Quidditch is one of those games that even I, who remain almost completely uninterested in sports (with possibly the inexplicable support of the Bruins—I cannot explain it as I do not fully comprehend it) could get into. Can you imagine watching Harry play that game against Slytherin that appears in [amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link]? It’s one intense match. More on that in a moment, however, though Quidditch does seem to dominate Harry’s thoughts in chapters 11-15 of Azkaban, starting with chapter 11, “The Firebolt,” in which Harry receives for Christmas the awesomest gift ever.
In this chapter, the trio visits Hagrid because Harry wants to question him about Sirius Black following the incident when Harry overhears his teachers, Madam Rosmerta, and Cornelius Fudge discussing Black’s role in the deaths of Harry’s parents. However, once they arrive, they find a grief-stricken Hagrid who has just learned that Buckbeak must be brought before a hearing with the Committee for the Disposal of Dangers Creatures for his attack on Draco Malfoy. Hermione resolves to help Hagrid with his case. In fact, after leaving Hogwarts, Hermione would work for Ministry in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and later in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement as a type of wizard lawyer, but her offer to help Hagrid with this case is the first time we see her take up a legal cause on behalf of magical creatures. She will, of course, do so again. Hermione even says, “I’m sure I’ve read about a case of Hippogriff baiting,” which I imagine no other witch of her age can truthfully say; however, it doesn’t strain my credulity. Hermione has always shown an interest in understanding the why of what she learns, and it makes sense to me that she has come across court cases in her reading.
At Christmas, Harry receives the Firebolt from an anonymous benefactor. Pottermore shares that one of the Firebolt’s secrets is goblin-made ironwork in the footrests, stand, and twig bands. The goblin-made ironwork’s properties are mysterious, but they do seem to give the Firebolt “additional stability and power.” In the scene when Hermione visits Ron and Harry’s dorm on Christmas morning, Harry’s Sneakoscope once more goes off in the presence of Scabbers.
Later at Christmas lunch, Harry and Ron find that all the students and teachers remaining at Hogwarts are sitting at one table. This is the only time in the series when you see this kind of fellowship. Here is the funny thing. Professor Trelawney makes rather a show of not wanting to sit down because there will then be 13 people at the table. However, no one knows that an unregistered Animagus by the name of Peter Pettigrew is sitting at the table in the form of Scabbers the rat, so when the trio sits down at the table along with Scabbers, the number of people is 13. When Trelawney arrives, Dumbledore stands to greet her. He is, therefore, the first person to rise from the table, and as Trelawney says, is the first to die. See? Like I said before, if you really pay close attention to what she says and what happens later, she’s not as much of a fraud as you’d think, but her accurate predictions most often seem to occur when she doesn’t really know what she’s talking about or when she has incomplete information, and she is, thus, not aware of them.
McGonagall’s reaction to Trelawney in this scene is pretty funny. First she “offers” her tripe, and later she jokes about the mad axe-man in the hallway. When Trelawney says, “I frequently act as though I am not possessed of the Inner Eye, so as not to make others nervous,” McGonagall responds, “That explains a great deal.” However, Trelawney then accurately predicts Lupin will not be with them for very long. Anyone else read into this scene that Trelawney has a little crush on Lupin? I have always kind of thought the hope of seeing Lupin drew her to eat lunch with the others. She asks after him specifically when she arrives, and later, she lets slip that she offered to crystal gaze for him. Lupin may have wished to avoid any sort of embarrassing scenes she might claim to see in the crystal ball, so he “positively fled.” Hermione, sure Harry’s new Firebolt was sent by Sirius Black and poses a threat to Harry, tells Professor McGonagall, who immediately confiscates it to test it for jinxes. Of course, Hermione was right about the benefactor, but wrong about the jinxes.
