Short stories from hogwa.., p.4
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists, p.4

         Part #2 of Pottermore Presents series by J. K. Rowling
Download  in MP3 audio
1 2 3 4 5

  gained attention in the aftermath of Voldemort’s demise) removed much of the stigma that had been attached to Slytherin house for hundreds of years past. Though now (permanently) retired, his portrait has a place of honour in the Slytherin common room.

  J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

  Quintus Horatius Flaccus was one of the greatest Roman Poets, more commonly known as Horace. He gave Slughorn two of his Christian names. The name ‘Slughorn’ derives from the (Scots) Gaelic for ‘war cry’: sluagh-ghairm, which later gave rise to ‘slughorn’, a battle trumpet. I loved the word for its look and sound, but also for its many associations. The original Gaelic suggests a hidden ferocity, whereas the corrupted word seems to allude to the feeler of the Arion distinctus (or common land slug), which works well for such a seemingly sedentary, placid man. ‘Horn’ also hints at his trumpeting of famous names and illustrious associations.

  Horace Slughorn was one of the most gifted Potion makers that Hogwarts had ever seen. Like Severus Snape, he had the power to bottle fame, brew glory, and even stopper death, but what makes a truly talented Potions master? According to J.K. Rowling, you need more than just a cauldron and the right ingredients to whip up a winning concoction.




  It is often asked whether a Muggle could create a magic potion, given a Potions book and the right ingredients. The answer, unfortunately, is no. There is always some element of wandwork necessary to make a potion (merely adding dead flies and asphodel to a pot hanging over a fire will give you nothing but nasty-tasting, not to mention poisonous, soup).

  Some potions duplicate the effects of spells and charms, but a few (for instance, the Polyjuice Potion and Felix Felicis) have effects impossible to achieve any other way. Generally speaking, witches and wizards favour whichever method they find easiest, or most satisfying, to produce their chosen end.

  Potions are not for the impatient, but their effects are usually difficult to undo by any but another skilled potioneer. This branch of magic carries a certain mystique and therefore status. There is also the dark cachet of handling substances that are highly dangerous. The popular idea of a Potions expert within the wizarding community is of a brooding, slow-burning personality: Snape, in fact, conforms perfectly to the stereotype.

  J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

  Chemistry was my least favourite subject at school, and I gave it up as soon as I could. Naturally, when I was trying to decide which subject Harry’s arch-enemy, Severus Snape, should teach, it had to be the wizarding equivalent. This makes it all the stranger that I found Snape’s introduction to his subject quite compelling (‘I can teach you to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death…’), apparently part of me found Potions quite as interesting as Snape did; and indeed I always enjoyed creating potions in the books, and researching ingredients for them.

  Many of the components of the various draughts and libations that Harry creates for Snape exist (or were once believed to exist) and have (or were believed to have) the properties I gave them. Dittany, for instance, really does have healing properties (it is an anti-inflammatory, although I would not advise Splinching yourself to test it); a bezoar really is a mass taken from the intestines of an animal, and it really was once believed that drinking water in which a bezoar was placed could cure you of poisoning.

  You can hunt down dittany or find a bezoar in the real world, but you’d be hard pressed to track down a Bicorn horn – one of the key ingredients in Polyjuice Potion. This appearance-altering potion is undeniably powerful, whether used for good or evil; but what is the meaning behind each of the ingredients in the mixture, and why is Hermione’s ability to brew it as a second-year student so remarkable?




  The Polyjuice Potion, which is a complex and time-consuming concoction, is best left to highly skilled witches and wizards. It enables the consumer to assume the physical appearance of another person, as long as they have first procured part of that individual’s body to add to the brew (this may be anything – toenail clippings, dandruff or worse – but it is most usual to use hair). The idea that a witch or wizard might make evil use of parts of the body is an ancient one, and exists in the folklore and superstitions of many cultures.

