Wow. Another day is dawning at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the U.K.’s top-ranked secret magic school where sometimes a kid will die and everyone just rolls with it.

In the Great Hall, the flickering glow of a thousand enchanted candles illuminates the goblin custodians as they scrape up the absolute carpet of last night’s chicken scraps, pocketing some for later.

In their studies, venerable professors of enchantment and spellcraft heave sweat-soaked robes over their awful bodies and quaff their morning vials of griffin’s blood to help with their groin problems.

In the cellar, ancient stones quiver and groan as some kind of fucking demon shows up for no reason.

And in the parking lot, you’re having a panic attack in your car.

Okay, it’s passing.

You are Hogwarts’ only guidance counselor, and this happens to you every morning, because your job is a nightmare.

Thanks to unholy powers they manifested before they knew the word “puberty,” the magical children in your care have no emotional vocabulary and zero coping skills. Your job is to help them sort their lives out, but their eyes completely glaze over at any problem they can’t zap with purple lightning.

One time you attempted to tell a kid he should try exercising, and he turned your appendix into a cactus.

Also you get no benefits, and sometimes they pay you in dried lizard parts.

You make your way up to your musty little office in the Hoobley Grundelthwait Memorial Spire. It’s named for your predecessor, who got pulled in half when some Ravenclaws tied him to two brooms and sent them flying in opposite directions. They never found his top.

On your way up, you pass a pair of students taking turns ripping each other’s souls partway out of their bodies and then shoving them back in, the latest school fad that the seniors claim gets you high. Their noses are both bleeding freely onto the carpet. One of the nearby enchanted paintings begs you to lick it.

It takes 45 minutes to get there because the stairs keep fucking spinning.

Finally, you toss your briefcase on the couch and sink into your desk chair. Sensing your presence, the enchanted portrait of Hoobley Grundelthwait on your wall starts back up screaming at you to tell it how he died, as it does every morning, but it’s blessedly muffled by the extra-thick towel you’ve tossed over it.

This half hour before your first appointments is by far the best part of your day. How will you spend it?

Do you really think you’d be a guidance counselor if you were any good at magic?

No, unfortunately, you graduated near the bottom of your class from Mistress Salamandereater’s Remedial Trade Academy for Barely Magical Androgynes, just ahead of Belial Goosehips (now a rare lizard farmer) and just behind Capricorn Montenegro (recently got turned into a permanent baby). You’re roughly as magical as a very lucky rooster.

But because you know that magic exists, the mandatory non-disclosure agreement you were forced to sign as a tiny child prohibits you from ever holding any “secular” job. Otherwise, you’ll be magically sued by the secret government and/or have all your memories repossessed.

That said, you do know one spell!

Plopam pepperonus!” you cry, and cast the spell that conjures a single loose nipple.

With a flash and a squish, a brand-new individual nipple appears over your desk and flops onto the wood with a deli sound. This one seems male, but it’s hard to say.

Gingerly, you peel the nipple off your desk and put it in a drawer with the rest. No way in hell you’re gonna get the reputation as the faculty member with a trash can full of nipples.

At this point, you’re so good at that spell, you could cast it in your sleep, and sometimes you do!

You’ve still got a little more time before your day starts.

Looks like you’ve got four appointments on the docket today. Four mandatory counseling sessions with hormone-swollen prep-school teenagers, their egos throbbing with the power of young gods. Who will ignore everything you say and stare at you glassy-eyed as they imagine bending you to their will with sorcery, or at least blinding you.

Another useless day. Pretty long lunch, though!

No, you know what? It’s time to change your life. You read a very persuasive Chipotle bag last night, and that’s what it said, “You must change your life.”

You’re tired of bunting. Today you’re going to hit a home run, or do the best thing that you can do in Quidditch. You’re going to scribble the Big Screamer, or whatever.

Today’s the day you finally make a difference in these kids’ lives. Today’s the day you finally break them out of their charmed autopilots and get them to seize the broom handle of their own destinies.

Today’s the day you finally fucking convince a single Hogwarts student to even consider going to college.

You whoop and holler at your desk for a while and become very lightheaded. Behind the towel, the enchanted painting whoops along with you. You force back the thought that it might be your one friend here.

Someone’s knocking at the door. That must be your first appointment, Cumley Butterbreath.

You grit your teeth, lean forward, and focus very hard. You feel a great power moving through you, making your whole body quiver with energy. It surges upward, drawn by pure willpower. Yes! Yes!

Finally, a huge blood vessel in your eye bursts. Some blood squirts from your eyeball over your desk and onto your carpet.

The energy fizzles. The door is still closed.

“Hiya!” chirps Cumley, plopping down on one of your enchanted armchairs, the one that tells lies about Tony Blair for money.

