Episode 229: HBP 11 Revisit – Hermione Does Not Approve

It’s the day of the Quidditch tryouts, but despite all of the excitement in the air, even breakfast isn’t fun anymore as Voldemort quietly returns to power. Don’t worry, though! Hermione’s got everything covered. Join hosts Alison, Beth, Michael and guest host Rita, as they get some much needed assistance from “Hermione’s Helping Hand,” chapter 11 of Half-Blood Prince.

On Episode 229 we discuss…

→ We love Half-Blood Prince but we can’t remember why
→ Do not write in library books!
→ Completely change your thinking for 6th year
→ Poor Ron
→ Why can’t Harry and Lupin be besties?
→ Harry Potter and the Airport Security
→ Hannah Abbott is not a lighter note
→ A beat for humor
→ Cormac’s Connections
→ Consequences Schmonsequences
→ Aragog can’t come to the phone right now
→ Read your Evening Prophet, kids!

To listen to the show, simply click the player below or direct download the episode. You can also subscribe to us on iTunes. For more information about the podcast and to find out how to be on the show, check out our Be On The Show! page.

Skype users can send us a message to username AlohomoraMN. And as always, be sure to continue the discussion below!

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RECAP: EPISODE 228

On this recap we discuss…

→ The Trio Recovers
→ Harry’s figuring it out
→ Can you be too dumb to become a ghost?

Listen Now: | Download

  • AuroraSinistra

    Michael mentioned that the events of 9/11 affected how the Harry Potter books were written. I didn’t read the series until around 2010, well after 9/11 and when the hysteria mostly died down. Do you think the interpretation of the book by readers would be different if this book was written, one year or even five years, prior to the chaos that 9/11 caused? Also, do you think the interpretation of the book by older readers when it was published would be different from younger readers? I was too young on 9/11 to remember anything that would’ve changed the way I read the book years later.

  • Diffindo affects skin, too, as we found out in Deathly Hallows, when Hermione slashes Ron’s knee while freeing him from ropes conjured by an Incarcerous spell during the fight with the Death Eaters in the cafe on Tottenham Court Road. My interpretation is that while Diffindo does work on anything, it only makes shallow or superficial cuts.

    • Feminist_Cat

      Came here to say this! 🙂 It jumped right into my mind mid-run this morning, as I listened to the episode.

    • WeensiethePotterhead

      But doesn’t Harry try it in OOtP on the thoughts that attack Ron in the dept of mysteries? It doesn’t sever the thoughts, but it doesn’t sever the skin either.

      • You’re right, he does try. I think the difference is that Harry targets the tendrils precisely, while in Hermione’s case the text states clearly that her hand slips and that’s why she cuts Ron.

        • WeensiethePotterhead

          Very true!

  • SlytherinKnight

    Hi guys, just finished listening to the episode and full disclosure, I am one of the people who calls into question Hermione’s character change in this chapter. And I stand by my statement even though you all seemed to disagree. Hermione in this situation, directly influences the result of an event through the use of ‘coercive’ magic, and not for the best reasons. There are examples of Hermione breaking the rules before this point, going after the Sorcerer’s Stone in first, and helping create the DA in fifth year, the difference between those two events and this example, is that the Quidditch tryouts don’t have the fate of the world resting on them.

    I can understand why people think that this is a Gryffindor moment for Hermione, not thinking with her head but her heart, but this is also a Slytherin moment as she is using “Dark” magic to take away someone’s ability to act at their fullest potential. And I use the Dark magic label only because she is using magic in a way that could seriously harm someone. What might have happened if Cormac had fallen off his broom while attempting to make the save? We see that he is still affected by the spell even after tryouts, unable to walk through an open door.

    For the hosts who say she is saving Harry from having to choose between Ron and McLaggen, Harry could have just as easily had a second round of penalty shots. You see it all the time in soccer/futbol, if the two teams are tied after five penalty shots, they keep going in sudden rounds or another round of five shots. This also shows to me, that she doesn’t trust Ron in his ability to beat McLaggen, or in Harry, to make a difficult decision. She takes that choice out of Harry’s hands, maybe for the Greater Good (as evident by the fact that McLaggen is shown to be a terrible teammate) but that doesn’t excuse her for doing so.

