Bellatrix Lestrange — Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Ministry of Magic, Promo Shots)

Posted in Cosplay, Costuming, Harry Potter with tags , , , on 09/01/2012 by A. Chels


I specify the movie because her costume changes a couple of times throughout the series, and twice in OotP itself. I wasn’t interested, at all, in making a cosplay of her Azkaban tatters. I went with the beautiful and sexy, black and silver spiral Death Eater garb instead.

This was a costume I wanted to do from the time Order of the Phoenix (the film) was released. I wanted to do a costume of Bellatrix well before that—and in fact I did for the release of the Deathly Hallows novel—but it’s one thing to come up with an interpretation and throw a Dark Mark on your forearm, and another to do a mock-up of the official costume.

I made this costume for the midnight release of Deathly Hallows pt. II. It took me four and a half very long days, fabric paint drying times included (materials and jewellery shopping hunts not included) plus an additional day to do repairs and make adjustments before FanExpo Canada this year.

The Costume:

Rough Costs:

I bought my fabric at a discount, from a Fabricland that was closing down and had massive sales on all items. I used three different fabrics. With the discounts, they ran me about $100 all together for the lengths I needed.

I spent at least $30 on grommets. There are over 100 on the costume, and I replaced the majority of them in my repairs this summer (more on that later).

The boning in the waist-cincher is spring steel. Fairly inexpensive, and there are only 6 lengths in it to give it a shape but not make it restrictive. $10.

The wig was $40 at a costume shop. The mask $20 at the same shop.

Jewellery, all round, probably cost around $30.

Fabric paint was about $10.

Miscellaneous other sewing notions add up to another $50.

Total cost, not including labour: Between $250 and $275. (I’m ballparking all of this over a year later, because I don’t have my original receipts.)

The Skirt:

The pattern I used for the skirt is Simplicity 5359. I lengthened it to make it floor length instead of just below the knee. The skirt is 8 panels, and alternates between two different fabrics, one an embroidered crepe, the other a floral weave. I used the wrong side of the embroidered fabric as the right side, so that the embroidery (which is also floral) looks more like shooting stars.

After cutting, I painted. Each swirl is painted by hand, using dimensional fabric paint. The swirls along the bottom of the skirt are mostly done in glow-in-the-dark paint, and all the rest are a silver sparkle. There are also a couple of deep grey, tiny swirls to give it dimension.

Because of space issues, I had to paint two panels at a time and let them dry. Drying time on each panel was four hours. At the time, luckily, there were renos going on in my house so there were a couple of stranded armoires in the hallway that I could protect with a garbage bag and use for painting/drying space. I have no idea what I would have done otherwise.

After painting I sewed up the panels (alternating the fabrics, and matching up the swirl patterns, which I’d planned out as I was painting) and then hemmed the bottom of the skirt. After hemming, I cut the fold out of the hem and tattered the bottom to keep the un-hemmed look that Bellatrix’s costume has.

The Bodice:

I wish I could remember the patterns I layered here, but alas, it’s not to be, so I’ll figure out what I did, instead.

I used the floral weave fabric for the bodice, because it has silver embellishes all over it to begin with, and I didn’t need to paint the bodice much because it’s covered by the corset. The bust part is layered because the fabric is vaguely see-through, and I didn’t need to be giving a peepshow—also, the chest is where all of the paint went, so the more structure and fabric, the better.

I used a separable zipper down the left side, instead of a dress zipper. It’s both hidden, and I don’t have to wriggle into the thing any more than necessary (there’s a lot of wriggling when all of the laces are done up, and the bodice is very, very tight with absolutely no give to the fabric), and I also don’t get stuck in it which is important when you’re getting undressed after an exhausting day walking around a con.

