Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Quotes

  • Memory and the Past

    Harry remembered only too well the occasion where Ron's old wand had snapped. It had happened when the car the two of them had been flying to Hogwarts crashed into a tree on the school grounds. (1.48)

    We get a lot of sentences like this throughout the novel, in which Harry recalls things that have happened in the previous jam-packed years at Hogwarts. While this could be seen as regularly scheduled visits by the Exposition Fairy (little details thrown in to get everyone up to speed), we think that these sentences have a deeper meaning. They help to reinforce how this novel functions as a meditation on the past.

    "Anyway, they cornered Black in the middle of a street full of Muggles an' Black took out 'is wand and 'e blasted 'alf the street apart, an' a wizard got it, an' so did a dozen Muggles what go in the way. 'Orrible, eh?" (3.73)

    It's interesting that Stan speaks of Sirius's actions as something he has first-hand knowledge of, even though he was a child at the time (Stan is described as someone in his late teens). The massacre Sirius committed has become a collective memory, or a big event that everyone in the wizarding community "remembers," kind of like how Americans "remember" events like Pearl Harbor or the fall of the Berlin Wall, regardless of whether or not they were there, or were even alive, at the time.

    He knew he was being stupid, knew that the Nimbus was beyond repair, but Harry couldn't help it; he felt as though he'd lost one of his best friends. (10.1.1)

    Harry has so many memories of his Nimubs that it's become a sort of "friend" to him. And as anyone who's seen Toy Story knows, inanimate objects can indeed be really great friends.

    When the Dementors approached him, he heard the last moments of his mother's life, her attempts to protect him, Harry, from Lord Voldemort, and Voldemort's laughter before he murdered her [...] Harry dozed fitfully sinking into dreams of clammy, rotted hands and petrified pleading, jerking awake to dwell again on his mother's voice. (10.1.5)

    In terms of style, Azkaban generally uses fairly short sentences and features lots of dialogue. But we get occasional passages like this, where there are a series of clauses that help to emphasize emotion. Here, we get a bunch of descriptions of what Harry experiences around the Dementors, which emphasizes how his experience is a complex, emotional, and ongoing affair.

    "It has nothing to do with weakness," said Professor Lupin sharply, as though he had read Harry's mind. "The Dementors affect you worse than the others because there are horrors in your past that others don't have." (10.2.31)

    Lupin introduces one of the major themes of the book here, as well as an important lesson to Harry – being affected by the bad parts of your past isn't a weakness. And being affected by the past is actually a good thing, since the past shouldn't be ignored. Harry wouldn't be the person he is if he could just brush the Dementors off and go about his day.

    He stopped on the picture of his parents' wedding day. There was his father waving up at him, beaming, the untidy black hair Harry had inherited standing up in all directions. There was his mother, alight with happiness, arm in arm with his dad. And there [...] that must be him. Their best man [...] Harry had never given him a thought before. (11.1.4)

    We see a lot of different "artifacts" from the past in this novel, turning the whole thing into an episode of History Detectives at times. It's worth noting that the past leaves concrete relics behind.

    "And how do you conjure it?"

    "With an incantation, which will work only if you are concentrating, with all your might, on a single, very happy memory." (12.3.11-12)

    While the past is often bad in this book, Harry does have happy memories too. It's rather poetic that, to produce a Patronus, you have to focus on the good times even while surrounded by darkness.

    Terrible though it was to hear his parents' last moments replayed inside his head, these were the only times Harry had heard their voices since he was a very small child. But he'd never be able to produce a proper Patronus if he half wanted to hear his parents again [...] (12.3.76)

    Poor orphan Harry – we feel a lot of sympathy for our hero here. This passage emphasizes how long it's been since Harry has heard his parents' voices. It's fitting that he can't produce a Patronus (i.e., create a spell that depends on having a strong happy feeling) while he's clinging to his tragic past.

    "Oh no," said Lupin. "Much worse than that. You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no [...] anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You'll just – exist. As an empty shell." (12.5.22)

    The Dementors are like some sort of existential nightmare come to life – they can force people to wander around as empty shells, "existing" physically but not mentally. It's significant that Lupin points out "memory" as a key component to the "self." Even though dwelling on or obsessing over the past is a bad idea, no one should deny or totally forget what came before. It's a tricky balance that Harry has trouble with the entire novel.

