The Harry Potter Reread wanted to start an arm-wrestling competition online, but once it tried to consider the logistics of such a match, it came up short and gave in. The reread apologizes for this lack of higher planning, and promises that arm-wrestling on the internet will probably be a thing some day, since we live in the future.
This week we’re looking going to find out how to lose and alienate one of your best friends, and how to a get caught outside of school without a permission slip! It’s Chapters 13 and 14 of The Prisoner of Azkaban—Gryffindor Versus Ravenclaw and Snape’s Grudge.
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 13—Gryffindor Versus Ravenclaw
Ron and Hermione aren’t speaking to each other over the Crookshanks-Scabbers debacle. Harry doesn’t get to talk to Hermione either because he’s pretty sure that Ron is right and Hermione’s cat has eaten the rat, and she takes exception to his side-taking. Harry brings Ron to Quidditch practice, promising a ride on the Firebolt, which performs beautifully on the field. When Ron and Harry head back to the castle in the dark, Harry is worried that he sees the Grim, but it only appears to be Crookshanks.
The next morning, everyone is mooning over the Firebolt at breakfast before the match begins. (Except Draco, who ends up suffering a severe word burn from Harry when he tries to bug him about dementors again.) The match begins and Harry sees Ravenclaw’s new Seeker—a fourth year named Cho Chang. Harry is instantly smitten, and gets distracted as she tails him around the field, attempting to let him find the Snitch for her. Harry tries a couple tricks to get her off his tail, then dementors show up. Harry performs the patrons charm and catches the snitch in one go, winning the match for Gryffindor. Lupin shows up on the field and directs Harry to the real culprits; the dementors were actually, Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Marcus Flint, all trying to scare Harry.
The Gryffindors party well into the night for their victory, until McGonagall shows up and tells them all to go to bed. In the middle of the night, as Harry is dreaming, Ron screams bloody murder… literally. Sirius Black appeared in their bedroom and was standing over him with a knife. McGonagall returns to find out what the ruckus is, and she doesn’t believe him until talking to Sir Cadogan’s portrait—it would seem he let Black in because he had all the passwords written down on the sheet of paper. When McGonagall asks which student would be dumb enough to leave the passwords lying around, Neville is obliged to raise his hand.
It seems fair to be mad at Hermione for what her cat seems to have done, but Ron takes it too far, as is his M.O. This is one of the first times where we get a falling out between the two, and see Harry (whether intentionally or not) side with Ron. Which is particularly awful because, as it has been noted from book one, Hermione has no other friends. Zero. Zilch. So the instant these fights happen, she’s basically on her own. And that’s going to be extra hard on her during this year in particular.
During these two chapters, we see that the workload is getting to her. While I understand that McGonagall wants to give Hermione a shot at everything she could possibly want, it seems as though some more careful planning needed to be worked into the Time Turner User Guide. Such as, oh, maybe pointing out that the device can also be used to catch some extra sleep? (I know she’d have to find a different place to nap, since she’s crossing her own timeline, but still.) The kid is delirious, and it is anything but surprising; she’s probably pulling 20+ hours of work a day, on top of everything else. It’s nuts. Her brain should be a pancake by now, and it’s starting to show.
It is wrong that I could listen to Madame Hooch go on about classic broomsticks probably forever? She’s just a big ol’ nerd and it’s so precious to me.
And all that Quidditch practice is really just to give Harry another glimpse of the Grim. Crookshanks and Sirius have probably been meeting up for a while now, and this is the first hint we get of it. Acceptably creepy and a good way to heighten tension for a match and ends up working out beautifully.
Draco has such a leg up on Harry most of the time when it comes to pulling off nasty insults, that whenever Harry gets the last word, I’m always more pleased than I should be. It’s still just bullying all the way around, but Malfoy is in a perpetual state of “needing to be knocked down a peg,” so I can’t help but root for it every time. It’s a pretty smart balancing act on Rowling’s part.
The introduction of Cho Chang. Hmm. The problems with Cho Chang have been dissected at length (see the spectacular spoken word poetry below), but there are still other elements to address. It’s interesting again to see that the Ravenclaw team has one girl on it, similar to Slytherin. I don’t know that we get a count for Hufflepuff, but my guess is that it’s split more like the Gryffindor team, which is an interesting tell in how the various houses seem to stack up when dealing with sexism. Perhaps a long line to draw, but when the author goes out of her way to point out that the other Quidditch teams have very few women, you have to assume we’re supposed to notice.
At first glance, Cho’s Seeker strategy seems pretty darned clever, letting Harry do the work for her in finding the snitch. But there’s that problem of the Firebolt. If Harry has the faster broom—and we know he does, everyone does—then there’s no way her technique could possibly work out. It’s irritating that something a bit more interesting couldn’t have been added to the mix. Cho is a Ravenclaw, she’s clever as they come. She should have something smarter up her sleeve.
