Expecto Patronum! Stands against the Pottermore Cheaters

Yesterday, ElmBlade43 posted about Pottermore and Cheating on her Blog of a Pottermore Beta. Expecto Patronum! stands in solidarity with Elm in the campaign against cheating on Pottermore.

In addition to the blatant example that Elm cites, I have seen numerous attempts to use the Great Hall as a place to coordinate efforts to help or hurt another House. During the run-up to the Inaugural House Cup, I witnessed some “Ravenclaws” and “Hufflepuffs” announce in the Great Hall that they were giving easy duels to Gryffindor to help in the battle against Slytherin. As a dueler, I have personally seen some “Ravenclaws” and “Gryffindors” whose accounts were obviously set up with the intent to help Slytherin. And I have heard from Gryffindor duelers that they have seen “Slytherins” obviously helping Gryffindor. All this in addition to the “Slytherin” accounts set up with intent to blow up cauldrons and lose the House points.

Because the cheating is so widespread, I personally think that it all evens out in the end – without giving any single House an advantage. However, I do believe it diminishes the experience. When the top Hufflepuff – HUFFLEPUFF!!! – is bragging in his own House Common Room (and on Twitter) that he is using scripts not only to duel all day but to toss 1000 gnomes out of the Weasley garden in a single De-Gnoming, something is broken in the Pottermore experience. But when the Slytherin Common Room becomes Ground Zero in the battle against cheating, then something kind of wonderful is happening.

Pottermore needs to tighten security, identify scripts, keep a closer watch on the Great Hall, and ban the cheaters. Ironic, I think, that it’s Slytherin leading the campaign. But let’s stand together in this, regardless of House.

Pottermore: Two Million Students in the Great Hall

Well, that didn’t take long. Just a week ago, I was posting excitedly that the Great Hall had finally reached 1,000,000 students.

That number has doubled since then. And here is the evidence…

Here is the House breakdown at 2,001,849 sorted students:

Gryffindor: 520,772 members
Hufflepuff: 503,982 members
Slytherin: 501,654 members
Ravenclaw: 475,441 members

Here is the Points breakdown at 2,001,849 sorted students:

Slytherin: 37,003,557 points
Gryffindor: 36,862,963 points
Ravenclaw: 36,285,160 points
Hufflepuff: 31,874,152 points

Gryffindor trails Slytherin by about 150,000 points. But Gryffindor also has about 19,000 more students than Slytherin. Which will prevail? Numbers or skill? ;)

Regardless of who wins the first House Cup, I suspect the site will experience steady growth… but that there will be a big growth spurt when CoS is released and everybody – the PS/SS Beta group and the general public – explores CoS for the first time, at the same time, together.

Pottermore: Questions from the Sorting Hat…

So… now that Pottermore is open to all, I can show off my Sorting Quiz without Spoiler Tags!

This is the Quiz that put me into Slytherin:

1) Given a choice between The Wise, the Bold, the Good, the Great, I chose The Wise.

2) Given a choice between several different scenes in an enchanted garden, I was most attracted to a luminous pool.

3) If a troll broke loose in the Headmaster’s Study, I would rescue the following items in this order:

  • 1st – the ancient book of runes thought to belong to Merlin (and yes, I would have given that same answer even if Merlin were a Hufflepuff!).
  • 2nd – the Headmaster’s nearly-perfected Dragon Pox cure.
  • 3rd – one-thousand years’ worth of Hogwarts student records.

4) Given a choice of different supernatural creatures, the one I was most likely to want to study was merpeople.

5) Given a choice of roads, I would have chosen the narrow, dark alley lit by lanterns.

6) Given a choice of dusk or dawn, I would choose dusk.

7) Given a choice of left or right, I would choose left.

Now, here is the Quiz that put my husband into Ravenclaw:

1) Same question, same answer

2) Same question, same answer

3) Same question, same exact order of items

4) Same question. My husband chose centaurs.

5) Given a choice of nightmares, my husband chose heights.

