley, pulling her away from the twins and leading her back towards the house. “Bill,” he added in an undertone, “pick up that paper, I want to see what it says…”

In the kitchen, Hermione went straight for the stovetop and put the kettle on. Mrs. Weasley would need a good cup of tea after her fright. Mr. Weasley rummaged in a back cupboard for a tiny bottle of something, which turned out to be Ogdens Old Firewhiskey.

“Really, Arthur!” Mrs. Weasley said when she saw him with the bottle.

“Come now Molly, it’s just a taste to calm your nerves…” said Mr. Weasley as he poured a shot into her teacup. Then Bill handed him the paper, and he sat down to scan the front page opposite his wife at the kitchen table, with Percy peering over his shoulder.

“I knew it,” said Mr. Weasley heavily. “Ministry blunders… culprits not apprehended… lax security… Dark wizards running unchecked… national disgrace… Who wrote this? Ah… of course…” there was an air of disdain in his voice now, “Rita Skeeter.”

Hermione was about to note that there was nothing factually incorrect with the write-up, but she thought better of it, and poured herself a cup of tea as well.

“That woman’s got it in for the Ministry of Magic!” Percy almost shouted, “Last week she was saying we’re wasting our time quibbling about cauldron thickness, when we should be stamping out vampires! As if it wasn’t specifically stated in paragraph twelve of the Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans—”

“Do us a favor, Perce,” said Bill, yawning, “and shut up.” Percy looked offended, but didn’t speak again.

“I’m mentioned…” Mr. Weasley said, reaching the bottom of the article.

“Where?” spluttered Mrs. Weasley, choking on her tea and whiskey. “If I’d seen that, I’d have known you were alive!”

“Not by name,” Mr. Weasley screwed up his eyes. “Listen to this: ‘If the terrified wizards and witches who waited breathlessly for news at the edge of the wood expected reassurance from the Ministry of Magic, they were sadly disappointed. A Ministry official emerged some time after the appearance of the Dark Mark alleging that nobody had been hurt, but refusing to give any more information. Whether this statement will be enough to quash the rumors that several bodies were removed from the woods an hour later, remains to be seen.’ Oh really,” Mr. Weasley looked exasperated and handed the paper off to Percy. “Nobody was hurt. What was I supposed to say? Rumors that several bodies were removed from the woods… well, there certainly will be rumors now she’s printed that.”

He heaved a deep sigh. “Molly, I’m going to have to go into the office; this is going to take some smoothing over.”

Percy looked up from the paper and said “I’ll come with you, Father. Mr. Crouch will need all hands on deck. And I can give him my cauldron report in person.” and he headed out of the kitchen, perhaps to get properly dressed.

Mrs. Weasley took a sip from her tea “Arthur, you’re supposed to be on holiday! This hasn’t got anything to do with your office; surely they can handle this without you?” she said rather reasonably.

“I’ve got to go, Molly,” Mr. Weasley sighed again. “I’ve made things worse. I’ll just change into my robes and I’ll be off.” and he stood up from the little table.

“Mrs. Weasley,” said Harry, who’d been quiet since they arrived, “Hedwig hasn’t arrived with a letter for me, has she?”

She looked up at Harry while Mrs. Weasley said “Hedwig, dear? No… no there hasn’t been any post at all.” Who was Harry expecting mail from?

“All right if I go and dump my stuff in your room, Ron?” Harry said practically winking across the table at Hermione and Ron.

“Yeah… think I will too,” said Ron, just as obviously. “Hermione?”

“Yes,” she said quickly, but realized there was no way the others would realize anything was strange as they made their way up the stairs, they were all to engrossed in the paper being passed around the little kitchen.

“What’s up, Harry?” said Ron, as he closed the door to his attic bedroom.

“There’s something I haven’t told you,” Harry said looking very serious indeed. “On Saturday morning, I woke up with my scar hurting again.”

He was talking, of course, about the magical scar on his forehead, leftover from the curse by Lord Voldemort. She gasped. Previously, his scar had only bothered him when Voldemort himself had been quite close to Harry. “Well, you should probably speak to Dumbledore when we get back to school, if you haven’t written him already, because I’m afraid he’s the only one who really knows much about it. In the meantime, there may be information in several books that would come in rather —”

“But —” Ron cut in without noticing, “he wasn’t there, was he? You-Know-Who? I mean — last time your scar kept hurting, he was at Hogwarts, wasn’t he?”