  The effect of the potion is only temporary, and depending on how well it has been brewed, may last anything from between ten minutes and twelve hours. You can change age, sex and race by taking the Polyjuice Potion, but not species.

  The fact that Hermione is able to make a competent Polyjuice Potion at the age of twelve is testimony to her outstanding magical ability, because it is a potion that many adult witches and wizards fear to attempt.

  J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

  I remember creating the full list of ingredients for the Polyjuice Potion. Each one was carefully selected. Lacewing flies (the first part of the name suggested an intertwining or binding together of two identities); leeches (to suck the essence out of one and into the other); horn of a Bicorn (the idea of duality); knotgrass (another hint of being tied to another person); fluxweed (the mutability of the body as it changed into another) and Boomslang skin (a shedded outer body and a new inner).

  The name Polyjuice was supposed to make several allusions. ‘Poly’, meaning ‘many’, gave the idea that the potion could turn you into lots of different people; but ‘Polyjuice’ is also very near ‘Polydeuces’, who was a twin in Greek mythology.

  If you’re going to cook up a goblet full of Polyjuice, or any other vile-tasting but powerful brew, you’re going to need a cauldron. Here’s a little history of this vital piece of magical equipment.




  Cauldrons were once used by Muggles and wizards alike, being large metal cooking pots that could be suspended over fires. In time, magical and non-magical people alike moved on to stoves; saucepans became more convenient and cauldrons became the sole province of witches and wizards, who continued to brew potions in them. A naked flame is essential for the making of potions, which makes cauldrons the most practical pot of all.

  All cauldrons are enchanted to make them lighter to carry, as they are most commonly made of pewter or iron. Modern inventions include the self-stirring and collapsible varieties of cauldron, and pots of precious metal are also available for the specialist, or the show-off.

  J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

  Cauldrons have had a magical association for centuries. They appear in hundreds of years’ worth of pictures of witches, and are also supposed to be where leprechauns keep treasure. Many folk and fairy tales make mention of cauldrons with special powers, but in the Harry Potter books they are a fairly mundane tool. I did consider making Helga Hufflepuff’s hallow a cauldron, but there was something slightly comical and incongruous about having such a large and heavy Horcrux; I wanted the objects Harry had to find to be smaller and more portable. However, a cauldron appears both in the four mythical jewels of Ireland (its magical power was that nobody ever went away from it unsatisfied) and in the legend of The Thirteen Treasures of Britain (the cauldron of Dyrnwch the giant would cook meat for brave men, but not for cowards).

  The job of Potions master is not without risks, but it is the Defence Against the Dark Arts post that is the most dangerous. Of all the memorable DADA teachers who passed through Hogwarts, it might have been easy to forget quiet Professor Quirinus Quirrell, were it not for the fact that he turned out to have Voldemort on the back of his head. Here’s a little extra information on the man who made a rather unconventional exit from his position at Hogwarts.





  26th September


  Alder and unicorn hair, nine inches long, bendy




>   Learned in the theory of Defensive Magic, less adept in the practice




  Unmarried, no children


  Travel, pressing wild flowers

  Harry’s first Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher is a clever young wizard who took a ‘Grand Tour’ around the world before taking up his teaching post at Hogwarts. When Harry first meets Quirrell, he has adopted a turban for everyday wear. His nerves, expressed most obviously in his stammer, are so pronounced that it is rumoured the turban is stuffed full of garlic, to ward off vampires.

  I saw Quirrell as a gifted but delicate boy, who would probably have been teased for his timidity and nerves during his school life. Feeling inadequate and wishing to prove himself, he developed an (initially theoretical) interest in the Dark Arts. Like many people who feel themselves to be insignificant, even laughable, Quirrell had a latent desire to make the world sit up and notice him.

  Quirrell set out deliberately to find whatever remained of the Dark wizard, partly out of curiosity, partly out of that unacknowledged desire for importance. At the very least, Quirrell fantasised that he could be the man who tracked Voldemort down, but at best, might learn skills from Voldemort that would ensure he was never laughed at again.