    Another point about Hermione’s character ‘reversion’ IMO is with the Half Blood Prince book and her reaction to it. To me, Hermione reverts back to early-books Hermione, where she believes that anything that is written in a book is to be taken as absolute truth. Ron points out that Harry is lucky that these tips worked out because they could have easily blown up in his face. That’s why I think that Luna is such a great foil to Hermione’s character, as Luna believes so easily in seemingly absurd things while Hermione essentially has to have things shoved down her throat in order to believe in things. Which is funny, considering she is living in a world of magic where dragons and unicorns and phoenixes all live, all of which before she got her letter, she thought of as mere myths or not real at all.

    And Hermione’s character is not the only one who reverts to early-book stage. Harry’s does as well. He has to be handed essentially all the answers, even after being told why Voldemort wants to kill him, and that it is his destiny to stop Voldemort. Harry doesn’t go out and research spells or train to get better at magic, he coasts through sixth year. Really the only thing of note that Harry accomplishes in this book through his own actions is retrieving Slughorn’s true memory, and even then he needed multiple prodding by Dumbledore. And don’t get me started on Dumbledore’s actions in this book, I would need an entire episode on that topic.

    • Lisa

      I agree with most things you said here and good point about the characters reverting to their previous selves. Probably one of the reasons I dislike HBP…. As for Hermione, this isn’t the first time she’s being callous. What she did to Marietta in book five is, I believe, worse because the scars never disappeared whereas McLaggen at least snapped out of the charm eventually. I don’t mind Hermione having her Slytherin moments but it seems like the author is always trying to gloss over them in order to still be able to present her as a goody-two-shoes and a role model to aspire to.

    • frumpybutsupersmart

      I just wanted to share my thoughts on Hermione being close-minded in her approach to the magical world. In my opinion, Hermione’s world works on certain Rules. There were Rules in the Muggle world, and she must have been pretty freaked out by her own instances of unintentional underage magic – once a teacher from Hogwarts came and told her she was a witch, it would have made so much more sense to her. So obviously, the first thing she does in entering this new world is to learn all the Rules. She learns every set book by heart, she goes above and beyond trying to fully understand this new world, and she’s found that magic has its own rules and limitations. That’s why she’s so skeptical about divination as a whole – everything she’s found out about the magical world so far has told her that divination is sketchy at best (and, barring true prophecies, this is a pretty accurate statement). She even mentions it in Philosopher’s Stone – ‘it sounds like fortune-telling to me, and Professor McGonagall says that’s a very imprecise branch of magic’.

      TL;DR – the magical world has its own internal logic and consistency, and anything that violates that completely freaks Hermione out (see her reactions to the Deathly Hallows). Honestly, if her sense of moral justice was less strong, and she was a Muggle, Hermione would totally be a scientist.

  • On the topic of ghosts, I don’t think it’s as clear cut as making a decision after death as to whether to stay on Earth or move on. It’s gotta be something strong, externally that ties you to earth. We would see way more ghosts if it were as simple as making a decision.

    • Feminist_Cat

      That is what I was thinking as well. My thought is that the person would already feel that nagging pull of unfinished business at the time of their death. To me, it would be their state of mind that contributes to whether or not they become a ghost, rather than being presented with a tangible question similar to how Harry and Dumbledore discuss at King’s Cross. Nick’s story tells us as much.

      In his life, it seems Nick lived with a sense of inadequacy. I think those kinds of feelings would then cause a person to (unconsciously) not want to “go on” after they die. Given how much Nick laments his head’s incomplete separation from his body, especially when it comes to leaving him out of activities such as the Headless Hunt, it seems fair to surmise that Nick will never be satisfied – Hamilton reference…oh, wait. This isn’t SpeakBeasty.

    • Lisa

      I’m not sure we would see more ghosts if it was all about making a decision. Would that many people really choose that in-between existence? I think most people would choose to move on. It’s implied in the books, I think, that only people like Voldemort who were terribly afraid of death would choose to stay behind. When Harry asks Nick whether Sirius could be a ghost, Nick is sure Sirius has chosen not to become one.