“I’m sure he wasn’t on Privet Drive,” Harry said, for all the world as though he hadn’t just dropped a bomb into the tiny bedroom. “But I was dreaming about him… him and Peter — you know, Wormtail. I can’t remember all of it now, but they were plotting to kill… someone.”

Hermione bit her lip hard, and nervously pushed the hair from her eyes.

“It was only a dream, Ron said. “Just a nightmare.”

“Yeah, but was it, though?” said Harry, and he looked away from his friends and out the window at the brightening morning sky. He was obviously worried, and Hermione could see why. After all, he’d dreamed about the dark wizard that everyone else called ‘You-Know-Who’ before, and that had never caused him physical pain in his scar. There was a tense moment of silence, and she glanced over at Ron. When Harry’s back was turned, Ron suddenly looked quite concerned as well.

“It’s weird, isn’t it?” Harry said, in a far away voice, “My scar hurts, and three days later the Death Eaters are on the march, and Voldemort’s sign’s up in the sky again.”

“Don’t — say — his — name!” Ron said breathlessly.

“And remember what Professor Trelawney said? At the end of last year?” Harry said.

Hermione scoffed. Professor Trelawney was the Divination teacher at Hogwarts, only she wasn’t very good at divination herself and was constantly making gloom and doom predictions about students… especially famous students like Harry Potter. “Oh Harry,” she said, “you aren’t going to pay any attention to anything that old fraud says?”

“You weren’t there,” Harry said, shooting her a look, “You didn’t hear her. This time was different. I told you, she went into a trance — a real one. And she said the Dark Lord would rise again… greater and more terrible than ever before… and he’d manage it because his servant was going to go back to him… and that night Wormtail escaped.”

She bit her lip again. She hated all this emphasis on fortune telling, it really was such a distraction. She’d thought Harry was a bit brighter than that… and yet, here they were.

“Why were you asking if Hedwig had come, Harry?” she asked, trying to change the subject, it was no use arguing. “Are you expecting a letter?”

“I told Sirius about my scar,” Harry shrugged. “I’m waiting for his answer.”

She couldn’t think why Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather he’d only known a short few months, would be the best person to discuss the matter with. But Ron’s face lit up and he said “Good thinking! I bet Serius’ll know what to do!”

“I hoped he’d get back to me quickly…” Harry said, looking rather droopy again.

“But we don’t know where Sirius is,” she offered, “he could be in Africa or somewhere, couldn’t he? Hedwig’s not going to manage that journey in a few days.”

She wanted very badly to help her friend, to give him some comfort. If she’d learned anything about him in the time she’d known him, it was that she couldn’t push him to seek help if he didn’t want to. But he really did need to talk to someone about this, it could be important, and it was obviously troubling him. He just stared out the window, and she felt helpless.

“Yeah, I know.” was all he said.

“Come and have a game of Quidditch in the orchard, Harry,” Ron piped up. “Come on — three on three, Bill and Charlie and Fred and George will play… You can try out the Wronski Feint…”

“Ron,” she said, guessing Harry hadn’t slept much more than she had the night before, and looking at his pale form leaning on the window, “Harry doesn’t want to play Quidditch right now… He’s worried, and he’s tired…. We all need to go to bed….”

“Yeah, I want to play Quidditch,” Harry said rather suddenly, and stood up quite straight. “Hang on, I’ll get my firebolt.”

 

Hermione looked at both of her friends. As she hadn’t been invited to play Quidditch (not that she was particularly keen to) she thought she’d better head downstairs. And so she left Ron’s attic bedroom, softly muttering “boys…” under her breath. Sometimes she really didn’t know what to make of either of them.

***

The next day, Hermione did manage to borrow an owl and write her parents, but at the last moment she decided not to tell them about the trouble at the World Cup. There was no sense in worrying them, and it wasn’t as if they could do anything anyways. And besides, it occurred to her that if they were worried enough, they might decide that the wizarding world wasn’t safe, and ask her to come straight home. They weren’t normally the overprotective sort, but these were evil wizards they were talking about, and she couldn’t be too careful.

