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Pottering On With Pottermore

2012 March 9
by pam artiaga

Pottermore Insider recently announced that they will open the site to everyone in early April of this year. “The wait is nearly over,” as they said.

Only a small percentage of the fans, especially among the Beta users, are excited by this statement. Most of us, both those with Beta accounts and those who are waiting for the public launch date, are taking it with a grain of salt. Still others, mostly those who were either bored or very disappointed with Pottermore, either no longer care or they want Pottermore to change into something else altogether.

Now, I can understand everyone’s frustrations with Pottermore. During the first week, I kept getting logged out for no reason. I’ve had cauldrons blown up for Merlin-knows-what. I am still dealing with the bulky it-takes-a-hundred-clicks-to-get-something-done Friends List. So yes, I understand the frustrations of Pottermore. I am one of those fans who won’t believe that Pottermore will really be launched to the public unless I see it happening.

What I don’t understand, however, is the harsh reactions that I’ve seen from some of the beta users. I get the complaints about the games or the very slow comments module or the Magenta Screen of Death* — hell, I am one of those people complaining — but I don’t get people saying that Pottermore has failed or that it needs to be redone or changed. I think most of these people’s disappointment stems from the fact they expected Pottermore to be something else. Maybe they expected it to be an RPG, or to be more like social media sites, but Pottermore is neither of those. Pottermore is a new way to experience the Harry Potter story and everything else — the games, the interaction with other fans — are just “add-ons”.

So now, with these articles in Mugglenet and the Telegraph prompting some fans to comment that Pottermore has failed, and with Insider announcing that they will be opening to the public in April, I thought it was time that someone points out the good things about Pottermore:


A New Harry Potter Experience

At its most basic level, Pottermore is, as I’ve said above, simply a new way to experience the Harry Potter story. We have the books, then they were adapted into movies, and now old fans and new readers can go through the story by following the chapter-by-chapter path laid out in the site. I greatly enjoyed going through each chapter unlocking new information and collecting Chocolate Frog cards, spell books, and potion ingredients. I especially loved encountering Snape’s Potions puzzle (in Through the Trapdoor) and solving it. (Admittedly, I remembered which potions I should pick, but it was still fun solving the puzzle and seeing my solution match my recollection.)

The Hooded Figure

The Hooded Figure - Scene Art in the chapter "Nicolas Flamel"

The whole experience is enhanced by the awesome art in the chapter scenes and the whole site. I have my favorites — the house crests, the Gryffindor common room, the dueling room, Diagon Alley, the scene with Hagrid and baby Harry on the flying motorbike, the Sorting Hat, the grounds near Hagrid’s cabin, the Forbidden Forest — but they’re all amazing. I even downloaded all of them, don’t tell Pottermore.



Getting their own wands, especially wands that match their personality and not just replicas from the movies, is without a doubt one of the dearest fantasies of Harry Potter fans everywhere. When I was younger, I used to look hard at trees and wonder whether they’d make good wand woods. (Okay, I still do that now, sometimes.) I also used to contemplate about which animal’s hair or feather would be best for wand cores — I remember plucking a chicken’s feather so that I could use it as core. (Bad choice, I know. And also, I’m sorry, chicken.)

My Wand

Ash, Dragon Heartstring, 12.5", Unyielding

My attempts at making my own wand failed, or rather, imploded (how are you supposed to insert an animal hair or feather inside a slim piece of wood, anyway?), but I’ve still always wanted to get one. So imagine my excitement when I got my wand in Pottermore — ash, 12.5 inches, dragon heartstring, unyielding (damn, thinking about it makes me giddy). It isn’t a physical wand, but that is more than made up for by the interpretations of the wood, core, length, and flexibility.

It’s interesting to know what having a Fir wand means for Professor McGonagall, or what Vine means for Hermione, or Cherry Blossom for Neville. It’s fun to speculate about whether Ginny’s wand is made of Oak or Cedar, whether Luna has a Pine or Beech wand, or whether Cedric wielded an Aspen wand. The interesting interpretations about wands doesn’t stop at the Harry Potter characters either. For instance, both the flexibility and wood of my wand says that I am stubborn. I’ve had my mother call me that. I don’t really like to agree with it but she, at least, is in agreement with Pottermore. Also, I greatly enjoy checking out wand interpretations of people I know well or even people I’ve just met. I don’t know if the wand interpretations are spot on for everyone, but it’s definitely fun to speculate.


The Sorting

HousesAnother thing that Harry Potter fans have always wanted is to know which House they would be sorted in. I, for one, have taken several sorting tests online, but I never really trusted any of them. I simply never trusted tests to define me, especially tests with varying results — I’ve gotten Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Gryffindor. I wanted a proper Sorting Hat looking into my mind saying “you belong to this House”. Of course, that is not possible, but I think that Pottermore’s Sorting is the next best thing. It is still a test, but at least it is made by The Queen, J.K. Rowling herself.