All of the paint on the bodice is above the corset line. I peered very, very intently at official pictures to try and match up the swirls as closely as possible. Painting this was the most difficult part, because while I did it before the side seams were in, I couldn’t paint the pieces individually as I had the skirt—they had to be painted on once the front of the bodice was constructed. Because of seam easing around the breasts, part of the bodice wasn’t sitting flat as I painted and I had to do it without flattening it (because of course the paint dries and hardens in a particular shape and I needed it to go with the fabric rather than the fabric going with it.)

There’s a hood attached to the bodice, which I only pull up when the mask is on (thus further disguising my identity!) It took a bit of careful alteration to the bodice while at the cutting stage, because of course dresses don’t usually have hoods on them. It turned out well, I was happy.

The bodice and the sleeves are attached, rather tenuously (or at least that’s how it’s supposed to appear) by ribbon. There are nine grommets around each shoulder.

The Sleeves:

The sleeves are the only portion of this costume that was done entirely from scratch, no pattern alteration, nothing.  They were actually pretty easy, if time consuming, since on any normal garment, the most dreaded part of making a sleeve is actually sewing it into the shoulder socket… which wasn’t an issue here.

I drafted the sleeves directly onto the fabric with the help of a measuring tape. They’re pretty much rectangles with domes at the top at that stage, with a point at the wrist end because I wanted a flap over my hands.

Then I painted. Again. There are silver spirals on the upper and lower portions of the arms, and glow-in-the-dark paint that serves to connect them.

When I initially made the costume, I was running out of time, and my Fabricland was out of the wonderful black grommets-with-washers that I’d bought and used on the corset and shoulders of the bodice. So I had to use these nasty, scratchy silver grommets on the sleeves themselves, and I only had a thin hem to anchor them on. When I did my repairs this summer, I reinforced the hems, made them further apart from one another, and replaced all of the grommets with the lovely black ones. The sleeves fit much better as a result, and they don’t hurt.

There are nine grommets in the shoulder portion to match up with and lace into the bodice. Each side of the sleeve seam, where they lace up from wrist to just above the elbow, has fourteen grommets, for a total of 28 on each sleeve for those seams. The laces are tied permanently with knots.

The bodice-to-sleeve lacing is done loosely, and by skipping every other grommet up top. The laces only go in one direction, so there’s no crossing of them like there normally is when you lace something up.

The Corset:

The rough pattern for the corset was taken from the same Simplicity pattern mentioned for the skirt. I widened it to make it look more like Bellatrix’s. The fabric is quite stretchy with plasticky squares all across it.

The detailing on the corset, all of the criss-crossy lines, were hand sewn. They’re embroidery thread and thin pieces of yarn that I stitched quickly all over the place so it looked distressed.


There are six pieces of boning in the corset, just to give it a loose shape, and because it was originally made to gap quite a bit and show off a shirt underneath, I have to pull it quite tight to keep the sides more or less together.

The Wand Sheath:

The wand sheath, on the left side of the corset, is made from the same material and velcros to the inside of the corset so that it can be removed. It’s made specifically for the wand I used with the costume. The pocket part of the sheath had to be hand stitched on because it’s round and I didn’t want flat seams on either side.

The Wand:

I carved the wand from soft pine in shop class when I was in high school, and then stained it in two different wood stains, one for the handle, a darker one for the shaft.

The Jewellery:

In the films, Bellatrix wears a silver bird skull as a necklace, and rings that look like bird’s feet. Not having any particular talents in jewellery making, I purchased my pieces, so they’re quite different. (I wasn’t fond of the official Bellatrix necklace that Hot Topic was selling for a while.)

The necklace is a crown with a dagger hanging down from it. The rings are various silver pieces with black or clear, cut crystal in them. The Black family thinks of themselves as royalty, so I went the route of Renaissance Noble families and picked large rings so as to “display wealth.”

The Mask:


There are no film stills with Bellatrix wearing the mask, though there was one designed and made for the character. It took a bit of searching online before I could find an image good enough to replicate it.

I bought a bright gold mask and had it painted in the style of Bellatrix’s. (My mother is an interior decorator who specialises in faux finishes, and has a much better hand at painting than I do.)