      • This is to noble a way of thinking. Why would somebody like Cedric, who died suddenly and unexpectedly, be ready to accept his death and move on? He barely had time to live. Not everyone enters death ready to be dead. I think we would see many ghosts because death is something that many people fear. One of the largest themes in the series is why we shouldn’t fear death and this theme is a theme in the first place to try to comfort those who fear death.

    • DoraNympha

      And everyone has some unfinished business left when they die tbh. The ghosts we see seem to be a bit petty, if that makes sense? They are tied to earth by grudges. It’s never a case of being stuck here for one’s outlived love of their life, it’s something small, stupid,early, petty and mundane like wanting to haunt a school bully or complaints about inefficient executions or a stolen jewel and dudebro-ish attitude as if the girl’s gonna have to say yes to a date if you come back as a ghost. Ghosts are petty. Otherwise everyone would leave an imprint behind.

  • frumpybutsupersmart

    I just wanted to throw something out there with regards to the education system at Hogwarts – I’m not British, but Australia’s school system is reasonably similar, as far as I can tell.

    So I went through schooling like normal – primary school from K-6, then high school in year 7. In year 10 I sat the School Certificate (which they don’t do any more) in all my core subjects, plus two electives that I’d picked. In year 11, I got to pick all my subjects, and for each of those subjects, I started a two-year course that culminated in my Higher School Certificate. I considered my School Certificate to be pretty equivalent to OWLs, and my HSC to be NEWTs. So while the SC was hard, it was nowhere near as hard as even the Prelim (year 11) work for my HSC; and we got more homework, too. I think that’s what’s going on here when Harry and Ron are complaining about homework (although I do find it entertaining that in every single book there’s a feeling of ‘we’ve NEVER done this much school work before! This is the Most Work Ever!!’).

    As for what happens if you fail your OWLs, Hermione mentioned that ‘you discuss your options with your head of house’ – she’d asked McGonagall because she was freaking out. Also, we know that Crabbe and Goyle failed their DADA OWLs, because Snape mentions it to Malfoy – so passing your OWLs seems to be a prerequisite for doing your NEWTs.

  • frumpybutsupersmart

    The confusion about OWLs that the hosts mentioned was in CoS, where the twins say that both Percy and Bill both got twelve OWLs each; also, in GoF, Barty Crouch Jr is mentioned as having gained twelve OWLs. Hermione, workaholic that she is, only took eleven subjects at OWL level. So either Percy, Bill, and young Barty are all somehow more intense than Hermione is about work, or JKR is just really bad with numbers 😛

    • DoraNympha

      Maybe their schedules also worked out better and they didn’t happen to need a Time-Turner. You’d think they would all have had one, going by Hermione’s third year, but that may have been a special case where they couldn’t re-schedule the whole school’s timetable for one third-year.

      Or, yup, they are just pretty much even more boss at wizardry than Granger. Which I actually easily believe tbh, why not? We hardly really know about Percy’s and Bill’s daily lives or years in education – and no matter what PoA says nearing the end of the year, Hermione can’t have been going crazier about her random end of year exams than Percy who was telling ppl off while studying nearing his extremely important FINAL exams, the NEWTs. We’re only supposed to think Hermione’s brighter, smarter, more schoolwork-obsessed than anyone of her age because we know her more becuase she’s closer to Harry, the main character, I guess.

      • DoraNympha

        AND Percy had top mark at transfiguration even though he also learned on a human-animagus rat for years. #boss

      • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

        we always say it doesn’t matter if someone has magical parents or not, and Hermione’s the example. but ten years of exposure to the magical world before they start at Hogwarts must give some children an advantage over their peers with nonmagical parents. And it’s certainly easier to be an excellent student when you don’t have to keep the Chosen One alive all the time.

  • Feminist_Cat

    I wanted to chime in on the Hermione noticing Harry’s “fanciable” looks, and seemingly ignoring Ron. Along with the hosts, I agree that Hermione states these things in a very matter-of-fact kind of way. Like Michael said, there is no romantic emotion behind it, so she feels no shame in mentioning it. What I wanted to add was that we also know Hermione is kind of our “girls insider.”