The moment before, during, and after answering the test was the most nervous I’d ever been in a long time. But it’s the good kind of nervous — the exciting kind. I got sorted to Gryffindor and I must admit, my excitement sort of wound down when I saw the result. I had expected Ravenclaw. I wasn’t so much disappointed as slightly confused, and I didn’t get into the House spirit right away. But get into it I did (eventually), and I now proudly say that yes, I am a Gryffindor. I’ll never be the ‘normal’ Gryffindor and I don’t want to be, but  I’m glad I got sorted to Gryffindor. Lions are awesome.

The House Cup

Once people got sorted into Houses, the competition for the House Cup naturally followed. Online groups were formed** in order to communicate better with people from the same House. Spies were deployed to other House groups (yes, I’m serious) , and the groups learned to “upgrade” their security. Accusations of cheating flew back and forth between Houses. Arguments that span days and a hundred-plus comments broke out. It was the most fun ‘era’ of Pottermore. It was — and there is no other word for it — epic.

The competition has died down now and, I’m sad to say, Gryffindor has fallen to third place (and is still falling relative to the other Houses), but I expect that the level of excitement will rise again once new users come in or when new books are opened. I don’t know if it will be as epic as it was during the first days of Pottermore, but I will certainly still have fun.


Potions and Wizard’s Duel

These two games are probably the greatest sources of frustration in Pottermore. Potions used to have so many glitches you couldn’t go a day without hearing several people complain about exploding cauldrons or restarted potions. Wizard’s Duel crashed and burned on the very first day of Beta and did not get back up until four months later. But, I think, hand-in-hand with the frustration comes the great fun of being able to brew a Forgetfulness Potion or a Sleeping Draught, of pretending to cast a Flipendo or a Body-Bind spell at someone from a rival House.

Sure, these games do get old in the end. (Personally, I think I’ll throw up if I have to brew another Cure for Boils.) But even if we’ve stopped playing, we’ll still have taken something fun and interesting from the games and that’s the plethora of information about potions and spells.

Wideye Potion

I take great satisfaction from the fact that I know all the ingredients of, say, a Wideye Potion and that I can probably still brew one without looking at the instructions; that I know exactly how to pour a bottle of Flobberworm Mucus to the cauldron or to put a sprig of Lavender to the mortar; that I know which potions are cheapest or quickest to brew and which is the most efficient considering time and Galleons (though if you believe Fred, they are one and the same).

Curse of the BogiesI love knowing the wand movements of my favorite spells, I love learning new spells that were never in the books, and I love learning the incantations of spells which I’ve previously only known by name. Also, who doesn’t giggle at Mucus ad Nauseam, a spell that gives your opponent extremely runny nose. And this is the Curse of the Bogies that Ron threatened to use on Hermione and Neville in Philosopher’s Stone! Ahh… it tickles me every time.


New Information

Now we come to my most favorite thing about Pottermore. Several months ago, before Pottermore opened for Beta, J.K. Rowling hinted in an interview that she will be giving a lot of new information in the site. This, she delivered in spades.

Apart from the details on the wands, the sorting, and the potions and spells, we also get more information about Wizarding clothes and measurements, the Hogwarts Express, and the Mirror of Erised, among others. We also get to know more about familiar places like Privet Drive, Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, and the Hufflepuff Common Room (accessible only to Hufflepuffs but which have been made available to everyone by brilliant Puffs).


New from JKR - Minerva McGonagall

We also learn more about the characters we loved and hated. We learn about the path of bitterness that Petunia took which made her into the person she was in the books, we learn about the decisions Quirrell made that ultimately led him to become Voldemort’s servant, we learn about the Original Forty — the forty students in Harry’s year, some of whom have never been named in the books. Best of all, we learn about the story of McGonagall’s life, a very touching story of lost love and unbreakable spirit, a story that tugs at your heartstrings like only Harry Potter stories could.

I had hoped that there will be something about Quidditch, but I can wait until the next books for that. The new information that we have now — I wouldn’t say that they are more than enough, information about Harry Potter is never enough — but they are brilliant. They are the main reason why, no matter how many glitches I encounter in Pottermore, I will never consider it a failure. I keep wanting new information about Harry Potter, and I got it from Pottermore, and I’m sure that once the new books are opened I will get, well, more.


So there…. a lot of good things about Pottermore. Yes, it could stand to improve, but as a whole, I think it is very enjoyable. We Beta users might have encountered more frustrating glitches, but we also have the privilege of being the first one million to get our wands, get sorted, and find out new information about Harry Potter. And to those who are still waiting to get their Pottermore accounts, don’t let the angry rants of some of the Beta users deter you. Trust me, it’s great fun.


* I don’t know who coined this, but I heard the term (or a variation of it) from FelicisLight36

** Tip of my pointy hat to Official Pottermore’s Gryffindor on FB.

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