I am fairly certain I am not alone when I say that The Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite Harry Potter book. It’s the first time we meet Sirius Black, who is the absolute best, and was also the first of the books that made me feel a thing really intensely. That thing I just mentioned was the jubilant realization that not only have we, the readers, been DUPED for the entirety of the book re: Sirius Black as a homicidal maniac BUT ALSO that he is a good person who is ALSO Harry’s loving godfather. I still clearly remember reading this book for the first time and feeling almost giddy at the prospect of Harry getting to tell the Dursleys to blow it out their ears in favor of living with his badass, noble ex-con godfather. I’d like to imagine that Hagrid would have given Sirius the flying motorcycle back, and that Sirius and Harry would have ridden it together into a happy bromantic sunset. This sense of elation was all the more poignant for its almost immediate decimation as Harry realizes that the world is not just, that Sirius will not be absolved of his crimes, and that he will have to continue living with his repugnant family while Sirius and Buckbeak buddy up as wrongly accused escaped prisoners.
Now, in no particular order, here are some of my thoughts regarding my third reading (fourth, if you include the audiobooks) of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, done in conjunction with the Book Smugglers.
- So, my thinking mind knows that Snape is not technically evil, but he is the absolute worst. Even though I really loved Snape after The Deathly Hallows, I still kind of loathed him during this entire book. The fact that he wants Sirius’s soul to be sucked out by a Dementor because he played a cruel prank AS A TEENAGER, well, that is petty times one million. I could maybe forgive this if Snape were, in fact, still a teenager, but he’s not. He’s an adult man who hopefully realizes that teens usually tend to mature a lot by the time they’re adults and that maybe adult Sirius should not be condemned based on a grudge that the supposedly adult Snape’s been nurturing since freaking high school. I mean, I’d still be pissed about it, sure. Sirius, James, and Remus were bullies, but I don’t think having one’s soul destroyed is just recompense for teenage crimes. Teenagers are shitty to each other, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad people who deserve spiritual annihilation. In other words: grow up, dude, and while you’re at it stop trying to persecute KIDS because you had a miserable go of it when you were their age. I mean, why is he even a teacher? He seems to pretty much hate all kids except for Malfoy.
- To the devil with the Dursleys. I hate Aunt Marge. I hate her and her sadism towards Harry more than most book related things, despite the fact that I truly love bulldogs very much. The Dursleys’ abuse towards Harry seems to get more and more unpalatable as the series goes on.
- Why on earth did Professor McGonagall think it was a good idea to give the time turner to Hermione? What teacher in their right mind would think “you know what this brilliant THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD girl needs? The magical ability to take three classes at once, because that stress load is probably unmanageable for adults and therefore is 100% appropriate for someone whose brain is still developing.” You know what would have been a better idea? Telling Hermione that she needed to learn to make decisions and choose which courses were most interesting like everyone else in the god damn school. Alas, the daring rescue of both Sirius and Buckbeak would not have been achieved without the time turner, so I guess Hermione having a total meltdown was worth it in the end.
- On the time turner note, why didn’t Hermione go back in time and sleep or something? Or go back in time and give herself MORE time to do her homework? There are lots of questions here, but when I think about time travel for more than thirty seconds it gives me a headache so I don’t actually plan on answering those questions myself.
- On another time turner note, I would still like one. Just imagine: I’d be able to binge watch The X-Files AND read for hours on end! There’d be no stopping me.
- The Marauder’s Map! I have seriously considered getting both “I solemnly swear I am up to no good” and/or “mischief managed” tattooed on my person.
- There MUST be a more humane solution to dealing with dangerous magical creatures than beheading them. Isn’t there some sort of gentle death curse?
- The prejudice towards Professor Lupin never ceases to break my heart. Werewolfism in this world seems like one of the worst lots one could have; Lupin never elected to be bitten as a child, but yet he’s still stuck with the stigma of being a dangerous beast one night out of every moon cycle based on something for which he is blameless. The sadness of Lupin’s situation highlights what I think makes The Prisoner of Azkaban so strong: it’s the first time that Harry et al truly begin to realize that the wizarding world isn’t all sparkles and pumpkin pasties. It’s just as fucked up and unfair as the real world, and I love this nuanced depiction of what started as such an enchanting magical utopia.
- The injustice of the whole Sirius situation still stings me. I’ll be frank and admit that I cried a little when it, once again, became apparent that the briefly possible happy future for him and Harry was just not going to happen. I think this rapid, emotionally complex narrative roller coaster that carries the reader from fearing Sirius, to forgiving him, to feeling SO excited for Harry’s future life with him, to mourning the loss of that possibility due to injustice is what makes this book stand out above the others for me. It’s still, to this day, one of the most memorable reading experiences I’ve ever had, and, again, emphasizes Harry’s burgeoning awareness of injustice.
- In one final observation, I saw Gary Oldman on a flight home recently. He caught me turned around in my chair peeping at him, and I practiced winking for a good ten minutes before I decided that I was not going to casually go to the bathroom and wink at him because it might alarm him. Still, it was incredibly exciting.
That’s it, folks. Til next time, when I tackle Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.