“Did you know that Tony Blair once spent £68,000 on imported snow because his wife insisted it melts faster if you bury it, and refused to get out from under her car until he proved it?” says the armchair. “Anyway, if you liked that, I have a Patreon with a lot of great incentives for subscribers. Definitely check it out.”

“Hiya!” chirps Cumley, plopping down on one of your enchanted armchairs, the one that tells lies about Tony Blair for money.

“Did you know that Tony Blair once spent £68,000 on imported snow because his wife insisted it melts faster if you bury it, and refused to get out from under her car until he proved it?” says the armchair. “Anyway, if you liked that, I have a Patreon with a lot of great incentives for subscribers. Definitely check it out.”

“There’s blood on your rug!” says Cumley.

“Oh, I absolutely love it here! Hogwarts is the greatest place on earth, and everyone here is so nice!

I still remember, on my very first day here, a girl walked right up to me and said, ‘I’m Lucretia Ossobuco. Do you want to see how time began?’ Then she cast a spell to open a portal to the beginning of time, where together we watched God get the idea for time from reading Sports Illustrated’s annual ‘What Time It Is’ issue.

After that, we were fast friends, until she went through a very rapid growth spurt and got permanently wedged in one of the bathroom stalls.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I’m just your average Hogwarts student! I’m from a small oil rig off the coast of Dunfordham-On-Top-of-Another-Dunfordham. My parents sell counterfeit newspapers.

My favorite class is Which Animals Is It Okay to Boil Alive in Pursuit of Sorcerer Powers with Professor Kennedy-Shriver, because he makes boiling certain animals alive fun. My least favorite class is Just Two Potions with Professor Porm, because that’s not enough.

My best friend is a living rose bush in the school woods that’s guarded by a gigantic seagull you have to trick into eating its own beak. I have a crush on Albert Mephistopheles, even though Dumbledore turned his head into a mannequin head as punishment for smelling too much like one of his dead friends.

My favorite food is fettuccini alfredo eaten out of my mother’s cupped hands, and my favorite spell to cast is the one that summons most of a cowboy!”

Just like you thought, she’s a stereotypical Hufflepuff.

“That’s easy! I want to live deep in the woods, seduce younger men, and then shrink them down to the size of crickets and trap them in this spooky squash.

It’ll be sort of like a terrarium, for boys. I’ll feed them corn kernels.”

Oh no. Bad start.

“Of course not. There’s a part that goes on top. I’m not stupid!”

“If they do, I’ll punish them,” says Cumley, no longer smiling. “I’ll punish them very badly.”

“Tony Blair is a Virgo,” says the enchanted armchair.

“Of course I will!” Cumley’s eyes are glittering like two CDs sparking in a microwave.

“If I ever get tired of hunting for younger men to make army-man-sized, I’ll just start playing god to my tiny boy gourd society. I’ll blast Lupe Fiasco until the bass shakes their tiny pumpkin-seed huts apart and make them start over from scratch. Or I’ll shrink a single lady down and force them to compete for her affection, like a tiny, pumpkin-themed season of The Bachelorette.”

“Oh, I’m already very wealthy!

Last year I came up with a potion that sends you into a blissful, tranquil, dreamless sleep. You can take a smaller dose just to feel a gentle, long-lasting euphoria. I call it ‘Cumley’s Brain Glop.’

It turns out it’s actually super addictive, too, so I’ve been cooking up huge quantities of it in the potions lab, shipping it all over the wizarding world, and turning a massive profit. Then I invest that in gold and trick Hagrid into swallowing it, for safekeeping.”


“If I have, someone must have pulled the idea out of my mind and trapped it in some kind of magic music box. That happens a lot here. What’s college?”

“Huh. That doesn’t sound appealing at all! Will I learn a bunch of cool new spells at college? Like one that melts someone’s teeth all together into one big tooth?”

“Why would I need to learn about literature when I can magically teleport myself into any book I want? I once teleported into the text of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, tracked myself down, and strangled myself in the Quidditch supply shed. Now I know exactly what I’ll look like at the moment I die.

Is that something they teach you in college?”

“Why, Hogwarts has given me all the lifelong friends I’ll ever need! Me, Gupsie Crane, the Yinjang twins, and our friend the living rose bush have already been through so much together:

Missing the train to Hogwarts and having to hitch a ride with Fidel Castro, who was on his way to visit his teen girlfriend…

The time Voldemort forced the whole school to watch him struggle to eat a human ear…

And I’ll never forget when we all permanently switched bodies.

Are those the kinds of experiences you can have at college?”

“I’ve already expanded my mind with drugs! The drugs we have at Hogwarts are unbelievable. There’s one called Weed by Snape that just straight-up puts you on the International Space Station. I once took Weed by Snape and frightened an ISS astronaut so badly that she punched a hole in their artificial womb, and they had to start growing the first ever baby incubated in an artificial womb in space all over again. They have my picture up in the International Space Station now to kick me out if I show up, but they can’t stop me getting in there.

