Category Archives: Deconstruction

All the Weyrs of Pern: Spin Doctorates

Last time, more planning to build up AIVAS, more Craftmasters getting useful information, more people refusing help, and more of Piemur making fun of Jaxom.

All The Weyrs of Pern: Chapter Five: Content Notes: Misgendering, sexism

Chapter Five opens with a different entreaty, from the Benden Weyrleader to Robinton, asking him to be the public voice and strongest advocate for doing things the AIVAS way. Robinton doesn’t fully agree to it, because there’s much fuss about him getting sleep, then bathing and eating in the morning, such that it’s past noon when he sits to food with his handlers, D’ram and Lytol. Telling the story of the AI and the plan to beat Thread, Lytol asks the same question about why the colonists couldn’t beat it then, and why they didn’t come back later.

This is the third time the question has been asked of someone, which makes me wonder if someone is being defensive about a thing that’s extratextual, as if the fans of the series had been asking this question and having to settle for this answer. It’s clearly unsatisfactory to a good many people there.

“And yet … a musical instrument can only do what it is constructed to do, or one of Fandarel’s machines. Therefore, a machine, even one as sophisticated as Aivas, could only do what it/he was designed to do. It/he”–I really must make up my mind how I consider the thing, Robinton thought–“is unlikely to tell lies. Though I suspect he,” Robinton said, making up his mind, “does not reveal the whole truth. We’ve had enough trouble absorbing and understanding what he’s already told us.”

AIVAS has a preference for address. If it hasn’t shown that preference in your presence yet, Robinton, it’s because you’re not paying attention, just like Jaxom wasn’t. AIVAS prefers it pronouns, not he. But because humans want to anthropomorphize, we ignore the stated wishes of the intelligent being for our own comfort. This is bad practice, and I would have thought that having made contact with other intelligent species would have had lasting effects.

As it is, Lytol is skeptical, but D’ram is on board and suggests that Lytol come for the history lesson to be convinced. Robinton believes in it, too, although he thinks having to clutch his towel to prevent nudity affects the dignity of his pronouncement. This idly makes me wonder what a dragonrider and a former dragonrider really would think of male nudity, considering their societal requirements and the tendency of everyone to bathe in the local water pool in this place.

Rather than being a two-dimensional villain, though, D’ram lets on that Lytol’s skepticism is entirely warranted:

“He’s too pragmatic. He told me yesterday that we were far too excited to think logically about the repercussions Aivas will have on our lives. Altering the basic structure of our society and its values and all that twaddle.” D’ram’s snort indicated that he did not agree. “He’s been through several upheavals himself. He’s unlikely to welcome another.”

Uh, D’ram? Lytol is exactly right and should be listened to. Robinton should know that intrinsically, even though he’s enthusiastic about the possible changes. Which, actually, is a bit odd by itself, now that I think about it – Harpers have been tasked with making sure nothing changes for millennia, and yet the presence of an AI changes this? Because AIVAS is the most authoritative source on TRADITION there is?

Lytol is right, and so are all the people who have been snarking at the dragonriders about what their retirement plans are. The permanent removal of Thread as a planet-cleansing menace means that everyone will be able to live openly on their land, instead of having to pay protection to dragonriders and tribute to Holders. The cash system already in place could flourish incredibly. Holders might decide to fight each other for land and resources, now that there’s no threat of Thread and dragonriders. The Crafts could finance these wars and then break the entire feudal system by ruining the fortunes of the hereditary nobility and calling in all their markers all at once. The Holdless might stake claims and tell anybody who says this isn’t their land to get lost. An industrial revolution might happen. The Cult of AIVAS might take over and use the Harpers as its propaganda and enforcement arm.

Hell, the dragonriders might decide Pern is still better off under their rule and use their giant war machines to put everyone under their thumb. What’s absolutely true is that the only way to avoid change now is to bury the AI and kill everyone who has any knowledge of it. Since that includes the most powerful people on the planet, including the Benden Weyrleader, change is inevitable. It’s now a question of how well the cabal that has been running the world to this point will continue to do so, and how much resistance they receive from others.

After talking with Lytol, Robinton returns to a much-changed site of the AI, where a kerfuffle is developing because Esselin is not letting in people who are on errands from Miners and Lord Holders to collect the facts about the AI and report back. They have also been told that the AI is already omniscient, rather than having to bring the records of their own Holds to bolster its knowledge. Realizing that there are already too many to fit into a single go, Robinton tasks D’ram with organizing them into groups by lottery, and goes in to see Esselin and convince him that it’s worth letting even the smallest of officials in to see.

“But they’re only Stewards and small miners…”
“There are more of those than Lord Holders and Crafthallmasters and Weyrleaders, Esselin, and every single one of them has the right to approach Aivas.”
“That wasn’t what I was told,” Master Esselin said, resorting to his usual obstructive attitude, thrusting his heavy chin belligerently forward.
Robinton eyed him pityingly for such a long moment that even the thick-skinned Esselin could not fall to notice his behavior was unacceptable to the Harper.
“I think you will find before the day is out that you will be told differently, Master Esselin. Now, if you will excuse me…” And with that Robinton strode down the hall to the Aivas chamber.

Despite being officially retired, of course Robinton still has pull with everyone and can make it happen. If Robinton were a woman, the narrative would be conspiring and the game might be making argument that she has a tendency toward Suedom, but because it’s an old man instead, this persuasive power is unremarked on, and seen as reasonable, since he rose to the office of the Masterharper of the planet.

Also, I think that’s the first time in all of these books that I’ve seen the collective noun for the Crafthallmasters. Why they wouldn’t be the Craftmasters or the Mastercrafters, I don’t know, but there it is, nice big clunky word there.

Robinton peeks in on a much-enlarged AI chamber as the Smiths and Miners are being shown a crucible and being told that they can use it to remelt faulty and damaged items, and that mixing old and new metal often results in an improved final product. AIVAS gets to a stop point, asks Robinton what he needs, and the Smiths and Miners, save Jancis, file out with their new data. Robinton immediately opens the window to circulate out some of the smell. And we have plot development that has happened while we were elsewhere, much to my annoyance.

“And did you get any sleep last night, young woman?”
Her cheeks dimpled in a mischievous smile. “Indeed we did!” And then she colored. “I mean, we both slept. I mean, Piemur feel asleep first–oh, blast!”
Robinton laughed heartily. “I won’t misconstrue, Jancis, even if it mattered. You’re not going to let all this fuss and fascination delay your formal announcement, are you?”
“No,” she said firmly. “I want to bring the date forward.” She blushed prettily but kept the eye contact. “It would make things easier.” She gathered up her things. “The others are in the computer room. You might want to take a crack at it, too.”

So we’ll stop there for a moment while I get annoyed that Piemur and Jancis are engaged to marriage, and all we got to see was a little bit of flirting here and there. Although, now that I think about it, engagements, marriages, pregnancies, and childbirth have been basically handled off-screen since the beginning unless there’s a significant point to be made with them, such as the coupling of the Benden Weyrleaders or when Alessan proposes to Nerilka as a suicide prevention measure. Menolly and Sebell, Jaxom and Sharra, Mirrim and T’gellan, and now Piemur and Jancis have all had their wishes to officialize things reported to us after the fact and that’s interesting, as if someone doesn’t want to write any sort of romance into their stories for fear that it would stop being taken seriously as genre fiction and be relegated to “romance”. Which is utter speculation on my part, but I would be more inclined to believe that a clearly woman author, Grandmaster of science fiction or no, (her induction, if I remember my trip to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, is in 2002, and posthumous) is more of an impediment at that time than the presence of romance.

These lack of romance bits are also denying us crucial worldbuilding bits, like how marriage actually works in things other than Sixth Pass Lords Holder society. Does Piemur give Jancis a promise coin? Something else? How many times do they need to make the formal announcement? How many witnesses are needed? Does one of them have to be a Harper? We don’t know, and nobody is telling.

Resuming…

“Me?” The Harper was dumbfounded. “That’s for young resilient minds like yours and Piemur’s and Jaxom’s.”
“Learning is not limited to the young, Master Robinton,” Aivas said.
“Well, we’ll see,” the Harper replied, hedging and running his fingers nervously over his face. He was acutely conscious that he could no longer retain the words and notes of new music and had few doubts that the problem would extend to other areas. He did not think himself a vain man, it excessively proud, but he did not wish to show to disadvantage. “We’ll see. Meantime, we have a minor problem…”
“With that lot out there, determined against all Master Esselin’s prejudice on seeing Aivas?” Jancis asked.
“Hmm, a minor miner problem,” Robinton heard himself saying, and groaned.
Jancis pleased him by chuckling. “It is apt,” she said.

So, Robinton didn’t want to believe himself vain or proud, but he’s totally not going to show any weakness to anybody, even though he knows his memory is starting to go and his mind isn’t able to pick up new things any more. Which is, y’know, pride. And makes me want to know whether Robinton has planned for his eventual decline of faculties. Has he been in contact with Sebell, and possibly Menolly, transferring the wealth of his experience and memory to a written form so that knowledge is not lost between generations? Has he made a directive as to what is to be done with his life when he slips to the point where he can no longer be himself? Has he been talking to dragons and AIs and Healers about the possibility of reversing the damage or staving it off for a long as possible? Confronting death is not easy for anyone, and having the knowledge that your decline is going to be gradual can’t help that, even if it does allow for more planning time. Are there funerary arrangements to complete? Does Robinton want to go anywhere in the past for nostalgia, or try to jump forward on time to the moment of triumph against Thread? We don’t know, and the narration is choosing not to tell us.

The petitioners outside are eventually admitted as a whole, after we are told that people have faith in oracles, and that it would take about 44 hours to explain the word adequately, since the file on religion is large. During the explanation, AIVAS refers to what it is, but then the book misformats and says “Or Aivas, to use the appropriate acronym.” Even though the audience in the chamber can’t hear the capital letters, they should still be printed that way, since it’s an acronym. There is also a rather neat, if unplanned, demonstration of capabilities where a set of crumbling and molded records on microscope manufacture are scanned, reconstructed, and then printed as a new copy, fully restored. This awes everyone sufficiently that they can be shuffled out swiftly, with instructions to give any requests for more time or any questions to be answered to Robinton. Who then also takes on the task of making sure Esselin doesn’t apply his own priorities to who gets to see AIVAS, and shares an admiration for the time-skipped before setting Esselin straight and finding D’ram in the computer room. Piemur tries to get Robinton involved in computing, but Robinton deflects by talking about how ill-suited Esselin is to their tasks.