So she tied a letter to Hermes’ leg that focused on the good parts of the match and how much fun she was having at the burrow. Hermes was Percy’s owl, and he normally didn’t lend him out, but he was so busy at work at the ministry that he was hardly using him anyways.

“It’ll be good for him to have something to do, give his wings a stretch, poor fellow’s been bored, I expect.”

She got a letter back straight away, which was signed by both of her parents, but she suspected written by her mother.

 

Dear Hermione,

Your father and I are so pleased to hear you’ve been having a good time! That match does sound quite exciting, perhaps we can all get tickets to a Quidditch game next summer sometime (if that’s allowed)? Thank the Weasleys for letting you stay for us, won’t you dear? And have a wonderful start of term. Don’t forget to write.

P.S. The Christmas holidays can’t come soon enough!

Love,
Mum & Dad

 

She hadn’t exactly lied to her parents, she was having rather a good time at the burrow. Though, to her surprise, she was spending a lot more time with Ginny than she was with Harry or Ron.

Mrs. Weasley did all of their school shopping for them, and brought back all of their new books and the other supplies they would need for the following term. The night before start of term, Hermione found herself in the burrow’s sitting room, pouring over her copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4. Even though she would be taking the usual number of classes this term (instead of all the extras she’d attempted the previous school year) she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was going to be quite busy at Hogwarts, and it was always best to get ahead.

“It’s been an absolutely uproar. I’ve been putting out fires all week.” Percy said from the other end of the sofa, he’d recently returned from work at the Ministry. “People keep sending Howlers, and of course, if you don’t open a Howler straight away, it explodes. Scorch marks all over my desk and my best quill reduced to cinders.”

“Why are they all sending Howlers?” Ginny asked from her spot on the floor in front of the fire.

“Complaining about security at the World Cup,” said Percy. “They want compensation for their ruined property. Mundungus Fletcher’s put in a claim for a twelve-bedroomed tent with en-suite Jacuzzi, but I’ve got his number. I know for a fact he was sleeping under a cloak propped on sticks.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows slightly, and looked up over her book at the room at large. Harry was lovingly polishing his broomstick, Mrs. Weasley looked rather tense and worried (well, she had done a lot all week, truth be told) sitting in her favorite armchair, Ginny was mending a book with a roll of Spellotape, and Ron and Bill were playing a game of wizard’s chess at the far end of the room. Fred and George were sitting in a far corner apart from everyone else, quills out, talking in whispers, and Charlie was darning something next to her on the sofa. It was a crowded room, and only Mr. Weasley was absent, still at work.

She buried her head in her book again, trying to focus, wondering if she might be better off stealing away into Ginny’s bedroom to finish her reading. Oh well, she was used to studying in a noisy common room, she could tune it out…

“Don’t you dare blame your father for what that wretched Skeeter woman wrote!” Mrs. Weasley almost shouted, pulling Hermione out of her book once again. She was talking to Percy.

Bill set down the chess piece he’d been contemplating and said “If dad hadn’t said anything, old Rita would just have said it was disgraceful that nobody from the Ministry had commented. Rita Skeeter never makes anyone look good. Remember, she interviewed all the Gringots’ Charm Breakers once, and called me ‘a long-haired pillock’?”

“Well, it is a bit long, dear…” Mrs. Weasley began, and Hermione returned to her book. She wanted to finish this section at least. The talk went on around her, but she allowed herself to become completely engrossed in the theory behind summoning spells. They seemed a very practical thing to learn about…

But, scarcely a moment later, the kitchen fireplace roared as Mr. Weasley returned home, and Mrs. Weasley jumped up with a cry of “Oh your father’s coming!” and bolted out of the room. Mr. Weasley always used the kitchen fire to get to and from the Ministry, and Hermione always wondered why he never used the one in the sitting room, but she felt too awkward to ask. She supposed it was probably obvious to those who’d grown up in the magical world.

Then Mr. Weasley was stepping into the room with his dinner on a tray, and Hermione gave up her reading for the evening. She closed the book, hoping she’d have a chance to read on the Hogwarts Express the next day, though she didn’t really expect to. She glanced out the window, it was raining.