    "He bit Goyle for us once!" Ron said miserably. "Remember, Harry?"

    "Yeah, that's true." said Harry.

    "His finest hour," said Fred, unable to keep a straight face. "Let the scar on Goyle's finger stand as a lasting tribute to his memory." (13.1.9-11)

    Though this scene is really funny, it also points to an important theme in the novel: people's tendency to recall the past fondly and to gloss over what it actually was. In Scabbers's case, that would be useless and boring. What other characters are fans of nostalgia and selective memory in the book?

    "I met him!" growled Hagrid. "I musta bin the last ter see him before he killed all those people! It was me what rescued Harry from Lily an' James's house after they was killed! [...] an' Sirius Black turns up, on that flyin' motorbike he used ter ride. Never occurred to me what he was doin' there. I didn' know he'd been Lily an' James's Secret-Keeper." (10.3.160)

    Hagrid undergoes an interesting experience here, where he learns that his memory of a past event wasn't what it seemed. Harry and his friends learn the "truth" about Sirius Black, and then learn that said "truth" was actually a lie, over the course of the novel. This makes for some unsettling experiences for the gang, as they confront the fact that memory and the past aren't stable or set in stone.

    "A thought that still haunts me," said Lupin heavily. "And there were near misses, many of them. We laughed about them afterwards. We were young, thoughtless – carried away with our own cleverness." (18.50)

    Interesting word choice here: Lupin speaks "heavily" about his past regrets, as if his guilt and anxiety are literally weighing down on him.

    "This house" – Lupin looked miserably around the room, – "the tunnel that leads to it – they were built for my use. Once a month, I was smuggled out of the castle, into this place, to transform." (18.36)

    The detail about Lupin looking around the room is notable – we can see him actually experiencing his past as he looks around the room.

    "Sirius Black showed he was capable of murder at the age of sixteen," he breathed. "You haven't forgotten that, Headmaster? You haven't forgotten that he once tried to kill me?"

    "My memory is as good as it ever was, Severus," said Dumbledore quietly. (21.61-62)

    Poor Snape. OK, the guy is a total punk most of the time, but you can really hear his desperation here. The emphasis he places on "me" in his last question to Dumbledore is really telling. Snape wants Dumbledore to acknowledge him, and to acknowledge the past as Snape remembers it. Dumbledore's response is classic Dumbledore – vague and cryptic. But we think his "quiet" tone and his emphasis on his own "memory" shows that he's acknowledging Snape's concerns but without taking sides.

    He was thinking about his father and about his father's three oldest friends [...] Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs [...] Had all four of them been out on the grounds tonight? (21.259)

    We love the fact that this night of reunions and numerous bombshells occurred in the midst of a time-travel adventure – the past and the present really were brought together here.

    "Harry," said Lupin hurriedly, "don't you see? All this time we've thought Sirius betrayed your parents, and Peter tracked him down – but it was the other way around, don't you see? Peter betrayed your mother and father – Sirius tracked Peter down." (19.69)

    Ow, our brains. Lupin places emphasis on Peter's name here, which is significant. By stressing Peter, Lupin sort of drags him into the spotlight, trying to force the others to see Peter for the traitor he is with the power of logic and rhetorical strategy. Rhetorical strategy is a fancy-pants way of saying that Lupin is speaking carefully here. He emphasizes Peter's name with a specific intent, not just for the heck of it.

    "You fool," said Lupin softly. "Is a schoolboy grudge worth putting an innocent man back inside Azkaban?" (19.7)

    Snape is sort of the poster child for grudges. He refuses to let go of his own past and, as a result, things go rather spectacularly awry for him. Lupin's word choice really belittles Snape too. Lupin references Snape's "schoolboy grudge," which implies that Snape's feelings about Sirius are childish.

  • Fear

    "Oh, I wouldn't read that if I were you," said the manager lightly, looking to see what Harry was staring at. "You'll start seeing death omens everywhere. It's enough to frighten anyone to death." (4.1.28)

    Do you happen to be paranoid that people are actually out to get you? In Harry's case, the paranoia is probably justified, but the novel seems to indicate that paranoia in general is a problem. See Trelawney's obsession with death omens, or Snape's willingness to see conspiracies everywhere due his long-festering hatred of Lupin and friends.