Don’t worry, though, it’s very safe! No side effects.”

“It’s obvious you’re lying. The ornate tattoo on your neck that says ‘LIAR’ is glowing.”

She’s right. She’s found your tell. For the umpteenth time, you curse your mother’s unconventional parenting style.

“Why would you lie to me? Why would you lie to a child? You’re a faculty member, and you’d lie to a child, just like that?”

“Yeah, I don’t think this ‘college’ is really for me. I’ll stick to trapping shrunk boys in my o’-lantern in the woods, thank you very much.

Well, I’ve got to get to class! Have a great day! A truly great day!”

Cumley flounces out of your office, leaving you alone with your failure.

“I’m Tony Blair himself,” says the enchanted chair.

Now that there’s less air in your body, you feel a little bit better. You beefed it with Cumley, that’s for sure, but you’ve still got three more chances to get it right. Might have to adjust your tactics, though.

Plus, a nice long lunch break!

You’ve got a little bit of time before your appointment with Spigot Saltimbocca. What do you want to do?

You lean forward in your chair and take another crack at shutting down your autonomic nervous system. It’s not hard to do; you just need to concentrate…concentrate…concentrate…

Thirty-six whole seconds! A new personal record. As soon as your vision returns and the feeling drips back into your fingers, you scribble your time down in your necrojournal.

One of these days, you’re finally going to pull off the Big Cease, just like your hero, David “Irish Exit” Knievel.

If there’s one thing you’ve learned from your one free consultation session with a life coach, it’s that it’s never too late to learn new skills. The other thing you learned was that life coaches are both super expensive despite definitely doing worse in their lives than you are. It was a very helpful session!

With a grunt, you heave your barely used copy of The Dullard’s Tome Of Spells That Probably Won’t Kill You (But Might!) onto your desk.


When performed correctly, the spell instantaneously converts a single pizza into a calzone, and vice-versa.

If performed incorrectly, the spellcaster’s skin may switch places with their skeleton, or vice-versa.”

Yikes. This one looks maybe a little heavier duty than you want.


When performed correctly, the spell creates an absolutely massive pillar of fire that ignites the Earth’s atmosphere.

If performed incorrectly, the spell will create an absolutely massive pillar of fire that ignites the Earth’s atmosphere.”

Okay, you’ll definitely learn some new magic at some point, but maybe now’s not the time. Good on you for trying, though!

Great call. The last thing you need is to lose control of your bladder in front of another student.

You hoof it down the carpeted hallway to the little androgynes’ room.

You hike up your robe, undo both pairs of overalls, and squat for the Act. Just before you can blast, though, a pair of spectral figures float up through the floor, intertwined and moaning.

“Sebastian…touch me, Sebastian…”

“Sebastina…I’m touching you…what I’m doing is I’m touching you, Sebastina…”

Christ. It’s the ghosts of the couple who died fucking in this bathroom. Their heads got stuck in the same toilet, and now they’re cursed to haunt this lavatory forever.

The lust-boggled ghosts completely ignore you, preferring to focus on giving each other dry, full-body handplay. You try to force your body to carry out the Act, but it seems like HAL’s just not going to open the pod bay doors (like from the movie 2001).

“Sebastian…I believe I’m going to go off…yes, I’m absolutely going to spray…”

“Sebastina…I am also going to gush…my entire blurt is squirting its way right to my tippy…”

You notice that the ghosts’ hands do actually pass right through each other’s bodies, but they’re very carefully positioning them so it looks like they’re solid. It’s both weirdly touching and pathetic.

You’re here, you’re swollen with waste, and you’ve unbuckled both of your overalls. You’re not about to let a couple of fuck-wraiths force you to cram up your guts and ruin the day you seize your destiny.

You grit your teeth, lean forward, and focus very hard. You feel a great power moving through you, making your whole body quiver with energy. It surges downward, drawn by pure willpower. Yes! Yes!

Finally, a huge blood vessel in your eye bursts. Some blood squirts from your eyeball through the ghosts and onto the tile floor.

“Sebastian…I’m gumbing…I’m fully gumbed…”

“Sebastina…that’s it…welcome to the Gumb Pit…”

You can never get anything out of yourself with those ghosts around. Some people are wired to be able to make numbers in the presence of the restless dead, but you’re just not one of them.

With a sigh and a great creaking of valves, you hobble back to your office, leaving the ghosts wiggling around inside each other. You wish you hadn’t spent the morning doing competitive eating tutorials from YouTube.

There’s a firm, meaty knock at your office door. That must be Spigot.

“For a couple quid, I’ll tell you why Tony Blair sleeps inside a shellacked beaver dam,” says the enchanted armchair.

“Hey, uh, I’m here for my appointment?”