6) Given a choice of Forest or River, my husband chose river.

7) Given a choice of Heads or Tails, my husband chose tails.

Here are some explanations of our answers:

Question 1: “The Wise” is the answer I would have given 100% of the time. I suspect the same is true of my husband.

Question 2: I don’t know the rationale behind my husband’s choice in the Enchanted Garden, but I picked the luminous pool primarily based on aesthetics. I love the interplay of light and water.

Question 3: My husband and I both love Merlin and old books, so I suspect this is behind both our responses on what to save first with a troll on the loose. I personally figured that the Headmaster could concoct his Dragon Pox cure again based on what he remembered from the previous concoction, but something as priceless as Merlin’s book could never be replaced. However, even though the geek in me would have found it fascinating to go through the thousand years of student records and see what sorts of patterns and trends emerged – and how many detentions famous Wizards and Witches received – I would have felt guilty about placing the student records ahead of the Dragon Pox potion. So I thought it would be best to save the Dragon Pox potion before the student records… even though the student records would be more interesting to sort through. Dragon Pox “for the greater good.” LOL. Anyway, that’s the rationale behind my answer.

Question 4: Magical creatures was the toughest question for me, but it doesn’t seem to have caused my husband any hesitation. He chose centaurs because he considers himself a Sagittarius. Me, I tried to answer the question rigorously from within the Potterverse. :) Consequently, I quickly eliminated ghosts and centaurs. Ghosts aren’t scary in the Potterverse. They’re just kind of comical. And while I love the centaurs of myth, I don’t much like the centaurs of the Forbidden Forest. As for vampires and werewolves… I eliminated them because they have fairly strong House associations, and I already know so much about them. Merpeople, on the other hand, are fascinating within the Potterverse. They’re fierce – yet intelligent, mysterious, and musical. I could definitely see myself conducting a deeper study of merpeople.

Question 5: After answering question 4 differently, my husband and I were put on different tracks for the remaining questions. However, I suspect that he would also have chosen the dark, lamplit alley that I did if he had been given a choice of four roads. We both love classic, atmospheric horror movies. And that’s what prompted my response. I also would have loved the forest path I could have chosen, but the woods are three doors down from my house, so I can walk in the forest pretty much any time weather permits. (ETA: He says he may have chosen the forest path).

As for nightmares… I probably would have chosen the eye looking through the keyhole in the door. But I could easily have gone with heights… and probably would have debated the two possibilities in my head rather extensively.

Question 6: No question. I would choose dusk every time. I suspect my husband would too. And I would have chosen River, as he did. Forest is great, but you can often get Forest when you choose to follow a River. :)

Question 7: No question. I would choose left every time. I suspect my husband would too, given that he is left handed. As for Heads/Tails… I would have chosen Heads.

So… does anybody have any thoughts on which elements of these Quizzes gave my husband Ravenclaw and me Slytherin? We obviously have a lot of similarities.

I have a lot of thoughts on what put us into our respective Houses (and “random selection” is not among them!), but this post has gone on long enough, so it’s probably time just to conduct the analysis in the Comments thread. Have fun!

Oh, and feel free to post your own quiz questions and responses – and results.

Pottermore: The Great Hall Reaches One Million Students!

As of the moment I started writing this post, there were precisely 1,000,223 students in the Great Hall at Pottermore. These are the students who have been to Diagon Alley, taken the Hogwarts Express, and gone through the Sorting Ceremony.

When I joined the Beta test, there were about 100,000 students in the Great Hall. The number never reached 700,000 during the Beta – probably because so many people got multiple accounts and never used them… or deleted the accounts they got when they didn’t get sorted into the House they wanted.

This afternoon, my husband joined us in the Great Hall after being sorted into Ravenclaw. So we’ve now officially got a Slytherin/Ravenclaw marriage.

Most of his responses to the sorting quiz were similar to mine, but there was definitely a Ravenclaw edge to his… and a Slytherin edge to mine. So I think I can now say with some assurance that Ravenclaw is the next House I would go into after Slytherin.