He’s a thick as two short planks,” Benelek grumbled. “And he doesn’t like any of us coming and going as we need to.”
“I don’t have any trouble,” Jancis said, but her eyes danced with mischief. “All I have to do is give him a cup of klah or something to eat from the tray when I bring it in.”
“And that’s another score I’m going to settle with ol’ Master fuddy-duddy Esselin,” Piemur said heatedly. “You are not a kitchen drudge. Does he never see the Master tab on your collar? Doesn’t he know you’re Fandarel’s granddaughter and top of your own Craft?”
“Oh, I think he will,” Jaxom remarked without looking up from his board, fingers flying across it. “I caught his paternal act this morning, and I reminded him that the proper form of address for Jancis is Mastersmith. You know, I don’t think he had noticed the collar tabs.”

Or, perhaps, Esselin has the ingrained sexism of the planet that prevents him from believing that women can be anything other than drudges, wives, and queen riders. The same sexism that both Piemur and Jaxom have indulged in, before having that notion solidly disabused of them by Mirrim, Menolly, Sharra, and Jancis, in rapid and apparently very attractive succession. (Robinton has some of it, too – Jancis blushes prettily, but holds his gaze earlier.)

That said, if collar tabs instead of shoulder knots are the ways Smiths denote Mastery, then there are probably a lot of Mastersmiths that get mistaken for something else. So it could be genuine not noticing, were it not for the sexist attitude.

D’ram nominates himself as Esselin’s replacement as door guard, to which Robinton provides AIVAS’s earlier suggestion for just that, and both agree that dragging Lytol into it is also a good idea, before Mastersmith Hamian, who is of the same family as Toric and Sharra, concurs from the doorway before asking if he can inquire of AIVAS for the technique and technology to make plastics. The AI says that there shouldn’t be a reason why not, that there’s petroleum on the surface nearby, and that Hamian not only gather equipment to disassemble and reassemble in that vicinity, but to start drafting a staff to assist and to get ready to learn a lot of chemistry and physics to make it possible to make the plastics again. Hamian is ready, and heads out to pick up the machines for study. Conveniently, this also gives an excuse for Robinton and D’ram to relieve Esselin and send him firmly back to the archives. Not too soon after that, Piemur gets a program to run correctly. Despite his earlier recalcitrance, Robinton decides to dive in to computer assembly and programming.

There’s a quick time skip, and we’re treated to a scene where Robinton, waking up when his fire lizard tells him something is very wrong, attempts to stop vandals from smashing some of the battery tanks being used to give AIVAS power reserves. It takes Zair and fire lizards to fend them off enough before they flee. Robinton is furious that he dozed in the first place, even though the damage wasn’t enough to affect capacity and there are spares. And then we get treated to more tell without showing, before the chapter ends with everybody trying to find the vandals.

He knew there was a growing antagonism to Aivas, but he had not really considered, even for a moment, that someone would actually attack the facility.
But who? he wondered, sipping at the wine and feeling its usual efficacious soothing. Esselin? He doubted the fat old fool would dare, no matter how upset he might have been over losing his sinecure. Had any of Norist’s glassmen been at Landing that day?

I’d like to have seen that “growing antagonism”, thank you very much, because otherwise I have to just take your word for it or extrapolate a ton from the one confrontation with Norist on screen. The development of an anti-AI faction, in the way that, say, the Thella storyline from the previous book had been developed, with their perspective, would have been awesome.

Assuming, that is, that they would be treated as competent villains, instead of poor caricatures of them.

All The Weyrs of Pern: Fetch Quests

Last time, we learned a little more about the plan to beat Thread, that Toric is making trouble for K’van, and the first few workstations for AIVAS access came on-line.

And that the AI specifically would like Jaxom to be part of the cohort learning how to use the machines.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter Four: Content Notes: Cancer

Jaxom is on fetch quest duty, a problem of his own making, because he tries to be helpful to requests made of him and Ruth. Back home, Sharra steps in when she feels Jaxom is being taken advantage of, but Sharra’s not here, so Jaxom is doing a lot of running about helping, instead of assembling and programming machines, like he wants to. A stomach rumble reminds him that Sharra also insists that he takes meal breaks. Why isn’t she here? Sharra’s pregnant again, and we know hyperspace has an abortifacent effect. Grabbing food and witnessing the attempts to heal a burnt hand reminds Jaxom that he promised to bring Oldive to AIVAS, so off he goes to collect the Masterhealer, while avoiding the apparent throngs of Harpers that want information or their own rides. Once back to Landing, Jaxom escorts Oldive to the AI, where the three from the last chapter are busily tapping away. Everyone but Oldive eventually removes themselves to another room, so that Jaxom can learn how to assemble a computer properly from components.

Busy disassembling the makeshift table, Piemur shot Master Oldive an indulgent grin. “You’ll get used to a disembodied voice real quick, the kind of sense Aivas talks.”
“Go teach yourself to be sensible for me, Young Piemur,” Aivas said in a jocular tone that startled everyone.
“Yes sir, good Master Aivas, yes, sir,” Piemur quipped, bowing humbly as he backed out of the room, carrying the table board and nearly knocking himself down when he forgot to lower the board to get it through the door.

And thus, the reason why the dodge about whether the AI has a sense of humor – it’s the setup for a joke later.

Alone with the AI, Oldive hears praise from AIVAS about the strength and health of the planet, given the intent for an agrarian society. “To that end, they were receptive to many anti-industrial cultures, like the ancient [Roma], as well as retired military types.”

Oldive demurs the praise, given plague and other things, to which AIVAS points out the survival and strengthening of the whole as the good things, and tries to mollify Oldive by pointing out that plague hit the Ancients hard, too. Leaving the point behind, Oldive gets to querying about the patients with specific symptoms, and we cut away to Jaxom and the other computer people, where Piemur continues to tease Jaxom about his confusion and being behind.

Considering that Piemur nearly died from “pranks” that got nasty, I still find it curious that the narrative continues to insist that he would be mean to someone else about lack of knowledge or otherwise. And that he would use Jaxom, who has spent most of his life being bullied about everything, as his target. Unless we’re supposed to believe that Piemur is still upset with Jaxom for stealing his girl Sharra, even though he has Jancis provided to him by the narrative.

There is much frustration going about learning the computers, with accidental keystrokes erasing work, error messages, and other such things resulting in Benelek and Jancis getting a little upset and Piemur cursing that twilight means the LCDs aren’t easily visible. Lessa pops in to tell Jaxom that Oldive is done, and to rather firmly insist that everyone working at the machines gets some sleep. (Over Benelek’s desire to learn, but AIVAS takes Lessa’s side and remote-shutdowns the machines, assuring them their work is saved.) There is food and drink and Oldive has quite clearly had his mind expanded to the point where there’s a lot more to have to learn than even he knows.

Oldive also asks the next logical question about who to talk to about getting more time with the machine. Nobody appears to have thought that far ahead, and there’s a short squabble about how to use the workstations that have been assembled. Which Lessa cuts off by pointing out how tired everyone is and ordering the lot, including the Weyrleaders, to bed. Jaxom takes Oldive to Ruatha, where Sharra is waiting and pushing them into the office so they can talk. After food and drink.

“My dear, your female patient is suffering a gallbladder malfunction,” the old healer told Sharra. “Unfortunately, the man appears to have a cancerous growth, as we suspected. We can cure the one, for I have been given a specific medication for dissolving the gravel within the organ, but we can only ease the other from life.” Master Oldive paused, his eyes wide and bright with excitement. “Aivas has the most extraordinary fund of medical information, which he is quite willing to impart to us. He can even help us revive corrective surgical procedures, which you know I have yearned to do. Our Craft may have been limited to repair surgeries for lack of proper training, but he can help us recover much of that lost skill.”
“That would be wonderful, Master, but would we be able to overcome the prejudice in the Hall about intrusive measures?” Sharra exclaimed, her face mirroring her hope.
“Now that we have a mentor of unquestionable probity, I think that once we have proved the benefits to patients who will not men without dress take measures, we can overcome those scruples.” He drained his cup and resolutely rose to his feet.

The rest of the chapter is Jaxom gushing to Brand, the steward, about how new and exciting everything is, after Sharra and Oldive head to the infirmary, and Brand asking about whether AIVAS knows how to heat cold holds.

What I want to focus on, though, is that quoted passage. Up to this point, the surgeries that we had seen were for dragon wings, not humans. For a society like Pern, however, a distaste for surgery seems incredibly sensible, considering that while there were sterilization options for tools available in the Sixth Pass, there’s no indication those have survived to the Ninth. Furthermore, there’s probably no way of sterilizing the environment around someone, and so it would be very easy for infections to get into surgical sites and kill people. Oldive is right in that people who see no other way out will accept desperate options, but I don’t see that prejudice about surgery going away until there’s sufficient proof and knowledge available for it to be done regularly without complications.

Second, I know that science fiction stories are often excellent reflections in the time period that wrote them, but I was rather hoping that cancerous growths were a thing of the long gone past. I know that this time has been more than long enough for new mutations and methods to appear, but ugh, fatal cancers.

Next week will hopefully have a better ending note.

Hermione Granger Chapter 12

Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism

Chapter Twelve: The Feast / The Triwizard Tournament

 

Through the gates, flanked with statues of winged boars, and up the sweeping drive the carriages trundled, swaying dangerously in what was fast become a gale. Hermione sat with her knees pressed together tightly, her Hogwarts robes spread over them, her moody cat tucked up in her cloak under one arm. Lightning flashed and lit the interior of the carriage up like broad daylight as they approached the castle, and for just a moment she could see her companions quite clearly.

Then it was dark again, the rain loud on the roof of the carriage as it pulled abruptly to a halt. Compulsively, she pushed her unruly hair out of her face. Harry and Ron jumped out into the downpour in a hurry, and she and then Neville followed behind. They all hurried up the massive stone steps into the entrance of Hogwarts Castle. Then they stepped into the magnificent, torch-lit, entrance hall. On one side was the opulent marble staircase, leading up to the many floors of classrooms and dormitories above, and on the other was the entrance to the Great Hall.