    We know Hermione has had chats with Ginny, and gives her advice on how to process her feelings about Harry. Being one of his best friends, I imagine Hermione was a comfort to Ginny in that way. It is also said that she overhears girls talking in the bathroom saying they want to know how to best slip Harry a love potion. Along with her frank observations of Harry’s looks, it is also possible that she simply has overheard girls in the lavatory, in the halls, or in the dorms talking about how fancy Harry is now.

  • DoraNympha

    Maybe Wood held tryouts at 4 am, to be honest.

    • Alison

      Wouldn’t shock me at all. He probably thought it was perfectly normal, too.

      • DoraNympha

        “Just came from Minerv– I mean, Professor McGonagall’s office. She got a bit shirty with me… I only suggested we schedule the tryout at 4 am. You’d think I said something wrong! We have to weed out the weak ones!”

  • Rosmerta’s Turquoise Shoes

    A point of British exam system (though Rosie or Claire can probably give a better answer!)
    I believe JKR has based Hogwarts on this:
    Secondary school starts aged 11years in year 7
    GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) are taken in year 11 (age 15/16) There are usually 10 subjects, sometimes more.
    Most students stay on at their existing Secondary school to study A(dvanced) Levels, this is usually 3, sometimes 4 subjects. These are taken in year 13, aged 17 or 18.
    Some students go to college for A Levels or equivalent qualifications, such as BTEC or perhaps do apprenticeships or further training. After these 2 year courses (only 1 year in Scotland I believe) students either go out to work, or do more study such as a degree at University.
    A Levels are much harder than GCSEs; free time = study time, sorry Ron!
    So I think OWLs are GCSEs (& Jo got her numbers muddled)
    & NEWTs are A Levels

  • the head girl

    I think Confunding Cormac is pretty in-character for Hermione – we’ve seen that she isn’t above potentially causing physical harm to someone when she believes it’s the right thing to do (i.e., nearly setting Snape on fire in book one) although I think this is the first time she’s done it over something so small. But she is sixteen, so it probably seemed as important as anything else.

    One of you said that there should be wards around the Quidditch pitch, and I can’t believe that never occurred to me before. That’s so true! I find it extremely hard to believe that in all of wizarding history, no one ever attacked a Quidditch match or hexed a player or something like that. I wonder if professional pitches do, but maybe just not at Hogwarts? It’s a very basic precautionary measure, and it seems like it would be something pro team owners would insist on to protect their investments … I mean, the players.

    Finally, the first time we see the Evening Prophet is in Chamber of Secrets! My PDF copy of CoS says it’s page 79: “But a moment later, he understood, as Snape unrolled today’s issue of the Evening Prophet.
    “You were seen,” he hissed, showing them the headline: FLYING FORD ANGLIA MYSTIFIES MUGGLES.” Circle theory, anyone?

    • DoraNympha

      Well, from certain incidents mentioned in Quidditch Through the Ages, it seems like there is about as much protection against magic between the pitch and the supporters as any chance Sir Nick has of entering the Headless Hunt. What’s stopping an angry supporter from cursing a player of a team he/she dislikes at any point during a match with a well-aimed wand? Absolutely nothing. It did come handy when Arresto Momentum is the only thing saving an unconscious Harry falling from a deadly height, though. Perhaps it’s less risky after all to play unshielded?

      Perhaps Ludo can be pressured to put forward some regulations on all this? Well, if only there was someone at the Ministry who is surrounded by Quidditch players and who loves to do the boring paperwork………who could that be……………. I wonder………………………

      P.S.: If there are naked runners interrupting football matches, are there naked broom flyers in Quidditch games from time to time? Something for that Evening Prophet to report on slow news days. (Uncle Bilius’ fifteen minutes of fame?)

  • daveybjones999 .