    Harry lay listening to the muffled shouting next door and wondered why he didn't feel more scared. Sirius Black had murdered thirteen people with one curse [...] But Harry happened to agree wholeheartedly with Mrs. Weasley that the safest place on earth was wherever Albus Dumbledore happened to be. (4.3.49)

    Harry is probably experiencing some degree of shock here – he wonders why he isn't afraid, which implies a sort of detachment from his own feelings. But he also uses his unwavering trust in Dumbledore to combat his fear.

    No, in all the thing that bothered Harry most was the fact that his chances of visiting Hogsmeade now looked like zero. (4.3.51)

    The Hogsmeade field trip plotline is probably the most normal in the entire book. The novel overall deals with some dark stuff – murder, imprisonment, death, traumatic memories, and so on. But the Hogsmeade stuff really helps to show Harry's age. Instead of being concerned about the lunatic killer coming to get him, Harry focuses on a different kind of fear: the fear that he won't get to go to Hogsmeade like "everyone else."

    "I'm not trying to be a hero, but seriously, Sirius Black can't be worse than Voldemort, can he?"

    Mr. Weasley flinched at the sound of the name but overlooked it. (5.35-6)

    The recurring fear most people express upon hearing Voldemort's name really indicates just how terrifying Dark Lord was and still is to the wizarding community.

    And then the thing beneath the hood, whatever it was, drew a long, slow, rattling breath, as though it were trying to suck something more than air from its surroundings. (5.166)

    Dementors are freaking scary. The detail about the "breath" here hints at the idea of a "death rattle" or the type of breath a dying person might take. Dementors are frequently described as "sucking" things like happiness and hope out of their surroundings. We just like how the notions of "sucking" something reminds us of leeches or parasites. And fear itself is parasitic, in a way – it attaches itself to someone and "sucks" away all good feelings. Hence, Dementors are the personification of fear itself.

    "It was horrible," said Neville, in a higher voice than usual. "Did you feel how cold it got when it came in?"

    "I felt weird," said Ron, shifting his shoulders uncomfortably. "Like I'd never be cheerful again [...]" (5.193-4)

    J.K. Rowling has said that Dementors kind of personify depression, which helps explain the reactions that Neville and Ron have here. Rowling describes depression as: "that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad" (source).

    "The charm that repels a boggart is simple, yet it requires force of mind. You see, the thing that really finishes a boggart is laughter. What you need to do is force it to assume a shape that you find amusing." (7.2.37)

    That cliché about laughter being the best medicine really is true here. Lupin notes that the anti-boggart charm requires "force of mind," which is interesting. Fear is a largely internal, mental thing that an individual has to fight with his or her own force of mind.

    Neville looked around rather wildly, as though begging someone to help him, then said, in barely more than a whisper, "Professor Snape." Nearly everyone laughed. Even Neville grinned apologetically. (7.2.45)

    The details about Neville are really vivid here. We can actually see how scared he is, as he looks around desperately before answering Professor Lupin. As Neville demonstrates, sharing your fears can be really embarrassing. So what do you think of Professor Lupin, for making the entire class essentially share their deepest, darkest fears?

    But before he had even started to plan a possible counterattack on a boggart-Voldemort, a horrible image came floating to the surface of his mind [...]

    A rotting, glistening hand, slithering back beneath a black cloak [...] then a cold so penetrating it felt like drowning [...] (7.2.59-60)

    Harry demonstrates a lot of maturity here with his choice of a fear. See, Ron's boggart becomes a giant spider, since he's "afraid" of them. But there are definite levels of fear, and Harry's fear, which literally rises up out of his subconscious, is of an abstract concept (fear itself), something an adult and not a kid would probably be most afraid of. Hermione, too, with her fear of failure, taps into this darker side of growing up, where you stop being afraid of monsters hiding under your bed and start being afraid of things like emotional experiences.

    "I see," said Lupin thoughtfully. "Well, well [...] I'm impressed." He smiled slightly at the look of surprise on Harry's face. "That suggests that what you fear most of all is – fear. Very wise, Harry." (8.4.53)

    See, Lupin totally agrees with us. Harry is very wise for his age. Being afraid of fear, of how it makes you feel and of what it can do to you, is pretty smart.

