Pottermore: A Muggle’s Eye View

In which I discover a talent for duelling, learn that potions are not for the faint-hearted, and experience the eternal shame of losing points for my House

When Pottermore – an interactive website for fans of the Harry Potter series – first came out a few years ago, I wasn’t that interested. I like the books and the films well enough, but I’ve never been a serious Potterhead. Bored out of my mind and with nothing better to do this weekend, I decided to finally sign up and see what all the fuss was about.

Of course, my main reason for signing up was to finally find out which Hogwarts House the Sorting Hat would put me in.

In the past, I’ve been sorted equally into all four houses by a range of crappy unofficial quizzes put together by bored school kids in their weekly I.T. lessons – you know the type, they’ll sort you into Ravenclaw just because you like eagles better than snakes. So, I was quite looking forward to the official Pottermore Sorting Hat, which was apparently put together by J. K. Rowling herself. If there was one quiz in existence that could reveal my true Hogwarts allegiance, then surely it would be this one.

I was pleasantly surprised to be asked a series of questions that actually seemed to have some sort of psychological bent to them. Will you take the path to the beach, through the forest, or up to the castle? Out of these random magical objects, which one would you pick up first? Dawn or Dusk? Heads or Tails?

My own research over the years has led me to believe that I’m either a Gryffindor or a Slytherin. Pottermore puts that age-old quandary to rest by sorting me into Gryffindor, the House of St. Potter himself. My welcome letter from Percy Weasley tells me that I’ve become part of ‘the best House in the school’ (no wonder everybody thinks we’re arrogant). Still, at least now if I ever find myself in the Harry Potter shop I’ll know which scarf to buy (which, let’s be honest, is why I started this whole thing in the first place).

I quickly discover that you can’t do anything on Pottermore without a wand and a pet, so I head to Diagon Alley. I nab myself a barn owl, and am chosen by a wand of yew with a phoenix feather core, ten and three quarter inches, supple. It’s at this point that I start to get a little bit suspicious, because that sounds strangely like Harry Potter’s wand, and I have just been sorted into Gryffindor, after all. Is Pottermore trying to tell me that I’m the chosen one? I google Harry Potter’s wand, and discover that it’s actually made of holly and is a full eleven inches long, so it looks like I’m safe from You Know Who…for now.

There doesn’t seem to be that much you can do on Pottermore, apart from duel with other students and brew things in Potions Class. I decide to have a go at brewing something, as I imagine that’ll be quite a simple thing to start on. Ten minutes later and I’ve melted two cauldrons, my mistletoe berries are scattered every which way, and I’m worried that Snape is going to loom over me and throw me out of his classroom.  My inept potion brewing is also losing points for Gryffindor, which is something I hadn’t bargained on. I’m letting myself down, I’m letting my House down, I’m letting the whole school down.

I give up on potions for now, and head over to the Duelling Club. Now this, this is much more my style. Duelling seems to involve clicking on certain letters at strategic points in order to cast spells (such as the Curse of Bogies, which sounds uncomfortable) at suckers from other Houses. As a master of both Chain Rxn and Yeti Sports: Flamingo Drive (there’s a reason I only got a 2:1 at university), I’m in my element here. The only problem is I have no Pottermore ‘friends’ to play against, so I issue Slytherin House with a general duelling challenge. I cast the Curse of Bogies, and win five House points! Suck on that, Slytherin!

Then I challenge Ravenclaw, and cast the Knockback Jinx – I win again! Another five points for Gryffindor.  Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I cast the Smokescreen spell against Hufflepuff. Apparently no-one in Hufflepuff is up for duelling this evening though, as I have to wait to find out whether or not I’ve won (I won, eventually). Then a cocky Ravenclaw challenges me, and I blow them away with a Fire Making spell. I’m quickly gaining back the all the points I’ve haemorrhaged in Potions Class, and then some (so hopefully I won’t get shunned in the Gryffindor common room).

Then I get my ass handed to me by a Slytherin with a Jelly Legs curse. And another Slytherin. And then a Ravenclaw. And another Ravenclaw. By this point I’m getting far too into the game, and yelling “Come at me, you bastards!” at my innocent laptop. I blow another Slytherin out of the water, and then I develop a personal grudge against Ravenclaw and hammer them until I get bored.

What else can you do on Pottermore? Well, you can navigate your way through an extensive timeline of semi-animated scenes from the books (ALL of the books), reading new material from J. K. Rowling in which she expands on the history of certain characters, or her writing process. While doing this, you can also collect things such as Galleons, Chocolate Frog Cards and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and presumably earn more House points. It takes quite a long time to trudge through it all, so this section would seem to be aimed at hardcore Potterheads only.

Basically, Pottermore is half quite well put together procrastination game, and half exhaustively extensive read-along for serious book nerds. There’s something for all levels of Harry Potter fan; those with a passing interest can just wander about a bit and play a few games, and those with a full blown obsession can immerse themselves completely in all manner of trivia.

Then there are people like me, who want to take back the House Cup from those dastardly Slytherins, who apparently won it in May of this year. Gryffindor are currently trailing in fourth place, which simply will not do. I’ll see you at Duelling Club.

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