    Several thoughts I had listening to the episode. There was a discussion about whether Diffindo could actually cut into skin or not. It turns out that Diffindo does actually cut into skin. It happens in Chapter 9 of Deathly Hallows after the Death Eaters attack Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the cafe. Ron’s having trouble getting his wand out of his pocket because they’re way too tight and Hermione tries to use the spell to help him take them out. “Hermione crawled out from under the bench, shaking bits of glass ashtray out of her hair and trembling all over. ‘D-diffindo,’ she said, pointing at Ron, who roared in pain as she slashed open the knee of his jeans leaving a deep cut.” Line bolded for emphasis. Also the way you receive the spell in the CoS PS2/XBOX/ GC games always sticks out in my mind because Neville gets trapped behind a tapestry and Hermione makes you walk all the way to the Herbology greenhouses in the middle of the night to retrieve the spell.

    Also on them nonverbal spells for simpler charms, I always thought of it like when in Math you first learn how to divide and are taught long division for bigger numbers. Eventually when you get good enough at using it and then you just don’t need to do long division anymore.

    • AurorPhoenix

      I could see your point on nonverbal spells. For myself, I viewed it somewhat similarly as you, but with reading. At times when there is too much going on or too much stimuli around me reading out-loud to myself will help my concentration.

      Even further, a lot of the times, especially when reading more difficult texts actually hearing the words to myself made it easier for me to focus and comprehend what I was reading.

      I would imagine for spell usage in the heat of battle among: dodging explosions, using Occlumency, casting spell/shield combos, avoiding nargoyles, and staring confusedly at Grawp, even Dumbledore would have to use a verbal spell or two. Especially since many of those spells require high levels of concentration to even cast verbally.

  • Hermione slaps Draco across the face. Hermione isn’t a goody two shoes. She has always been breaking rules. She joined Harry and Ron in the fight for the Sorcerer’s Stone. She encouraged Harry to sneak into the restricted section. She helped cover for Hagrid in keeping Norbert a secret and even helped Harry with Norbert’s escape. This was all in Book 1. Hermione has never been a stickler for the rules. If you do the math, she has probably done more bad than Ron ever did. Her advanced skill level gives her a 1-up and I believe she knows this and knows that, for the most part, she is good enough to get away with it.

  • I think the reason Hermione’s behavior seems out of character in this chapter is because there’s a difference between breaking the rules and flat out cheating. When Hermione has broken rules in the past, she’s done it for the greater good (for lack of a better term). Going through the trapdoor in an attempt to keep the Philosopher’s Stone from being stolen, brewing Polyjuice with the hope of identifying the Heir of Slytherin, forming the DA…her intentions there were all pretty noble.

    What most bothers me about Hermione confunding McLaggen is her reaction when she thinks Harry has slipped Ron some Felix Felicis just a few chapters later. She thinks Harry’s action warrants EXPULSION. Harry calls her out on her hypocrisy here, and ultimately I think everyone is entitled to a little out of character behavior and lapses in judgment now and again. There’s a quote that says something along the lines of “it’s not surprising that truth is often stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense.” In other words, because Hermione is a character, we expect her to fit within the confines of the box of her character that we’ve construed for her. If she were a real person, I think it would be easier for us to accept an action like this because sometimes people do crazy, out of character things.

  • DisKid

    Michael mentioned the game! Meaning I must comment! lol! Did you get the award for being a messy potion maker without even trying? I sure did!

    But also on the games; I remember for a long time I assumed owls were used between the professors and Hogwarts students to communicate messages to each other if they either needed to get a message out soon and didn’t know where the student was or if they didn’t want to bring attention to it. Reason why? Because that’s what was done in the video games lol! We know owls can be used as students get mail from each other and other professors throughout the series.

    However, when I really thought about it, what about when a message needs to get to the student or professor asap? Students and professors don’t often have owls right next to them ready to go at any moment. There may be sometimes where they do, like in their rooms or offices but it seems most of the time they don’t. So now it’s racking my brain, how on earth do professors and students get messages out quickly if it’s an urgent message and there’s no owl nearby?? That just reminds me of when they changed Harry’s hearing suddenly (hoping he’d miss it of course) and the method they used was obviously not a quick enough method to get it to Harry in time.

    Of course, when Harry was about to run away after he got “expelled” the portrait was used to reach him very quickly and multiple owls did seem to reach him rather quickly so perhaps if the owl is close by they can go at high speed and get there asap.

    This makes me think perhaps Hogwarts should have owls all around the school in random spots just in case a student or a professor needs to get a message out to a student pronto.