    After about a minute inside it, she burst out again, screaming.

    "Hermione!" said Lupin startled. "What's the matter?"

    "P-P-Professor McGonagall!" Hermione gasped, pointing into the trunk. "Sh- she said I'd failed everything!"

    It took a little while to calm Hermione down. (16.2.12-5)

    We love seeing the form that Hermione's abstract fear of failure takes in her boggart. The fact that Hermione, one of the most logical people in the Potter-verse, completely shuts down when confronted with her own "failure" reveals just how intense a fear this is for her.

    At that moment, there was a creak overhead. Something had move upstairs. Both of them looked up at the ceiling. Hermione's grip on Harry's arm was so tight he was loosing feeling in his fingers. He raised his eyebrows at her; she nodded again and let go. (17.61)

    The silent communication between Hermione and Harry throughout the novel is pretty interesting to watch – these two make really good crime-fighting partners (and partners in crime, for that matter). Hermione and Harry both show their Gryffindor sides here: Hermione is brave enough to release her death grip on Harry and head upstairs with him; Harry is a good enough leader in a crisis to take charge and calm Hermione down.

    Pettigrew was muttering distractedly; Harry caught words like "far-fetched" and "lunacy" but he couldn't help paying more attention to the ashen color of Pettigrew's face and the way his eyes continued to dart towards the windows and the door. (19.112)

    Peter's picture is probably next to "fear" in the dictionary. The details about his body language, his speech patterns, and the diction used to describe him, such as "ashen," create this ongoing portrait of fear.

    Harry felt his knees hit the cold grass. Fog was clouding his eyes. With a huge effort, he fought to remember – Sirius was innocent – innocent – We'll be okay – I'm going to live with him –. (20.62)

    The theme of fear is tied to the theme of memory here, with the idea that fear and other dark emotions can make you forget hopeful, positive things.

    "An' now 'es out," said Stan, examining the newspaper picture of Black's gaunt face again. "Never been a breakout from Azkaban before, 'as there, Ern? Beats me 'ow 'e did it. Frightenin', eh? Mind I don't fancy 'is chances against them Azkaban guards, eh, Ern?"

    Ernie suddenly shivered.

    "Talk about summat else, Stan, there's a good lad. Them Azkaban guards give me the collywobbles." (3.79-81)

    Stan is probably one of those people that have seen all of the Saw movies in theaters. He seems to relish the story about Black here, especially how frightening it all is. Contrast this to Ernie, meanwhile, who doesn't want to talk about Black and Azkaban precisely because they're frightening. People's reactions to fear can be as informative as what they fear.

    [T]he magical community lives in fear of a massacre like that of twelve years ago, when Black murdered thirteen people with a single curse. (3.56)

    This idea of "living in fear" really sums up the magical community. We can see evidence of this with how people react to hearing Voldemort's name. It's like a whole group of people collectively decided to deal with their fear by ignoring it, or by trying to at least.

  • Good vs. Evil

    "Dumbledore isn't fond of the Azkaban guards," said Mr. Weasley heavily. "Nor am I, if it comes to that [...] but when you're dealing with a wizard like Black, you sometimes have to join forces with those you'd rather avoid." (4.3.39)

    Arthur helps set up one of the major moral dilemmas of this novel: is it ever OK to team up with bad things or to do bad things in order to fight evil? Do the ends justify the means? Arthur implies that they do here, but Dumbledore's intense dislike of the Dementors implies that he disagrees.

    "Dad had to go out to Azkaban one time, remember, Fred? And he said it was the worst place he'd ever been, he came back all weak and shaking [...] They suck the happiness out of place, Dementors. Most of the prisoners go mad in there." (6.1.13)

    The details we hear about Azkaban start to cast the wizarding community in a very different light. Before, all we knew of the wizarding world came through places like Hogwarts and Diagon Alley – cool, fun places. Details about Dobby, the Malfoys' mistreated house elf, didn't seem to apply to the entire wizarding community, just to the "darker" Voldemort-following ones. But Azkaban is an institution that "good" wizards support and use to lock up "bad" wizards. So, is Azkaban "cruel and unusual punishment," or is it morally justifiable?