Jesus, what the hell? This guy seems way too grown up to be a Hogwarts student. And he smells like an Amtrak hot dog.


“Yeah, I got held back a bunch.”

Spigot settles into the enchanted armchair with a grunt. Up close, the hot-dog smell is overpowering, and underneath it, you catch whiffs of what you’re pretty sure is Abercrombie Fierce cologne, the one with the hunk torso on the bottle. It is losing the battle with hot-dog smell.

“Oh, sure.

First time was ’cause my grades were so bad. Next time was ’cause I pranked Snape by switching his medicine with rare fish eggs and accidentally got him desperately addicted to expensive rare fish eggs.

Then there were a bunch of years where a dark wizard had trapped me in the same looping minute, so I kept getting marked absent and having to do the year over. The joke’s on them, though, because I got to eat a totally good hot dog, like, a billion times.

After that, classes didn’t seem so important and all my friends had graduated, so I’ve just been trying to see if I can steal a teacher’s glass eye. I haven’t pulled it off yet, ’cause none of the eyes I’ve gotten up close to have turned out to be glass. They hold me back every time they catch me doing it, which is every time.

I figure it’s gotta happen soon enough, though. Law of averages and all.”

“Oh, for sure. I’m probably the most powerful wizard in the U.K. at this point. I can cast all the forbidden spells: the one that turns someone permanently Lebanese, the one that gathers all the world’s ants in one spot, even the one that braids three people together.

Would you mind keeping that quiet, though? I think Dumbledore would have me killed if he found out. I’m pretty sure I’m technically a weapon of mass destruction.”

“It’s okay, I guess.

Definitely it’s better than it was in the ’80s, when the professors all got big into cocaine and constantly competed to see who could summon the biggest ogre and then age it to death the fastest.

I once saw Professor Teagarden age a two-story ogre into a withered husk in nine seconds flat, while the entire student body watched from the windows and screamed. And she was using one hand to hold her septum in place the whole time, too.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m all set. Got a sweet gig lined up with Hagrid.

The school only pays him in big roast turkey legs, so he’s been supplementing his income selling magical animal organs to Brazilian hedonists. They use them for delicacies, or powders, or maybe rituals; we don’t really ask.

But if there’s one thing you need when you’re extracting magic animal organs to sell to Brazilians, it’s ditches, and lots of them. Stuff goes everywhere if you don’t have a good ditch for it. And if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s ditch-digging, thanks to my barbarian physique.

So to answer your question, I’m gonna dig ditches for Hagrid to pull organs out into. He’s gonna pay me in turkey legs.”

“Me? At college? Jeez, I dunno, I hadn’t really planned my life any further than digging ditches for turkey legs…

Do you think going to college could help me achieve my dream?”

“I want to be the first wizard in history to cast a spell on the queen that makes her puke out tadpoles on live TV during her jubilee. I think it’d be funny, and maybe she’d shout something like, ‘I can’t believe all these tadpoles!’ People could do remixes.

Will college help with that?”

You squeeze out something noncommittal and fake a cough to keep Spigot from seeing the faint glowing of your LIAR tattoo.

“Well, you had my attention, but now you have my interest. Or, huh. You have both my…I don’t know how that one goes. Tell me more about college.”

“Whoa, you’d do that for me? Show me a college? For me? I’m Spigot, and you’d do that for me?”

It’s working! He seems genuinely excited! Your heart leaps with something you haven’t felt since the day firefighters freed you from the padlock your ex put on your shower: hope.

“Sure I can! This is so exciting. No one at Hogwarts has ever believed in me before, except for Hagrid, but only because of my bulging biceps and the roguish twinkle in my eye.”

You plug “GOOD COLLEGE” into Google Maps and point to what comes up. From his pocket, Spigot produces a strand of Leaping Linguini, and the two of you start slurping from either end. When your lips touch, there’s a flash and the sharp scent of roast basil, and you’re somewhere else.

“Hi, welcome to Princeton! My name is Constance, and I’m guessing by your sudden impossible materialization that you’re here for the tour?”

The world around you snaps into focus: towering old buildings crusted with photogenic vines, sprawling quads where hoary titans of academia recline and tenderly guide co-eds’ hands toward their tenure-buttressed groins, healthy-breasted students of all genders and some races playing grab-ass in the magnolia groves…

Yes! This is a college if you’ve ever seen one, and you’ve only ever seen one, but that’s enough to make that statement. You and Spigot peel some residual pasta off yourselves and get presentable.

“Wow! Like from Harry Potter?”

“He’s this incredible boy with two traits who lives in a magical world where nobody really matters but him!”

“Actually, his stories are very inspirational! I learned that true friends help just the one friend achieve their special destiny, and that the ends always justify the means if you’ve been chosen by God for a righteous crusade.”