“Blimey,” said Ron, shaking himself like an excited puppy, and sending water droplets every which way, “if that keeps up the lake’s going to overflow. I’m soak — ARRGH!”

A large, red, water filled balloon had just dropped from the ceiling and straight onto Ron’s head, where it exploded. Drenched and sputtering, Ron staggered sideways and collided with Harry, just as a second water bomb dropped. Hermione ducked out of the way just in time, and it missed her, instead bursting at Harry’s feet. She saw his eyes open wide. People all around them shrieked and started pushing one and other, in their efforts to get out of the line of fire. Just then, Crookshanks leapt out from Hermione’s robes, and darted up the stairs. She hoped he remembered how to get to the dormitory, but he’d never yet gotten lost at Hogwarts.

Hermione glanced upwards, towards the ceiling, rather carefully. And sure enough, there was Peeves the Poltergeist. He was different than the castle ghosts, who were all white-ish and nearly transparent. Peeves was something else entirely — a little man in a bell-covered hat and orange bowtie — and he loved nothing more than to harass the students and make mischief within the castle.

“PEEVES!” yelled a stern sounding voice. “Peeves, come down here at ONCE!”

It was Professor McGonagall, transfiguration instructor, head of Gryffindor House, Deputy Headmistress, and an extremely accomplished witch in her own right. Professor McGonagall was one of Hermione’s very favorite teachers, and she was dashing out of the Great Hall to put an end to Peeves’ trouble making. Unfortunately, she skidded on the wet floor and slid right into Hermione, nearly choking Hermione in her attempt to keep from falling.

“Ouch — sorry, Miss Granger —” McGonagall breathed.

“That’s all right, Professor!” Hermione gasped.

“Peeves, get down here Now!” McGonagall continued, straightening her pointed hat and looking upward through her square-rimmed spectacles. Despite the collision, she still looked quite dignified.

“Not doing nothing!” cackled Peeves, lobbing a water bomb at several fifth-year students, who screamed and dived for the Great Hall. “Already wet, aren’t they? Little squirts! Wheeeee!” And he aimed another bomb at a group of second year boys, who looked positively terrified.

“I shall call the headmaster! I’m warning you, PEEVES —”

Peeves stuck out his tongue, threw the last of his water bombs into the air, and zoomed off up the marble staircase, cackling wildly.

“Well, move along then!” said Professor McGonagall, looking around at the crowd of students in various states of dampness. “Into the Great Hall, come on!”

Hermione, Harry, and Ron carefully made their way across the slippery floor of the entrance hall, and through the double doors on the right, Ron muttering furiously under his breath the whole time.

After three years of studying magic, the Great Hall of Hogwarts still took Hermione’s breath away. Fresh from a summer away, she found herself gaping at its grandeur, at the magically suspended candlesticks in midair and the ceiling bewitched to look like the stormy night sky, just as she had the first time she stepped foot in it. Her skin prickled. Thankfully, this time she was much less nervous. It was decorated splendidly for the start-of-term feast, and the plates and goblets on the four house tables were made of pure gold. Hermione made her way with Harry and Ron past the Slytherin table, then Ravenclaw, then Hufflepuff, before arriving at the Gryffindor house table at the far end of the hall. They seated themselves in open spaces on the long wooden benches, right next to Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor house ghost.

Like all ghosts, Nick was pearly white and semitransparent. Unlike the other ghosts, Nick’s head had been partially severed during a botched beheading. This evening he was wearing a particularly large ruff, perhaps to disguise it or stop his head from wobbling too much.

“Good evening,” he said, in his usual proper tone, beaming at them.

“Says who?” Harry replied, and he took off his sneakers and poured out the water from Peeves’ water bombs right there on the floor of the great hall. “Hope they hurry up with the Sorting. I’m starving.”

The Sorting of new students in Houses took place at the start of every school year, and it was a big part of the reason Hermione had been so very nervous her first year at Hogwarts. She had wanted desperately to be in Gryffindor house, and had been very relieved when her desire was taken into account in the decision. She thought of the of all the first year students, nervously waiting to be brought in, unsure of the future, just as she had once been.

“Hiya, Harry!” a voice called down the table towards Harry Potter in excitement. It was Colin Creevy, a third year Gryffindor who seemed rather taken with Harry. Hermione leaned back slightly, so the two boys could see each other.

“Hi, Colin.” Harry said, still sounding annoyed.

“Harry, guess what? Guess what, Harry? My brother’s starting! My brother Dennis!”

“Er — good,” Harry replied.

“He’s really excited! I just hope he’s in Gryffindor! Keep your fingers crossed, eh, Harry?”

“Er — yeah, alright.” said Harry.

Colin could be a bit annoying, but it was sort of nice that he wanted his little brother in the same house as him. Hermione wondered vaguely what it would have been like to have a sister or a brother, and if she would have wanted them in the same house as her. She’d always been happy as an only child, but…

Harry turned to her “Brothers and sisters usually go in the same Houses, don’t they?”

“Oh no,” she said quickly, trying to snap herself out of her thoughts. It was stupid anyway, if she had ever had a sibling, odds were they would have been non-magical, and not gone to Hogwarts at all. Harry was looking at her confusedly, no doubt thinking of all seven Weasleys all being in Gryffindor. “Parvati Patil’s twin’s in Ravenclaw,” she added, “and they’re identical. You’d think they’d be together, wouldn’t you?”

He didn’t say anything.

She glanced up at the staff table, and did a quick headcount. “Where’s the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?” she said.

In her three years at Hogwarts, they had had a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher every single year. The first had turned out to be in the service of Lord Voldemort, the second had turned out to be a thoroughly disappointing fraud who never should have been allowed to teach in the first place, and the third had been a highly capable instructor who also happened to be a werewolf. He’d resigned at the end of last year, when the secret of his condition had been exposed.

However, this year, the seat usually occupied by the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher appeared to be empty. She scanned the rest of the table, from tiny Professor Flitwick, the Charms teacher, to Professor Sinistra, the Astronomy department. And there was of course Professor Snape, head of Slytherin House and Potions Master. Potions would have been a really fun and fascinating subject, if only Snape weren’t such a bad instructor and so hell bent on favoring students from his own house, and he also had a rather weird and intense feud with Harry Potter. It seemed quite unprofessional, really, to be that threatened by a student. But she would need a good understanding of potions if she was to do well in the wizarding world, so she mostly kept her head down and tried to ignore the nonsense. That strategy had served her well so far, in her second year, she had successfully brewed a Polyjuice Potion, a complex and advanced potion that some adult witches and wizards couldn’t quite handle, which allowed the drinker to take on the physical appearance of another.

McGonagall must have still been in the entrance hall, and of course Hagrid would come in with the first years, since it was his job to take them across the lake. In the center of the staff table sat Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster, who was quite famous in his own right. He was very old, though she did not know his exact age, and his sweeping silver hair and beard were shining in the candlelight.

But no, there was no new face anywhere at the staff table.

“Maybe they couldn’t get anyone!” she said to no one in particular.

“Oh hurry up!” Ron moaned from on Harry’s other side. “I could eat a hippogriff.”

The words were no sooner out of his mouth than the doors of the Great Hall opened, and a sudden silence fell. Professor McGonagall entered, leading a long line of first years, all soaked through completely, up to the top of the hall. They looked to be shivering, and she felt for them. Maybe the one’s from wizarding families had some idea what to expect, but for kids from muggle households, they were starting not only at a new school, but in an entirely new world. The student at the very end of the line of first years was wrapped in something furry and enormous, which if she wasn’t very much mistaken was Hagrid’s moleskin overcoat. He looked less terrified than the others, more enthralled and delighted, as though he were taking everything in.

He also looked a bit like Colin Creevy. And indeed, he caught Colin’s eye, gave a double thumbs-up, and mouthed “I fell in the lake!” while positively beaming.

Professor McGonagall now placed a three legged stool on the floor before the row of first year students and, on top of it, an extremely old, dirty, patched witch or wizard’s hat. The first years stared at it, and so did every other person in the Great Hall. There was a moment of total silence and anticipation, and then a long tear near the brim opened wide, as though it were a mouth, and the hat broke into song:

A thousand years or more ago,

When I was newly sewn,

There lived four wizards of renown

Whose names are still well known:

Bold Gryffindor, from wild moor,

Fair Ravenclaw, from glen

Sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad,

Shrewd Slytherin, from fen.

They shared a wish, a hope, a dream,

They hatched a daring plan

To educate young sorcerers

Thus Hogwarts School began.

Now each of these four founders

Formed their own house, for each

Did value different virtues

In the ones they had to teach.

By Gryffindor, the bravest were

Prived far beyond the rest;

For Ravenclaw, the cleverest

Would always be the best;

For Hufflepuff, hard workers were

Most worthy of admission;

And power-hungry Slytherin

Loved those of great ambition.

While still alive they did divide

Their favorites from the throng,

Yet how to pick the worthy ones

When they were dead and gone?

‘Twas Gryffindor who found the way,

He whipped me off his head

The founders put some brains in me

So I could choose instead!

Now slip me snug about your ears,

I’ve never yet been wrong,

I’ll have a look inside your mind

And tell where you belong!

 

The Great Hall erupted with applause as the Sorting Hat Finished its song.

“That’s not the song it sang when it sorted us,” said Harry, looking a bit confused, but clapping all the same. Hermione remembered that Harry had missed seeing the sorting in their second and third years.

“Sings a different one every year,”  Ron explained. “It’s got to be a pretty boring life, hasn’t it, being a hat? I suppose it spends all year making up the next one.”

Professor McGonagall was now unrolling a large scroll of parchment. At Hogwarts, nearly everything was written on parchment, and Hermione couldn’t recall ever having seen a scrap of regular paper in the whole castle.

“When I call out your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool,” McGonagall said to the row of nervous eleven year olds. “When the hat announces your House, you will go and sit at the appropriate table.”

“Ackerley, Stewart!” she said in her official sounding voice.

A boy walked forward, visibly trembling all over, picked up the ancient hat and nervously placed it on his head, and sat on the stool.”

“RAVENCLAW!” shouted the hat.