Harry’s in get-it-done mode, so there’s really nothing for it. Whiz-whiz-patronus-snitch-Wintown! And then you get the added hilarity of Malfoy’s ill-conceived prank, which only makes the victory more sweet. (To his credit, it’s probably the most creative thing he’s ever attempted in his life.) At this point, we’ve been through so many Quidditch defeats in the books, that this is a real treat. The Gryffindor rave, Fred and George raiding Hogsmeade for supplies (I hope they paid for what they took, but something tells me it’s not likely), McGonagall having to come and break it up in her dressing gown.
And then poor Ron wakes to find a murderer standing over him in the middle of the night.
Okay, Neville kind of deserves the punishment he gets on this one because it’s just a little too careless considering the fact that Sirius has already broken in. Hard not to feel bad for the kid because the universe appears to have it out for him most days, but still. The thing that gets me about this, though, is that Sir Cadogan tells McGonagall that Sirius came to the door and read all the passwords out to him (since he didn’t know which one would be accurate for the day). And that may just be the funniest mental image of the entire book. Sirius changes into his human form a hallway ahead of time, shuffles up to the door, pulls the parchment out of his prison uniform pocket, and is all:
*sigh* “Fair Maiden.”
“You are none, sir!”
“Ready your sword to fight!”
“And he will fight you as well!”
“On my honor—“
“The Fields of Camlann.”
*portrait swings open* “You dare to bring up that evil—”
*Sirius sighs and staggers in*
I know it would have given too much away, but that should have gone in the movie.
Chapter 14—Snape’s Grudge
Security is tightened around the school after Black’s second break-in, and Neville is roundly punished for his forgetfulness. (He even gets a Howler from his gran.) Ron is something of a celebrity after his attack, and seems to be enjoying the attention. Hagrid sends Harry and Ron a letter to get them to come over. He gently scolds them for shutting out Hermione, noting that she’s under a lot of pressure with her workload, and comes crying to him because they won’t speak to her. She’s also been helping Hagrid with Buckbeak’s case, which Harry and Ron have failed to do. They both feel guilty, though Ron refuses to back off his anger at Scabbers’ apparent demise.
A Hogsmeade trip comes up, and Hermione warns Harry against going again. He decides he will, but under the guise of the Invisibility Cloak. When he tries to leave after everyone has gone, Neville finds Harry and tries to hang out with him. (He is also banned from trips after the password incident.) Snape catches them both talking and assumes they’re up to something, so Harry pretends to go back to the common room with Neville, then doubles back and heads through the secret passage to Hogsmeade. He meets Ron there, and they wander about, finally making it to the Shrieking Shack. Ron says it’s so haunted that the Hogwarts ghosts won’t even go near it. Malfoy and his goons appear, and Harry uses the opportunity to pelt the crew with mud after Malfoy shoots his mouth off about Ron’s family yet again. Unfortunately, Harry cloak slips a bit and Malfoy sees his head.
Harry runs back to the school, but Snape finds him immediately and drags him to his office. He tells Harry about the odd story Malfoy told him, trying to get Harry to confess that he was in Hogsmeade. When it doesn’t work, he starts making digs about Harry’s dad, which gets the kid worked up quick. At this point, he reveals that James Potter did not save his life heroically—he was saving Snape from a prank and he and his friends had played on a young Severus. Snape commands him to turn out his pockets, and though Harry lies about his loot from Zonko’s joke shop, Snape is more interested in the blank Marauder’s Map. He tries to force it to reveal itself, but it only results in his getting insulted by Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. Snape immediately calls Lupin to his office, insisting that the parchment is full of dark magic.
Lupin carefully skirts around the subject, and tells Snape that it’s probably just a joke shop item. Ron bursts in to gasp that he bought Harry all the items in his pockets ages ago. (Because that is the most unsuspicious thing he can manage, it would seem.) Lupin then nabs the parchment, and drags Harry and Ron from the office. Once they’re out of hearing, he scolds them for not turning the map in, and tells Harry that he knows who the mapmakers are. He tells Harry that gambling his life to go to Hogsmeade is a poor way of repaying his parents’ sacrifice, and that he won’t let him have the map back. Feeling dreadful, the boys make their way back to the common room, where Hermione greets them with more bad news—Buckbeak’s case was lost. He’s going to be put to death.
Okay, not to get really serious at a point that’s meant to be comical, but this is literally how starved Ron is for attention. “Aw yiss, everyone wants to hear about my near-death experience! Woohoo!”
