Like Harry, we are moving more quickly than expected into autumn. The early mornings are cold, and I feel for him up on his broom as I feed the pigs and watch the sun rise through my own steaming breath.
I've put off my own 'pepperup potion' for too long, and so photos will have to wait til next week, when the bottled brew is ready to be seen and sipped (slowly, please, or you might end up looking like Ginny for the next quarter-hour). But the season is right for it, and I'm looking forward to having some on hand!
Rowling does come up with some excellent potions. Adorable names and amusing extras alongside - I can appreciate why Snape would lean towards the subtlety and the never-ending options for improvement that come with recipe-magic. I think about him often now, as Autumn is the season for infusions, potions, essences, and tinctures. I'm especially interested in Madam Z. Nettles' Scintillation Solution - some suggest it's a brain tonic, making poor Madam Nettles a witty conversationalist, but I like to think it makes her 'bright' in another sense - a spell for brilliant, glittering skin perhaps. And I want it for my own.
When Harry finds the Kwikspell Course (I hope it's advertised as The Kwikspell Kourse and sold for five payments of $19.99 - with a 'kwik' response getting you an additional 'spell-boosting wand extender' and three extra-potent toadstools) on Filch's desk, we see more of the habitual lying the students of Hogwarts are noteworthy for (in my reading anyway). Harry lies to Filch, Hermione to Myrtle at the dullest party imaginable, Harry lies to Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore's ghost at Nearly Headless Nick's request, and of course Nick himself is awash in socially-acceptable party lies. After Mrs. Norris is found, Harry, Ron, and Hermione attempt to lie their way out of any connection with the petrifying, and all of this is very casual, expected behavior. It's a small thing, I know, but one that grates on me while reading. Perhaps because I'm learning just how much I do value honesty; or perhaps because most of the lies are so careless.
The Death-day party itself is not terribly interesting. Rowling's ghosts are better left in the background, I think. But rumors that some Catholic critics of the series have linked the Death-day party to a Black Mass are still unsubstantiated. If anyone finds such a link, please pass it on. I can't find any real connection in the books or online....yet.
Christie's recent post delves into the use of blood-slurs in the wizarding world - fascinating and thought-provoking - as well as touching on the mention (in last week's discussion) of those who disapprove of the Mandrake image in this book. I looked it up and discovered (to my surprise) that there are not a few who link the Mandrakes ugly-baby look in earlier chapters and eventual use in a Restorative potion (Lockhart calls it a Mandrake Restorative Draught, but we can't really trust him to know the proper name of anything but quality hair care and Odgen's Old Firewhisky) to a subtle pro-abortion agenda by the author. This is, I think, more than unfair to Rowling, who has her faults, but can generally be counted on to avoid the overly-subtle agenda. Mandrakes are in fact known for their human appearance, and for their cry, which kills. And Rowling's shown us many times that her main skill as an author is in creating the cartoon - sometimes with a way-too-pushy agenda, but never with a so-light-you-can't-quite-taste-it message. So lets not pretend we believe she's delighting in cutting up 'living human babies' or encouraging the reader towards abortion in anyway through her use of Mandrakes, which are - after all, primarily used in fertility and life-promoting ways throughout magical tradition.
But the mysteries in the book are deepening..and the Chamber of Secrets is such a grand, gothic sort of name for the hidden place of evil within a castle of magic. Unashamedly gothic. I love it.