The pieces across the mouth are from a scrapbooking sticker kit of the alphabet. They’re all the letter “I”.

It doesn’t show up in any picture, but Bellatrix has an Azkaban brand on the left side of her neck. Her number is 93. I also drew the Dark Mark on my left forearm each time I wore the costume, in black liquid eyeliner.


The Letters from No One

Posted in Harry Potter, Philosopher's Stone, Pottermore with tags , , , on 10/15/2011 by A. Chels

“Vernon! Oh my goodness – Vernon!”

Admission to Wizard School: Getting you Dudley's second bedroom since 1991.

Years after reading the Harry Potter series in its entirety and especially after having the big reveals in Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows about how aware Petunia Dursley is of the Wizarding World, I’m still irritated by how apparently unprepared the Dursleys are for the eventuality of Harry receiving his Hogwarts’ letter. Granted, there are a multitude of excuses that could be used here: they’d forgotten, they thought they’d successfully squashed the magic from him (as Vernon says in the fourth chapter), even that they’d forgotten how old Harry actually was (and the age when Hogwarts begins)—which wouldn’t be surprising, to us as readers or to Harry.

Pottermore tells us that the Dursleys are so terrified by it all—and especially by the apparent surveillance they’re under—that they completely go off their heads and end up buying into some old superstition (one I’ve never even heard of, up to this point!) about witches being unable to cross water.  This lands them at the Hut on a Rock where Harry finally learns he’s a wizard.

Rowling points out in the Pottermore blurb that “[Petunia] ought not to have been surprised when Hagrid made his way, [having] frequently seen Lily jump streams.”  I’d also like to take this moment to point out that, if magic folk weren’t able to cross water, they wouldn’t have been able to take I-turned-my-teacher’s-wig-blue Harry out to the hut with them.

And since we’re on this chapter, take a moment to wave at the Railview Hotel in Cokeworth!  It’s the town Lily and Petunia grew up in, and the town where Spinner’s End is located.


Posted in Harry Potter, Pottermore with tags , , on 09/21/2011 by A. Chels

You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true,
And unafraid of toil.

I interrupt this undeclared hiatus with the announcement that it’s finally very much over!  And I also bring a brief explanation—I went on vacation.

No, I didn’t go on vacation for the better part of a month.  I went on vacation for a week, and that was more than enough time to derail me from all of my writing schedules, because apparently without internet I’m even less productive than I am with internet.  Except for when it comes to writing Dramione fanfic. I did a lot of that while away.

Anyway, I am now back! And with my back-ness I bring to you this post!  It is about Pottermore!

I got into Pottermore a few weeks ago, as anyone who follows me on Twitter is already more than aware, since all I’ve done since then is brew potions and whine when my potions (and other various parts of the site) don’t work.  This post, however, is not about potions.  It is about the Sorting.  At least, it’s about my Sorting, because saying too much about everything might anger the Pottermore Gods, and no one wants that.

Well, I was in Ravenclaw...

So then, Sorting.  I suppose you should all know, first, that everyone I know—myself included—expected I would Sort into Ravenclaw.  It was a generally accepted fact that I would end up at the Ravenclaw table with very little deliberation at all on the part of the Sorting Hat.  I even had the beginnings of a blog post put together detailing the process of creating the Ravenclaw costume I made for Halloween a few years ago.

And then I was Sorted.

And I was not put in Ravenclaw.

Instead, I found myself staring at a brilliant yellow standard declaring the Sorting Hat’s decision to put me in Hufflepuff.

Not at all chagrined (though certainly a bit disappointed) because I had seen this coming even if no one else had (and in the back of my mind I certainly hoped I would get the chance to find out all I could about Hufflepuff because it’s the House the books shed the least light on) I read my welcome letter, written by Hufflepuff prefect Gabriel Truman.

And I was home!