Oh by the way… in the few minutes that it took me to write this post, the number in the Great Hall jumped to 1,000,904. So approximately 700 students have been sorted in just the last five minutes.

It’s just so great to see Pottermore finally open to the public.

Pottermore “Thank Yous”

In one of its final tweets before the waiting began, hp_batsignal wrote:

If there’s one thing that defines the #HP fandom it’s our ability to bridge differences & work together and the Bat Signal is proof of that.

After having seen some pretty nasty fan factions and fanwars, it has truly been refreshing this past week to watch fans work together to help other fans gain early access into Pottermore.

After the Magic Quill challenge rules went live on the Pottermore website (about 2am BST, July 31), one forum member at Chamber of Secrets posted her email from LeakyCon giving out the basic timing for Clue #1 and telling us the Chapter we needed to look at.

That member is a James fan. I’m a Severus fan. It just didn’t matter. Her post gave me – and all the other HP fans on that thread – hope that we could, indeed, make it through the Magic Quill challenge together and gain early access into Pottermore. By early morning, most of us had. That experience inspired my blogging during this past week.

So on that note, I’d like to thank some folks who helped with this experience along the way.

A Special “Thank You” to..

  • The folks at Chamber of Secrets – and particularly the member who posted her letter from LeakyCon and the Admin who let me know that, yes, the CoS servers could handle the load if I linked to the site from here. :)
  • A couple of CoS members who helped with specific numbers that I suggested here as potential clues:  ardnaxela (who told me that the photo of the original Order of the Phoenix could be found in “The Woes of Mrs. Weasley” – Day 5 Hints), and Wren (who suggested the number of potions Professor Slughorn offered his N.E.W.T. students as a possible number – Day 6 Hints). We didn’t end up needing either of those numbers, but it’s always good to have as many numbers as possible on hand when suggesting potential clues. :)
  • Random tweeters who let people know about this blog… and especially…
  • Jess at The Last Muggle, who tweeted the Day 5 Hints, gave me a tip about hp_batsignal in one of the Comments threads, and mentioned this site on her blog. If you don’t read Jess, please do. She writes one of my favorite Harry Potter blogs.

What We’re Most Excited About…

So now, time to talk about the Pottermore features we’re most excited about…

The Sorting:
I’m excited – and nervous – about the Sorting. I want to be in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor.

I’m a Ravenclaw on Mugglenet Interactive, a Gryffindor on Chamber of Secrets, and I “test” all over the map on various unofficial Sorting tests. In fact, in the time it took me to write this paragraph, I tested across the Web as Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff!

But please, Sorting Hat, I beg of you… do not put me in Hufflepuff.

The Wand:
I’m thrilled at the prospect of getting a wand. I’m kind of hoping that my username will help me get a wand with a Phoenix tail feather core. Not because I think I’m Harry Potter (and especially not Tom Riddle!), but just because I really love the Phoenix. Second choice: Unicorn tail hair. I’d prefer not to end up with Dragon Heartstring.

There are supposed to be 33,000 different wand combinations, so I think there’s a possibility that we might have additional cores beyond the three that Ollivander makes. But then, we are buying our wands at Ollivanders, so…

The Logic Puzzle:
If you’ve roamed this site, then you probably know that I’ve posted an almost complete solution of Snape’s Logic Puzzle (the puzzle that guards the Philosopher’s Stone). The reason the solution is almost complete is that, without a visual cue, we can only get down to the last two bottles with any certainty.

Well, finally, to the rescue… There is a photo supposedly leaked from Pottermore showing the exact arrangement of the bottles in the puzzle. If that photo leak is for real – and not just a clever piece of fanart – then we will soon have our complete solution!

New Content:
We know that we’re finally going to learn more about some of the Houses – especially Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. We’re going to get some McGonnagall backstory and some Dursley backstory. We’re going to get a lot of wandlore. And probably plenty of other material. So far, JKR has written about 19,000 additional words for Pottermore.

