The Harry Potter Reread

The Harry Potter Reread: The Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 9 and 10

The Harry Potter Reread would learn to knit, but it would probably dream too big and start by trying to make a kraken, and that would probably end in knotted yarn and the destruction of many bottled ships, so… it’s probably just as well that knitting will never be a skill that the reread attempts.

This week we’re going to wonder why anyone would allow children to play sports in a massive thunderstorm and taste our first glass of butterbeer! It’s chapters 9 and 10 of The Prisoner of Azkaban—Grim Defeat and The Marauder’s Map.

Gideon Smith amazon buy link Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.

Chapter 9—Grim Defeat

Summary

The students are all directed to the Great Hall and a school-wide sleepover takes place as the teachers search for Sirius Black. They don’t find him, but Harry overhears Snape express concern that Black was helped into the castle by someone inside, which Dumbledore shuts down right quick. The school is buzzing for days about how Black might have entered. Sir Cadogan is put in the Fat Lady’s place as the password-keeper of the Gryffindor common room until her portrait is repaired.

Draco has played up his injury so Flint can get Slytherin out of the first Quidditch match with Gryffindor because that weather has been icky. As a result, they’re playing their first match against Hufflepuff, and they have a new captain and Seeker by the name of Cedric Diggory. He’s a handsome bloke. Oliver Wood is very concerned for their chances. The day before the match, Harry gets to Defense Against the Dark Arts to find Snape teaching—Professor Lupin is feeling unwell. Snape insists that the class is grotesquely behind and jumps them forward to study werewolves. He sets a long essay on the subject, and gives Ron detention for speaking out on Hermione’s behalf when Snape humiliates her for answering questions without being called on.

Harry wakes up too early for the match, and the weather is atrocious. He can’t see for the first half of the game because the rain keeps messing up his glasses. Eventually Wood calls a time-out and Hermione fixes Harry’s lenses to repel water. Harry sees a black dog in the stands, distracting him as Diggory takes off for the snitch. Then Harry suddenly feels cold everywhere and looks down to see about a hundred dementors in the stadium below him. He hears a woman’s voice begging to keep him alive and someone laughing. He falls right off his broom.

Harry wakes in the hospital wing, having survived his fall because Dumbledore managed to slow him down with magic. The headmaster was furious that the dementors dared to enter the grounds, and chased them off. Cedric Diggory caught the Snitch right as Harry fell, though, so Gryffindor lost the match. (Diggory wanted to discount it due to Harry’s accident, but everyone agreed it had been a fair and square win.) Harry is distraught at letting the team down despite their assurances. After they leave, he asks Ron and Hermione where his broom is; it turns out that it blew right into the Whomping Willow and was shattered to pieces.

Commentary

I’m just saying that if there are no adults in the Great Hall, it would be pretty easy for Sirius to just run in and murder Harry while they were out looking for him. It seems that way, at least. I guess he’d have to find him amidst the student body, but really…. Also, I am slightly disappointed that Great Hall sleepovers are not a regular occurrence because it’s such a natural space for it with the magic ceiling and also big purple sleeping bags and you could just wake up and breakfast would be right there and I’m not kidding, how is this not a monthly school activity?

It’s fairly clear from a reader perspective that Snape is suggesting Lupin might have helped Black into the castle, and I wonder how well this misdirection worked on the general population. Most of this comes down to whether you trust Snape’s instincts over Dumbledore; for my part, I always went with Dumbledore, so I never believed for a second that Remus might be sekritly ebil. But if you were a Snape fan from the get-go, you might have been deeply suspicious.

Not at all surprised that Snape directs the kids to werewolves, even though it is basically the most NOT OKAY thing a teacher could to do to a school employee in Remus’ position. But really, it says a lot more about wizarding world prejudice. Snape knows that if anyone finds out Lupin is a werewolf, the guy is fired—he’s deliberately gaming the system in hopes that it will happen. My real question here is, are Snape prejudices against werewolves fully informed by his experience nearly getting killed by Lupin as a boy (which we’ll got more into depth on later, of course), or does he—like so much of the magical world—have prejudices that started long before that incident? It’s clearly fine to feel that way about people with lycanthropy among wizarding society, so the latter seems more likely.

Crookshanks trying to sneak into the room to kill Scabbers is the best, though. His determination toward murder starts to get funny around this point….