“Can we get on with the tour?” says Spigot, “We’re cutting open a Pandataur today, so I’ve got to get back to ditch digging pretty soon.”

“Sure thing!” says Constance, and breaks into what you can only describe as a backwards sprint. Almost immediately she trips over a jutting stone, lands hard on her palms, and seamlessly starts scuttling like a four-limbed centipede for a bit before pulling herself upright mid-stride. This happens again and again throughout the tour.

“A little about me!” she cries. “I’m a sophomore trampoline major from New Connecticut, CT, my main activities are field hockey and the Anti-Field Hockey Guerilla Battalion, and I’m currently under disciplinary review for cowardice!”

You do your best to keep up with Constance, who finally pauses by a gorgeous residential building.

“This is Amanda’s Dorm. With state-of-the-art amenities, central air conditioning, and easy access to academic buildings, it’s no wonder every Princeton student wishes they were Amanda, living by herself in this cavernous dorm complex built entirely for her! They say Amanda drags her mattress to a different room every night, but since no one else is allowed in, no one knows for sure!”

“Oh, they’ll never let her. Not until she pays off the cost of that dorm, and that’ll take centuries!”

Constance sprint-scuttles on to the next tour stop.

“Over there is the Prospective Student Shanty Town!

As I’m sure you know, Princeton admissions are extremely competitive. It’s important to our admissions officers that applicants be not just outstanding scholars, but truly dedicated to the university. So we couldn’t be more thrilled that our most enterprising applicants started taking it upon themselves to camp out at the edge of campus to prove their commitment!

What started as a scant few shacks has now grown into a sprawling village of high schoolers who barter, fight for scraps, and brave the wild dogs for a slim chance of getting an acceptance letter! At this point, if you don’t live in the shanty town, you’ve got no shot at Princeton.”

As you watch, a pack of haggard dogs drag a kid in a filthy cardigan screaming into the nearby woods.

Hmm. Spigot seems bored and disengaged. Hopefully the tour piques his interest soon so you can finally get a Hogwarts student to college for goddamn once.

“This is our brand-new, totally state-of-the-art primate behavior research lab. It’s the most advanced lab of its kind in the country, if not the world!

The apes took it over almost immediately. It’s theirs now. We don’t go in there anymore. It belongs to the apes.”

“This is the Math Pit, where most math comes from.

Digging for math is backbreaking, thirsty work. Every day men go in and fewer come out. But there’s something at the bottom of that pit. Something big, and old. Very old. It’s waiting for us. Can you feel it? It drives us on. It wants to be found, dug up. To rejoin this world, to unfurl every part of itself and raise up its terrible cry to shake the spine of God in his heaven. We will unearth it. Soon, soon.

We must. We must. We must.”

Constance wipes some blood from her nose and hustles on. Suddenly, you realize you’ve totally lost track of Spigot; he’s nowhere to be found.

“This is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We’ve got one too! I don’t know why.

No one guards it, but there’s a pretty nasty raccoon that lives in there, so I’d keep your distance.”

“Here’s where I live—”

Okay, this is stupid. Without Spigot you have no way to get back to Hogwarts, and even if you do, they’ll make you eat your wand for losing him. And nobody ever pulls off eating their whole wand.

Leaving Constance to continue the tour for nobody, you sprint across campus, crying Spigot’s name, and occasionally your own name, for variety.

You run past a gang of hooting burly boys in identical tank tops taking turns slurping preserves out of each other’s stubble, a bunch of crunch-o types sitting serenely around an acoustic guitar that’s just lying there on the grass, and a weathered guy with a fucking unbelievable physique in a rumpled old wizard’s uniform playing a lawn game.

Yup, it’s Spigot, and he’s playing cornhole with a couple of kids in head-to-toe seersucker. His eyes are riveted to the game with a feverish intensity that frankly kind of freaks you out. He’s very bad at it.

“I’m sorry,” he rasps, his voice weirdly flat, like when you ask Mom the wrong question about Dad. His devil-may-care swagger is gone, and he doesn’t even look up at you, instead just staring fixedly at the opposite hole.

“I saw these guys playing this game, and I had to try it. I don’t know why. I’ve just got to get the bean bag in the hole. I’ve got to keep trying. I have to.”

“No. You go, not me. I have to stay here, keep playing. I think I’m addicted. Years without purpose, and suddenly everything snaps into place. The bag, the hole. It’s my whole world now. My hole world.”

Spigot laughs joylessly and heaves a bean bag. It goes way wide.

“Take this Leaping Linguini and go. Don’t try to take me with you, or I’ll turn your blood into hair.”

You lunge at the cornhole addict, desperate to avoid another student disappearing on your watch. You’re on either strike three or strike four with the Disciplinary Committee, which you’re pretty sure is the one where they put your mind in a baby’s body and make you do life over again.