“Well, the fat’s really in the fire now,” Mr. Weasley said, sounding exhausted, as he sat down in the armchair by the hearth. “Rita Skeeter’s been ferreting around all week, looking for more Ministry mess-ups to report. And now she’s found out about poor old Bertha going missing, so that’ll be the headline in the Prophet tomorrow. I told Bagman he should have sent someone to look for her ages ago.”

So, she thought, the government was trying to keep everything hushed up and away from the press, and then blaming one reporter that they weren’t getting the coverage that they wanted. From what Hermione had seen of how the Ministry ran things, this Rita Skeeter probably didn’t have to look far for more blunders…

“Mr. Crouch has been saying it for weeks and weeks,” Percy said.

“Crouch is very lucky Rita hasn’t found out about Winky,” said Mr. Weasley, sounding irritable. “There’d be a week’s worth of headlines in his house elf being caught holding the wand that conjured the Dark Mark.”

“I thought we were all agreed that that elf, while irresponsible, did not conjure the Mark?” Percy raised his voice just a little.

“If you ask me,” she said, trying her best to keep her voice level, “Mr. Crouch is very lucky no one at the Daily Prophet knows how mean he is to elves!”

“Now look here, Hermione!” Percy shot back, “A high-ranking Ministry official like Mr. Crouch deserves unswerving obedience from his servants —”

Hermione couldn’t stand it. “His slave, you mean!” she shouted, well aware that the whole living room was now staring at her, “because he didn’t pay Winky, did he?”

“I think you’d all better go upstairs and check that you’ve packed properly!” Mrs. Weasley cut in, in a falsely cheery voice. Hermione was fuming, but she didn’t want to seem an ungrateful guest. She put her book under her arm, and marched into Ginny’s room without saying a word to anyone, to double check everything in her trunk. Maybe they would think she was just following instructions, and not storming off. Of course, everything was neat and tidy and ready to go, well she’d known that already.

She sighed heavily, and plopped down on the camp bed she’d called her own for the last week. She was angry at Percy, and at Ronald, and the whole lot of them for being so insensitive about Winky. She even felt angry with Mrs. Weasley, which she hated. And, though she didn’t want to admit it, she was feeling a bit mixed up. She was eager to get to Hogwarts, and yet she was already feeling homesick. Maybe she shouldn’t have come, maybe she should have spent the last week of the holidays with her own family… with her own mother. And though she wanted very much to help Harry get to the bottom of whatever was going on with his scar, she was also becoming aware that neither of her best friends had asked her much about what was going on with her. She was lonesome, and lonesome is a hard thing to be in a crowded house.

Ginny walked into the room quietly, and avoided Hermione’s eye. Hermione didn’t blame her. She pretended to refold some robes while Ginny walked up to her own trunk, groaned, and said “damn it all, this is going to take ages to pack properly!”

Well, Hermione thought, at the very least she could be some use with that, and she got up to help.

The rain continued.

***

Deconstruction / Notes On The Source Text

 

It is very lonely to be Hermione Granger. It is heartbreakingly lonely to be Hermione Granger. Even surrounded by people who supposedly care about her, Hermione is constantly isolated. And to some degree, this must be the case for most muggle-born witches and wizards, but Hermione is the one we get the closest to, the only one the reader has a chance to get close to at all. Like the worst of White American Liberalism, “tolerant” witches and wizards parade out their muggle-born friends as evidence of how accepting they are. “See?” they say, “It doesn’t make any difference to me! I even have muggle-born friends! I honestly can’t tell the difference between them and my pureblood friends.” They absolutely refuse to look at the fact that being muggle-born absolutely DOES make a difference. Muggle-born wizards face prejudice, some aggressive and ugly, some covert and less notable, and have to deal with that every single day of their lives. But they also have a very different cultural experience. By trying to view them as “exactly the same” wizards like the Weasleys fail to see them AT ALL.