You know, school Quidditch teams should have more than the required seven players. That way you’d have to forfeit a game to pull the stunt Draco gets away with. Also, you shouldn’t let kids play in those conditions, I don’t care if they’re magic and bouncy, what the hell. (What happens when a wizard gets struck by lightning?) I really feel like Hogwarts has probably not changed any school rules (outside of not torturing students in detention) in a few hundred years. Like, what is the Board of Governors even for? Pretty sure that other than Lucius Malfoy strutting around and getting in people’s faces (back when he was a member), they probably just get together to drink sherry, talk shit on various Ministry policies, and reminisce about when they used to be students. In fact, I guarantee you that this is exactly what the Board does. …Can I be on the Board?

Forgetful me, this is the first time we hear tell of Cedric Diggory! It’s a pretty great set-up for his role in the next book, too—from the giggles on the female half of the Gryffindor team, we can tell he’s a good-looking fellow, then we find out that he’s talented to boot and a real sportsman. For him to turn around immediately following a very tough win and want it revoked for Harry’s state is… well, it’s pure Hufflepuff. He’s just an all around good guy.

Again, knowing what’s actually going on here casts such a different light on the situation—no, Harry, it’s okay! Your godfather just really wants to watch you play Quidditch! It’s sort-of bonding! That you don’t realize is happening! Dogs follow sports all the time! Harry, noooooo, don’t freak out. (I’m guessing Sirius maybe sensed the dementors heading over, which is why he disappeared. Otherwise, seeing Harry take that fall probably would have led to more castle break-ins.)

The match actually perfectly illustrates everything that is horrifying about the dementors. They’ve been ordered to stay away from the student body and anything within the grounds, but once they feel that concentration of emotions and people in one area, they just hustle on over. And that’s with warning from a powerful wizard like Dumbledore. And if that’s all it takes, how can the wizarding world ever imagine it has the slightest bit of control where they’re concerned? They’re courting disaster and acting like they’ve got it all under wraps.

Harry, true to children not quite recognizing their mortality, is far more broken up about losing the match than the fact that HE ALMOST DIED. Priorities, Harry. On the other hand, it’s a telling illustration of what matters when you’re so young. Harry has encountered real dangers and life-threatening situations, but to a thirteen-year-old, letting down his classmates is going to sting in a much more potent way. Losing a treasured possession will do that as well; reading this when I was younger, the loss of Harry’s broomstick was crushing to me. This time around, I find myself sort of tutting and shrugging my shoulders.

Hey, kid. You’re alive.

 

Chapter 10—The Marauder’s Map

Summary

Harry doesn’t want to tell anyone about his glimpse of the Grim or that he has finally figured out what he hears when the dementors get near—the sound of his mother’s death at Voldemort’s hand. He finally gets out of the hospital wing and back to classes. Professor Lupin is back, and gets subjected to a deluge of complains from the students about Snape’s lesson and the essay. He tells them they don’t have to complete it, but Hermione already has.

Lupin asks Harry to stay briefly after class, then asks after his broom, which Harry assures him is beyond repair. Harry finally asks why the dementors seem to affect him so badly, and Lupin gives him the answer; dementors suck away a person’s happiest memories until they’re left with only the worst parts of their life. The “worst” in Harry’s life is substantially more horrific than his classmates, hence his being affected by them so markedly. Harry recalls when Lupin fought off the dementor on the train, and asks him for lessons in repelling them. After some waffling, Lupin agrees, though he says it will have to come after the holidays.

Ron and Hermione plan to stay at Hogwarts over Christmas, which Harry appreciates. There’s a trip to Hogsmeade before the holidays, so Harry is left behind once again. But this time Fred and George corner him in an empty classroom and bequeath to him a miraculous object that the filched from Filch (oh, quelle irony). It’s called the Marauder’s Map, created by Mssrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, and it details the layout of the school and location of its inhabitants. It also shows all of the secret passageways out of the castle. Fred and George show Harry the only operative one that Filch doesn’t know about and tell him to get himself into town. Harry goes along the passageway for a long while until he finally emerges in Honeydukes sweetshop. He finds Ron and Hermione and tell them about the map. Hermione wishes Harry would turn it in, concerned that Black might know about the secret entrances on it.