    "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. [...] If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself [...] soulless and evil. You'll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life. (10.2.33)

    Dementors make Voldemort sound like the Easter Bunny. OK, not really. The Dementors really represent all the darkness that Voldemort channels in his campaign for world domination. It's fitting that we focus on the Dementors in this book rather than on Voldemort himself. This novel deals with the past and, in a way, the Dementors are Voldemort's past – a legacy of darkness and evil and other bad mojo that Voldemort draws upon in his own evil deeds.

    "But when a wizard goes over to the Dark Side, there's nothin' and no one that matters to 'em anymore." (10.3.164)

    Hagrid has clearly not seen Star Wars. Though we somehow doubt Voldemort is going to turn out to be an Anakin Skywalker. He's the Emperor, if anything.

    "Yeh can' really remember who yeh are after a while. An' yeh can' see the point o' livin' at all. I used to hope I'd just die in me sleep [...] When they let me out, it was like bein' born again [...]" (11.2.84)

    We love the contrast between what Hagrid is saying (deep, profound thoughts about depression, imprisonment, and the spiritual rebirth found in freedom) and how he is saying it (in his typical local dialect). Hagrid consistently shows in this novel that you should never judge a book by its cover – he may look fairly "simple," but he has a lot of depth.

    "Tell them whatever you like. But make it quick, Remus. I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for [...]" (18.10)

    Sirius's need for revenge has pretty much blotted out any clear sense he has of right and wrong. Not that we can blame the dude.

    "Harry [...] I as good as killed them," he croaked. "I persuaded Lily and James to change to Peter at the last moment, persuaded them to use him as their Secret-Keeper instead of me [...] I'm to blame, I know it [...]" (19.72)

    Sirius's guilt makes him see himself as something of a bad guy in all of this. His own self-perception, and his willingness to do some bad things, help complicate the ideas of good and evil here. What makes people good or evil in this book? Is it their actions, their ideas, their beliefs, some combination of those things?

    "How dare you," he growled, sounding suddenly like the bear-sized dog he had been. "I, a spy for Voldemort? When did I ever sneak around people who were stronger and more powerful than myself?" (19.107)

    Sirius delivers a damning judgment against Peter here, as he basically equates Peter's cowardice with evil.

    "He – he was taking over everywhere!" gasped Pettigrew. "Wh- what was there to be gained by refusing him?"

    "What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard that has ever existed?" said Black, with a terrible fury in his face. "Only innocent lives, Peter!" (19.162-3)

    The contrast between the speaking styles of Peter and Sirius is interesting here. Peter stutters and asks desperate questions; Sirius speaks decisively and uses morally-charged words like "evil" and "innocent lives."

    "I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing it because – I don't reckon my dad would've wanted them to become killers – just for you." (19.174)

    If there's a common thread uniting all the Harry Potter books it's the idea that doing the right thing isn't always easy. Harry arguably does the right thing here by stopping his father's friends from becoming murderers, but it's a hard to not take revenge against Peter.

    "Think that matters to [Dementors]? They don' care. Long as they've got a couple o' hundred humans stuck with 'em, so they can leech all the happiness out of 'em, they don't give a damn who's guilty an' who's not." (11.2.87)

    Since the Dementors are the epitome of bad in Book 3, it stands to reason that they would not pay attention to pesky distinctions like "guilt" and "innocence."

  • Time

    "I mean, you're good Hermione, but no one's that good. How're you supposed to be in three classes at once?"

    "Don't be silly," said Hermione shortly. "Of course I won't be in three classes at once." (6.1.20-1)

    Hermione's Time-Turner mystery is at the heart of the book, and especially at the heart of the its theme of time. So what does Hermione's Time-Turner tell us about time as a theme? Well, we'd argue, a whole lot. In this instance, at least, Ron asks how she's supposed to do three things at once. And the answer we learn is – not all that well. Hermione is totally burned out by the end of this novel, proving that there are 24 hours in each day for a reason.

    Then he stood up, stretched, and checked the time on the luminous alarm clock on his bedside table.

    It was one o'clock in the morning. Harry's stomach gave a funny jolt. He had been thirteen years old, without realizing it, for a whole hour. (1.24-25)

    Harry has a very strong awareness of the passage of time here, since it's his birthday. It's significant that this scene pretty much kicks off the novel for us – time is an important aspect of this story from the get-go.