Are Hufflepuff a bunch of duffers? Maybe. We’re certainly in last place—by far—for the Pottermore House Cup.  But after reading the Welcome letter, I know certainly feel quite at home there.  And the common room is full of the nicest, most encouraging people you will ever meet.  At least those who aren’t bothering us just to whine and moan about having been Sorted into Hufflepuff.

That said; I’m still going to Sort again when I get a chance, to see if maybe, just maybe, I can get stuck into Ravenclaw. I’ve thought about some of the Sorting Hat questions a bit, and I can definitely see places where I might, upon reflection, change my answers.

Maybe, though, just maybe I’ll get put into a different house entirely when I do that second Sorting.  I’ve read all of the House welcome letters now, and honestly? I don’t know if Ravenclaw’s elitist attitude is quite to my speed.  I think the competitive nature of the house might eat me alive.  I actually think—and here’s something I never would have said before getting into Pottermore—that the Slytherin welcoming letter made the house sound much more appealing to me than Ravenclaw.

So, we’ll see.  I will be sure to update you all on where I stand when that second Sorting is complete!

Hey, at least everyone knows what the House mascot is.

Side note: I’m going to be playing with the blog layout for the next little while, since I don’t really think the Fleur de Lys fits at all or does anything for it.  So if it’s unfamiliar for the next little while, don’t freak, there’s nothing wrong with your computer or your link!

Evil, Evil Snakes

Posted in Harry Potter with tags , , , on 08/17/2011 by A. Chels

Today, because there are still hordes of Dementors posted at the gates of Pottermore for the sole reason of denying me entry (and okay, maybe they’re stopping some other people from getting in too), we’re going to talk about snakes.

And why snakes?

Because the notes I’m taking for things to write about for this blog say “snake” and nothing else, and three days after writing that note I didn’t have a clue what I meant by it.  Because snakes have this tendency to pop up absolutely everywhere throughout the series in a very Judeo-Christian “the snake is the devil!” manner, and of course I like snakes—I think they’re cute.

Isn't it cute?



So then, snakes.  I guess the simplest place to start is just where Harry does—in the Reptile Pavilion at the zoo, looking at this bored, bred-in-captivity boa constrictor.  Harry even goes as far as to see himself in this snake, likening the snake never having been out of its cage to his being brought up with the Dursleys.  Book!Harry doesn’t go as far as to say “That’s me as well,” like film!Harry does, but we still get this:



No company except stupid people drumming their fingers on the glass all day long.  It was worse than having a cupboard as a bedroom, where the only visitor was Aunt Petunia hammering on the door to wake you up – at least he got to visit the rest of the house.

Yeah, you know where I’m going with this even before I point out that we don’t get to see Harry’s reaction to looking at the lion exhibit, don’t you.

Okay, okay. Fair enough.  Harry can’t talk to lions—that would be an absolutely hilarious talent to listen to, I’m sure, but as far as we know Leotongue just isn’t a thing—and the entire point of this scene is to seed more of Harry’s magic, and to drop in this talent he’s got that we find out in Chamber of Secrets really isn’t all that common or welcomed.

Yeeep, I’m there. Weird affinity with snakes? House that’s represented by a serpent?  Is there any wonder the Sorting Hat decided Harry would be great in Slytherin?  Then later, of course, we find out that all of this is really the fault of the piece of Voldemort that latched itself to Harry aaalllll those years ago.  And that leads me back into something I mentioned above.

Snakes. Evil, evil snakes.

I drew this on a table at Jack Astor's one day.

I don’t think anyone would ever dare deny that the Harry Potter series is intentionally designed in such a way that it fits nicely in the Western tradition of literature, informed by millennia of works that have come before it.  No one can say, “Oh, you’re just seeing things that aren’t there, because you want to see them.”  Because, quite frankly?

If Dark Magic weren't awesome, it wouldn't be there to tempt you.

Look, guys! He’s a snake! And a person!  And a snake!  He’s a personification of a snake! And he’s also Hitler but I don’t get to talk about that until way later.

