Think back to when you first became a member of the Leaky Lounge ’ maybe it was a month, a year, or even two years ago. What was your favorite theory then? Do you still believe in that theory today?
My theories have changed so much since I joined the Lounge nearly a year ago. Every post that I read and Corner Booth text chat has influenced me in some way. Because of the Leaky Lounge, I have had the opportunity to grow as a thinker and as a person through various mediums and a variety of experiences. For example, I have been made so curious by posts on the forums that I have read other literature. The Scribbulus essays have also become a wonderful source of personal knowledge and enjoyment. Most importantly, it is the people with whom I have been fortunate enough to meet in person, as well as spend hours chatting with online, who have increased my love of Harry Potter. These people have influenced my opinions greatly, and I am certainly not the same person that I was last year. Therefore, the focal point of this essay will discuss how the Leaky Lounge has shaped and shifted my opinions into what they are today and examine the other influences connected to my experience.
I clearly remember the day I found the Leaky Lounge. I had been coming to The Leaky Cauldron every now and then to read the latest Harry Potter news. I never really explored this site until the day the front page was advertising the reading groups to discuss Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. By this time, I had read the series multiple times and was drooling with excitement over the possibility of discussing the books with other people.
I should stop to tell you that I am very much a Hermione. I love learning. Since I had recently graduated from college, I was missing the academic world terribly. Also, like Hermione, I thought I knew all the answers and would be at the top of the reading group because I felt like I was an expert on Harry Potter. This is a good place to roll your eyes at me because I deserve it.
So I signed up for the Lounge as quickly as my fingers could type. I found the link to the Reading Group, was sorted, and voila *insert heavenly music here* ’ it was even better than I had imagined. Everyone was introducing themselves so I jumped right in. Looking back at this very first post, I am highly amused by it because Hermione would have been proud of my over-eagerness.
There are two types of posts on the Lounge: theoretical and non-theoretical. Theoretical posts discuss one's own particular beliefs about the Harry Potter series. Non-theoretical posts discuss more casual topics, such as your favorite television show or how you discovered Harry Potter.
Exactly one day after I joined the Lounge, I dived right in to make my first theoretical post. This is just when I started realizing that I was surrounded by a group of Hermiones. Intimidated? Who me? I thought that I was going to be the one who would be enlightening others and didn't really think the Lounge would affect my thought process and views. Once I picked up my jaw from the floor, I began to compose this first theoretical post hoping to add something thoughtful to this highly intellectual discussion. I reread it over and over and over again before I finally worked up the nerve to hit the "add reply" button. I had succeeded and felt like I had embarked on this great new adventure.
It's a Big World Out There
Once I joined the Lounge, there was no stopping me. Quickly, I discovered a huge world out there with no fence around it. I found forums discussing all aspects of Harry Potter. To my great surprise, there were even forums to discuss other books, hobbies, movies, and even a whole forum for teachers, which made me look like the excited emoticon on the Lounge.
This "Big World" opened up so many new ideas and thought processes. I started taking the knowledge that I had gained from reading the threads and started exploring different venues to enhance my knowledge of the subject matter of a particular thread. These venues include things like other literature, Scribbulus essays, talking to Leaky folks in real life and online, and the Corner Booth chats.
The Arthurian legend has been my latest fascination on the Lounge since I discovered a thread on how it connects to Harry Potter in the Obscurus Books forum, which is the Lounge's academic analysis forum. I have always been intrigued by the legend but never actually made the time to sit down and read it. I stumbled upon it one day and when I began to read the thread, I saw people making all of these magnificent connections from Harry Potter to the Arthurian legend. I also remembered back in December that people were discussing how the legend plays into the title of the last book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Although I could somewhat follow this thread based on my surface knowledge of the legend, I wanted to learn more. Thus, I went to the library at the school where I work and checked out a book called The Story of King Arthur. Hungrily, I devoured the book because I wanted to post in that thread, even though I knew that I was nowhere near an expert. I noticed the similarity between Merlin taking Arthur out in a boat to retrieve the sword, Excalibur, and Dumbledore taking Harry to retrieve the locket in the cave. In both cases, these two mentors were passing on the torch to their mentees. The boys had become men.
