Alright, on to the third book, my all-time favourite! I feel like this is where the series really kicks off. This book is jammed packed with information and new characters. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
First off, we have the blowing up of Aunt Marge incident, which Harry is sure will get him expelled. Therefore, he is brave enough to leave the Dursley’s, without thinking of what might happen to him. It is at this point that Harry is picked-up by the Night Bus, a three-decker with beds that travels in a rather unsafe manner. This little escapade of his introduced us to a new dimension of the Wizarding World. It reminds us that it is ever present even in the most seemingly boring of neighbourhoods. This is a good point to remember as the author shows us time and time again that the Wizarding world was never out of reach to Harry. For example Ms. Figg has been a part of his life for a long time now. Apart from not being reprimanded by the Minister of Magic, Harry’s summer is one of the best he’s ever had. Living at the Leaky Cauldron and doing as he pleases in Diagon Alley. What more could a wizard ask for? Harry never suspected he was in any danger.
It is interesting to note that this is the only book in which Voldemort stays low and does not try any plot to get to Harry. This book is meant to set the scene for the epic ending to the fourth book, in which Voldemort regains a body of his own. However, there is no lack of action or suspicious characters. The major villain in this book is Sirius Black, at least he is portrayed as being a villain until the end. I think Voldemort was put on the back burner for a bit, because it seemed as though his most loyal follower had escaped from Azkaban to assist him.
It is obvious that Sirius has the same effect, or a very similar one, on the wizarding community as Voldemort does. Everyone is afraid of him and of what he is capable. I think it is an interesting time to hire professor Lupin. Perhaps Dumbledore knew what he was doing as he knew that Sirius and Lupin were friends at school. He thought it would be a good idea to have Lupin near him as he could have been a useful source of information. The ironic thing is Lupin never told Dumbledore that Sirius is an animagus, which would have been the most helpful piece of information; that and the existence of the Marauder’s Map. This leads me to believe that Lupin suspected Sirius had not completely changed sides, or else he would have ousted him and told Dumbledore of other ways into the castle. Part of Lupin was still loyal to Sirius.
In this book, we learn of a group of four mates of which Harry’s dad was a part. Remus, Peter, Sirius and James, also known as Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs were the Marauders. Best friends at school, always up to mischievous activities and rule breaking. Seeing as their friend Lupin was a werewolf, Dumbledore had made arrangements for a safe place for Lupin during the full moon. His three best friends had managed to become animagi in their efforts to assist him during his transformations. Because this process had been done in secret, the three friends never declared that they were animagi. This is why there is no record of it. This is the major reason Sirius was able to remain sane in Azkaban, as well as go into hiding after his escape. Technically Lupin was the only one alive that new of Sirius’ special ability. I think that the fact Lupin was teaching Harry made him remember what good friends he, James, Peter and Sirius were. He remembered the Sirius before the betrayal of Harry’s parents.
Now on to the most fascinating of objects, the Marauder’s Map. The creator’s of this map had made it to help them sneak out of the castle to visit their friend during full moons. It is a most useful tool for any rule breaker, hence why Fred and George Weasley ended up with it. With this map and his invisibility cloak, Harry could get away with almost anything! He obviously put them to good use. This map also played a role in changing Lupin’s mind about Sirius. It was by spotting Peter Pettigrew on the map that he knew there was more to the story behind Sirius’ imprisonment.
The other dynamic that I find complex is that of Lupin and Severus Snape, also old school mates. They have been somewhat rivals since their school years and yet Severus now finds himself helping out this old foe. Under Dumbledore’s orders, he is to brew the Wolfsbane potion for Remus every full moon to help him retain his human senses during his transformations. Seeing as Severus had been after the Defence Against the Dark Arts position for years, he is upset that Dumbledore would hire a werewolf to teach the subject over himself and is determined to expose Lupin by getting the students to study the very creature he is. This is Snape’s way of getting back at him. He also suspects Lupin of assisting Sirius in his quest to track down Harry.
Speaking of teachers, this year we meet a few new teachers. The first is Hagrid, as new teacher of Care of Magical Creatures. Now that his name has been cleaned, Dumbledore entrusts Hagrid as a new faculty member. He obviously has the knowledge and abilities necessary for this subject. However, he does not possess many teaching qualities, which lead to a disastrous outcome during his first lesson.
The second new teacher is Professor Trelawney of Divination. At first, this kooky professor does not seem important, other than to scare Harry repeatedly. She sees the Grim constantly when reading Harry’s tea leaves or crystal ball. Little does she know that the shape she was seeing represented Sirius’ animal form, a black dog. This omen was misinterpreted on countless occasions. We finally see the purpose of this character near the end of the book, when she makes a real prediction, or prophecy. This was along the lines of the dark lord’s servant reuniting with him and assisting in his rise to power. We later learn, through Dumbledore, that that was her second “real prophecy”. In the fifth book, we learn of her first prediction, which has something to do with Harry’s fate. This is the reason for which Dumbledore has hired her as a teacher. It was to protect her, but also to avoid her predictions reaching the ears of the wrong people.
Let’s examine the whole dimension of time. At the beginning of the year, Hermione is given a time-turner to allow her to take every single class in her year as she was unable to pick only a few. This little gadget proved its usefulness in the end of the book, when Harry and Hermione are able to go back in time and free both Buckbeak and Sirius. This was a most dangerous thing to do, seeing as going back in time is a tricky and dangerous business, not to mention that changing the past is a hefty crime. The fact that they managed to do so was miraculous in itself. Just when Harry finds out who Sirius really is, and that he finds out the truth about what happened twelve years ago, it seems to come to an end as he is caught yet again. The fact that Dumbledore gave them a second chance, so to speak, is proof of what version of the facts he thought to be true. He gave them a chance to right what was wronged. A lot of thought and detail must have gone into writing those chapters. I think this is some of J.K.’s most brilliant work. Time is a tricky topic and I feel as if she nailed it!
In this book, Hermione acquires a pet of her own, a cat named Crookshanks. This animal is hated by Ron and is portrayed as being an evil creature that is out to get his sickened rat Scabbers. Little did we know that this cat played a big role in the discovery of Peter Pettigrew, aka Scabbers. Hermione’s cat is as clever as she is. He sensed right away that Ron’s rat was a fraud. He then became friends with Padfoot who convinced Crookshanks to bring him Scabbers, hence the constant attacks. When that didn’t seem to work, it’s the cat that stole Neville’s password parchment to give it to Sirius who was then able to enter the Gryffindor common room to try and capture the rat himself. Little did he know the rat had faked his own murder and had gone into hiding. The animals have played a very big part in this book; Buckbeak, Padfoot, Crookshanks, Remus and Scabbers to name a few. It’s almost as if the cat, dog and rat were the animal versions of Harry, Hermione and Ron and they were the one’s figuring out the mystery this year. I can’t help but see the similarities.
It is interesting to also note the similarities between Croockshanks and Scabbers’ relationship and that of Ron and Hermione. This year, it is much more love/hate, but you can definitely sense a bigger spark than in previous books. It seems as though the two are always fighting to the point of excluding her, more so after the Christmas holidays. This year Hermione was too swamped with her school work to think of anything else and it didn’t take much to provoke her or upset her. Ron on the other hand was constantly blaming Hermione for Crookshanks actions. It was tumultuous to say the least. This year, the three friends were going through a lot of changes and they have been finding it hard to adjust. However, by the end of the book, we will see that they are back to normal. All’s well that ends well.