Magical Mondays: When Magical Education is Lacking

How many of us wanted to learn magic as a child? Magic is just so… magical. And let’s face it: if magic were real, the world would be so much more fun to live in. One of the reasons Harry Potter was so captivating was because of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I didn’t know a single person growing up who wouldn’t have rather have had an education there than at a boring Muggle school.

Hogwarts SchoolReading about Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts was one of the best parts of my childhood, and I will always love the series for that. After all, Hogwarts has moving staircases, talking sentient pictures that exist to serve the people who painted them, household slaves who’ve internalized their subjugation, a class system that encourages segregation, and a student mortality rate that can rival a Game of Thrones episode. Wait, what?

Yeah, looking back, Hogwarts is nowhere near as wonderful as it first seemed. In fact, it’s actually a really horrible place. The professors, most notably Albus Dumbledore, did not implement magic in a way to be beneficial for any student’s safety. And all the horrible things that happen at Hogwarts could have been avoided had magic been used more responsibly.

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Magical Mondays: That Duel That Never Happened

Ah, Magical Mondays, you and I are going to get really friendly.

Gellert_Grindelwald_and_Albus_DumbledoreFor those who don’t know, I started my geek-writing career at Mugglenet, where I wrote bits on Harry Potter. I stopped right after Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out, so there are still countless arguments I have yet to make. I plan on making them here.

For starters, I would like to talk about the duel between Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald. This is a topic that rarely is discussed, and I’m not sure why. Harry Potter spoilers after the jump.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Fate vs. Free Will

I have noticed something when watching television or movies and reading books or comics: we humans seem never to know if we would rather believe in free will or fate. If I had to pick I would say that we are more inclined to approve of free will, but fate still seems to be a hard and fast concept that we cling to, and it shows up in much of our pop culture.

It seems to mean that any time the concept of fate is really introduced into a story the author tends to quickly subvert fate with free will. Take, for example, Harry Potter. In book five when Harry learns that a prophecy predicted he would be the only one that could defeat Voldemort he was upset, until Dumbledore pointed out that after everything Voldemort put him through Harry would want to kill him anyway, regardless of what any prophecy says. Furthermore, Dumbledore stresses that Voldemort had had to choose between Harry and Neville (as the boy to potentially kill him) and if Voldemort had ignored the prophecy, then Voldemort’s choice would have ensured that the prophecy would never have come to pass. And finally, in book seven, Harry has to freely choose to sacrifice himself or else Harry might not have survived his encounter with Voldemort. Despite the strong sense of fate, the books make it clear that the characters’ choices, their free will, are what’s important and not some higher cosmic power.

In the TV show Heroes, a painter has the power to see the future and his prophecy tends to be accurate. However, the prophecies also tend to change. Isaac, the prophetic painter, predicts something vague enough that can be interpreted in numerous ways. The tag line in season one of Heroes for a while was “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World.” Isaac constantly draws pictures of serial killer Sylar killing Claire, an immortal cheerleader. Isaac’s pictures show a blonde cheerleader with her head sawed off. However, another character, Peter, saves Claire. So doesn’t Isaac’s prediction hold true? Kind of. Sylar mistakes another blonde cheerleader for Claire, so it could be argued that Isaac’s prediction holds true. However, the characters also have often traveled into the future where they see horrible dystopian-like realities, that are later stopped and changed, no matter what Isaac has predicted. In Heroes, the characters act like your fate is inevitable, unless it’s really bad and they decide to change it. The writers couldn’t seem to decide whether to follow fate or free will.

There are many other examples of course (Supernatural, Oedipus, Brave, Thor, Beowulf, Star Wars, Saiyuki, Doctor Who, Into the Woods, Dark Souls), but this theme of fate versus free will is something that consistently comes up in our pop culture. I think it’s because on some level humanity likes fate. We like the idea that God or some other higher power has a plan in which we play a part, maybe even a starring role. However, we find the notion of being bound to a fate, especially one we may not like, distasteful. We like have autonomy, but we also like the idea of being destined for something great or important.