So, our big baddie, the guy who rises to power and on his way shows us everything that is wrong with the way the Wizarding world operates, also happens to have descended from Salazar Slytherin.  He can talk to snakes, and this affinity with them, and his pride in the Wizard half of his bloodline, leads him to use the snake as his primary icon.

Hell, he makes a snake the keeper of one of his Horcruxes!  The same snake whose venom kept him half alive in his weird Shrivelmort state.  (Yes, he is essentially nursed by the snake, through Wormtail who has to milk her. Ew.)

Has being hit over the head knocked you unconscious, yet?

Hey guys, if you hadn't been tempted, all of those Pureblood-favour laws would still be in place!

Anyway, Western Tradition/Western Literary Canon.  I’m not saying that Harry Potter is actually going to be canonized, or even that it ought to be (…okay I might put in for that).  But what I am saying is that the misunderstood-ness of Harry’s character that really begins popping up later in the series, and especially his connections to Voldemort that stop him from being included, are heavily hinted at through this appearance of Parseltongue in the very first novel, and the explanations of just what Parseltongue is in Chamber.  Without the ties into literary canon and into the Western Judeo-Christian mythos that the figure of the snake evokes from, Voldemort’s fascination with snakes would be a lot less poignant.

And finally, because it is simply awesome and doesn’t hit you over the head with Judeo-Christian imagery like I just did, something to watch while you’re on your way to the Hospital Wing for that bump on your head:

Vihart’s “How to Snake”

The Boy Who Lived

Posted in Harry Potter, Philosopher's Stone with tags , , on 08/11/2011 by A. Chels

He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: ‘To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!’

This post is entirely about the very first chapter of Philosopher’s Stone, and I’ve got a slew of things to go through in it.  I’ve tried to break the post down into plot quirks and pure reactions, but it wasn’t very easy, so everything is a little random.  Quoted sections are where a new topic starts. Think of them as bullet points.

And now, over to Jim McGuffin with the weather.  Going to be any more showers of owls tonight, Jim?

The very first thing I noticed in this chapter—beyond the first page and the wealth of things to write about with it—was Rowling’s use of the character of “Jim McGuffin.”  McGuffin leapt out of the page at me, despite him being so overlook-able that I probably shouldn’t have noticed him at all.  After all, he’s just the weatherman on the evening news.  He has a single line.

But his name is McGuffin!

It’s possible I should explain why this excites me so much.  “McGuffin” (also, MacGuffin) is a film term that’s become appropriated into other forms of storytelling.  It is, quite simply, “a term for a motivating element in a story that is used to drive the plot.” (Definition taken from TVTropes; I braved its vortex in order to grab it!)

So why am I so excited by this character who draws absolutely no attention to himself at all, and is in fact so inconsequential that you probably are just taking it on my word that he even exists?  Especially when, being a person, McGuffin really doesn’t fall into the traditional definition of the term?

Jim McGuffin is the character that says the line that finally inspires Vernon Dursley to suck it up and mention everything that he noticed on his way to and from work, to Petunia.  McGuffin acts as a very minor McGuffin and moves the plot forward!  Rowling, I love you so much.

As he had expected, Mrs Dursley looked shocked and angry.  After all, they normally pretended she didn’t have a sister.

I like parallels in fiction.  Parallels, even tenuously drawn ones constructed by English majors, make me smile.  So when I read this ‘Ugh, my family’ line, I immediately thought of Andromeda’s sour reaction to Harry mistaking her for Bellatrix in Deathly Hallows.

The cat didn’t move.  It just gave him a stern look.

I like picturing McGonagall surveying Vernon Dursley.  Just, for a moment, imagine that calculating look cats sometimes give you, with the intensity of Minerva McGonagall added to it.  Got it?

Now my imagination has flipped to human McGonagall staring Dursley down.  She would definitely win.  I can only imagine what she thinks of him beyond what she actually stated aloud to Dumbledore.