Unfortunately, Spigot wasn’t fucking around with his threat. His wand leaps to his hand, and before you can say “PLASMODICA HIRSUTE” you’re suddenly all itchy in your veins.

The human body wasn’t meant to have hair instead of blood, and yours immediately topples. Before the world goes dark, you see Spigot pick up another bean bag and lob it right into an open storm drain.

God, he sucks at that.

Share Your Results

Grudgingly, you accept the ensorcelled pasta.

This didn’t go great. You accidentally got a student completely addicted to cornhole, and you didn’t even get to see a statue of Einstein or anything.

Oh well. No one will probably even notice Spigot’s gone, except maybe Hagrid, but at this point Hagrid knows if he reports a student missing, everyone will assume it’s his fault. And at least you got a student to a college. That’s a step in the right direction!

You smear some lipstick around your thumb and forefinger, feed one end of the Leaping Linguini between them, and start slurping.

With a flash, you’re back in your office. The only evidence Spigot was ever here is the lingering musk of hot dogs.

Oh, hey, there’s a girl with a rat here now! It’s always something, isn’t it, here in this wild, witchy, mixed-up school they call Hogwarts.

“‘Tony Blair’ is actually a code name,” says the enchanted arm chair. “Many different people have held the mantle of ‘Tony Blair’ through the years, including one very clever orangutan.”

“Um, I’m here cause my friend Copernicusa has an appointment with you? And um, she’s a rat now?”

That’s right, Copernicusa Gumt, the Ravenclaw.

“Um, yeah. Well, actually she’s 40 rats.

’Cause Professor Largebird caught me and her passing notes in class? About whether ‘Judeo-Christian’ actually involves any meaningful aspects of Judaism? And to punish us, she said that either she could turn me into 40 rats, or her into 40 rats, or both of us into 20 rats each. And Copernicusa volunteered to be the 40 rats, so now she is.

Um, Professor Largebird said she’ll turn back when I get all the rats together in one place, but they scattered and I only managed to catch this one. So she’s gonna miss her appointment I think.”


“Of course not. I’m a rat.”

“Um, I’m sorry! I think I’ve gotta go find the rest of the rats that my friend is made of now, so…”

Wait, don’t squander this opportunity! God may have closed a door, but what that stupid motherfucker hasn’t realized is that he left a window open for you to wriggle right through!

“Um, college? Wow! Jeez, I dunno, I’d never thought about it…Yeah, maybe!”

“Actually, um, shoot, I totally spaced there and forgot that I’ve pledged my body and soul to Astral Louis? The, um, black archon of the lowest dens and the highest spires? His long pale fingers will tear back the trembling curtain that separates sense from madness and, um, usher in an age of depravity where the only law is whim?

And as part of his dread cabal, I’ve got, like, a lot on my plate, like defeating the meddlesome Band of Protectors and their masked leader Proudfist, and cutting each of the Long Threads to hasten the Great Unraveling? But, like, I’ll be rewarded with, um, power undreamed of?

So I think I’m actually gonna be super busy with that.”

The girl leaves with one-fortieth of her friend. You’re alone with your shame. So far today, you’ve lied to a child, gotten a student addicted to a lawn game, and failed to make any headway with a rat’s friend. If guidance counselors were horses, they’d name you Elmer’s.

And on top of everything else, your jaunt to Princeton burned through most of your lunch break. Your last appointment, Ronald Weasley, is going to be here any minute.

Good call. Your responsibility is to your students, not to your aching stomach or steadily plummeting blood sugar. You sit stoically and wait, like if they made a sitting terra-cotta warrior with bad posture and no facial definition.

Luckily, you don’t have to wait long before there’s a timid, fluttery knock at your door.

A pale, tremulous student creeps into your office, locks the door, and slumps onto the enchanted armchair. He’s pregnant with nervous energy, and he keeps glancing over his shoulders, as if he thinks he’s being watched.

“I’m, ah, Ron Weasley? Here for my appointment?” he mutters hoarsely.

“Tony Blair is the only human embryo ever successfully gestated in a gorilla womb,” says the enchanted armchair. “When his surrogate gorilla mother died, she received a state funeral!”

“Leave me alone!” shrieks Ron.

“I’m nobody,” says Ron. “I’m just a pawn. A means to an end. Hollowed out like a hand puppet.”

“I used to laugh…I used to have a family…I used to know how to love…Then I met Him.

I used to think it was destiny, but how could destiny be so cruel? To put us together on that train, before I’d even gotten to Hogwarts, before I even had a chance. Maybe He manipulated that moment into place, like He manipulates everything, everyone…bending us all to His plan. Maybe there’s no destiny but His destiny.”

Ron starts to laugh, a harsh, bitter laugh that chills you to the marrow.

“I’m nobody,” says Ron. “I’m just a pawn. A means to an end. Hollowed out like a hand puppet.”