So what is some of the new content that you’re hoping to see? And what are some of the Pottermore features you’re most excited about?

Let us know in the Comments thread. :)

(And btw… Actually, this Severus fan gets along just fine with the James fan who posted the LeakyCon message… but the point is that a lot of fans have reached across their differences this past week just to help out other fans. YAY!).

The Task Most Made of Awesome?

I can’t believe it’s been Saturday since I last posted… but then again, I can. My husband’s out of town, and I’ve been running around all over the place, and today I had to keep the kitties calm while they were locked in a room because workmen were installing a furnace.

So, before we move on, let’s take a poll!

Which House Head’s task beyond the Trap Door is most made of awesome… and why?

Please explain your choice in the Comments thread!

I’ll be back to check after I’ve had a chance to see this Alan Rickman movie that’s been in my queue forever. Something called Sense and Sensibility.

ETA: I just remembered… some of you are dropping in randomly and haven’t read the last four posts! So if you need a refresher on the tasks, here you go…

And with that, I really will go watch my Rickman / Austen movie. :)

Shall We Play a Game?

They were standing on the edge of a huge chessboard, behind the black chessmen, which were taller than they were and carved from what looked like black stone. Facing them, way across the chamber, were the white pieces. Harry, Ron and Hermione shivered slightly – the towering white chessmen had no faces.

“Now what do we do?” Harry whispered.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” said Ron. “We’ve got to play our way across the room.”

As a Wizarding Chess afficionado, Ron quickly figures out that the giant chess pieces they encounter in Professor McGonnagall’s task have been transfigured into the moving, “living” pieces of Wizarding Chess. He quickly deduces that the three of them will have to take the places of black chess pieces and confirms this with one of the black knights:

[Ron] walked up to a black knight and put his hand out to touch the knight’s horse. At once, the stone sprang to life. The horse pawed the ground and the knight turned his helmeted head to look down at Ron.

“Do we – er – have to join you to get across?”

The black knight nodded.

The Task

Unlike Professor Flitwick’s complex task, this one is fairly straightforward – once it’s figured out. The prospective thief has to take the place of a black chess piece and play a successful game of chess. But therein lies the problem. While it takes intelligence to play chess, having intelligence is no guarantee of success.

Chess is a game of strategy, and so it takes a strategic thinker to win at it – someone who can see the big picture, comprehend the implications of the opponents’ moves, and plan moves in advance. In other words, it takes a specific type of intelligence. This is what makes McGonnagall’s task rather brilliant. It narrows the field considerably concerning who would be able to get to the next door. Hermione herself (minus Ron) would likely not have passed successfully through this task.

But Why Is This Task for Gryffindor?

Shouldn’t chess be more of a Ravenclaw specialty? I mean, in RL it is the province of those crypto-Ravenclaws of the Muggle world – Math and Computer geeks. So why should this be the task for the Head of House for Gryffindor?

Transfiguration: Well, the most obvious answer is that the task requires the pieces to undergo Transfiguration spells… and Transfiguration is McGonnagall’s specialty. In fact, it seems that Transfiguration is something of a Gryffindor specialty. Such noted Gryffindors as Professor Dumbledore have specialized in Transfiguration. And several recent Gryffindors (three Marauders and Professor McGonnagall) are known to be capable of making the animagus transformation (not technically Transfiguration, but certainly requiring Transfiguration skills as a prerequisite).

Transfiguration, according to McGonnagall, is among the most “complex and dangerous magic” taught at Hogwarts – the danger, perhaps, being a reason the discipline seems to coalesce around Gryffindor. But thus far (at Hogwarts at least), we’ve seen mainly the lighter side of Transfiguration. We’ve watched Professor McGonnagall transfigure her desk into a pig (and back again), teach her First Years to change a match into a needle, and test them on turning a mouse into a snuffbox. In the chess task, we finally see the more serious application of Transfiguration.