I’m a white woman, so it isn’t my place to use a race metaphor here. But I am also a queer woman, so I will use that instead. Allies who supposedly see my family (two moms, one kid, three cats) as “just like anybody else” and “no different than a straight couple” (things I have actually heard from people who love me, yup) are lazy and ineffective allies at best. I am very very different than a straight person, and my family life is very very different than that of a straight family. Are there common threads? Sure. But straight people don’t live with the knowledge that that one cousin didn’t come to your wedding because he’s an angry homophobe… and they don’t have to live with the knowledge that the rest of the family wants to pretend he’s still a good guy and you should be fine with seeing him at family gathers. Straight people do not have to come out, and know that they will face backlash and rejection from at least SOME PEOPLE when they do. Straight people very rarely are told that they are “tearing the family apart” because they kissed someone they have a crush on. Straight people are rarely told that they should be GRATEFUL that people are working SO HARD to be TOLERANT of them even though they won’t say the word “girlfriend” about their girlfriends. Even if I wanted to assimilate, and have a family that was just like a straight family except that one teeny tiny detail (and I don’t) I couldn’t because my personal history is full of this stuff, as is my present. To say that you see no difference between my family (in which we are currently struggling to get our kid adopted by my wife, and had to do a freaking fundraiser for that, in which both me and my wife could be fired at any time for being gay, in which our child has two moms and a fairy godmother (sperm donor), in which our child is probably going to get made fun of for not having a dad someday) and the family down the street with a mom and a dad where parentage is generally assumed and respected by society… is the peak of a certain kind of privilege. It’s total and complete unawareness masquerading as acceptance.

And so, the reunion scene with Mrs. Weasley. In the original text, Mrs. Weasley is played as overly emotional and unreasonable (ugh ugh ugh) for the crime of knowing that her entire family was around unspeakable violence and you know, worrying. The text tells us that she grabs her family too tightly, yells too loudly, she is oppressive with her love and concern. It’s a kind of bare misogyny and ugliness already. But when I looked at it from Hermione’s point of view, it was far sadder.

There are flaws to doing this re-write chapter by chapter, but this is what we’re doing. And if this is a story about Hermione Granger, we need to look back at HER story. And that means that this book starts with Hermione arguing with her mother. Hermione is a fourteen year old girl parsing out conflicts with her parents, dealing with her close and loving relationship with her mother changing. Some of that is normal teenager stuff, but some of it is different because she’s a witch. She’s not only slowly gaining more independence and seeing her parents as human and therefore flawed (and being shaken up by that) she’s also literally leaving their world.

Imagine how Hermione Granger feels to see Mrs. Weasley grab her sons with all of that inconvenient motherly love and worry. She left her own mother in the midst of an argument. And Hermione was quite possibly in greater danger than any of the Weasleys (if Draco Malfoy is saying that he views muggles and muggle-borns as the same, and worthy of the same disdain and abuse, and we *suspect* that Draco’s father was involved in the attack on muggles… it isn’t far fetched to assume that is an attitude held by the attackers… and in later books we will see that this is the case) but her mother has no idea. A lot of us started keeping things from our parents around the age of fourteen, and Hermione is no exception. But increasingly, what she is keeping secret from her parents isn’t romance or bad grades or experimenting with substances, it’s the violence of the wizarding world.

I think she starts doing this for two reasons: One is that she feels that as a witch, she has to protect her muggle parents, and the entire wizarding world seems to think that the only way to protect muggles is to keep them ignorant. We talked in the comments about why this is wrongheaded and ultimately helps the death-eaters, but it is the common belief. And Hermione is afraid to rock the boat too much so it makes sense that she wouldn’t challenge that overly much. The second reason is that if her parents know exactly how dangerous and violent the wizarding world is, they might pull her out of school. And if they pull her out of school, she doesn’t get to be a witch anymore.

Which, while we’re on the subject of that, let’s talk about expulsion from Hogwarts and what that means. In the first book, Hermione says “I’m going to bed, before either of you do something else to get us killed, or worse, expelled” to Ron and Harry. Ron says “she needs to sort out her priorities.” It’s supposed to be funny. The first time I read it, I thought it was funny. I think we’ve all known someone who was very type-A and academics focused, to the point where they seemed to view school as the be all end all of their existence. It’s funny because most of us can think of a time when we looked at someone and thought “they need to sort out their priorities!” in a similar way. But that sort of requires seeing being expelled from Hogwarts as the same as being expelled from anywhere else. It isn’t. And it’s even less so for muggle-born witches and wizards.

