Harry Potter Book Club: Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 15

It's been almost exactly a year since the last Harry Potter Book Club post went up on my blog. I, for one, have missed our conversations. People have gone on talking about books and stuff, but it really just hasn't been the same.

Fifty shades of gray, listed by hexadecimal value.
I have such a weakness for puns.
Not having read that book, I have nothing else of interest
to say about it.
It's asking a great deal, I know, but perhaps you all might forgive the H.P.B.C. for having taken the year off. Masha had a baby. Christie traveled to Wales and back again, and had a baby. I took a job, entered college, and underwent metamorphosis.

But I'm still twelve years old at heart.
Some things never change.
I'll let Masha and Christie discuss their lives or not, as they choose. For now, I'll limit myself in this post to the subject at hand, which is Harry Potter—but I've seriously been through enough Transfiguration this year to find it worth noting that going forward with Harry Potter, picking up right where we left off in the middle of book three, I'm reading with new eyes. New eyes, and a few more unicorn hairs.

:: Conversation with my friend Bekah ::
Me: I found more gray hairs.
Bekah: Not gray. They are silver in a magical way, like unicorns.
Me: THAT. Yes.

Never fear: if you're curious, the general thoughts and feels will come up. Harry has experiences that can be made relevant to nearly everything important, and I'm well practiced at making mental leaps. Till Rowling brings it up, then.

Flippantly minor newsworthy item: I got a smartphone this year. I love it almost as much as Mr. Weasley might.

My favorite tech junkie.
So, right—Harry Potter. Remember, anybody can post to the book club on their own blog! That said, for the sake of one priceless commodity—time—I'm dropping the little-used link carousel. If you're not Masha or Christie and you post to the book club, leave me a comment with a link to your post, and I'll link back to you in my next post. M and C, I can of course find your posts without the aid of magic. :)

Also, with an unpredictable schedule and practically no time for reading, I can't promise to post regularly. I can, however, promise to give it the old college try! I'm in college. I'm doing stuff like that.

(NB: College is way better than middle and high school. J. K. Rowling should really write a book about wizard university, because MERLIN'S PANTS IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL. LIKE BABY UNICORNS.)

We left off with chapters 13 and 14. Recap:
  • Sirius Black broke into Gryffindor Tower
  • Lupin and Snape confronted the Marauder's Map
  • Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle got punished by McGonagall for dressing up as dementors and sabotaging the Quidditch game
  • Hermione got herself in over her head.
I must say, the number of times I've thought of Hermione's near-hysterical "I can't, Harry, I've still got four hundred and twenty-two pages to read!" these last months has not been insignificant.

Now, on to chapter 15! It's theoretically an easy one, as we're talking Quidditch.

* * *

This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, chapter 15

Potential discussion points:

1. Injustice in the Wizarding world. Hagrid has lost his case for Buckbeak against the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures—which is a remarkably chilling name. Disposal?

The loss of the case is too easily written off by Ron—and therefore Harry and the reader—as a result of Lucius Malfoy's throwing the weight of his wealth and power around. What has to be remembered is that Buckbeak did actually savage Malfoy, albeit under direct provocation, and therefore a handful of people who weren't present at the savaging chose to defend the child over the animal. It happened to be the wrong choice.

Wizards and witches, Rowling reminds us again and again, are human. Humans universally make choices based on the information at hand, fed through layers of conscious knowledge and unconscious presupposition, obvious passions and muddled emotion. Injustice can result at any point: misinformation, misunderstanding, wrong presuppositions, conflicting emotions and loyalties.

What's shocking to me is how easy it is, especially when you're removed from a situation, to be part of injustice. It's awful when you realize you have been.

Hermione delivering justice.
Art by periwinkle-blue.
2. Hermione slaps Malfoy in the face.

I'm not a huge fan of corporal punishment, but occasionally it seems to be the only way to settle an attitude—noting, of course, that this was a very small and not ultimately damaging strike given in response to an attitude the size of Grawp.

3. Cheering Charms. They sound addictive. You know how when you have chronic pain, you don't realize just how much pain it is till the right medication takes it away suddenly? I was lucky enough to experience eight hours this year with my usual anxiety completely sedated, and ... oh gosh. No amount of chocolate or alcohol has ever provided the same sense of relief and contentment as having anxiety just magically gone for a little while.

4. The crystal-gazing scene. This is possibly one of the funniest scenes in the series.
Harry, at least, felt extremely foolish, staring blankly at the crystal ball, trying to keep his mind empty when thoughts such as "this is stupid" kept drifting across it.
I haven't pulled anything more profound out of it, however; not until the part where:

"There's going to be loads of fog tonight."
Art by Marigolade-69.
5. Intellectualism finally gets fed up with Divination and storms out of the room. I'll let Masha take the lead on this subject, but here are some foggy preliminary thoughts:

I have vivid, detailed, emotive dreams that do sometimes seem to connect organically to waking experience, though I see them not as predictive but as curiosities that can occasionally be helpful in clarifying thought processes.

Also, single crows make me nervous. On the whole, however, I take firm refuge in science—which, when it's done properly, at least is supposed to acknowledge what it does not know. What I appreciate about Masha's approach to superstition, however, is that she makes the same concession. If more of us made that concession, the world truly might be a better place.