    "I reckon he's lost track of time, being on the run," said Ron. "Didn't realize it was Halloween. Otherwise he'd have come bursting in here." (9.1.12)

    Like any good mystery novel, this one leaves us clues. We get multiple clues about the "timing" of Sirius's attacks. Either Sirius has lost track of time, as Ron suggests, or he's the most inept villain ever (or he's not after Harry at all, but that's another story). Sirius actually has a freakishly accurate sense of time – when we finally meet him, it's clear that he's acutely aware of the time he has lost ,among other things.

    "How are you getting through all this stuff?" Harry asked her.

    "Oh, well – you know – working hard," said Hermione. Close-up, Harry saw that she looked almost as tired as Lupin. (12.5.61-2)

    If Harry fights fear throughout the novel, then Hermione fights time. The comparison of Hermione to Lupin is really interesting. Lupin is always described as looking exhausted and aged beyond his years. This really hammers home just how tired Hermione is.

    Fred and George disappeared for a couple of hours and returned with armfuls of bottles of butterbeer, pumpkin fizz, and several bags full of Honeydukes sweets.

    "How did you do that?" squealed Angelina Johnson as George started throwing Peppermint Toads into the crowd.

    "With a little help from Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs," Fred muttered in Harry's ear. (13.3.1-3)

    It's interesting that the Map gives the gift of time and freedom to whoever owns it. For all the trouble it causes, the Map is closely tied to positive themes in the novel, such as freedom, good memories, etc.

    Back into Honeydukes, back down the cellar steps, across the stone floor, through the trapdoor – Harry pulled of his cloak, tucked it under his arm, and ran, flat out, along the passage [...] Malfoy would get back first [...] how long would it take him to find a teacher? (14.3.40)

    The style here is great – we get a series of increasingly rushed clauses starting with prepositions, and then shifting to verbs. This passage really conveys Harry's frantic rush back to the school.

    "Goin' through a rough time at the moment. Bitten off more'n she can chew, if yeh ask me, all the work she's tryin' to do. Still found time to help me with Buckbeak's case, mind [...]" (14.1.38)

    Hermione is once again most closely tied to the theme of time here and to the idea of trying to find more time. So it's fitting that, by the novel's end, she's confronted with the real limits of time.

    "What? Oh no!" Hermione squeaked. "I forgot to go to Charms!"

    "But how could you forget? said Harry. "You were with us till we were right outside the classroom!" (15.2.35-6)

    Too bad Hermione didn't have an iCalendar with some alarms on it. It's interesting that this is one of the few times that Harry, rather than Ron, verbalizes Hermione's mysterious behavior.

    "Only if we're more than fifty points up, Harry, or we win the match but lose the Cup. You've got that, haven't you? You must catch the Snitch only if we're – "

    "I KNOW, OLIVER!" Harry yelled. (15.3.6-7)

    The Quidditch final introduces another element of the time theme to us: timing. The Quidditch match served as a primer for the ultimate timing test: Harry and Hermione's down-to-the-second rescue of Buckbeak, their past selves (trippy!), and Sirius.

    "If you're going to tell the story, get a move on, Remus," snarled Black, who was still watching Scabbers's every desperate move. "I've waited twelve years, I'm not going to wait much longer." (18.26)

    Sirius's understandable lack of patience and his awareness of how many years he's lost are defining character traits.

    "What we need," said Dumbledore slowly, and his light blue eyes moved from Harry to Hermione, "is more time." (21.80)

    Once again, Hermione is most strongly identified with the idea of time here. We're surprised Dr. Who doesn't swoop in and try to reclaim his title at this point.

    Hermione turned the hourglass three times.

    The dark ward dissolved. Harry had the sensation that he was flying very fast, backward. A blur of colors and shapes rushed past him, his ears were pounding, he tried to yell but he couldn't hear his own voice –.

    And then he felt solid ground beneath his feet, and everything came into focus again. (21.93-5).

    The description of time travel is really fantastic here – there's a huge emphasis on sensory experience. We hear about sight, sound, and the crazy physical feelings that accompany time travel – it's like a super intense roller coaster ride. Done backwards. Props to Hermione for doing that a few times a day all freaking year.

    "No!" said Hermione. "If we steal [Buckbeak] now, those Committee people will think Hagrid set him free! We've got to wait until they've seen he's tied outside!"