If I had gotten expelled from High School, my parents would have been furious. There would have been a lot of social shame attached to that. There would have been strict punishments. It could have seriously set me back in my adult life by “starting me out on the wrong foot.” BUT I would have had options. I could have gotten my GED. I could have gone to a different High School in the area. If Ron Weasley gets expelled from Hogwarts, his mother will being furious and probably cruel, we know that. It’s unclear whether or not he would be allowed to go to another European wizarding school, but if it’s an options, I’m sure his parents would pursue it. Worst case scenario for Ron though, in the event of expulsion, would be life like Hagrid’s. It’s not what he wants, and it’s still MUCH MUCH WORSE than my predicted expulsion outcome, but he would still get to live in the wizarding world.

But if Hermione gets expelled… she has to go back to being a muggle. Only, of course, she won’t be able to. She isn’t a muggle, and she never really was. We know that magic slips out of witches and wizards when they are frustrated. So she would return to the muggle world, officially unallowed to use the powers she’s worked so hard to understand and hone, living in constant fear of being arrested by the wizarding world for letting something slip. It would be a nightmare. All of this means that OF COURSE Hermione is going to be uptight about the rules (but it’s also how she’s wired, I get it, I have similar wiring) and also she sure isn’t about to give her parents any reason to pull her out of school.

Ok, now let’s talk about The Media!

Reading this chapter NOW feels very… different… than it did a few years ago. I don’t want to make this deconstruction about American Politics, but I certainly can’t help but view things through the lens of the world I’m currently experiencing at least a little. So here we have a situation where the government handled a situation terribly, and I do mean TERRIBLY, and now they are blaming The Media for reporting on it.

The wizarding world is incredibly, impressively, corrupt. For some reason, the secret magical shadow government doesn’t exactly lend itself to transparency! We have no reason to believe that any of these powerful officials have been elected democratically (including Fudge). We know that the government is not above leaning on the Daily Prophet to suppress information (and we know that, at least some of the time, that works). We know that Lucius Malfoy is able to influence the government and the education system with money, and that sometimes works. Wizarding Britain has one government, one school, and one newspaper, and they’re all locked in a mutually abusive manipulative codependent relationship with each other.

Does Rita Skeeter engage in bad journalism and downright lies? Yup, she sure does. Does she mix that with actual reporting in a way that is really dangerous? Uh-huh. Does the prophet hold an unnerving amount of sway over most witches and wizards opinions? Oh yeah. I’m not here to paint Rita Skeeter as Secretly Good… because I know what’s going to happen later in this book. But in this section? I cannot find an untruth in the segment we’re read. I mean, it’s possible that (as Arthur Weasley assumes) she fabricated the rumors about bodies. But it’s just as possible that she interviewed people on the ground.

What happened at the World Cup WAS a Ministry Blunder, and culprits WERE NOT apprehended. That’s not sensationalism… that is just what happened. As far as I can tell from the text, there were no aurors or magical law enforcement of any kind on duty at the world cup. But there were a lot of ministry employees with zero experience dealing with dark wizards, muggles, crowd control, or anything. When dark wizards attacked muggles, they panicked, and did not know how to handle the situation. Fortunately, they were able to save the muggle family, but they didn’t apprehend anyone because THEY DO NOT KNOW HOW.

Then, the Dark Mark happened, and we have more panic, more lack-of-due-process, more nonsense. Arthur Weasley is a ministry official. He emerged from the wood tired and wanting to keep his own family safe, and he was not on duty. But he was also the first ministry official to greet the public after the Dark Mark was put into the sky. He knows how serious this is. He knows how frightened people are. He knows (presumably) what his position is. He should have known how to say something boilerplate and vague until an official statement could be made.

He should have been able to say “There are no known injuries, and I can assure you that the ministry is doing everything in our power to get to the bottom of the situation. We have every reason to believe that the danger has passed, please everyone stay calm.” or something way better than that because I have not been trained in how to deal with these situations but Arthur Weasley damn well should have been.

So what did Arthur Weasley say?