Now I am completely hooked on the legend of King Arthur and have been seeking out more books to learn about this legend ’ not solely to post but also because I have fallen in love with the stories. After I shared my new love of the legend with a friend, she recommended The Mists of Avalon, which I am currently reading, and I already know that it is one of those books that I will come back to again and again. My love for the Arthurian legend stemmed from one simple thread in the Leaky Lounge and it definitely gave me a different perspective on the Harry Potter series, as well as a new tale to enjoy time and time again.
The mainstream fan of the Harry Potter series typically does not realize how great of a connection Ms. Rowling's books have to alchemy. Before I joined the Lounge, I only had a very minimal awareness of alchemy and only connected the Sorcerer's Stone and Nicholas Flamel with this subject area. It wasn't until my reading group for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where I began to become really curious about alchemy after a thread was started for beginners on the subject. In this thread, we were given links to two Scribbulus essays by Arianhrod called "Alchemy and Harry Potter' which completely blew me away. I had only read a few essays, but Arianhrod's essays really encouraged me to read even more of them and thus opened up a new world called Scribbulus, which is another great medium on Leaky that influences opinions and theories.
At some point I also discovered Accio Quotes, which added even more to my Lounge experience to be able to reference Jo's quotes in posts on the Lounge, which might possibly influence others' opinions. This quote from Jo Rowling in 1998 was another of the deciding factors that sold me on the importance of alchemy in the series:
I've never wanted to be a witch, but an alchemist, now that's a different matter. To invent this wizard world, I've learned a ridiculous amount about alchemy. Perhaps much of it I'll never use in the books, but I have to know in detail what magic can and cannot do in order to set the parameters and establish the stories' internal logic.1
The Lounge is simply a starting point or a springboard upon which all of these outside factors play a role to make your experience on the Lounge that much greater. Now that I have read Scribbulus essays and Jo's interviews, it is easier for me to make connections while posting in a thread. Often I find myself referencing one of these venues, or merely thinking about something I had read, to provide greater evidence in my posts. These outside sources provide greater support for theories and benefit the Leaky Lounge as a whole. It even allows those who are not familiar with these sites the opportunity to enhance their experience on the Lounge.
I have discussed many different mediums in which the Leaky Lounge has influenced me, but one that I have not mentioned yet is through meeting people in real life. As a moderator on the Lounge, I have had the opportunity to actually meet many Leaky Loungers in person, which has enhanced my Lounge experience tenfold. There are no words to describe being in person with people who share the same obsession as you and who understand how great the forum is.
In December, I was lounging around in person with two of my fellow Corner Booth moderators. We were discussing a thread on possible Horcruxes in Sorcerer's Stone for the Book Club forum, which was opening on January 1st. I decided to read out loud the passage when Harry goes to get his wand at Ollivanders. This line caught my attention, "A single wand lay on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window." 2
In the next paragraph, two more lines really stood out. "For some reason, the back of [Harry's] neck prickled. The very dust and silence in here seemed to tingle with some secret magic." 3
After I read this line, we all stopped and looked at each other because it was one of those "aha" moments. A few days later, you can see that my post in the Book Club forum was influenced by the discussion I had with my friends in the real world:
If we follow the Arthurian legend, then one of the Horcruxes could be a wand. We know that Voldemort may have picked the Horcruxes so that he would have one from each of [sic] Founder. We still do not know what Ravenclaw's item is nor do we know who Ollivander's ancestors are. Ollivander's family certainly was around long enough (at least since 382 B.C.) so he very well could be the heir of Rowena Ravenclaw.