In chapter 12, “The Patronus,” Hermione hints that she knows what is “wrong” with Lupin, but as the boys are not really on speaking terms with her right now because of the Firebolt, she doesn’t tell them. As the only student who actually completed Snape’s werewolf essay, she is the only third year who has put two-and-two together; however, one wonders about the older students. Surely some of them have figured out Lupin’s absences coincide with the full moon? Or has their Defense Against the Dark Arts education been so disjointed that they never learned it? That’s certainly possible, and I dare say it was Voldemort’s goal in cursing the position. An ignorant populace is much easier to subdue.
Also in this chapter, we first learn about the Patronus. Dark Wizards are not able to conjure Patronuses, and in fact, Snape is the only Death Eater who can. I imagine he must keep this ability close to the vest when he’s palling around his Death Eater friends and Voldemort. Conjuring a Patronus is advanced magic, and the fact that Harry is able to master it is much remarked upon later in the series.
During one of his Patronus lessons, Harry asks Lupin what is under a Dementor’s hood. Lupin says that no one is really sure because the “only people who really know are in no condition to tell us,” having been victims of the Dementor’s Kiss. Lupin says that the victims live, but their “soul is gone forever… lost.” If you give much thought to it, it’s a horrible prospect, particularly when one considers the implications for the afterlife as Rowling describes it. You exist until you die, and then, just… nothing. While some of the other characters in the series clearly go on to Heaven, or whatever you wish to call it. It’s very sad.
This conversation echoes one that Gandalf has with Frodo about Gollum. Frodo says that Gollum deserves death for all that he has done, and Gandalf replies, “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
Lupin says that the Dementor’s Kiss is the “fate that awaits Sirius Black.” Harry replies that “He deserves it.” Lupin’s response is, “You think so?… Do you really think anyone deserves that?” And Harry says, “Yes… For… for some things…” Interestingly enough, by the end of the series, Harry has changed his opinion. He offers Voldemort a chance to save his own soul by expressing remorse for his crimes.
At the end of the chapter, Harry receives his Firebolt back—jinx-free, but everyone’s happiness is cut short when Ron discovers evidence that seems to indicate that Crookshanks has finally eaten Scabbers.
Chapter 13, “Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw” pits Harry Potter against Cho Chang for the first time, and it also appears to be the genesis of his crush on her. Prior to the match, Harry delivers possibly his best burn in the series when Malfoy teases Harry: “Shame it doesn’t come with a parachute—in case you get too near a Dementor.” Harry says, “Pity you can’t attach an extra arm to yours, Malfoy… Then it could catch the Snitch for you.” Ouch!
During the game, Lee Jordan can’t help talking about the Firebolt during his commentary. He mentions that “the Firebolt’s going to be the broom of choice for the national teams at this year’s World Championship,” which of course it was. Both the Bulgarians and the Irish rode Firebolts during the Quidditch World Cup later that year.
After the party to celebrate Gryffindor’s defeat of Ravenclaw, Harry goes to sleep and dreams that “He was walking through a forest, his Firebolt over his shoulder, following something silvery white.” I never noticed this sentence in particular until this re-read, but it seems almost as though Harry is dreaming about following Snape’s Patronus in the forest when the Patronus leads him to the Sword of Gryffindor. Of course, the Firebolt was not present in that second scene, but it is an interesting parallel. He is awakened when Ron screams that Sirius Black is standing over him with a knife.
Chapter 14, “Snape’s Grudge,” might be one of the best chapters in the series. I laugh every time I read it. The most arresting image at the beginning of the chapter is that of Professor Flitwick teaching the front doors to recognize a picture of Sirius Black, which is a waste of time, of course, as Sirius isn’t coming in through the front doors, a fact which Harry considers, but then dismisses because it will prevent him from going to Hogsmeade.
Hagrid calls Ron and Harry to visit because he has a bone to pick with them about Hermione, but Ron, at least, isn’t ready to forgive and forget.
