NOTE: This is an excerpt from my Harry Potter Medicinal Re-Read post on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It covers chapters ten and eleven, "The Marauder's Map" and "The Firebolt." Link to the full post is at the bottom.
I am going to start out this post by confessing something: It is not a coincidence that I am writing about these chapters. I abused my privilege as sitemaster (or whatever my title is) and gave them to myself as a present. I just needed to, okay? Chapter 10 is one of my favorite chapters in the series, which is important because it marks the moment that I really fell in love with this series. Other chapters are better in retrospect, but I’ll always remember vividly the feelings I had the first time I was reading it, like, what is it that I am holding in my hands? It’s like picking up a coin that’s covered in dirt, carrying it around in your pocket for a couple of weeks, and then finally realizing that what’s under the dirt ain’t no quarter like you thought, but a shiny gold doubloon or something equally as golden and magnificent (not that this has ever happened to me, mind you, but I have pirates on the brain from listening to Hans Zimmer while writing this). It’s like finding hidden treasure in something you already own.
Which is an apt metaphor, considering that for the majority of this post I will be talking about things being uncovered anddiscovered.
CHAPTER 10: THE MARAUDER’S MAP
This is the point of the book where Harry has to worry about everything and nothing is solved and what is going on. Let’s list it out: Sirius Black is on the loose, he can’t go to Hogsmeade because of the stupid Dursleys and because of said mass murderer on the loose, his broomstick is dead and gone, he lost his first ever Quidditch match, he’s the only one who faints when Dementors come near and he doesn’t know why, the Grim is following him around and he’s too freaked out to tell anyone, and then, well, this chapter happens. It’s a good thing he’s so adaptable, because DAMN, listing it all out like that? I’d need a rubber room and some soft pillows to bounce against for a while*.
*I might be a bit unclear about what actually happens in mental hospitals. Thanks a bunch, movies.
At least one of Harry’s worries is put to rest soon after the chapter starts. He confesses to Lupin that the screams and voices he’s been hearing whenever Dementors are around are his mother’s last moments. That he can motherfucking hear motherfucking Voldemort killing his parents. I mean, my God. I always glossed over that bit when I was a kid, but stopping to actually think about it? What a traumatizing thing. Lupin agrees with me, when Harry voices his concerns:
“Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself — soul-less and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life. And the worst that has happened to you, is enough to make anyone fall off their broom. You have nothing to feel ashamed of.”
We also get a small hint that Lupin knew Harry’s parents in his reaction upon hearing Harry’s confession. I’ll mostly leave this for the lovely person who gets that reveal, but I do want to say that for Harry (and for us) having James and Lily’s friends around makes them real people for the first time. And especially for Harry, they’re living reminders that his parents did exist and were people in their own right. They’re not just faceless symbols of something he’s lost — they had fears and hopes and dreams and they fought and loved and joked around and broke rules. So Lupin (and Sirius) are reminders of that, in addition to acting as surrogate fathers for Harry. But Lupin is also the first step in lifting the veil not just on Harry’s parents but the whole mythology surrounding them. There’s this whole mess of crap mixed up in there that we had no idea about until Lupin and the Marauder’s Map showed up. Ah, yes. The map.
Human beings have a thing for maps. There are whole fields of scholarship devoted to and around mapmaking, both of the traditional and non-traditional varieties. We make maps of countries and cities. We map the brain. We make emotional maps. We make fictional maps — treasure maps, maps of imaginary places. To plan something is to “map it out.” Maps imply knowledge and purpose, they lay out options, and often, give directions. The world didn’t exist for most people until it was put on a map. I could go on.
The thing about being human is that we’re pretty much limited in what we can perceive in any given moment. We can only see so far and remember so much. Maps record that knowledge and put it in perspective, for use now or in the future.
All of this is to say that it’s no wonder people latch so hard onto the Marauder’s Map when reading this book. It’s not just a map, it’s a magical map, and it doesn’t just show places, but people, too. If the only thing the Marauder’s Map did was show the castle’s secret passageways, that would be cool enough, but it’s enchanted so well that it can even see Dumbledore pacing in his office — it can even see past magical disguises . . . cough cough. I’m not going to claim humanity has the same level of common obsession for secret passages that I did for maps, because I just don’t have the data to support that claim, but I will say that I am obsessed with them. There is some primal part of me that deeply enjoys believing there is always more under the surface, that there’s always hidden secrets everywhere, and you can find them if you know where to look. And when that obsession is validated, I lose my damn mind.
That’s my favorite part about the Marauder’s Map (I mean, besides the fact that it was created by the Marauders WHO I AM OBSESSED WITH) — that even while it lifts the veil on the mysteries of Hogwarts, it does so in a way that doesn’t diminish the mystery. It’s a map to mystery. It’s a way to know things you shouldn’t know that makes you want to know more. You know how as soon as you learn how a magic trick works, it becomes instantly boring? Well, it’s pretty much EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THAT.
Rest of this post can be found HERE.