“Of course it’s not Him,” said Mr. Weasley impatiently. “We don’t know who it was; it looks like they Disapparated. Now excuse me, please, I want to get to bed.”

Oh.

The expectation that the paper should report on the incident casting the ministry in a more favorable light… and that anyone who doesn’t has “got it in for the ministry” is really really troubling. That’s not how journalism works. Or at least, it’s not supposed to be.

And then we have this bit:

“Well, the fat’s really in the fire now,” Mr. Weasley said, sounding exhausted, as he sat down in the armchair by the hearth. “Rita Skeeter’s been ferreting around all week, looking for more Ministry mess-ups to report. And now she’s found out about poor old Bertha going missing, so that’ll be the headline in the Prophet tomorrow. I told Bagman he should have sent someone to look for her ages ago.”

I ACTUALLY WANT TO SCREAM.

Imagine, a REPORTER came across a government handling some things very poorly, and now she’s looking at that government’s operations more closely! The nerve of some people, amirite? Also, yes, a government employee went missing some time ago, and no, no one has looked for her at all. Apparently, we do not have a branch of our shadow government to deal with such things, it was solely her boss’s responsibility to SEND SOMEONE (who? WHO?) to go and look for her. There is no formal investigation, and there is no standard of practice for dealing with such things. It’s just one guy’s fault and no one else has any culpability at all, and even he isn’t too much to blame because he used to play sports.

I do not consider myself a journalist. I’m a writer, and I’ve picked up some reporting skills, but I don’t do straight journalism in part because I don’t have the training to do it the way I believe it should be done. But if I was, this is absolutely the kind of thing that I would need to report on. As it stands, if I found out something like this about my own government, I would pass the tip on so that a skilled journalist COULD cover it.

Sometimes missing people are fine. Other times missing people are DEAD. Other times they are alive, but very much NOT FINE. And I hope we can all agree that if we are ever a missing person, there should be some kind of investigation, and it should not be (shudder) up to our BOSSES to decide when and how that happens. If Rita Skeeter has discovered that when governmental employees go missing, whether or not to search for them is left up to their bosses, and in this case the boss chose to do nothing… she has an ethical duty to report on that. The fact that Mr. Weasley knows Bertha has been missing, believes it could be serious and thinks Bagman should have handled it better, but has done nothing more about that fact than make a mild suggestion AND ALSO believes that Rita Skeeter should bury the story, speaks volumes about him. Press about Bertha Jorkins could FINALLY put the pressure on to launch a search and an investigation.

He is literally putting the ministry’s reputation above the safety of an innocent person.

Later on, in the fifth book, it will be implied that Arthur Weasley has some greater guiding morality than allegiance to the government (unlike some people we could name). But I see no real evidence of that. Arthur Weasley, like the majority of adult wizards, aligns himself with power and institutions, and believes in those institutions and their ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. When he’s willing to go against the ministry, it’s only because he’s allegiance is called elsewhere. He loves the ministry, but he trusts Dumbledore more. Much like Lucius Malfoy, who loves the ministry, but trusts Voldemort more.

Also we have a nice little dig at poor people with the Mundungus Fletcher bit. We’ll find out later that Mundungus is a crook (in book five, apparently “I steal” is his only real character trait) but at this point we know nothing about the man. Except that he is so poor that he had to sleep under a cloak propped up on sticks. And he’s trying to screw the government out of money. Given that poor people are constantly accused of not needing the government assistance they use, this feels really gross to me. It’s also really frustrating to see the Weasley family, who are also struggling financially, engage in this sort of classism within the wizarding world.

And, is it my imagination, or is Percy Weasley — a poor boy from a poor family that had to borrow tents to attend the World Cup with tickets that they got for free — frustrated on behalf on the Ministry that other people, who’s possessions were destroyed YES IN PART BECAUSE OF POOR PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE MINISTRY, aren’t happy to take the loss? I like Percy (sometimes) a great deal more than I’m supposed to, but come on. Percy, and most of the other Weasley children really, do not want an improved system that will be more fair for poor families like their own. Instead, they want to rise within the ranks of a deeply stratified social order, so that they can attain slightly more privilege and comfort than their parents.

Charming.