34

In Order of the Phoenix, after

Sirius dies,

Harry, sitting in Dumbledore's office, thinks:

Harry turned his back on Dumbledore and stared determinedly out of the window. He could see the Quidditch stadium in the distance. Sirius had appeared there once, disguised as the shaggy black dog, so he could watch Harry play… he had probably come to see whether Harry was as good as James had been… Harry had never asked him…

However, in Prisoner of Azkaban when they are in the Shrieking Shack, Sirius says:

I swam as a dog back to the mainland… I journeyed north and slipped into the Hogwarts grounds as a dog. I’ve been living in the forest ever since, except when I came to watch the Quidditch, of course. You fly as well as your father did, Harry…

Sirius already told Harry that he flew as well as James, so the first quote seems like an odd thing for Harry to say. Is there a reason for this or did Rowling simply make a mistake?

  • 21
    In the second quote Sirius just states the fact. He doesn't say that that's why he came, nor did Harry ask him why he came. So technically the first quote is not inaccurate. – Alex Sep 16 at 1:48
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    @Alex That's pretty facile. Nobody regrets not asking a question they didn't have to ask. – DavidW Sep 16 at 3:55
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    @DavidW Knowing that Sirius thought he was as good as his father doesn’t equal knowing that seeking that information was what motivated Sirius to come. – Alex Sep 16 at 3:58
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    I would argue it's just poor writing. It's good enough to end with the memory of him coming to watch Harry play - there's rarely one, single unifying purpose behind going to watch someone you care about play a sport - you're just going to watch them play. He compared him to his dad, yeah, but he wasn't being a talent scout. It was his god son, he just wanted to watch him play. It just goes on a couple of phrases too long, people don't think like that. Just a lazy way to remind us that Harry lost his dad, first, and this is another new loss. – Jason Sep 16 at 15:16
  • 1
    Maybe the second (earlier) quote is grounds for Harry to hypothesize "he had probably come to see whether Harry was as good as James had been." – WBT Sep 16 at 17:28
100

I have another interpretation of this passage:

It's not that Harry had never asked Sirius, whether he was as good as his father in Quidditch.

Imho this sentence means: He never asked Sirius WHY he was there in the first place.

he had probably come to see whether Harry was as good as James had been

Harry had never asked him…

So the uncertainty does not lie on the question, if Harry was as good as his father, but on the question, why Sirius had watched the match.

In that case the two passages do not contradict each other...

  • 12
    @GreySage That's the question: Did he go to watch the Quidditch Match (perhaps for nostalgia?), or was he there to watch Harry? – Chronocidal Sep 16 at 16:17
  • 6
    @Chronocidal Of course he was there to watch Harry. Watching Quidditch can be fun, but it's not worth the risk to be caught. (Quidditch fanatics like Oliver Wood may disagree.) – QuestionAuthority Sep 16 at 17:49
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    @QuestionAuthority and even if we assume that he was there to watch Harry (which is likely though not totally certain from the quote), that wouldn't mean self-doubting Harry comes automatically to the same conclusion! In particular, since at that point they hadn't met, yet and their first encounter was everything but smooth. He might also wonder whether Sirius wanted to compare him to his father, perhaps also whether Sirius really took the risk just for him or whether he wanted to look out for that little ratty guy etc. – Frank Hopkins Sep 16 at 20:02
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    Unfortunately this makes little sense. – Fattie Sep 16 at 22:09
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    Perhaps the uncertainty goes a little further, into whether Sirius cares about how similar he is to his father, inasmuch as he cares because of how similar he is or seemed to be, or if he did, would, or could care about Harry for himself even when he shows he is different, as he inevitably will. – Megha Sep 17 at 0:31
61

The most likely in-universe explanation is that Harry doesn't remember the second quote, as it is two years ago for him, and he was just fighting for his life and lost Sirius.

The most likely out-of-universe explanation is that Rowling doesn't remember the second quote, as it is more than two years between the books.

The comment by Alex that the two statements don't contradict each other is technically true, but it is a subtle difference that does't fit Harry's character. If Harry remembers the second quote then his thoughts would be like "I know Sirius thinks I fly as well as my father, but was that the reasons why he came to watch the Quidditch?" It implies that Harry thinks people need a reason to watch Quidditch and that he wants to be compared to his father.

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    I believe this is the most correct answer, as it's the only one which doesn't rely on pedantic nitpicking of the passages in question, instead relying on the entirely reasonable notion that a character simply forgot a throwaway line from two years before. – Rand al'Thor Sep 17 at 13:03
27

What Harry never asked Sirius was whether Harry played Quidditch as well as James did. Sirius only said that Harry flew as well as James, not that he played Quidditch as well as James.

Broomstick skills are extremely important to Quidditch, of course, but it is possible to be a skilled flyer and still be only a mediocre player.

(One might reasonably question whether it is sensible to compare a Seeker with a Chaser, but that's a more subtle point unlikely to make much of an impression on a grieving teenager.)

2

In my honest opinion when the first quote was said Harry didn't believe much of what Sirius was saying, because he didn't trust him at the moment, so these words didn't stick in Harry's mind and just got passed.

But may be it's just poor writing, yes. There are many things like this through the books. For example, in the first or second book there is a phrase about a cure for werewolf, but later the readers were introduced to the the fact that it is incurable.

  • 4
    How is it "poor writing" to have a character forget a throwaway remark after two years? – Rand al'Thor Sep 17 at 9:01
  • in the first or second book there is a phrase about a cure for werewolf. Citation needed. The only thing close to what you're describing I can remember is the Wagga Wagga Werewolf story which is made up by Lockhart. – Julien Lopez Sep 19 at 9:59
  • @JulienLopez "Harry looked down at the pair of white rabbits he was supposed to be turning into slippers." Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets, chapter 16. The transfiguration of middle-sized animals with a spine is a too advanced magic for a second year student. – llama Sep 28 at 19:50

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