Stewart Ackerley took off the hat, and hurried to the Ravenclaw table, where everyone was applauding him. It was such a good feeling, to be wanted by one’s house. When Hermione turned to see who was to be sorted next, she noticed that Harry Potter was still staring at the Ravenclaw table…

“Baddock, Malcolm!”

“SLYTHERIN!”

The table on the other side of the hall erupted with cheers as well. Slytherin had a bad reputation. Fred and George Weasley were hissing softly at Malcolm Baddock as he sat down.

“Branstone, Eleanor!”

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

“Cauldwell, Owen!”
“HUFFLEPUFF!”

Hermione remembered her own sorting rather well, how the hat had whispered in her ear, suggesting that Ravenclaw might be a good fit, but when she was certain she wanted Gryffindor that hat had put her there instead. She’d heard a similar story from Harry, that the hat had considered putting him in Slytherin, but he didn’t want to go there, so he went to Gryffindor. She wondered if that was so for everyone. Hufflepuff had very little reputation, so it was hard to image the nervous youngsters before her specifically wished to go there, but maybe she was missing something…

“Creevey, Dennis!”

“GRYFFINDOR!”

Tiny Dennis Creevey, still wearing Hagrid’s massive overcoat, beamed wildly as he took off the hat, and placed it back on the stool. The entire Gryffindor table — and Hagrid as well —erupted in applause now, and Dennis nearly ran to join his brother Colin.

“Colin, I fell in!” he said in a squeaky little voice, climbing onto the bench. “It was brilliant! And something in the water grabbed me and pushed me back in the boat!”

“Cool! It was probably the giant squid, Dennis!” Colin’s tone mirrored his younger brother’s enthusiasm.

“Wow!” said Dennis, clearly overwhelmed by his recent brush with the giant sea monster.

Hermione turned back to watch the rest of the sorting, while the brothers continued to chat. The first years, some looking more frightened than others, continued to step forward one at a time, and place the hat on their heads. As they did so, the line of students behind it slowly dwindled.

“Oh hurry up,” Ron moaned, grabbing at his stomach.

“Now Ron,” said Nearly Headless Nick, “the Sorting’s much more important than food.”

“‘Course it is, if you’re dead…” snapped Ron.

Choosing to ignore the gab, Nick said “I do hope this year’s batch of Gryffindors are up to scratch,” then he stopped to applaud as “McDonald, Natalie” became a Gryffindor. “We don’t want to break our winning streak, do we?”

Each year at Hogwarts, there was an Inter-House Championship, awarded based on points given out to students by the staff. And for three years now, Gryffindor had won.

“Pritchard, Graham!”

“SLYTHERIN!”

“Quirke, Orla!”

“RAVENCLAW!”

And finally, with “Whitby, Kevin!” (“HUFFLEPUFF!”), the sorting came to an end. Professor McGonagall picked up the hat and the stool, and carried them away with rather less ceremony than they had been brought in.

“About time!” cried Ron, seizing his knife and fork.

Professor Dumbledore had gotten to his feet, and now he was smiling all around the hall, his arms opened wide as he grinned at the students.

“I have only two words to say to you,” said the old venerable wizard, “Tuck in.”

And then the empty serving dishes before them magically filled themselves with heaps and heaps of delicious food. It was how every feast at Hogwarts began, yet it always took Hermione’s breath away at the start-of-term feast, when she was finally back in the castle after a summer at home. She wondered if she would ever get tired of it.

“Hear, hear!” cried Ron and Harry, in unison at the top of their voices, as the food appeared before them. Then they all began to serve themselves, loading up their plates with whatever they liked best. Nearly Headless Nick, ever jealous of the living, looked on mournfully.

“Aaah, ‘at’s be’er,” said Ron, his mouth positively full of mashed potato.

“You’re lucky there’s a feast at all tonight, you know,” said Nearly Headless Nick. “There was trouble in the kitchens earlier.”

“Why? Wha’ ‘appened?” said Harry, his own mouth nearly as full as Ron’s.

Hermione took a bite of chicken, only half listening.

“Peeves, of course,” said Nearly Headless Nick, shaking his head so that it wobbled dangerously. “The usual argument, you know. He wanted to attend the feast — well, it’s quite out of the question, you know what he’s like, utterly uncivilized, can’t see a plate of food without throwing it. We held a ghost’s council — the Fat Friar was all for giving him a chance — but mostly wisely, in my opinion, the Bloody Baron put his foot down.”

The Bloody Baron was the ghost of Slytherin house, a gaunt and silent specter covered in silver bloodstains. He terrified many of the younger students, and he was the only one who could ever control Peeves.

“Yeah, we thought Peeves seemed hacked off about something,” said Ron darkly, looking around the table for something, “So what did he do in the kitchens?”

“Oh, the usual,” said Nearly Headless Nick casually. “Wreaked havoc and mayhem. Pots and pans everywhere. Place swimming in soup. Terrified the house-elves out of their wits—”

At the word house-elves Hermione felt her skin prickle all over. She had been reaching for her pumpkin juice, but she suddenly stopped and the back of her hand brushed the golden goblet… she was only partially aware of it, however, because this was far more urgent.

“There are house-elves here?” she said, vaguely aware that her juice had spilled, but there was magic for that. “Here at Hogwarts?” she demanded of Nearly Headless Nick.

He looked surprised. “Certainly…” he said, “the largest number in any dwelling in Britain, I believe. Over a hundred.”

It had never been mentioned. In three years at Hogwarts this was the first she’d heard of it… even when Harry had befriended Dobby no one had ever mentioned…

“I’ve never seen one!” she said, a little breathlessly.

“Well, they hardly ever leave the kitchen by day, do they? They come out at night to do a bit of cleaning… see to the fires and so on…” Nick was talking as though it were the most normal thing in the world. “I mean, you’re not supposed to see them, are you? That’s the mark of a good house elf, isn’t it, that you don’t know it’s there?”

She thought about it. She didn’t really know all that much about house elves, except that both Dobby and Winky had been severely mistreated, and no one seemed to care. She could bear to think that the same thing was going on at Hogwarts, her beloved Hogwarts! Yet, Nick was so calm, perhaps it was different within the castle.

“But they get paid?” she said, hopefully. “They get holidays, don’t they? And — and sick leave, and pensions, and everything?”

And then Nearly Headless Nick laughed right in her face. He laughed so hard that his ruff slipped and his head flopped to the side, dangling on the inch or so of ghostly skin and muscle that still attached it to his ghostly body. The boys both looked suddenly away from the conversation. Hermione just stared at Nick.

“Sick leave and pensions?” he finally said, pushing his head back into place and securing it once more with his ruff. “House elves don’t want sick leave and pensions!”

It was as though she could see Winky’s pleading, terrified, shaking face, right before her own. She looked down at her plate, her hardly touched dinner, and she felt she was going to be sick. Over a hundred was what Nick had said, a hundred little people like Winky, magically tied to Hogwarts Castle, prevented from disobeying no matter what… all so Hermione could have a comfortable meal. She had quite lost her appetite, and she slowly pushed the plate away.

“Oh c’mon, ‘Er-my-knee!” said Ron, thickly through a bite of Yorkshire pudding. “Oops — sorry, ‘Arry —” he said when he realized he had sprayed Harry with chewed food. He swallowed hard, and looked earnestly at Hermione. “You won’t get them sick leave by starving yourself!” he added.

Even if he was right, she couldn’t eat another bite. “Slave labor, that’s what made this dinner. Slave labor.” the words felt impossible even as she said them. How could it be true? And at Hogwarts, of all places?

Through the rest of the meal, she watched the rain on the windows, and thought about poor Winky, and how she was getting on. No one else seemed very interested in her, or what might become of her next. Harry and Ron ate happily… Perhaps it simply hadn’t sunk in yet how horrible it was. Well, Harry at least would come to his senses, once he thought about poor Dobby and all he had been through. Another loud clap of thunder shook the windows, and lightning flashed across the bewitched ceiling, illuminating the golden plates as the remains of the first course vanished. They were replaced, as they were at every feast, instantly, with puddings.

Only this time she didn’t find it nearly so wonderful.

“Treacle tart, Hermione!” said Ron, smiling and trying to entice her to eat. “Spotted dick, look! Chocolate gateau!”

She just looked at him, wondering how on earth one boy could be so completely clueless.

Finally, mercifully, even the puddings were through, and the last crumbs faded off the plates, leaving them sparkling clear. Albus Dumbledore got to his feet again, and the buzz of chatter filling the Hall ceased. It said something about Dumbledore, that a crowd of excited young people would almost always quite down to listen to him speak.

“So!” he said, smiling around at everyone. “Now that we are all fed and watered…”

Hermione let out a small, involuntary, sigh.

“I must ask once more for your attention, while I give out a few notices.” Dumbledore went on. “Mr. Flinch, the caretaker, has asked me to tell you that the list of objects forbidden inside the castle has this year been extended to include Screaming Yo-yos, Fanged Frisbees, and Ever-Bashing Boomerangs. The full list comprises some four hundred and thirty-seven items, I believe, and can be viewed in Mr. Filch’s office, if anybody would like to check it.”

The corners of Dumbledore’s mouth twitched just ever so slightly. “As ever, I would like to remind you that the forest on the grounds is out-of-bounds to all students, as is the village of Hogsmeade to all below third year.”

“It is also my painful duty to inform you that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not take place this year.”

Predictably, there was quite the uproar at this news. Harry Potter nearly shouted “WHAT?” and Fred and George looked like the might fall over. Ron didn’t even play quidditch at school, but he looked equally horrified.

“This is due to an event that will be starting in October,” continued Dumbledore, and the sounds of the dumbfounded students died down again, “and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers’ time and energy — but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts —”

But at that moment, a great earsplitting roar of thunder drowned out Dumbledore’s voice, and then the doors of the Great Hall opened with a loud bang.

Everyone turned. In the doorway stood a man, leaning upon a long staff, and shrouded in a black traveling cloak. A fork of lightning suddenly flashed across the ceiling. The man lowered his hood, shook out a mane of grizzled, dark gray hair, and then began to walk laboriously toward the other end of the Hall, and the teacher’s table.