    "That's going to give us about sixty seconds," said Harry. This was starting to seem impossible. (21.139-40)

    We really enjoyed reading about Harry and Hermione working together during the time travel adventure chapter. Hermione brings the logic and the attention to detail (and time) here; Harry puts the plan into action, like Jack Bauer racing against the clock.

    Harry watched the grass flatten in patches all around the cabin and heard three pairs of feet retreating. He, Ron, and Hermione had gone [...] but the Harry and Hermione hidden in the trees could now hear what was happening inside the cabin through the back door. (21.161)

    A huge part of the time travel adventure is the idea of perception. Going through things the second time around, Harry and Hermione see and hear and learn things that they hadn't initially. This is really fitting since the entire novel is about dealing with the past – by revisiting it, you learn new things and can then put it all aside and move on.

    "How can you stand this?" he asked Hermione fiercely. "Just standing here and watching it happen?" He hesitated. "I'm going to grab the cloak!"

    "Harry, no!"

    Hermione seized the back of Harry's robes not a moment too soon. Just then they heard a burst of song. It was Hagrid, making his way up to the castle. (21.225-227)

    Harry and Hermione engage in the classic debate of whether or not you would, or should, change time if you had the chance. The novel itself seems to agree with Hermione here, given the close call with Hagrid.

    They watched the four men climb the steps and disappear from view. For a few minutes the scene was deserted. Then –" (21.218)

    The diction here emphasizes how the time travel adventure is sort of like watching a play. Words like "scene" and even "then" let us know how a story is unfolding before Harry and Hermione, who are basically watching from the woods like an audience.

    "Hermione – what'll happen – if we don't get back inside – before Dumbledore locks the door?" Harry panted.

    "I don't want to think about it!" Hermione moaned, checking her watch again. "One minute!" (22.1.12-13)

    As Back to the Future taught us, messing around with time can be very dangerous. Here, Harry and Hermione risk screwing up their own time loop.

    "Hasn't your experience with the Time-Turner taught you anything, Harry? The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed [...]" (22.3.42)

    This book definitely focuses a ton on the past, but there's also a lot about the future here. Hence, a thematic focus on time itself. Most of our forays into the future are also journeys into the ridiculous, courtesy of quack Professor Trelawney. But Dumbledore, who acts like he's guest-starring on The Universe or an episode of Fringe, points out that Trelawney's profession is actually a tough one. Predicting the future is very hard since it requires accurately reading human behavior. Oddly enough, Hermione is a better predictor of future events, given her intelligence and her perceptiveness, than Trelawney is.

  • Lies and Deceit

    "I see," said Aunt Marge. "Do they use the cane at St. Brutus's, boy?" she barked across the table.

    "Er –"

    Uncle Vernon nodded curtly behind Aunt Marge's back.

    "Yes," said Harry. Then, feeling he might as well do the thing properly, he added, "all the time." (2.1.78-81)

    Harry's dry sense of humor doesn't get to come out and play all the time, but we get a great demonstration of it here, as he manages to find the absurd in his overall crappy situation.

    With a feeling of unease, Harry saw Stan's eyes move tot he scar on Harry's forehead.

    "Woss that on you 'ead?" said Stan abruptly.

    "Nothing," said Harry quickly, flattening his hair over his scar. If the Ministry of Magic was looking for him, he didn't want to make it too easy for them. (3.24-26)

    Poor Harry – he's always trying to avoid attention. So it's no wonder that, when he can get away with it, he fibs to keep the focus away from himself.

    "They'ad a job coverin' it up, din' they, Ern?" Stan said. "Ole street blown up an' all them Muggles dead. What was it they said 'ad 'appened, Ern?"

    "Gas explosion," grunted Ernie. (3.76-77)

    Details like this really emphasize how separated the wizarding community is from the wider Muggle world. Being a wizard is a lot like being a secret agent, and lying is often a necessary part of the job.

    Unless Harry's eyes were deceiving him, Fudge was suddenly looking awkward.

    "Circumstances change, Harry [...] We have to take into account [...] in the present climate [...] Surely you don't want to be expelled?" (3.137-138)

    For a politician, Fudge is a pretty lousy liar. We can't decide whether to give him props for that or not. Stylistically, the pauses between Fudge's phrases, and his inability to complete a sentence, demonstrate his awkwardness.