What do you think? Are our lives governed by some kind of fate, free will, or is it a bit of both?

Tune in next week and get some religion.

Fanfiction Fridays: Secret Keeper by ermalope

Personally, I’m not the biggest slash fan. Oh, I’ll read it. I’ll read the hell out of it. But there’s always something about a story that doesn’t involve slash that just pulls me in. Of course, seeing as this is fanfiction, finding one that’s slash free and well written presents a challenge in and of itself. This brings me to Secret Keeper by ermalope.

Spoiler Alert! This doesn’t happen.

This particular fic features a budding friendship between, of all people, Severus Snape and James Potter. I’ve actually read a number of believable fics between these two—surprisingly slash fics, but I digress—but this one is probably my favorite.

During the first war with Voldemort, when the Potters go into hiding to protect their son, Dumbledore suspects that one of James’s friends has betrayed them. Furthermore, they need a secret keeper Voldemort would not suspect. Though James and Lily are adamant in choosing either Sirius or Peter, Dumbledore suggests—you guessed it!—Severus Snape.

This suggestion does not go over well.

And it’s nice to see that it takes both a while to convince the Potters and Snape that this is merely the safest option, and not that it is a ploy by Dumbledore for entertainment value. And while the fic is mostly very serious, ermalope does spice it up with some added bits of humor, especially in the dialogue.

Dumbledore finished his tea and said, “So, to business. Can you guess what this little side project of yours will entail?”

“Not telling anyone else that I’m the secret keeper of the Potters,” Severus muttered.

“Especially Voldemort.”

“I can’t even tell him? I would never have guessed,” Severus said in the same miserable monotone. Dumbledore smiled humourlessly.

Because the Potters were in such a rush to cast the Fidelus Charm, and because they cannot leave their home for their own safety, it falls to Severus to bring them supplies every week or so, a task he does not enjoy.

Potter’s eyes narrowed, but he stepped back to let Severus in. “What are you doing here?” he spat as he watched Severus materialize out of thin air.

“Believe me Potter, if I didn’t have to be -” he stopped, and said in a more silky voice, “I’d expect more gratitude from you. I am saving your life. Part of this duty requires me to ensure that you don’t starve, as much as it would satisfy me if you did.”

Potter’s eyes, which had been still narrowed in intense dislike, widened – now horrified. “Couldn’t someone else… Sirius, or Peter, or… anyone do that?”

“Of course, Potter, practically everyone was falling over themselves to offer, but I, personally, couldn’t refuse such an honour,” Severus sneered.

This doesn’t happen either.

The friendship between the two is slow going. While James is the one to push for it more, Severus doesn’t forgive easily, and he has an understandably hard time letting go of all the horrible things James subjected him to while in school, which does halt any progress the two make in getting along significantly.

On top of all this, McGonagall doesn’t trust Snape, and she also enlists one of his students to follow him around and spy on him while he’s teaching at Hogwarts. Furthermore, once James gets back his invisibility cloak and starts going out, it creates more problems. The one scene where these two issues collide into each other in the latest chapter is quite memorable. Needless to say, Severus’s reaction to the Potters leaving their hiding place brings out a few laughs, especially because by the time that happens, he has grown to care for James just a little.

Severus almost toppled out of his desk chair. “Wha – Potter! How – WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”

“Look, Snape, I don’t like it any more than you do. But I had to contact you.”

“You could have just used a patronus, like EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ORDER!” Severus shouted.

“Where’s the fun in that, though?” James grinned, seating himself at a desk in the very front row.

“This isn’t a game, Potter!” Severus snarled.

James frowned at a potion stain in the middle of his desk, and then glanced up at Severus. “Look, I know. I do. I thought that a patronus showing up might be a tad disruptive in the middle of one of your classes, so I came here myself and waited for you to be free. We need your help.”

“What, did the Dark Lord show up at your doorstep?” snarled Severus.

“Not yet. But Dolohov did.”