There was a dull clunk that echoed through the massive Hall on his every other step. Every set of eyes seemed to be following the man, but his face was still downward, and in shadow. Finally, he reached the end of the top table, and turned right to make his way toward Dumbledore. Another flash of lightning crossed the ceiling, illuminating the Hall.

An audible gasp rang through the crowd of students.

The lightning threw the man’s face into sharp relief, and it wasn’t the sort of face Hermione had expected. It was unlike anything she’d ever seen before, and she wondered how on earth a person could come to look like that. His entire face, all over, was covered in scars, his nose appeared to be missing a piece somehow, and even his mouth looked… damaged. But his eyes were the most arresting of all.

One of his eyes was quite ordinary, it looked dark from this distance, as one would expect. But the other was too large, round as a coin, and a vivid electric blue. And to make it even more alarming, the blue ey was moving ceaselessly, and without blinking, quite independently of the other eye. She remembered reading once, ages ago, that human brains liked symmetry. Well, this man was anything but symmetrical. As the thought that, the blue eye rolled right over, pointing back into the man’s head, and all the students could see the bare whiteness of the opposite side.

She felt Harry squirm by her side.

The stranger reached Dumbledore, and he stretched out a hand that was as badly scarred as his face. Dumbledore shook it, muttering something softly, though she couldn’t quite make out what. The stranger shook his head in reply, and said something in an undertone. Dumbledore nodded, and gestured the man to the empty seat on his right-hand side.

The man took his seat, and shook his mane of gray hair once again. Thought all the food had gone from the other tables, there were a few dishes left on the staff table, and at once he reached for one of them. It was a plate of sausages, and to Hermione’s surprise, he raised them to his nose and sniffed. He then took a small knife out of his pocket, speared a sausage on the end of it, and began to eat. All the while, his bright blue eye was still darting all around the Great Hall.

“May I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?” said Dumbledore with a smile into the stunned silence. “Professor Moody.”

It was so silent in the echoey, cavernous, Hall, that you could have heard a pin drop. Then Dumbledore and Hagrid broke into enthusiastic applause, though she noticed the rest of the staff table didn’t join them. Was it his looks, or something else?

“Moody?” Harry said, reaching over Hermione to talk to Ron in an undertone. “Mad-Eye Moody? The one your dad went to help this morning?”

Evidently, Ron and Harry knew something about this new teacher that she had missed. Well, this was a first.

“Must be,” Ron said, leaning in to talk to Harry so she had to lean way back on the bench to get out of the way.

“What happened to him?” she whispered, hoping for some kind of information. And then, in spite of herself, she said, “what happened to his face?” for as rude as it was to stare, she could not stop looking into that scarred and battered face.

“Dunno.” was all Ron whispered in reply. He was peering up at Moody as well.

For his part, Professor Moody seemed indifferent to the reaction of both the students and the other teachers. Ignoring the jug of pumpkin juice in front of him, he reached into his traveling cloak, pulled out a hip flask, and took a long draught from hit. Hermione thought she saw Professor McGonagall raise her eyebrows just slightly, but she couldn’t be sure.

In the piercing silence, Dumbledore cleared his throat.

“As I was saying,” he said, with a smile as though there had been no interruption at all, “we are to have the honor of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, an event that has not been held for over a century. It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Triwizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year.”

“You’re JOKING!” shouted Fred Weasley.

The tension that had filled the Hall ever since Moody’s arrival suddenly broke. Nearly everyone laughed, and Professor Dumbledore chuckled appreciatively.

“I am not joking, Mr. Weasley,” he said, still grinning, “though now that you mention it, I did hear an excellent one over the summer about a troll, a hag, and a leprechaun who all go into a bar…”

Now it was Professor McGonagall’s turn to clear her throat.

“Er — but maybe this is not the time… no…” he looked down at his hands, “where was I? Ah yes, the Triwizard Tournament… well, some of you will not know what this tournament involves, so I hope those who do know will forgive me for giving a short explanation, and allow their attention to wander freely.”

Hermione bristled involuntarily. He meant muggle-borns, of course. He meant that witches and wizards with non-magical families couldn’t possibly know the great history of dangerous and lethal sporting events in the wizarding world…

“The Triwizard Tournament was first established some seven hundred years ago as a friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beaubatons, and Durmstrang. A champion was selected to represent each school, and the three champions competed in three magical tasks. The schools took it in turns to host the tournament once every five years, and it was generally agreed to be a most excellent way of establishing ties between young witches and wizards of different nationalities — until, that is, the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued.”

Death toll?” she said. Because truth be told, she had only read a little bit about the Triwizard Tournament, and Dumbledore was making it out to be even more dangerous than she had realized. However, she looked around her, and no one else looked anything but excited. She couldn’t, for the life of her, understand it. Harry and Ron were both grinning like idiots, and most of the Gryffindor table seemed to be whispering to one and other.

“There have been several attempts over the centuries to reinstate the tournament,” Dumbledore continued, “none of which has been very successful. However, our own departments of International Magical Cooperation and Magical Game and Sports have decided the time is ripe for another attempt. We have worked hard over the summer to ensure that this time, no champion will find himself or herself in mortal danger.”

“The heads of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving with their short-listed contenders in October, and the selection of the three champions will take place at Halloween. An impartial judge will decide which students are most worthy to compete for the Triwizard Cup, the glory of their school, and a thousand Galleons personal prize money.”

“I’m going for it!” Fred Weasley hissed down the table, his face lit up with enthusiasm at the prospect of such glory and riches. He was far from the only one in the hall announcing his intentions to his friends. For herself, Hermione never once considered trying to represent all of Hogwarts. How could she? But it would be nice, perhaps, to meet a few witches and wizards who weren’t from Britain. Yes, that would be a bit of perspective.

“Eager though I know all of you will be to bring the Triwizard Cup to Hogwarts,” he said, “the heads of the participating schools, along with the Ministry of Magic, have agreed to impose an age restriction on contenders this year. Only students who are of age — that is to say, seventeen years or older — will be allowed to put forward their names for consideration. This —” Dumbledore had to raise his voice slightly, to speak over the sudden rush of noise as all throughout the Hall those would-be champions who were not yet seventeen made their displeasure known, “— is a measure we feel is necessary, given that the tournament tasks will still be difficult and dangerous, whatever precautions we take, and it is highly unlikely that students below sixth and seventh year will be able to cope with them. I will personally be ensuring that no underage student hoodwinks our impartial judge into making them Hogwarts champion.” He looked right at the Gryffindor table, right at Fred and George, who both looked furious. “I therefore beg you not to waste your time submitting yourself if you are under seventeen.”

The twins glowered back at the smiling Dumbledore.

“The delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving in October and remaining for the greater part of this school year. I know that you will all extend every courtesy to our foreign guests while they are here with us, and will give your whole-hearted support to the Hogwarts champion when he or she is selected. And now, it is late, and I know how important it is to you all to be alert and rested as you enter your lessons tomorrow morning.” he smirked somewhat sardonically. “Bedtime! Chop chop!”

And then Professor Dumbledore sat down again, and turned once again to talk to Professor — Mad Eye — Moody. There was a great scraping of benches as hundreds of students all rose to their feet, and swarmed towards the double doors, headed for the entrance hall, and then their respective house dormitories.

“They can’t do that!” said George Weasley, who had not yet joined the crowd moving toward the doors, but was still standing glaring at Dumbledore. “We’re seventeen in April, why can’t we have a shot?”

“They’re not stopping me entering,” said Fred, with an ugly scowl. “The champions’ll get to do all sorts of stuff you’d never be allowed to do normally. And a thousand Galleons prize money!”

Ron was standing near his brothers, also not moving, looking dreamy and far away. “Yeah… Yeah, a thousand Galleons…”

“Come on,” she said, inching towards the huge double doors, slowly beckoning them all forward, “we’ll be the only ones left here if you don’t move.”

And to her astonishment, they actually followed her. Soon she was walking with Fred, George, Ronald, and Harry, as they debated the ways in which Dumbledore might stop those who were under seventeen from entering the tournament.

“Who’s this impartial judge who’s going to decide who he champions are?” Harry asked the others.

“Dunno,” said Fred thoughtfully, “ but it’s them we’ll have to fool. I reckon a couple of drops of Aging Potion might do it, George…”

“Dumbledore knows you’re not of age, though,” said Ron.

“Yeah, but he’s not the one who decides who the champion is, is he?” said Fred shrewdly. “Sounds to me like once this judge knows who wants to enter, he’ll choose the best from each school and never mind how old they are.” Fred was probably right, though privately Hermione hoped he wasn’t. “Dumbledore’s trying to stop us giving our names.” he said.

“People have died, though!” she said, as they walked through a door concealed behind a tapestry, and started up another staircase on their way to the Gryffindor common room.

“Yeah,” said Fred, dismissively, “but that was years ago, wasn’t it? Anyway, where’s the fun without a bit of risk? Hey, Ron, what if we find out how to get ‘round Dumbledore? Fancy entering?”

“What d’you reckon?” Ron asked, turning to Harry. “Be cool to enter, wouldn’t it? But I s’pose they might want someone older… Dunno if we’ve learned enough…”

“I definitely haven’t,” came Neville’s voice from behind them, catching up. It was the most sensible thing she’d heard since Dumbledore had finished making his announcements.

“I expect my gran’d want to me try, though…” Neville continued, sounding a bit gloomy. “She’s always going on aobut how I should be upholding the family honor. I’ll just have to — oops!”

And Neville’s right foot sank clear through a step, halfway up the staircase. There were quite a few of these trick stairs at Hogwarts, and while many of the older students had learned precisely where they were (and tended to jump over this particular step) Neville was always forgetting exactly which one was which. He gave an embarrassed smile as Ron and Harry seized him under the armpits and pulled him out. Meanwhile, a suit of armor at the top of the stairs creaked and clanked, laughing wheezily.

“Shut it, you,” said Ron, banging down the armor’s visor hard as they passed. Finally, they made their way to the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, which was concealed behind a large portrait of a fat lady in a pink silk dress.

“Password?” she queried.

“Balderdash,” said George with confidence. Then he added, “a prefect downstairs told me.” The password changed at the start of each term, so many students didn’t yet know what it was.