People are being downright careless, out on the streets in broad daylight, not even dressed in Muggle clothes, swapping rumours.

I know it’s a very small community, but considering everyone has been out of their minds with fear for years, the rumour of Voldemort’s demise, and the details of it, certainly spread pretty damn fast!  If you figure that Vernon works 9-5, and probably needs about 45 minutes to get to work, and people are already gathered all over the streets when he’s driving there… That’s, what, less than 8 hours after Voldemort’s fallen?

Let’s not forget that we’re also talking about a community that doesn’t have the internet, doesn’t have television, and doesn’t even have the phone.  They spread this all strictly through owl post and (presumably) fire calls and maybe the November 1 morning edition of the Daily Prophet.  And yes, okay, probably also somewhat through Apparating to see other members of their families and spread the news.  I just think it a bit absurd that after being so afraid for so long, people would be willing to be out on the streets in mass numbers!  (Never mind that the Death Eaters were still around in full force, scattered but really friggin’ angry—and scared, judging by how the Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr. went after the Longbottoms.)

I think McGonagall has it right in the quote above.  None of them can have been thinking very hard about what they were doing.

They’re saying he tried to kill the Potter’s son, Harry.

For a very short moment I think I managed to forget the entire series and the thought “But why even bother killing the baby?” crossed my mind.  Quickly followed by “Does he kill babies often?” and then my brain going “REALLY? WHY KILL THE BABY? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THIS FANDOM?” (Yes, in bold and italicised caps, because… really?)

I suspect “Why kill the baby” was my thought until I actually knew the reason, and it just resurfaced.  At least, I hope that’s what it was.  Otherwise, I think I just lost my veteran Potterhead membership, and I’ve sunk a lot of money into maintaining it!

It’s lucky it’s dark.  I haven’t blushed so much since Madam Pomfrey told me she liked my new earmuffs.

I just plain love the conversation between McGonagall and Dumbledore in this chapter.  I love the dynamic.  I love the way Dumbledore comes across as this wise, but doddering old man who tries to give everyone sweets and blushes at compliments, and the way McGonagall just tolerates these quirks with a shake of her head and a sigh.  I especially like it because I think it gives us part of McGonagall’s character that sort of disappears for us until she offers Harry a Ginger Newt in book 5 (making Harry go ‘…huh?’).

Dumbledore gave a great sniff as he took a golden watch from his pocket and examined it.  It was a very odd watch.  It had twelve hands but no numbers; instead, little planets were moving around the edge.

I love Dumbledore’s watch.

I recently purchased Harry Potter Film Wizardry, a book released to detail some of the work that went into producing the film franchise (buy it!).   I wanted to point Dumbledore’s watch out, because while we never really see anything else that’s quite described like this—though Fabian Prewett’s watch, which Molly gives Harry on his seventeenth, might be something similar because although the face isn’t described, we’re told it had “stars circling around the face instead of hands”—there’s an indication in some of the prop details of Film Wizardry that Astronomy is a more common way of recording the passage of time than Muggle numbers, even if it’s not how time is spoken of.

For why this has intrigued me so much, take a look:

Mafalda Hopkirk

Sun in Pisces, Moon in Leo

This is Mafalda Hopkirk’s (film) Ministry identification card.  I have no idea what these dates would actually be, but I think it’s an interesting concept that the Wizarding world might use such dates for official things. If you’re wondering, this is on page 151 of Film Wizardry.

Also, I really love the Wizarding tradition of giving a watch when they come of age, and I’m not really sure why. (A bit of quick Googling said that in Russia to give a watch is to give the gift of longer life. I’ll assume the Wizarding tradition is something along these lines, rather than cursing the recipient to have a shorter life like in some Asian cultures.)

And can I just say that thank Merlin neither October 31 nor November 1 is Harry Potter Day?