The trio head off to the Three Broomsticks to have some butterbeer and are promptly interrupted by the arrival of McGonagall, Flitwick, Cornelius Fudge, and Hagrid. Hermione puts the bar’s Christmas tree in front of them to prevent the adults from noticing their presence. The owner of the Broomsticks, Madame Rosmerta, sits down to have a drinks with them and gets the whole scoop on the Black situation. It turns out that Sirius was James Potter’s best friend at school, they were inseparable. Sirius was the best man at his wedding, named Harry’s godfather, and when Voldemort was after them he became their secret keeper. It was his job to keep their location safe from Voldemort and he ratted them out immediately. Another childhood friend of theirs, a hero-worshipping untalented boy named Peter Pettigrew, came after Sirius following the Potters’ deaths. Black murdered him and everyone around him. Fudge had worked for the Department of Magical Catastrophies and the time and saw the scene. He claims that Black seemed utterly calm in Azkaban, despite being one of their most high security prisoners with dementors on him constantly. He can’t bear to think how easily Voldemort would return to power with Black at his side.

Commentary

Harry knows that the voice he’s hearing is his mother dying, and I cannot stress how horrifying it is that Hogwarts has no school counselor or someone around who he can talk to this about. The closest he gets is telling Lupin, who clearly wants to pull the kid into a giant bear werewolf hug, but feels that might be inappropriate with Harry not really knowing his background with the Potters. Just hug him, Remus. He has a deficit, he needs to make it up somehow.

I love how chill Remus is when he finds out about the essay Snape assigned. He’s like, huh, but you told him you hadn’t covered it, weird. That’s okay, I’ll talk to him. No worries. We’re cool. Internally, he must be in a crazy panic.

And finally he explains to Harry what the deal is with his reaction to the dementors, which I’m still shocked no one managed to do before then, because how could you not assume the kid might need that information. At least it leads to the eventual defense lessons, which we’ll get to later on.

The reveal of the Marauder’s Map might be one of my favorites in the series. It’s just a flawless way of slipping it into the narrative, and such an important artifact. The fact that Fred and George found it makes so much sense (though how the ever-loving dweezle they managed to figure out “I solemnly swear I am up to no good” to unlock it is the real question; my assumption is that the map can recognize fellow trouble makers and probably gave them hints). It offers up a piece of the mystery under the guise of a really helpful object—it’s here where we first find the names Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, and you can’t help but wonder who those names belong to. How are there not more maps like this? How are all wizard maps not like this? How incredibly talented were Harry’s dad and company for creating it the first place? Since this isn’t how all magic maps work, you get an idea of how tremendously innovative those boys were—which is something the wizarding world still has desperate need of. Losing a good part of a generation in the first war against Voldemort set them back in ways they don’t understand.

But that walk through the passage into Hogsmeade, though. I understand that Harry wants to get there, but the twins should have given him an ETA; after walking for a half hour down that passage, I’d have assumed I was being punked and turned back.

Ron and Hermione are so cute—do you think Harry wants to eat some cockroaches? Blood pops? We have to get something really good this time. Hermione’s concern over the map is sensible as ever, but no reader is ever going to agree on giving up a badass magical map that shows you where all the people are. Sorry, Hermione.

I had completely forgotten how the conversation in The Three Broomsticks went down between Fudge, McGonagall, Hagrid, Flitwick and Rosmerta, and honestly… it’s super sloppy. They’re talking in public, in a crowded space where it would be very easy to listen in, giving up classified information, and it’s all such an obvious infodump. Especially with Rosmerta interrupting every other sentence to basically say, “Gee, and what happened next?” Really annoying. Great, essential background, but the fact that they’re just offering it up like that makes no sense. Also, uh, Fudge was responsible for sending Hagrid to Azkaban? Hagrid wants to have a drink with the guy after that? I sure hope Fudge is paying, then.

I have this niggling feeling that Sirius allowed himself to be entirely lucid around Fudge just to screw with him. Which I prefer to believe because the other option is that he’s just completely desperate for any kind of human contact, since he’s never allowed it, and no, that hurts too much, stop.

And then another excellent cliffhanger as Harry tries to parse out feelings over having a godfather responsible for the death of his family. Oh, honey. It’s gonna get much more confusing than that.


Emily Asher-Perrin does wonder how easy it is for Sirius to understand sports in dog form. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

44 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!