The portrait swung inward, to reveal the wide hole in the wall which was the entrance. They all took it in turns to climb through, and were met with the sounds of a warm, crackling fire. As Hermione pulled herself into the circular common room, outfitted with squashy armchairs and old battered tables, she remembered that that fire had almost certainly been lit by a house elf.

“Slave labor…” she said under her breath.

She was embarrassed to admit that she had never given such comforts much thought before. When she had first started at Hogwarts, four years ago, it had all been part of the magical charm of the place. She hadn’t grown up with any servants or even a visiting cleaning lady, and she’d always been part of the household chores back at home, but here at Hogwarts there never seemed to be any such work to be done. If she had ever wondered how the sheets were always so fresh, the fires always bright and merry, the dishes always spotless, she supposed it was just part of the magic of it all. It was a shock to learn that, far from a few benign spells that kept things tidy and in order, it was a different sort of magic: an entire race of magical beings, enslaved to do the work no humans in the castle wanted.

Ronald and Harry were both looking at her with trepidation. She knew they didn’t want to talk about it.

“Well, goodnight then.” she said, as normally as she could, and made her way towards the staircase on the righthand side of the room, which led up to the girls’ dormitories.

Up the spiral stairs she marched, trying hard not to notice her hungry stomach, until she found the door marked “fourth year.”

It was a stone room, with three rather large four poster beds with crimson hangings. It seemed to be just the right size for the three beds that occupied the room, and Hermione supposed that it would have magically expanded had their been more girls in Gryffindor that year.

Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil, the two other occupants of the dormitory, were already there. When Hermione entered, they glanced at her, and waved silently. They were best friends, and they were sitting on Lavender’s bed in their pajamas, chatting about their summers.

Somehow, over the summer with her eagerness to return to school, she had forgot how awkward she always felt around Lavender and Parvati. It wasn’t just that they both came from wizarding families, though that was certainly true (and Parvati’s twin sister, Padma, was at Hogwarts as well, in Ravenclaw house). It was that Lavender and Parvati both made sense in Gryffindor, and they made sense together. It made all the sense in the world for two fourteen year old girls to be happily chatting together, about where they’d gone on holiday, cute muggle boys they’d seen, the latest fashions in dress robes.

Whereas, Hermione Granger? She didn’t exactly make sense anywhere.

Her trunk was already at the foot of her four-poster, and Crookshanks was curled up in the very center of the bed, as though he was trying to take up as much room as possible. As quickly as possible, trying to make herself small, she pulled off her long witch’s robes and threw on her nightgown. Then she climbed into her bed, gave a falsely cheery “goodnight!” to the room at large, and closed the bed curtains.

In the dark of the crimson hangings, she pushed her snoring cat a little to one side, and cuddled up to him. He was a weird cat. Instead of scampering away, he gave a little grunt, and then started purring. The bed was immensely comfortable. She hadn’t realized how tired she was, not until now.

Just before she drifted off to sleep, she thought “I’ve got to do something about all those poor elves.

***

Deconstruction / Notes

 

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.

This chapter is 17 pages in the google doc I’m working on it in and let me just say, it’s too long. I’m not sure what could have been done about that exactly, because obviously there’s a lot to fit in at the feast and what have you. But my god, seventeen pages. I just checked, and chapter four was a whopping SEVEN.

Ok, we talked about this in the comments last week (if you don’t read the comments, you may want to, lots of good analysis in there, and not just mine) but Crookshanks. Where the hell is Crookshanks? I added a Crookshanks bit in here, because it desperately needed it, but it isn’t in the original text. He’s in Hermione’s robes, scratching her, not riding in his traveling basket for reasons we are never told… and then he’s just… gone. I don’t have my other books handy at the moment, but I believe at some point we’re told that the luggage is magically transported to the dormitories for them. Ok, fine. But is a cat luggage? An owl in a cage, I guess I can kind of see… But a cat? And not just a cat, but a loose cat? The treatment of pets at Hogwarts is really troubling, once you actually look at it and try to parse out what is happening.

Also, I love Professor McGonagall and so does Hermione, and I won’t hear a word against her. Just so you all know. I loved writing McGonagall here and I look forward to more scenes with her because she is generally reasonable and responsible and in my dreams she is promoted to Headmistress immediately because she is already doing the work goddamn it.

Other than that, there’s potentially a lot to unpack in this chapter, and I frankly don’t have the bandwidth to get into the teeny tiny details of everything. I think many of the descriptions of Moody are borderline ableist (except the ones that are blatantly ableist) and I think that the treatment of Hermione as being nervous about the Triwizard Tournament is basically gaslighting. In this chapter we have these two things — the Triwizard Tournament and professor Moody — introduced for the first time. Both are going to seriously drive the plot for the rest of the book, so we’ll have plenty of time to pick them apart.

Instead, we need to talk about house elves yet again. Because this is important, and I think that this chapter, the moment when Hermione realizes that there are, in fact, house elves living and working at Hogwarts, is a huge character defining moment for Hermione Granger. Hermione may be brainy as all get out, but she also loves justice and fair play as much as any Hufflepuff. And she loves Hogwarts damn near as much as Harry Potter does, and she assumed that the things she had learned about it were true and that it was a good and fair place where she could feel (relatively) safe. It is therefore major for her to discover, now, at the start of her fourth year of school, that the school is entirely reliant on a slave class of non-human people.

You may be wondering how Hogwarts can even have house elves, since as they’ve been previously defined they are bound to serve one family forever more. Who is the master of the Hogwarts house elves? Put those thoughts out of your mind, we will never have an answer. This is just going to be one of those incredibly frustrating thing that makes no sense and, if you are like me, you’ll stay up late trying to find a way you can make it make sense. So far, I have been unsuccessful. Institutional house elves, as far as I can tell, make no sense with the mythology of elves we are given. The only way they would make any sense is if they were all more or less free, not serving at Hogwarts because they are bound but because they enjoy serving in a beautiful castle. But we’ll find out later that this is very much not the case. No explanation about who these elves “belong” to will ever be given.

Hermione will make grave errors in her activism for house elves, of course. But right now, she is just a fourteen year old girl who suddenly discovered that the place she loves isn’t so lovely after all.

Harry Potter, of course, is discovering this for the very first time as well. He saw the horrible conditions Dobby was in, so he knows how bad things can get for elves. He, at least privately, is aware that the treatment of Winky has been incredibly unfair. Yet he is shown to have no emotional reaction whatsoever to the news that a hundred house elves are bound to the castle he views as his home.

As an aside here, when I first read this series, I didn’t actually like it at all. And one of the reasons I didn’t like it was that there are so many moments like this. The whole series is filled with revelations that really shouldn’t be revelations, things that seem like they should just be known. Like in book three, when everyone consistently refers to dementors as “the Azkaban guards” until the word “dementor” is uttered once and then they are never once referred to in such a way again. If Nearly Headless Nick can so casually mention the house elves now, it seems very unlikely that they’ve never come up in three years. These books are positively full of moments like these, big reveals of things that “have been this way all along” but our POV character never knew for… reasons. Harry’s outsider status gives the reader a glimpse into the magical world that makes sense to them, but the formulaic nature of these reveals starts to feel a bit tired a few books in. It’s like each book requires that early on, we learn a new thing about the magical world, and by the end of the book it will play a major role. The dementors were certainly like that, as was Dobby himself, and we’ll see a similar pattern with the Thestrals in book five.

But here it doesn’t really work, even as that sort of cheap trick. Why? Because the existence of house elves at Hogwarts will always only be a side story, a minor interest of Hermione’s that everyone else won’t be bothered to think too much about. Hermione Granger’s obsession with house elves will become more and more of a joke as time goes on, and less and less integral to the plot (at least in this book).

So, we’ve set up this massive reveal that actually doesn’t make terribly much sense. And we’re only going to use it to… make fun of the nerdy girl.

And it starts now. Here is Hermione Granger, a fourteen year old idealist and intellectual, a girl desperately trying to fit in and make sense in the magical world while also being true to herself, a girl trying to strike an impossible balance. And after seeing a house elf cruely abused — what was it, a week ago now? — she’s suddenly learned that her entire school, her beloved temple of learning, runs on the labor of house elves who are unpaid and enslaved. She is overcome with emotion, suddenly, she can’t eat. This isn’t a case of teenage girls not eating in books because girls don’t eat when they’re upset! She’s just learned that the meal that is before her, the luxury of a feast, is the product of slavery. The Hogwarts kitchen is filled with a hundred Winkys. She’s realizing that she is complicit in oppression, and she suddenly cannot bring herself to participate.

That’s a very reasonable response, as far as I’m concerned, even if it isn’t sustainable. It brings to mind the saying “no ethical consumption under capitalism” for me, because if you try to consume ethically, eventually you’ll be overwhelmed with how impossible it is (or at least I am, I may be projecting). Tomorrow morning, Hermione will realize that this is the food that is available at Hogwarts, that circumventing that system is impossible, and won’t help dismantle it. But for now, this evening, she can’t bring herself to take another bite.

And Ronald Weasley, a young man who is supposedly her friend, mocks her for this. The criticism of Hermione is always that she’s too bookish, too well read (until you need her massive store of information, of course). But here we have a very earnest display of emotion and passion, a simple response that isn’t intellectual or very well thought out at all, it’s automatic, “if I think that’s wrong, I can’t do it.” And Ron thinks that’s very funny. It’s mean, it’s cruel, and I think it betrays something about our trio of friends here. Hermione is friends with Harry, and Ron is friends with Harry, but are Ron and Hermione friends? Or do they just tolerate each other to keep Harry’s friendship, until they eventually develop feelings for each other?

Ok, one more thing before my brain has to leave the potterverse for awhile. Let’s talk about the dormitories.

So typically, for these re-writes, I’m not looking a ton of stuff up, and especially not online. I’m going from my memory of the series, and from the physical books themselves, and primarily just the chapter at hand. But every once in awhile, I have a question and I need it answered before I can move forward.