Harry decides to sneak into Hogsmeade, but before he goes, he is waylaid by Snape in yet another scene when he appears to be using Legilimency to figure out what Harry is hiding. Harry eventually sneaks out and meets up with Ron. In a memorable scene, Harry, hiding under his Invisibility Cloak, throws mud at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, but Harry will pay for that bit of fun when the Slytherins tell Snape about seeing Harry in Hogsmeade: “What would your head have been doing in Hogsmeade, Potter?… Your head is not allowed in Hogsmeade. No part of your body has permission to be in Hogsmeade.”
Because of his prejudices regarding Harry and his father, Snape leaps to the conclusion that Harry’s presence in Hogsmeade is a form of arrogance: “Everyone from he Minister for Magic downwards has been trying to keep famous Harry Potter safe from Sirius Black, But famous Harry Potter is a law unto himself. Let the ordinary people worry about his safety! Harry Potter goes where he wants to, with no thought for the consequences… How extraordinarily like your father you are, Potter… He, too, was exceedingly arrogant.”
If Snape had ever bothered to try to understand Harry (like Harry later would do for Snape, and as a result, come to admire Snape a great deal), Snape would have realized that Harry acted out of a sense of wanting to belong. His childhood had been every bit as bad as Snape’s. He was not privileged. All of his friends (except Neville) can go to Hogsmeade. He doesn’t want to feel left out. Feeling left out is something Snape could relate to. But, as the chapter title alludes, Snape is one for holding grudges.
Towards the end of their confrontation, Snape asks Harry to turn out his pockets and discovers the Marauder’s Map, but he is unable to work it because the makers have included a charm designed to keep Snape from ever discovering its secrets, and each of the map makers insults Snape in turn as Harry wants to disappear on the spot. He immediately calls Lupin to his office. I contend that Snape knew his enemies’ private nicknames in school, but that Lupin didn’t realize that Snape knew them. Why else would he call Lupin instead of, say, Dumbledore? Or McGonagall as Harry’s Head of House? He was trying to get Lupin to admit he knew what the object was as well as his connection to it. Lupin wasn’t doing it. Harry notices that “odd, closed expression appeared on Lupin’s face.” My guess is that Lupin is using Occlumency to hide his thoughts from Snape. Snape goes on to hint that Harry got the map “directly from the manufacturers.” See? He knows Lupin is Mr. Moony.
Lupin manages to get Harry out of trouble through a fairly superb bit of Occlumency and quick thinking, but he says pretty much the same thing to Harry that Snape said, albeit in kinder terms: “I cannot make you take Sirius Black seriously. But I would have thought that what you have heard when the Dementors draw near you would have had more of an effect on you. Your parents gave their lives to keep you alive, Harry. A poor way to repay them—gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks.”
But the point is driven home this time because Harry respects Lupin’s opinion, and the way in which Lupin chastises Harry makes Harry understand why sneaking into Hogsmeade is wrong.
And the end of the chapter, Hermione tells the boys that Buckbeak lost his case and is set to be executed.
In chapter 15, “The Quidditch Final,” pretty much the most awesome Quidditch game of the series takes place between Gryffindor and Slytherin.
Harry and Ron make up with Hermione early in the chapter. Hermione smacks Malfoy in the face (that was awesome), forgets to go to Charms, and quits Divination in a fit of pique when Trelawney insinuates she doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in the subject—Hermione contends the subject is hokum. Lavender recalls after Hermione storms out that Trelawney predicted “one of our number will leave us forever.”
Then the game takes place, during which there is quite a deal of dirty play on the part of both teams, though it’s instigated by the Slytherins. Slytherin’s Keeper doesn’t appear to be very good, does he? He lets in just about every penalty shot, while Wood manages to block most of Slytherin’s penalty shots. But Harry manages to nab the Snitch in a narrow miss, as Malfoy saw it first and was already streaking after it.
I thought it might be fun to share this treasury of Quidditch swag you can buy on Etsy.