Turn to Page 191

Posted in Harry Potter, Pottermore with tags , on 08/04/2011 by A. Chels

 “What would I get if I added asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

I got into Pottermore’s Beta registration the other day! My username is AsphodelEcho191. I want to put that in sparkly text but I don’t know how. I also apparently can’t make it purple.

I should probably warn you now that, if you haven’t already noticed, there’s a heavy amount of fangirling in this post.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter now knows that I have a deep loathing of usernames with numbers on the end, since I did nothing but whine about those on Pottermore’s randomly generated usernames.  Of course I wasn’t going to let that stop me from signing up for Pottermore. So, once I had my username, I went about trying to make the numbers look better to me.

I flipped to page 191 in each Potter book so I could find out what happened on those pages, trying to endear myself to the number and make it meaningful to me instead of something random.  Here are the results.

Philosopher’s Stone: First page of Chapter Sixteen “Through the Trapdoor”

We learn about some first year exams!

We learn about anti-cheating quills!  As someone who’s going to school to become a teacher next year, I hope those quills have spellcheckers on them too. I still doubt the quality of English language education given to wizarding children (and how much grammar have you learnt by the time you’re 11, really? Almost none in the school system I was in. I also feel like I should add here that my grammar checking program very much wants me to write “grammar has” or “grammars have” above).

Chamber of Secrets: Middle of Chapter Fourteen “Cornelius Fudge”

Hermione’s just been petrified. Quidditch was just cancelled, to the great disappointment of Oliver Wood. (“But Professor! You can’t CANCEL Quidditch!”)

Lee Jordan suggests they just kick all of the Slytherins out of the school.  Poor Slytherin!

Prisoner of Azkaban: Middle of Chapter Thirteen “Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw”

Draco’s all jealous of the Firebolt so he makes fun of Harry for having it. ‘Nuff said, really. Draco, I’m assuming you tried to get daddy to buy you a Firebolt (“But Potter has one!”) and he said no. Should’ve waited on those Nimbus 2001s you got him to buy the Slytherin team in second year.

Goblet of Fire: Middle of Chapter Fourteen “The Unforgivable Curses”

At the bottom of page 190, Moody!Crouch Jr. shouted the killing curse. 191 is Harry learning exactly how his parents died.

I officially love my number.

And now you all think I’m insane.

That’s okay. Have a picture of my copy of Goblet of Fire:

It's very well loved.

Order of the Phoenix: Middle of Chapter Eleven “The Sorting Hat’s New Song”

Umbitch.. err. Umbridge stands up to give her speech. In the middle of Dumbledore’s. I would very much like her to be the spider on Goblet of Fire’s page 191. Can we make that happen?

Oh!  Also, this will probably be something I have to talk about later, anyway (you know, when my reread gets to Order of the Phoenix) but my high school French teacher was Umbridge.  That’s a teaser. You’ll get more later.

Half-Blood Prince: Middle of Chapter Ten “The House of Gaunt”

Sorry can’t talk now, too busy hiding from Morfin Gaunt. (Also, Harry needs to learn to figure out when he’s hearing/speaking Parseltongue and when he isn’t. Though I suppose by the end of Deathly Hallows that’s a moot point.)

Deathly Hallows: Middle of Chapter Twelve “Magic is Might”

THERE IS GERMAN ON THIS PAGE.  Err. I mean; Harry is seeing into Voldemort’s head as he tries to track down Gregorovitch, the wand-maker. AND THERE IS GERMAN.  (I have a thing for the German language. Don’t mind me.)

And that’s it! Seven books! Seven page 191s!  I think AsphodelEcho191 and I will get along well, and I will see you all at Hogwarts! (Exclamation point abuse!)

The First Page

Posted in Harry Potter, Philosopher's Stone with tags , on 07/31/2011 by A. Chels

 Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

I had a professor in my final year of university who could—and did—spend hours lecturing on the first page of any text on the syllabus.  Sometimes that lecture would have an even narrower focus, and we would spend hours on the very first paragraph.