That happened at bed time. Because I could not, for the life of me, remember who all slept in Hermione’s dormitory. I could think of Parvati and Lavender, but it seemed like I must be missing someone. So, I googled. Harry Potter wikia lists the known dormitory residents as:

Lavender Brown
Hermione Granger
Parvati Patil
Two unknown Gryffindor girls

Oh. I tried to look on Pottermore to see if this was confirmed anywhere, but I couldn’t find anything at all about the girls’ dormitory residents. But if it is true, if it was written to be a dorm with five pupils in it (just like on the boys’ side) and two of them are never mentioned by name in text, that’s a problem. Hermione is Harry’s second best friend in the universe, it seems utterly impossible that she could sleep in the same room as four people, and over the course of six years at school, Harry only ever learns the names of two of them. And even without that, they’re in Gryffindor in the same house, which means they have classes together every single day. So what we have here is either a case of very very bad writing (oh, I guess there are more girls, Harry can’t be bothered about them) or a case of the fandom assuming that there couldn’t possibly be only three girls in the dormitory.

And this is one of those cases, where for this project, as a writer, I had to make a decision. And I just couldn’t put two more girls in that dorm and otherwise keep the story as-is. There was no possible way it could have worked, and anyway, variation in class sizes does make a bit of sense.

So for the purposes of our story here, there are only three fourth year Gryffindor girls. Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil are, of course, best friends. So Hermione is, once again, isolated.

 

All The Weyrs Of Pern: Skepticism Abounds

Last chapter, the AI went to work in earnest, detailing what would be needed to give it more power, to create more workstations for access, and what kind of knowledge would have to be relearned so as to make good on the threat to defeat Thread permanently.

And a lot of people were introduced to AIVAS, many of whom are not convinced it holds the solutions…

All The Weyrs of Pern: Chapter Three: Content Notes: Homophobia

The conference the last chapter alluded to opens this chapter, with open skepticism that AIVAS (a “talking wall”) has anything useful for the planet at all. Robinton and Fandarel shut down that line of attack, and Lessa indicates the Lords are here mostly as a convenience and to avoid any accusations that anyone is hiding anything. Two Lords ask why AIVAS didn’t do anything about defeating Thread earlier in time, to which the Benden Weyrleader points out the problem of the volcanoes altering plans.

This is the right question, but it’s being asked of the wrong people. At this point, Lessa’s Ride is most likely part of the Teaching Song canon, which means every Lord should know that dragons can do the time warp again. And so they should be asking why future dragonriders haven’t already gone back in time and destroyed the Red Star before it could plague Pern. (Paradox notwithstanding, this is an excellent question, and deserves an answer, but that would mean explaining how the time travel works, which is more detail than anyone with narrative power wants to give about anything related to Pern.)

The questions continue, about why the dragonriders are so eager to put themselves out of planet-protection duty, and the wisdom of waiting until the quarterly meeting of the Lords Holder so that they can decide on whether to be on board with the plan. The Benden Weyrleader says that the Lords and the Craftmasters can make their own decisions, but delay is not a good idea on making use of AIVAS.

Master Glass-smith Norist, however, is more staunchly for TRADITION than even the Benden Weyrleader has been in the past.

“What that Aivas suggested I do in the Craft which I have Mastered, and efficiently, for the past thirty Turns, goes against every established procedure of my Hall!” Norist wasn’t going to give an inch.
“Including the now illegible ones in your oldest Records?” Master Robinton asked gently. “And here is Master Fandarel, fretting to get on with the restoration of an ancestral power station, quite willing to accept new principles from Aivas.”
Something akin to a sneer curled Norist’s thick, scarred lip. “We all know that Master Fandarel is endlessly fiddling about with gadgets and gimmicks.”
“Always efficient ones,” Master Fandarel replied, ignoring the disparagement. “I can plainly see that every Craft can benefit from the knowledge stored in Aivas. This morning Bendarek was given invaluable advice on how to improve his paper, Aivas called it, and speed up its production.[…] Bendarek immediately saw the possibilities and has gone back to Lemos to develop this much more efficient method. That’s why he’s not here.”
“You and Bendarek,” Norist said, a flick of his fingers dismissing the newest Mastercraftsman’s products, “may exercise your prerogatives. I prefer to concentrate on maintaining the high standards of my Halls without dissipating effort on frivolous pursuits.”
[…Asgenar calls Norist out as a hypocrite, since Norist has no trouble benefiting from progress, even as he resists it…]
“Glass is glass, made of sand, potash, and red lead,” Norist stated stubbornly. “You can’t improve on it.”
“But Aivas suggested ways to do just that,” Master Robinton said at his most reasonable and persuasive.
“I’ve wasted enough time here already.” Norist stood up and stalked off down the hall.
“Damned fool,” Asgenar muttered under his breath.

To put it mildly, this is what happens when a story escapes the original boundaries put on it. So long as Pern remains a closed world with demon rain that happens every so often, the world can stay static. You can get good narrative out of following the exceptional person that appears every so often before the rain comes that resets everything, because having innovation persist past everyone going into survival mode takes doing.

Once you’ve introduced the sci-fi component and allowed the AI to be revitalized, though, there has to be some role redefinition. The most consistent characterization would be to put the Benden Weyrleader at the head of the faction resisting change, because TRADITION and that the dragonriders have the most to lose from a new order. With help from Robinton, who’s already admitted to the Harper role in trying to keep things static. Maybe against Fandarel’s invention squad, assisted from the inside by Menolly and Mirrim, possibly also Lessa and Brekke, who are in favor of a new world for women. (Piemur and Jaxom could also help, occasionally, just because they want to keep their unique selves.) This storyline would have followed on from a better handling of Thella and the “Renegades” who would be fighting the established society. And would have been much less shy about showing off all the bad things about static Pern. And with the discovery of an AI, an immediate fight would break out for control.

But, because it’s already an established law of the universe that dragonriders can’t be wrong, there has to be a shift in thinking or an excuse found to justify why Benden is on board with this. And to displace the insistence on TRADITION to someone else. I can handwave it if I invoke Sith Lessa and claim that she’s been manipulating his mind over the course of their partnership to make him more open to the idea, but it would be nice if the narrative would give some justification past a single-minded devotion to a promise made many decades ago.

As it is, the conference adjourns, with some going back and some going to hear AIVAS tell the story of the colonists. After that, the assembled finally ask AIVAS the actual plan to beat Thread. Which gives them a deadline – in just about five years, there will be an opportunity to nudge the orbit of the Red Star in such a way that it will no longer drop Thread on Pern. The time-skipped dragonriders present ask why this wasn’t done in the distant past, and AIVAS mentions that the conjunctions were wrong and that it didn’t actually know enough to formulate the plan until after everyone fled to the north. (Time-traveling dragons, still.) So the new disciplines have to be learned and mastered, as well as a high degree of cooperation and coordination completed to make the plan work, all within this timeframe. AIVAS notes, accurately, that having the entire planet working on the task would make things easier. As everyone files out, gently but firmly dismissed by Master Terry, who needs to wire in a few more things to AIVAS, Robinton quietly asks whether AIVAS has a sense of humor. AIVAS dodges the question, and the scene shifts.

Fandarel is brought to the site of the hydro dam, and begins immediate work on determining what can be restored and how, accompanied by several other trusted Smiths to help with both physical labor and design ideas. They draft up a water wheel for the building that used to hold the power generation for the dam, and then we jump back to the Benden Weyrleader, who is unhappy at having not convinced all the Holders to sign on, before K’van details a problem with Toric – Toric wants the Weyr’s help to suppress a rebellion. K’van has told him no, that dragons don’t ferry Hold soldiers, don’t act as flying intelligence operatives for the Hold (to which Toric responded by trying to show dissent among the bronze riders about what their new Weyrleader should do as duty to the Holder), and then…

“He tried to bribe one of my blue riders with the promise of finding him a suitable friend.”

Cocowhat by depizan

Oh, there’s so much to unpack there. First, there’s the presumption that this is somehow an effective bribe. Communal Weyr living should mean that there is no lack of companionship and friendliness, unless that rider is particularly adept at irritating everyone to the point of having no friends. So that shouldn’t be a problem.

If this is supposed to be code for something which might be known extratextually, but hasn’t had actual mention in the text, it’s sloppy writing to start with. But also, it hasn’t actually been established that there’s anything different about blue riders. Because I think we’ve had…one? Two? blue riders that weren’t background characters to this point, so we shouldn’t have any reason to generalize.

And yet, even if that were true, and somehow had been set up properly, in the Ninth Pass, at this exact moment, we have exactly one green rider that’s a woman – Mirrim. So, um, men having sex with men should be a complete non-issue in Weyr culture. If, say, it had been established that Holder culture found same-sex relationships to be repugnant and that finding a suitable and discreet friend would be something a Holder son would be very interested in, then there’s a possibility that this makes sense. But the expected reaction from a dragonrider would be to laugh it off in someone’s face. Because everyone on the planet should be sufficiently steeped in dragonrider culture (or rumors about their wild sex parties and what it must be like to live there, if just having one fly over you can make you have sex with whomever is nearest to you) to know that the average rider is probably pansexual, even if they aren’t open about it to everyone. It should be a non-issue.

The Benden Weyrleaders, however, are *pissed*.

“You’d think he’d know better by this time not to try to bully dragonriders,” she said, her voice crisp with anger. When she saw K’van’s apprehensive expression, she gave him a reassuring touch. “It’s scarcely your fault Toric is as greedy as a Bitran.”
“Desperate, more like,” K’van said with a hint of a smile. “Master Idarolan told me that Toric had offered him a small fortune in terms and a fine harbor if he’d sail a punitive force to the Island. But he wouldn’t. And, furthermore, he’s told all the other Shipmasters that they’re not to help Toric in this matter. They won’t, either.”

Perhaps they are more upset about the ways that Toric tried to manipulate K’van than at this bribe-that-isn’t.

Also, I’m surprised at the restraint shown by the assembled when they had the Lord Holder of Bitra with the AI. Given that “Bitran” seems to be a six-letter word on Pern, and a machine that knew Avril Bitra, that nobody casually asked AIVAS about what the settlers thought of Bitra is a missed opportunity for petty cruelty.

And finally, Idarolan might be incorruptible, but we just spent an entire book pointing out that his subordinates, and many of the other Craft-trained people in the planet, are very much corruptible. Toric has supposedly been building an entire network of contacts and skilled people. If he really wants to invade that island, he probably has the people to do it with, including people who can sail the ships.