6. The Quidditch final, House rivalry, and competitive sports. I played volleyball in high school (not that I was good at it; I was just tall); I haven't got a problem with a little team spirit and competitiveness. Learning to lose and win graciously are good life skills. Sports are more fun than running on treadmills, and I can definitely yell and cheer at a Superbowl party when the Seahawks are playing. All admitted!

But team spirit is both charm and curse. Humanity admittedly might never get anything significant done without it, but when it's directed against other people, it bleeds the human soul of empathy. Fiercely loyal partisanship in politics blinds people to the truth underlying opposing positions. In religion (or the rejection thereof), the team mentality is death to caritas; speaking as a Christian—and as one who looks like an insider while sometimes having outsider feelings—I get frustrated with communal habits of dismissiveness toward, and unwillingness to work with, people who live outside the inner sanctum.

Most of all, though, I worry about team spirit when it leads otherwise sincere people to fight dirty. (Fred and George, you know I love you like crazy, but ...) I worry about a sports team when it starts regularly fouling its rivals in a game, and that concern gets profoundly personal when dirty fighting makes its way into things like politics and religion, which affect real humans' lives. My own record is hardly perfect here—I am absolutely as human as the next girl who hates losing—but part of growing is learning to play fairer, so there's always hope.

And there's your Hufflepuff optimist talking. :)

That ought to be enough to be going on with for this week. Happy Potter talk!

^^ The above setup terrified me so much that I had a hard time answering the questions myself. I never would have gotten Ginny's Patronus, either. I can rock trivia if it's book-based, but IMO, stuff that's only on Pottermore is not fair game.


  1. Oh my goodness, you're back! :D I hope your metamorphosis is mostly a good one. I need to be going to bed now, but I'll be back tomorrow for Harry Potter! YAY JENNA HI WELCOME BACK TO MY FIELD OF VISION

    1. Laura! I have missed you a LOT. Hugs!! Can't wait to talk more Potter with you. :D

    2. **hugs back**

      Oh, I forgot to say -- I would love to read some HP University stories!

  2. Welcome back to the blogosphere! :-)

  3. It's always kind of interesting to me that Divination is a real subject in HP-world and prophecies are treated as important by wizards, but unlike other forms of magic (which are totally real and can change erasers into cats and make dishes clean themselves etc.), 99% of all Divination practice shown in HP is more or less exactly the same as it would be in a Muggle context, a mix of BS and guessing. The transfigurations et al. aren't anything like Muggle magic tricks, but Mme. Trelawney's tea readings are indistinguishable from a Muggle fortuneteller's except when they are a little less perceptive than a working Muggle fortuneteller would need to be in order to stay in business.

    Even the "real" prophecies are ambiguous and self-fulfilling -- probably no less ambiguous than they would be if they were lucky shots by a Muggle psychic. All the other magic is pretty straightforwardly functional even when it's prone to malfunction or requires a frustrating degree of precision to work -- but I actually don't know whether JKR meant to come down on the side of Divination being a "real" wizarding gift or not. If it is, I feel bad for anyone at Hogwarts who has it, because Mme. T. does not seem like a competent or perceptive teacher.

    Then again, a lot of the education at Hogwarts is of a fairly negligent sink-or-swim character. But it's not clear how someone with an actual Divination gift would get any help training it in Mme. Trelawney's class.

    Re: corporal punishment -- I think HP's atmosphere of constant low-level physical danger and easy magical repair of the body makes it more of a slapstick-friendly environment than a regular school would be. Slapping someone is mild compared to some of the pranks these kids play on each other. I wonder if a direct slap with the hand, with no magic -- a Muggle punch -- is considered extra insulting in some Wizarding cultures. I could see the Malfoy-Black connection getting their backs up because Granger was too coarse and impudent to use magic like a gentleman.

    I cannot recommend 50 Shades of Grey. I know you like Twilight many times better than I do, but 50 Shades has none of the virtues of Twilight. It''s more cynically written and much more boring.

    1. Yay for thorough and thoughtful discussion! :D

      Twilight was written very innocently, and its imperfections derived more from that naivete, I think, than from cynicism. Badly written cynicism is no fun, and badly written sex is just funny, so I've never been particularly drawn to Fifty Shades. ;)

      Love your thoughts on the HP chapter! I hadn't really thought through how Rowling distinguishes Divination from other forms of magic in relationship to what they're based on. I'm 100% with you in that Trelawney and the subject generally are useless, with the exception of Firenze, who manages to communicate both a confidence in signs and a sensible agnosticism about the ability of mortals to read them. But it's been awhile since I read book 5 ... You're also right that the real prophecies are typically self-fulfilling to some extent, at least; if I wanted to canvass that extensively, it would require SPOILERS, but that thought will probably come in useful during book 6.

      Fascinating thought about a nonmagical slap being extra insulting. Someone at The Hog's Head once calculated how much territory an active Muggle could cover before a wand-waving wizard could shout "Petrificus Totalus!" and it turned out to be quite significant; I would think that the Wizarding World's snooty tendency to look down on the nonmagical might well play into taking umbrage at the use of cold physical force, especially if it proved now and again, in the occasional shady incident, to be more effective.

  4. Love your thoughts!!! and my post is up!

    And Hi Laura!!!!! You should totally come to Michigan this Christmas! ;)


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