“I used to laugh…I used to have a family…I used to know how to love…Then I met Him.

I used to think it was destiny, but how could destiny be so cruel? To put us together on that train, before I’d even gotten to Hogwarts, before I even had a chance. Maybe He manipulated that moment into place, like He manipulates everything, everyone…bending us all to His plan. Maybe there’s no destiny but His destiny.”

Ron starts to laugh, a harsh, bitter laugh that chills you to the marrow.

“Of course it’s not okay!” cries Ron. “If He finds out I’m here, god only knows what He’ll do. Turn the school against me, or take more of my memories. Or He’ll goad her into punishing me, or me into punishing her. God, and he would, too.

He has His hooks in everyone, and I’m the only one close enough to see it! And there’s nothing I can do because He has His hooks in me deepest!”

“Of course it’s not okay!” cries Ron. “If He finds out I’m here, god only knows what He’ll do. Turn the school against me, or take more of my memories. Or He’ll goad her into punishing me, or me into punishing her. God, and he would, too.

He has His hooks in everyone, and I’m the only one close enough to see it! And there’s nothing I can do because He has His hooks in me deepest!”

“How can you not know? The whole school revolves around Him, dangling on His whims like eels squirming and gasping on a fishing hook. Professors bend over backwards to please him, students scurry like mindless ants to carry out His will and punish His enemies.

Those few who dare oppose Him, He humiliates again and again, year after year. He’s even got His own paramilitary group now, students who would die in His name. What began as a cult of personality has become far darker. And god help me, I helped Him build it all. I was His best friend.

I won’t say His name, or He’ll know I’m here. But He’ll find out soon enough anyway. He always does. He always does.”

“I think you might be the only one left who can help me.

Hardly anyone knows you work here. I’ve been here for years, and I never knew Hogwarts even had a guidance counselor. Somehow you’ve escaped His notice, His influence. It’s truly a miracle you’re so bad at your job.

But it’s only a matter of time before He learns I’ve betrayed him, and then He’ll come for me. And you. I’m sorry to drag you into this, but it’s my only way out.

You need to free me. You need to get me out of Hogwarts.”

Holy shit. It’s perfect. You thank God and Christ for this golden opportunity.

Ron blinks.

“No…I don’t think so. Maybe I have, but He’s taken so many of my memories…What is it? Will I be safe there?”

At last, Ron’s eyes light up. Life seems to flood back into his body.

“College.…I’ll finally be free! Free to do what I want, which is sit quietly in a dark room and play one of those handheld water ring-toss games! I never dared to hope…Thank you, oh, thank you!”

You quickly bang out a pretty good letter of recommendation and safety-pin it to Ron’s shirt. Ron beams.

Just then, there’s a banging at the door. Forceful, commanding. The lock holds, for now.

RON?! someone yells from the other side.

“Oh no,” whispers Ron. “He’s found me.”

“Wait! There’s one more thing!” cries Ron over the banging. He lifts his shirt to reveal…nothing.

Where his nipples should be, there’s only smooth, unbroken flesh. It makes your skin crawl to behold.

This is how He keeps me in His thrall! As long as He has my nipples, He’ll always be able to find me, and He’ll always have power over me. Somehow, you need to fix me. Please!”

The banging grows louder. The door won’t hold for long.

You’ve been waiting for this moment your entire life.

All these years casting the one spell you know, plopam pepperonus; conjuring single loose nipples and storing them in your desk drawer. It was all leading up to this. With practiced ease, you slide open the drawer full of spare nipples, and with the quick application of a couple safety pins, Ron has nipples again.

“I understand!” cries Ron. “These are my nipples now, which means all He has are some loose nipples! They have no power over me anymore! Thank you!”

The banging’s intensifying. It’s time to go.

You’ve been waiting for this moment your entire life.

Plopam pepperonus!” you cry, and with utter ease, you cast the only spell you’ve ever been able to learn, the one that conjures a single loose nipple. And then you cast it again. And with the quick application of a couple safety pins, Ron has nipples again.

“I understand!” cries Ron. “These are my nipples now, which means all He has are some loose nipples! They have no power over me anymore! Thank you!

The banging’s intensifying. It’s time to go.

Google Maps pulls up the Wellesley University admissions office, and Ron starts concentrating, readying himself to cast the spell that sends you where Google Maps tells you to go.

“Thank you,” he whispers one last time, and then, “Sergey destinatio!

In a flash of black smoke, Ron is gone. The enchanted armchair starts to say something about Tony Blair’s glands, but it’s drowned out in an explosion of wood and metal as a blast of magic blows the door to splinters.

Through the haze of smoke and sawdust steps the one Ron feared, staring you down with cold, dead eyes, the tip of his wand crackling with untold power. He asks you where Ron is, but you’re not listening. You’ve accepted your fate, because you’ve fulfilled your purpose.