  Though Hagrid was correct in saying that Quirrell had a ‘brilliant mind’, the Hogwarts teacher was both naive and arrogant in thinking that he would be able to control an encounter with Voldemort, even in the Dark wizard’s weakened state. When Voldemort realised that the young man had a position at Hogwarts, he took immediate possession of Quirrell, who was incapable of resisting.

  While Quirrell did not lose his soul, he became completely subjugated by Voldemort, who caused a frightful mutation of Quirrell’s body: now Voldemort looked out of the back of Quirrell’s head and directed his movements, even forcing him to attempt murder. Quirrell tried to put up feeble resistance on occasion, but Voldemort was far too strong for him.

  Quirrell is, in effect, turned into a temporary Horcrux by Voldemort. He is greatly depleted by the physical strain of fighting the far stronger, evil soul inside him. Quirrell’s body manifests burns and blisters during his fight with Harry due to the protective power Harry’s mother left in his skin when she died for him. When the body Voldemort and Quirrell are sharing is horribly burned by contact with Harry, the former flees just in time to save himself, leaving the damaged and enfeebled Quirrell to collapse and die.

  J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

  Quirinus was a Roman God about whom there is not much information, although he is commonly associated with war – a clue that Quirrell is not quite as meek as he appears. ‘Quirrell’, which is so nearly ‘squirrel’ – small, cute and harmless – also suggested ‘quiver,’ a nod to the character’s innate nervousness.

  We’ve covered power and politics in the wizarding world sensibly and thoroughly. But to end on something altogether more uplifting, let’s take a look at the potent presence of Peeves the poltergeist. If there were an unpopularity contest among the staff and students of Hogwarts, surely Peeves would at least be a finalist in the ‘nuisance’ category?




  The name ‘poltergeist’ is German in origin, and roughly translates as ‘noisy ghost’, although it is not, strictly speaking, a ghost at all. The poltergeist is an invisible entity that moves objects, slams doors and creates other audible, kinetic disturbances. It has been reported in many cultures and there is a strong association with the places where young people, especially adolescents, are living. Explanations for the phenomenon vary all the way from supernatural to scientific.

  It was inevitable that, in a building bursting with teenage witches and wizards, a poltergeist would be generated; it was likewise to be expected that such a poltergeist would be noisier, more destructive and harder to expel than those that occasionally frequent Muggle houses. Sure enough, Peeves is the most notorious and troublesome poltergeist in British history. Unlike the overwhelming majority of his colleagues, Peeves has a physical form, though he is able to become invisible at will. His looks reflect his nature, which those who know him would agree is a seamless blend of humour and malice.

  Peeves is well-named, for he has been a pet peeve of every Hogwarts caretaker from Hankerton Humble (appointed by the four founders) onwards. Though many students and even teachers have a somewhat perverse fondness for Peeves (he undoubtedly adds a certain zest to school life), he is incurably disruptive, and it generally falls to the caretaker of the day to clean up his many deliberate messes: vases smashed, potions up-ended, bookcases toppled and so on. Those with weak nerves deplore Peeves’s fondness for suddenly materialising an inch from the end of their noses, hiding in suits of armour or dropping solid objects on their heads as they move between classes.

  Several concerted efforts to remove Peeves from the castle have resulted in failure. The last and most disastrous was made in 1876 by caretaker Rancorous Carpe, who devised an elaborate trap, baited with an assortment of weapons he believed would be irresistible to Peeves, and a vast enchanted bell jar, reinforced by various Containment Charms, which he intended to drop over the poltergeist once he was in place. Not only did Peeves break easily through the giant bell jar, showering an entire corridor with broken glass, he also escaped the trap armed with several cutlasses, crossbows, a blunderbuss and a miniature cannon. The castle was evacuated while Peeves amused himself by firing randomly out of the windows and threatening all and sundry with death. A three-day standoff was ended when the Headmistress of the day, Eupraxia Mole, agreed to
1 2 3 4 5
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up