K’van tries to allay this last point by claiming that the reason Toric fails is because he can’t muster large enough ships to send a large enough fighting force to take back the island. And the Benden Weyrleaders decide to make a personal visit to inform Toric about all the interesting things going on at Landing. As well as for Lessa to chew Toric out for his behavior.

The scene cuts away to AIVAS giving Piemur instructions for plugging in a workstation. Which fails. And leads to a long recap of how everyone else is also facing trouble getting their machines working, despite having had to learn how to solder and using unfamiliar tools love a screwdriver. That the AI seems to have infinite patience is grinding on Piemur a bit. But he checks, rechecks, blows dust out if the workstation and plugs it in, getting the correct light and a prompt to appear. (No GUI for these interstellar travelers! Although the boot time on the terminal is quite impressive, considering.) After Piemur shouts for not and nearly causes a bad solder for someone else, AIVAS instructs Piemur to RTFM by typing in the README command. Soon Jancis and Benelek are also up and running, and the chapter closes with AIVAS asking if Jaxom will be among the students learning the system and Piemur expressing surprise at the prospect.

Well, of course Ruth should be involved. His timesense is leagues above every other dragon’s. If there’s an opportunity that requires a tight window to execute, Ruth would be the one to arrive at exactly the right time to give everyone enough time to do the right thing at the right time. Whatever that may be.

We’ll see what Jaxom is up to next week.

All The Weyrs of Pern: Make Haste

Last chapter, AIVAS finished telling the story of the colonists and what went wrong with them, and indicated that it held a solution to permanently ridding the world of Thread, if Pern was willing to return to a high technology world. The ruling Council of Pern is on board with the idea, and has busily been getting the AI up to speed about what Ninth Pass Pern is like.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Chapter Two: Content Notes: Sexism and Patriarchy

Chapter Two picks up only a little while later, with lots of gawkers having come to see the strange machine with the moving picture show. And either a miracle or a failure of logistics happens:

Then she [Lessa], with Menolly and Jancis, found volunteers among the women to do the drudge work of washing down the walls of long-disused rooms and shoveling out the dirty ash that had seeped on around windows and doors. The largest room, which the women decided most have originally been intended for conferences, was prepared for that purpose again.
[…Lessa sends for furniture…]
All these were washed down, revealing bright colors that made cheerful accents in the otherwise bare rooms. The room farthest from all the activity was turned into a private retreat for the Masterharper, complete with a comfortable bed, a well-cushioned chair, and a table.

Oh, no, wait, nevermind. Because of course it’s the women who recruit only women to do the cleaning work. The men can’t be bothered to help with that. It is “nice” that Lessa, who spent years as a drudge hiding from Fax, is the one who spearheads the operation, and that Menolly, Master Harper and composer, and Mastersmith(?) Jancis are her lieutenants. Surely there are some apprentices somewhere that could be pulled aside and put to useful work so that they appreciate the drudgery.

Also, which Masterharper? Robinton or Sebell?

And then, insult follows injury.

“The only problem will be in getting him to use it,” Lessa said, giving the tale a final swipe with her cleaning cloth. She had smudges on her cheeks, across her fine-bridged nose, and on her strong chin. Her black hair was coming loose from its braids. Menolly and Jancis exchanged glances to decide who would tell her how dirty her face was. Jancis thought that the Weyrwoman’s disarray, as well as her energetic cleaning, made her suddenly more accessible. The young Smithmaster had always been scared of the famous Weyrwoman.
“Somehow I never thought that I’d see the Weyrwoman of Pern working like a drudge,” Jancis murmured to Menolly. “She does it with a vengeance.”
“She had practice,” Menolly said with a wry chuckle, “hiding herself away from Fax in Ruatha Hold before Impressing Ramoth.”
“But she looks as if she was enjoying this,” Jancis said in faint surprise. Actually, she was, too. It gave her a sense of achievement to return a dirty room to cleanliness and order.

So not only is Lessa the one organizing the cleanup effort, she’s enjoying doing the drudge work, as is Jancis. Because women are domestic, amirite? It’s not like that ten years hiding from Fax wouldn’t be a giant trauma scar for Lessa, unless dragon Impression is magic for your PTSD or something. And that Menolly would have scars from her treatment at Half-Circle and the Harper Hall. And likely Jancis, too, being the granddaughter of Fandarel and his efficiency monomania. She probably had to optimize everything before he would approve. That could make trauma, too.

But no, the women are enjoying themselves doing this work and happily volunteered to do it, and it helped Lessa get her anxiety out about the possible end of dragonriders and Thread. Actually, I’d believe Lessa doing it as a stress-buster much more than any other reason.

Maps get hung, Lessa passes an approving and silent judgment on Jancis as appropriate for Piemur and the AIVAS project, Menolly frets about trying to compose a song to explain all of this, and after Jancis goes out to get food and drink, Menolly frets that not everyone is going to be on board with the massive change that AIVAS represents. Lessa is dismissive of that, and suggests strongly that Sebell commission new Teaching Songs to promulgate the true origins of the settlers and Pern. Lessa is still enthusiastic about the prospects of life without Thread, and the narrative casually drops that Menolly is Harper Hall Master, which likely makes her Sebell’s second as well as wife and mother to his children. And also a rather meteoric rise to prominence in the Hall. I wonder how many of the teaching and other Masters were resistant to the idea of having a woman in charge of them at the hall. And I also now want to know what Menolly has done about the program of taking Holder daughters and trying to teach them social music skills. And what the gender percentage of Harpers is now that Menolly is in change of the Hall.

But we get none of that, as Jancis returns with food and klah, and talk returns to AIVAS and the work being done in building the workstations. Then comes the Benden Weyrleader, complaining that everyone insisted on getting talk time with the machine, to which Lessa sits him down firmly and makes him eat and drink while he complains.

F’lar gave her a rueful grin. “And you’re handling me as you usually do, aren’t you?”
Lessa gave him a look of mild indignation as she slipped back into her chair and picked up her half-eaten roll. “Reassuring you, dear heart.”
From Mnementh, Lessa heard an incredulous mental snort.
Don’t spoil the effect, she told the bronze dragon.
Not likely, Mnementh replied sleepily. The sun is exceedingly warm here in this Landing place.
Ramoth agreed.

I miss the Lessa that had manipulative abilities and mental powers. Because it would be a fun story of how she has managed to bend Benden, and eventually Pern, to her will, all while letting the Weyrleader take the heat and be the public face of it all.

Anyway, Sebell appears to take Menolly and get her on the access list. There’s an intriguing paragraph that would make a great fanfic prompt.

As he often did, Sebell wondered at his great good fortune to have won Menolly as his mate. He could not mind that part of her heart which was Master Robinton’s. Part of his was the Harper’s, too, along with his complete loyalty and respect; but Menolly was the joy of his life.

Because we have yet to really see what kind of relationships are considered proper and which ones aren’t on Pern, even though there’s plenty of possibilities to pick from.

Sebell passes by Oterel, Tillek’s Lord Holder, who grouses at not being able to get in and see the machine, and accuses Fandarel of nepotism, since Jancis is inside. Menolly gives as good as she gets at this point, which is a big change from the girl of Half-Circle Hold.

“If you were able to draw clear diagrams as she does, Lord Oterel,” Menolly said, “you would doubtless be in there.” She had disliked the testy old Lord of Tillek Hold ever since he had spoken out so vehemently against her attaining her Mastery.
Oterel glared fiercely back at her. Beyond him, Lord Toronas of Benden Hold covered a grin with his hand. “You’re impudent, young woman, far too impudent! You dishonor your Hall.”
Sebell gave him a long quelling look and then pulled Menolly into the small room.

And in front of the Masterharper himself. Given the way that the dragonriders and many of the Holders seem to hold their honor much higher than their reasoning facilities, I would have expected a stronger response from Sebell than just a withering look. Up to and including a knife fight. Menolly could have used the support at that point. Perhaps not something as formal as a duel, but an aloud musing to make sure that the master in residence at Tillek for the next cycle will be the most promising woman musician at the Hall, or some other thing intended to tweak Oterel for his rudeness.

As it is, the Harpers enter as AIVAS is giving final directions for an assembly. After the drafters leave (did nobody put more paper in the printer?), Menolly is added to the roster, with data on her duties as a composer and lyricist, her mate, Sebell, and their three children enough to get a good voiceprint. AIVAS asks for copies of her music, and reveals to her that it has an extensive collection of music in its data banks. Which will be left for the moment, as the more pressing needs of power and connectivity are handled.

The Lords outside are brought in and introduced, and Oterel gets to be pompous and disbelieving, Sigomal of Bitra learns that his Hold has a namesake, but not necessarily any details, Oterel gets his Hold’s namesake, and the other Lords present are asked to add their Records so that AIVAS has a more complete understanding of the history it doesn’t have. Wansor comes through with a question that he is reminded that he can scan in to get an answer before Toronas learns of his Hold’s namesake.

The return of Jancis, Piemur, and Benelek signals the end of the visit for the Lords, and as they go out, Menolly marvels at the way in which AIVAS seems able to handle each of them exactly the way they want to be manipulated. (For the third time in as many pages.) AIVAS pipes up and mentions Robinton suggested tact and flattery would be useful.

Boxes arrive and are scanned, and nothing really useful comes out of that segment except that apparently Mirrim and T’gellan got together as Weyrmates. Menolly approves, saying that Mirrim “had certainly bloomed and relaxed in the warmth of his preference,” which I give a significant side – eye at, even though there’s confirmation that Mirrim has not had her rougher edges removed. Perhaps sanded a touch. Still, Pern continues to rather ruthlessly put in heteronormatove pairings for any characters that might have had the potential to sit outside that mold and be happy. (Without becoming Bitran villains, or Thellas.)

After the boxes are distributed, there’s a conference called that pulls Sebell anyway, and Menolly, alone with the machine, asks for a sample of music, which turns up a recording of a song at Landing (after having to navigate the kind of music Menolly wants and give specifics) that leaves her speechless. It’s “Home on the Range”, which is apparently a tune that Menolly knows, even if not actually in that form. Which I’m willing to let slide a little bit more, since we can play music from a very long time ago, although we have to guess on certain things, since there’s no surviving record of how to do it.

The chapter ends with a parade of electronics arriving for inspection from the various Smiths (and Piemur) that have been working on them.

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.

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.