You seized the day. You did your job. You got one fucking kid to go to college.

And that’s enough.

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Fuck it. They don’t pay you enough dried lizard parts to skip your lunch break. You flip the “I HAVE GONE FISHING” sign on your door around and set out for the teacher’s lounge, where nearly half of a leftover egg-and-cheese Lean Pocket awaits you in the magic refrigerator.

You’re lost basically immediately. The stairs spun around in random patterns, and now you’re in a part of the school you’ve never seen before in your whole life. This might be a little exciting if it didn’t happen every other fucking time you try to go to lunch.

You head left and tug open a promising-looking door. Immediately, you’re buried to the ankles in a torrent of lizards, snakes, geckos, skinks, and iguanas, both dried and fully squirming. Looks like you found the school’s lizard supply closet.

After quickly checking to make sure the hallway’s empty, you start stuffing your pockets with as many dried lizard parts as they can hold. It’s payday, baby, and you’re finally getting set up for direct deposit!

Lunch still beckons, though.

You head right and wander the halls for a while, still not recognizing anything. Eventually you turn a corner and almost plow right into an elderly professor—Professor Givenchy, you think.

“Ah, hullo! You are the guidance counselor, are you not? Might an old sorcerer ask of ye a favor?”

“Won’t take but a minute!

You see, I am on a great quest! For I mean to take my students ’pon a field trip to the farthest reaches of Albion, to scale the Obsidian Spire that rises from the peak of a nameless mountain! For in that lofty volcanic chamber alone grows the glass orchid, in whose petals gleam visions of great battles yet to come, aye, and fates yet unwritten!

You find me in my darkest hour, for I have direst need of a faculty chaperone! Your duties would include shutting down teen hanky-panky, solving riddles in forgotten languages, and keeping track of EpiPens!

What say you, brave soul? Do I have your pledge?”

“Bravo! Bravissimo! We embark at dawn’s light! Fare thee well, friend!”

Professor Givenchy prances off, leaving you no closer to the teacher’s lounge.

“I reckoned ye woven of a sterner reed! Very well, then! I shall ask the assistant ombudsman!

Professor Givenchy prances off, leaving you no closer to the teacher’s lounge.

You find yourself in the dilapidated common room of an abandoned dormitory. Tattered orange banners hang mouldering on the walls, though you can still make out the insignia of a bee on there.

Holy shit, you’re in Pritzker House.

The school’s one attempt at a “gifted and talented” program, Pritzker House was an ’80s pilot program that belly-flopped hard. After spending millions building the new residential wing, only two students ended up being sorted into the house, and they hated each other. The program was scrapped entirely when a botched duel fused both Pritzker students into a single howling blob, which the administration quietly buried in the woods.

This place is creepy. Better not linger.

You’ve somehow found your way into a sparse, filthy bedchamber. The overwhelming stenches of brown stew and wet laundry assault your nostrils, a combination whose strange familiarity clicks into place after a few beats: You’re in Professor Snape’s room.

The last thing you want to do is stay too long, but you quickly take in some of the more sordid details: the stacks of dripping-wet National Geographics labeled with color-coded sticky notes; the mountain of empty skim milk cartons from a brand the school definitely doesn’t stock; the shelf of books with titles like A Boy’s Guide To The Throat and You Have Them In Your Grasp: Now What?.

This is the home of a true pervert.

Finally, a familiar sight! You’re at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier! Hogwarts has one too.

Of course, you’ve got no idea where to go from here, but at least you know where you are!

You’ve found yourself in Hogwarts’ synagogue! A thick film of dust covers everything. Thanks to Hogwarts’ off-the-books policy of quietly discouraging Jews from applying—“They just wouldn’t fit in” is the justification you usually hear—no one ever really goes here. You take a moment to wonder why they even built one in the first place.

Oh well, on to lunch!

After walking for what feels like an eternity, you find yourself in front of a strange door at the top of a staircase. It seems to leap open before you, beckoning you in with the soft glow that spills forth.

After all these years, could it be…?

It must be! The fabled Room of Requirement, which appears to Hogwarts students (and presumably faculty) in the time of their great need to provide them their heart’s desire! Or something like that, who cares. And you’re extremely hungry, so it makes sense that it would show up now.

Somewhere in here there’s got to be a delicious lunch, just for you. You start searching, but before long, you feel a presence behind you.

Oh no. What a mistake you’ve made. This isn’t the Room of Requirement, this is the Room Where Dracula Lives!

It’s just like that old Hogwarts saying: “Everyone thinks Dracula lives in Transylvania, but he actually lives in the Room Where Dracula Lives.”

The vigor drains from your limbs as you stare into Dracula’s hypnotic gaze. And as his fangs pierce your neck, your last thought is that someone really ought to label that door, or any of them, for that matter.

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