What really convinced me that the wand was a Horcrux were the last two lines in this passage. We know that Horcruxes are very dark magic and we have also learned from Dumbledore that magic leaves traces. We also know that Harry is a very intuitive person and relies a lot on his instinct. His neck prickled ’ the first sign that something was going on. The next line is what seals the deal for me and shows me that the feeling Harry is not just being new to the world of magic ’ Jo decided to add the line "with some secret magic". We know that Jo chooses her words extremely carefully. Even though at this point in the first book we had no possible idea about the Horcruxes ’ this is one of those clues that was given to us to make us pay attention to it when we reread over and over again.4
Talking with Leaky friends in real life prompted me to post my thoughts. Because of this great "aha" moment, I convinced some people that the wand is a Horcrux, which shows that you can influence people by your posts. It is a constant cycle between being influenced by other people's posts and being the one to do the influencing.
You knew Snape would work himself into this essay, didn't you? He always manages to work himself into every conversation. You can run from him, but you can't hide. Mwahahaha. Before long, I discovered that people had some pretty intense opinions about this man ’ ranging from Dumbledore's man to Voldemort's man through and through.
When I first discovered the Lounge, my beliefs on Snape were that he was a selfish git for having murdered Albus Dumbledore. For those who don't know me ’ it is blasphemous that I am even saying this right now. Sorry folks, but it is just going to get worse!
I made this post in my Reading Group for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the Chapter Seven Thread on May 1, 2006. It was the first time I had ever commented about Severus Snape on the Lounge:
This chapter clearly shows Snape's hatred for Harry. Based on everything that has happened, I think that Snape is just a selfish child who cannot get past his hatred for James. Snape is the adult and should act like it - no matter how bad the relationship between James and Snape was. Snape didn't even give Harry a chance. This chapter really shows Snape's true colors. This chapter shows that he will never be good like DD or Lily but it does not necessarily prove that he will be evil (like LV). It just seems as though he is somewhere in between.5
This post also shows how my thinking started out on the Lounge before I really had the opportunity to read other people's opinions about Snape. I thought that he was neither good nor bad, but rather just in it for himself.
As time went by, I read more and more posts and even discovered the Snape Loyalty thread, where I definitely had to use my Gryffindor bravery to post. Over a month later on June 15, 2006, you can see how much my thinking had changed from simply being a member of the Lounge for a few months:
We only see the books from Harry's perspective - perhaps someone in the Order does know about Snape and DD's plan - if indeed there was a plan. DD has kept information from Harry before for Harry's own benefit. Maybe it is in Harry's best interest that Harry thinks Snape is bad. If he thinks it, then so do his friends. If one of them were kidnapped, they would not be able to say that Snape is really good because it is important for him to remain a spy for the Order if he indeed is on our side.6
As you can see with the post above, I had begun to question my original thinking. At this point with my journey on the Lounge, my beliefs had changed to wondering if Snape was on the good side rather than just a selfish git.
The place that has had the most impact on my opinions, especially in regards to Snape, has been the Corner Booth, which is a text chat on the Leaky Lounge. This is the place where I actually became a very vocal member for Snape being Dumbledore's man through and through. In August 2006, I found the Corner Booth where we had such intense chats in what is considered "real time" because it is live. This place allowed me to discuss Snape's loyalty in greater depth because I was able to debate with people and question their opinions right on the spot. It allowed me to grow intellectually and forced me to defend my position more carefully. Even when I became a Corner Booth moderator in October 2006, I was still convinced of his loyalty to Dumbledore. When we weren't planning the chats online, the other moderators and I could be found discussing our favorite topic, Snape's Loyalty. Our group was clearly divided on this issue, which made for much more intense and exciting debates. My thinking was being challenged and I even found myself quoting passages to prove how Snape was loyal to Dumbledore.
However, sometime in December the tide began to turn after all of these debates, and I once again questioned my opinion. It was through the Corner Booth discussions and chats with the other moderators that the little voice in my head started going, "Maybe he is really out for himself. Maybe he is not loyal to Dumbledore or to Voldemort." Through one particular intense discussion with a friend from the Lounge, I became convinced that Snape is indeed selfish and only out for himself. I decided not to tell anyone because I had become such a strong supporter of the "Snape is good" side. These next few months I still questioned my position every now and then, but was finally convinced when I listened to the Shrieking Shack scene from Prisoner of Azkaban in my car on the way home from work one day. The way that Jim Dale was reading, I saw that Snape was really focused on revenge against Lupin and Sirius, rather than on saving Harry. Listening to it ultimately convinced me that his motives were selfish, and that he could not possibly be on Harry's side. I shared this moment of enlightenment with my friend who was utterly pleased that I was finally fully convinced on my decision that Snape was out for himself. It was then that I decided to write an essay to show others just how influential the Lounge can be on a person's opinions.