Hagrid. It’s about time someone stepped in and told the boys they were being jerks, and he’s really the best one to do it. If Hagrid is willing to tell Harry he’s done something wrong, then you know it’s really wrong because Hagrid thinks the world of him. And of course, Hagrid is in the perfect position to understand Hermione; if Norbert had eaten a student’s pet, he probably would have had a hard time scolding the dragon, or believing it in the first place. I do wonder if Hermione has told Hagrid about the Time Turner. He seems to have a better idea of what’s so off about her.
The bit with Harry trying to ditch Neville always makes me uncomfortable for how distressingly real it is. Regardless of how kind you are to others, I think most of us have been in this situation, trying to get rid of someone while said person seems oblivious to it (and probably been on Neville’s end too). In this case, Harry’s isn’t tying to be cruel—he can’t tell Neville about the passage and the cloak, and he really wants to leave—but even so, Neville’s desperation after finding someone to keep him company makes Harry seem meaner.
It’s funny that the Hogwarts ghosts are still afraid to go near the Shrieking Shack. It obviously hasn’t been making much fuss for the past over-a-decade (since no one’s been going inside), but they still won’t play a game of Keep Away with the place, and that includes big wigs like the Bloody Baron. Which tells you something pretty chilling about how awful a werewolf transformation must sound (and therefore be).
When you get right down to it, it’s kind of amazing that it’s taken Harry so long to use the cloak for mudslinging. And it would seem too far, but the stuff Malfoy constantly says about Ron’s family really is unforgivable, especially when he gets such clear joy from it. Sometimes it seems as though Draco’s character could stray into parody, with how he clearly does believe that money makes him better than others—but then you remember that Rowling was subjected to poverty. The Malfoys are not theoretical to her, they are very real. Perhaps they were never as brazen as Draco, but she knew people like this. And there’s a level of truth to Draco that comes from the fact that he so rarely gets punished for his behavior; so when Harry starts invisibly attacking him with sludge, it’s really hard to feel bad for the kid.
It’s a little hard to buy that Snape doesn’t find that secret passageway behind the statue. He’s seen Harry by it twice in a day and knows that he was in Hogsmeade. It wouldn’t take much to prod at the stone witch, and he taps his wand at the Marauder’s Map about fifty times, so how hard is it to tap that statue a bunch, just how does he not find that damn tunnel. Sorry, it’s just a weird suspension of disbelief that makes Snape seem incredibly stupid.
Nothing will ever make me happier than the insults the map levies at him because it deepens our understanding of the object—rather like the portraits, there are young teenaged versions of James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter bound to that map forever. Their responses to Snape are specific; the map knows him. And though I didn’t quite glom onto it the first time I read the book, it’s obvious that while Snape doesn’t know precisely what the map is, he knows who made it from the boys’ nicknames. Which is why he calls Remus to his office so abruptly:
“You called, Severus?” said Lupin mildly.
YOU STOP IT WITH YOUR ADORABLE WEREWOLF FACE.
It also occurs to me that the way that those two refer to each other in the presence of a student might be considered rude. Most professors call the other teachers “Professor So-and-so” when referring to each other in front of the kiddies. Snape usually omits the professor bit, and Remus always calls Snape “Severus.” They are speaking to each other the way they did when they attended school, leaving off formality either intentionally (Snape) or out of habit (probably in Remus’ case).
What gets to me is that this scenario tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how Remus fit into the Marauder group dynamic as a young man. He flashes Harry a look to make sure the boy doesn’t interrupt his explanation (which he likely did to his three friends often during their school days), and proceeds to make light of the whole situation in good humor. Nothing to see here, totally harmless magical thing, why are you so frowny Severus! See, Ron’s here to tell you that your suspicions are unfounded, we’re good, I’ll just take this… thing, shall I? And then he zips off without allowing Snape time to retaliate. Remus is the conman of the group. He’s the one who patches things up, who spins unlikely stories to sound likely. He’s the one who looks too innocent and sweet to be a troublemaker, so it’s his job to get people out of trouble. It’s actually fascinating that Snape doesn’t call him on it this time around, when he has Harry right where he wants him.
And here’s where Remus really should be marching up to Dumbledore’s office and telling him to block the passageway to Honeydukes. Now that he knows Harry has a similarly impaired jeopardy-sense to his father, it should be time to take matters out of the kid’s hands. Yet Remus does have a tendency to allow Harry the room to make his own decisions. The fact that he takes the map comes as a bit of a surprise in that regard, but the scolding is definitely intended to put Harry back on track while letting him make choices on his own.
The comment Lupin makes about the mapmakers thinking it would be funny to lure Harry out of school also brings me back to wondering just how cognizant the item is of the world around it. Would it be able to understand that Harry is Prongs’ son? Would the mapmakers’ personas bound to the map want to lure him out of the school just for trouble’s sake, or because they know he’s not supposed to leave?
And then Harry and Ron feel rightly awful, and then more awful. Too many good things happened in the previous chapter, so it stands to reason that we were going to get some bad news on the Buckbeak front.