Severus said nothing for a moment, but smiled lazily. “Ah. So. You’ve come to beg me to –” his smile vanished. “Hang on a second. Dolohov is right outside your house because you got yourself caught in a pub, and you react by leaving your hiding place to tell me about it?”

James raised one eyebrow. “It would appear that way, wouldn’t it?”

“How are you still alive, Potter?”

Eventually, during this conversation, the aforementioned student walks in.

Unfortunately, Severus didn’t get the chance to elaborate on those feelings, because they had been intruded upon. Charity Burbage had wandered into the classroom several moments ago and had been staring from one man to the other silently, eyes wide, for those past several moments.

They stared back. In that instant in which the back of his mind whirred for a solution to this dilemma, Severus somehow noticed how remarkably like a deer caught in the wand-light James Potter looked when he was startled.

After that instant, he came to his senses and snapped, “Can I help you, Miss Burbage?” as though she had interrupted an ordinary discussion between himself and another staff member.

“Uh –” she said. “I was just – I’m just a little early. For class.”

Severus stared at her. “Class starts in an hour and a half.”

It was Charity’s turn to blink. “Does it? I’ll go, then.” She all but ran from the room.

James smirked. “I’m a little early for class, Professor. Who was that?”

“Oh, no one,” Severus replied ferociously. “You know. Just one other person who has seen you! Not only that, she’s seen you with me! I’ll have to wipe her memory or something.”

James snorted. “And I bet you will.”

Severus continued, oblivious to James’s quip. “Dumbledore will never let me do that, of course. Maybe I should reason with him. What matters now is Dolohov.”

As of current, Secret Keeper is fifteen chapters long, with over forty-thousand words. It’s another story that hasn’t yet been completed, but neither is it abandoned. Ermalope has done an amazingly good job on this story thus far, and it is something that I look forward to reading whenever I see an update. Check it out here, and leave the author a comment or two if you like it.

Sexualized Saturdays: Dumbledore

So Dumbledore’s gay. Enough said, right? Yeah, not really. J. K. Rowling’s proclamation has been met with mixed reactions. There are those that love it, those that hate it, and those who refuse to see it as canon regardless of love or hate. The best I can figure about the canon thing is that some people, like this guy here, believe that since the story is completed, anything J. K. Rowling says about the characters is not fact within the universe, unless it was stated before the release of the last book. One argument behind this is fanfiction. But I digress, as this post isn’t about the validity of J. K. Rowling’s words or not; it is about Dumbledore and his sexuality, but it’s also about the reactions to it.

It should come as no surprise that the outrage of certain groups—mostly Christian ones—made itself heard after Dumbledore’s outing. I’ve even heard people around me say that they wouldn’t mind Dumbledore being gay if it didn’t make his relationship with Harry weird, as if a homosexual man can’t possibly have a fatherly relationship with a child without pedophilia being involved somehow. Because as we all know everywhere, not being heterosexual makes people attracted to minors. I’m sure there’s some underlining stereotype cemented into the sub-consciousness of massive amounts of people everywhere fueling this collective thought.

And being someone who has been accused of pedophilia for being something other than straight, yeah, I have some issues with this mindset.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Kiss or Kill by Mortalus

Yes, the world of fanfiction certainly has a lot to offer, once one finally succeeds in finding a good fic. But every once in a while, a surprisingly genius one rears its head. Kiss or Kill by Mortalus is good all the way around, from the dialogue to subtle humor to plot and character development. In many ways, it does a better job of that than the books it’s based upon. I have very little negative to say about this one, so thus I am reduced to giving it my undying praise.

Mortalus posted Kiss or Kill seven years ago, sometime after the release of the fifth book, and finished updating the story just over a month later. Twenty-seven chapters long, and clocking in over one-hundred thousand words, it gives quite a lot to discuss. Kiss or Kill is about the blossoming romance between one Harry Potter and Tom Riddle. Now, since I know some of you immediately thought of the age difference the moment you read that, don’t worry. The fic takes place during Harry’s sixth year, and I am pleased to inform you that Tom is also sixteen in this. How, you may ask. Well, the answer is simple: time travel.

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