    • MartinMiggs

      Owls all around the school? The mess would be unbelievable!

      • DisKid

        In theory, that should be happening already! Lol. Real owls are so not fit to be anybody’s pet for multiple reasons…one of them is the messes they make! Especially when they eat…yuck!

        Could always have Filch clean up their messes. Or the other staff make it a habit when they walk to the halls to use their magic to clean it up. The prefects could do that too.

        • MartinMiggs

          agreed but I was just making a joke/reference to Arthur talking about the ministry using owls for indepartment memos

  • Sherry Gomes

    I always thought Hermione was jealous over the HBP’s potions book and Harry’s sudden success in that class. She wasn’t jealous of his grasp of DADA, because he was always good at that class. But for five years, Harry has needed her help just to pass Potions, and now suddenly, he’s outshining her. As to it being cheating, if we had a used textbook with notes in the margins, wouldn’t any of us go ahead and use those notes if it helped us understand the class better? I stopped understanding math around junior high, and I dropped math as soon as I could in high school. However, if someone had given me a book, with comments that explained it and made it make sense to me, I’d certainly have used it. In the real world, students are encouraged to research and study things, and if other resources help with comprehension, that’s generally considered a good thing. Frankly, Hermione’s accusations of cheating, and the outcry in the fandom and in the HP for Grownups yahoo group back when this book first came out, surprised me. I’m totally blind, so my books were braille or audio, no chance for anyone to give me helpful notes, but I’d have loved someone to give me something that would have helped me understand how on earth, x+Y could ever equal N!
    as for what Hermione did with the tryouts, for me it felt incredibly out of character. when she’s broken rules before, there was a reason she thought vital or urgent. Polyjuice in second year, the secret defense classes in fifth year. Don’t get me wrong, as one who adores ron for his every guy role, whether or not he got on the team wasn’t an emergent sort of thing. I’m glad she did it, because I wanted ron on the team, but it didn’t feel natural for her at all. However, Hermione seems often out of character to me in this book.

    • Light

      I think with the book, until now, they never used a potions book, only an ingredients book. Snape always wrote the recipes on the blackboard. If Snape had still been the potions teacher, he would have written the changed recipes from the book on the blackboard, so Hermione would never have known that there were differences with the text book.

      • MarsIsBrightTonight

        Ooh! That gets me thinking. Does Snape teach standard recipes or does he recommend his modifications? I could see him holding back his ‘improvements’ to the instructions in not wanting to make it easier on the students. Thoughts?

  • Badger Pride

    Just caught up with this episode and wanted to chime in about the British education system!

    As has been mentioned before, there’s a direct correlation between Hogwarts exams and muggle exams – OWLs are GCSEs and NEWTs are A-Levels. While the exams are taken at the end of 5th and 7th year, the courses run for two years, so you start GCSE work at the start of 4th Form and A-Level work at the start of 6th Form – hence Harry and Ron commenting on the jump in difficulty from what they’d done before – they’ve started NEWT-level stuff!

    The system is a bit different now, when I did my A-levels (2001-2003) they were split into two separate, one-year courses (AS-levels and A2-levels), but in the time the books are set it was a single two-year course. I think it may actually have moved more towards that again in recent years.

    Hope all that made sense! There will be a test later! :p

  • Phat Albus

    Speaking as someone who went through the UK educational system, the jump from OWLs into NEWT studies is equivalent to going from GCSEs (the end of our compulsory education) to our AS/A-levels.

    I can attest that the jump from what you did at GCSE level to AS/A-level is actually quite steep.

    I was really good at GCSE chemistry but I was utterly lost when it came to AS level chemistry to the point where I dropped the subject wholesale.

    That’s why in the book they find the workload and studies so much harder.

    • Badger Pride

      It was Maths for me! One of my best subjects at GCSE, my “C” at A-level was harder work than all my other subjects combined! I was fine with Chemistry (until I got to uni…that’s a whole different story!)

      • Phat Albus

        I got a U (Unmarkable) at chemistry. Sigh.

        I think it’s benficial to study related subjects to help you out. Like I know people who studied physics and maths who said if they’d done one without the other they’d never have been able to cope.