I wasn’t going to do that here.  I thought that, just as I never, ever imagined that I would be that English major—the one who could take a single sentence from a text and write a six page paper and ten minute presentation on it (like I did for a line from Wuthering Heights in my Victorian literature class)—I would never be that person, who completely dissected books in her spare time.

But this is Harry Potter.  This is the first page of an empire.  This is a paragraph I can practically recite from memory without any effort.

This is just something that I have to do.

Taking a look, then, at the essentials of that first sentence for a moment.

Mr and Mrs Dursley […] were proud […] that they were perfectly normal.

The entire first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is written in a third person omniscient that jumps around and doesn’t really settle on any one person at all until we reach ten-year old Harry at the beginning of chapter two, and I think this makes the first page section that much more interesting.

The Dursleys, by someone’s definition, are perfectly normal.  They are proud to fall under this definition of perfectly normal.  As for whose definition it is, well it seems to be the Dursleys’ own, mutual definition of what the word means. The passage on the first page is interesting, in this aspect.  While it could easily be said that this is being told to us by some bizarre, distant narrator (possibly Rowling herself) who simply disappears when the narration transfers to Vernon headed into work on the next page, I want to pose another possibility: the Dursleys are so in sync with how they feel about the Potters, and magic in general, that this is a joint narration.

This narration style only lasts for the first three paragraphs, at which point we’re told quite clearly by the narrator “our story begins” and a narration shift is made to Vernon from the vague perspective we were given before.  This shift, coming only after we’ve already gained a bit of familiarity with our characters—their family life, their estranged relatives who share a surname with the title character of the book—gives pause, and cause to recall that first line of the story again.

The Dursleys’ assertion of their normalness in the very first line of the novel is an invitation for something to happen to them.  In fact, everything they could have hoped to avoid in those first three paragraphs—something unusual happening, their “fine” son Dudley having to mix with Petunia’s sister’s son, and even the neighbours knowing about their relationship with the Wizarding world (here, of course, I’m pointing toward Mrs Figg)—befalls the Dursleys within the next 10 pages of the novel.

I want to return now, then, to the idea of this perfect normalness that the Dursleys appear to embody at the very beginning of the novel.  We’re given indication that while the Dursleys may very well be as normal as they say they are, they’re still quite aware that something they can only exist on the outskirts of is looming and ever-present over them.  (In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we’re even told that a young Petunia was quite eager to become a part of the world Lily was brought into, and at this point, some ten years after that incident, it’s likely that Petunia’s “normalcy” is more something she was forced to buckle down and accept than something she happily embodied from childhood.)

Yes, the Dursleys are normal—in the sense that they are not magical.  In the sense that they interact with the world in the same manner that any reader of the Harry Potter novels must interact with the world (though it might be more accurate to say that Harry Potter fans are just as unDursleyish as we’re told the Dursleys believe the Potters are).  The Dursleys certainly will themselves to be as normal as it’s possible for them to be; I mean come on, Vernon works for a company that sells drills.  As we quickly see, however, their world is easily shaken because the Dursleys cannot live in ignorance of the world existing alongside the Muggle one.

So beyond an oddly meandering and unfocused deconstruction of the introduction to the story that defined more than half of my life so far, what has this post shown us?

Well, I have a really huge interest in how words are used, and how words mean to different people—yes, how, not what.  After all, the concept of “normal” and even “perfectly normal” is going to be different if I’m using it, or if Molly Weasley is using it, or if Petunia and Vernon Dursley are using it.  And that the words are used in our very first impression of the Dursleys certainly tells us a lot about not only the couple themselves, but also the home life that our poor, not-normal-by-any-definition-of-the-word protagonist is going to have with them, once he’s left with them at the end of the chapter.

Regardless, I would argue that it’s the Dursleys’ definition of normal that leaves us with this line—a line I feel defines Harry for his entire life.

 “I’m Harry. Just Harry.”

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