"Good girl, take another five points. So, whenever you need leaves or wood from a tree in which a Bowtruckle lodges, it is wise to have a gift of woodlice ready to distract or placate it. They may not look dangerous, but if angered they will try to gouge at human eyes with their fingers, which, as you can see, are very sharp and not at all desirable near the eyeballs. So if you'd like to gather closer, take a few woodlice and a Bowtruckle - I have enough here for one between three - you can study them more closely. ...

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

What does "for one between three" mean exactly? I can not figure it out.

  • 2
    Professor Grubbly-Plank doesn't have enough woodlice to give them one each. He only has enough for one woodlouse to be shared between every three students (i.e. - the students must organize themselves into groups of three; each group will be given one woodlouse). – FumbleFingers Feb 4 '19 at 13:25
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    @FumbleFingers Notice that he said "take a few woodlice and a Bowtruckle", maybe it's one Bowtruckle per group of three students. – RubioRic Feb 4 '19 at 13:45
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    @FumbleFingers I feel RubioRic is right. It's more likely one Bowtruckle per group of three. – dan Feb 4 '19 at 14:42
  • Well, I went to the trouble of searching for the source so at least I knew the fictional speaker's name. But I didn't bother reading it carefully enough to fully understand the exact context. I just assumed they were standing in a forest, within which some trees harboured Bowtruckles (it never occurred to me the teacher would be so callous as to have a number of captive Bowtruckles on hand to use in the lesson). Whatever - that detail isn't directly relevant to the syntactic construction involved, but I'm now pretty sure I did in fact get the precise interpretation wrong. – FumbleFingers Feb 4 '19 at 15:21
  • Probably worth posting that as an answer, not just a comment... and I think it's one bowtruckle she's suggesting between three. – SamBC Feb 4 '19 at 16:41

The phrase means that there are a limited number of bowtruckles and there are only enough for every three students to share one bowtruckle.

This meaning is confirmed by a passage shortly after this one which indeed shows Harry, Hermione, and Ron sharing a bowtruckle:

He hurried back around the table to Ron and Hermione, who were squatting on the grass some distance away and attempting to persuade a bowtruckle to remain still long enough to draw it.

It is a relatively common occurrence during Hogwarts lessons for students to share the object being studied. For example, back in the second book in Herbology class, we find the following description:

"Four to a tray — there is a large supply of pots here — compost in the sacks over there — and be careful of the Venomous Tentacula, it's teething."

Similarly in the third book we have the following description during a Care of Magical Creatures lesson which shows the students sharing hippogriffs:

Neville ran repeatedly backward from his, which didn't seem to want to bend its knees. Ron and Hermione practiced on the chestnut, while Harry watched.

Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle had taken over Buckbeak.

  • 1
    Not sure if ELL or SF&F ....... :P – Au101 Feb 5 '19 at 21:57
  • @Au101 Yeah, technically my first paragraph is the answer. But I think the rest of the post provides good context for understanding the answer, even if it's less about English per se. – Alex Feb 5 '19 at 22:00
  • Hehe don't worry, it wasn't a criticism. I enjoy your answers on both. +1 – Au101 Feb 5 '19 at 22:06

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