You may be wondering why this has any significance as I started out thinking that Snape was selfish and then ended up thinking the same thing. Basically, the Lounge challenged my opinion. Through different mediums, it forced me to question myself and to analyze every aspect of the series. I pored through the Harry Potter books, rereading them all for the sole purpose of finding clues to prove his loyalty on the good side. However, the more I looked, the more posts I read, and debates I had, it became clear to me that my initial beliefs of him being out for himself were correct. I believe that being on the good and the bad side of the fence greatly helped me during my journey of figuring out Snape's Loyalty. Now, when I have debates with people, it is easier to defend my position as Snape being out for himself because I know the arguments of the "Snape is good" side very well because I once used them when I was on that side.
The Present Day
It is June 2007, just over a year since I joined the Leaky Lounge. Never could I have imagined how much of an impact a forum could have on my thinking. One important lesson I have learned: the Lounge is filled with thousands of Hermiones just like me. I have the absolute utmost respect for my fellow Leaky Loungers who come up with brilliant theories and challenge me to look at the books in a different light, which have ultimately shaped my thoughts on multiple aspects in the Harry Potter series. Not a single day on the Lounge goes by without learning something new. The Leaky Lounge was the place which opened up more doors than I could have ever imagined when I signed up to simply discuss Harry Potter. Within a year, I discovered other literature that connects to Harry Potter, Scribbulus essays, Corner Booth chats, and most especially friendships which will last a lifetime.
To this very day, every single post I read has the potential to change my thinking and influence my beliefs on what will happen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The next time you post, just remember how powerful your words are to others. Even subconsciously, you may have just convinced someone that Snape is a selfish git who is solely out for himself.
1. Simpson, "Face to Face with J K Rowling."
2. Rowling, Sorcerer's Stone, 82.
3. Ibid., 82.
4. Fawkes28, comment on "The Philosopher's Stone Horcrux Hunt' post #2.
5. Ibid., comment on "Chapter 7' post #13.
6. Ibid., comment on "Snape's Loyalty: Part 28' post #315.
Arianhrod. "Alchemy and Harry Potter: Part 1." Scribbulus Issue 1, The Leaky Cauldron. Member of the Floo Network. /features/essays/issue1/AlchemyPart1.
”””. "Alchemy and Harry Potter: Part 2." Scribbulus Issue 2, The Leaky Cauldron. Member of the Floo Network. /features/essays/issue2/AlchemyPart2.
Bradley, Marion Zimmer. The Mists of Avalon. New York: Random House, 1982.
Fawkes28. Comment on "Chapter 7." The Leaky Lounge: Room 15 down and to your left, 1 May 2006. http://www.leakylounge.com/index.php?showtopic=27421&st=0&p=808248entry808248 (accessed 26 May 2007).
”””. Comment on "The Philosopher's Stone Horcrux Hunt." The Leaky Lounge: Book Club Forum, 1 January 2007. http://www.leakylounge.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=37315&view=findpost&p=1048507 (accessed 26 May 2007).
”””. Comment on "Snape's Loyalty: Part 28." The Leaky Lounge: Princely Nook Forum, 15 June 2006. http://www.leakylounge.com/index.php?showtopic=28643&st=310&p=855051entry855051 (accessed 26 May 2007).
Lister, Robin. The Legend of King Arthur. Doubleday, 1988.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
”””. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
”””. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.
Simpson, Anne. "Face to Face with J K Rowling: Casting a spell over young minds." The Herald, 7 December 1998. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/1998/1298-herald-simpson.html.