War: Additionally, chess is a warlike game, involving pieces that emulate soldiers crossing a battlefield. The game, in fact, is won by capturing the opposing player’s King. Gryffindor, of course, is the most warlike of Houses – the House that most highly values bravery and chivalry. And McGonnagall’s version of chess creates an aura of battlefield danger, guaranteed to unnerve your average prospective thief.

The white pieces don’t just “take” black pieces. They hit and break them, with strong stone arms:

[The Trio’s] first real shock came when their other knight was taken. The white queen smashed him to the floor and dragged him off the board, where he lay quite still, facedown.


Every time one of their men was lost, the white pieces showed no mercy. Soon there was a huddle of limp black players slumped along the wall.

McGonnagall’s transfiguration transforms a game based on war into an actual simulation of war.

Strategy: Smart as the Ravenclaws are, and crafty as the Slytherins, the best strategic thinker in the series is Albus Dumbledore – who manages the wars against Voldemort like a master moving pieces around the board. While Dumbledore’s Slytherin protegé, Severus Snape, is a brilliant tactician, Snape is not essentially a strategist. And this perhaps shows us something about the differences between Ravenclaw intelligence, Slytherin intelligence, Hufflepuff intelligence, and Gryffindor intelligence.

Ravenclaw is often said to admire abstract, theoretical knowledge. Slytherin admires skill and practical application. Hufflepuff emphasizes an earthy, pragmatic, common-sense approach. But despite its reputation (largely among Slytherins) for reckless action, Gryffindor, perhaps, brings the strongest capacity for strategic thought.

Certainly the evidence for strategy being the most Gryffindorish type of intelligence is a bit thin if we base it entirely on Dumbledore, but if we consider that strategy is the quality most desired in warfare – and martial ability is a huge part of the Gryffindor portfolio – then we perhaps have a more solid circumstantial basis for linking Gryffindor with strategic intelligence.

So What Do We Learn about McGonnagall?

She’s pretty formidable – far more formidable than the no-nonsense witch who sternly greets new students.

Not only does she perform the necessary transfiguration to animate the pieces, she “programs” the white pieces to respond to the black strategy and create a dynamic strategy for defense of the Stone. (Curiously, too, she uses the traditional color scheme of white representing the “good” defenders of the Stone and black representing the “bad” prospective thieves).

Unless there is a ready-made spell that gives transfigured pieces the sort of strategic knowledge necessary to play a human opponent without human assistance, McGonnagall must have chess-expert knowledge of the inner workings of the game in order to give the pieces that ability. (And given that chess is the task she chooses, my bet is that she does.)

Additionally, this simulation of battle foreshadows what we will ultimately see of McGonnagall in the context of a real battle in DH – as she defends Hogwarts against the minions (and assumed minions) of the Dark Lord.

McGonnagall ruthlessly duels presumed Death Eater Severus Snape in one of the corridors of the castle (making it, I think, safe to say that the scary White Queen of Transfigured Chess is a striking symbolic representation of McGonnagall herself). And the actual animation of the chess pieces is a foreshadowing of McGonnagall’s calling on the statues and armor to do their duty and defend the school during the Battle of Hogwarts:

“And now – Piertotem Locomotor!” cried Professor McGonnagall.

And all along the corridor the statues and suits of armor jumped down from their plinths, and from the echoing crashes from the floors above and below, Harry knew that their fellows throughout the castle had done the same.

“Hogwarts is threatened!” shouted Professor McGonnagall. “Man the boundaries, protect us, do your duty to our school!”

Clattering and yelling, the horde of moving statues stampeded past Harry: some of them smaller, others larger, than life. There were animals too, and the clanking suits of armor brandished swords and spiked balls on chains.

“Now, Potter,” said McGonagall, “you and Miss Lovegood had better return to your friends and bring them to the Great Hall – I shall rouse the other Gryffindors.”

That is the quintessentially Gryffindor Professor McGonnagall in the context of war. She takes charge. She defends the school. And she shows no mercy to any she believes would dare overthrow Hogwarts.

[Translation of Piertotem Locomotor: “All do your duty!”]