    "Harry's got a right to know. I've tried to tell Fudge, but he insists on treating Harry like a child. He's thirteen years old and –"

    "Arthur, the truth would terrify him!" said Mrs. Weasley shrilly. (4.3.25-26)

    Arthur Weasley really ties the theme of truth to themes of childhood here. Throughout this book, truth is associated with being an adult – you have to be old enough to hear certain things.

    "You haven't got any of these subjects today. It's only Defense Against the Dark Arts this afternoon."

    "Oh yes," said Hermione vaguely, but she packed all the books into her bag just the same.


    "D'you get the feeling that Hermione's not telling us something?" Ron asked Harry. (7.1.82)

    Cool character detail alert – Hermione never actually lies about her Time-Turner. She instead opts to change the subject, give a vague response, or just remain silent.

    "Dumbledore told them that their best chance was the Fidelius Charm."


    "An immensely complex spell," he said squeakily, "involving the magical concealment of a secret inside a single, living soul. The information is hidden inside the chosen person, or Secret-Keeper, and is henceforth impossible to find – unless, of course, the Secret-Keeper chooses to divulge it." (10.3.147-149)

    Like so many of the spells in the Harry Potter books, the Fidelius Charm plays a thematic role. Fidelius is like the word "fidelity," which means loyalty or faith. This is fitting since the charm itself is about much more than just keeping a secret. It's really about loyalty and the decision to keep a secret. The Secret-Keeper can choose to divulge, but as long as that person chooses to stay silent, the secret remains safe.

    Why had nobody ever told him? Dumbledore, Hagrid, Mr. Weasley, Cornelius Fudge [...] why hadn't anyone ever mentioned the fact that Harry's parents died because their best friend had betrayed them? (11.1.2)

    Themes of betrayal and loyalty are really important in this book. Here, Harry himself feels betrayed by all the adults who committed a lie of omission.

    Snape's sallow skin had gone the color of sour milk.

    "And did the headmaster tell you the circumstances in which your father saved my life?" he whispered. "Or did he consider the details too unpleasant for precious Potter's delicate ears?" (14.3.78-79)

    Once again, Harry's youth is an issue here, as it prevents him from hearing the whole truth about things. Contrast Snape's mean take on Harry's youth to Molly Weasley's protective streak towards "young" Harry earlier in the novel.

    "You killed my parents," said Harry, his voice shaking slightly, but his wand hand quite steady.

    Black stared up at him out of those sunken eyes.

    I don't deny it," he said very quietly. "But if you knew the whole story."

    "The whole story?" Harry repeated, a furious pounding in his ears. "You sold them to Voldemort. That's all I need to know." (17.104-107)

    This idea of the "whole story" is really significant. As Harry learns in this book, there aren't just truths and lies, but mixtures of the two. The "whole story" about Sirius is a really complicated thing and, for the angry Harry, it's almost easier to just get the slightly simpler version. The details in this passage are worth noting too – the body language and tones of voice tell us a lot of Sirius's and Harry's respective states of mind here.

    "NO!" Hermione screamed. "Harry, don't trust him, he's been helping Black get into the castle, he wants you dead too – he's a werewolf!"

    There was a ringing silence. Everyone's eyes were now on Lupin, who looked remarkably calm, though rather pale.

    "Not at all up to your usual standard, Hermione," he said. "Only one out of three, I'm afraid." (17.143-4)

    Though Hermione was rocking her Jack McCoy impersonation during her Q&A sessions with Black and Lupin, she gets a bit over-the-top here. Truths in this novel often do double-duty as bombshells, and the revelation about Lupin being a werewolf is no exception. We love how Lupin maintains his calm and droll demeanor in spite of all the drama.

    Lupin's face hardened, and there was self-disgust in his voice. "All this year, I have ben battling with myself, wondering whether I should tell Dumbledore that Sirius was an Animagus. But I didn't do it. Why? Because I was too cowardly. It would have meant admitting that I'd betrayed his trust while I was at school, admitting that I'd led others along with me [...] and Dumbledore's trust has meant everything to me." (18.52)

    Lupin delivers a rocking mini-soliloquy here, in which he gives us great insight into his character, and into the difficulty of confessing a wrong to someone we trust and admire.

    "But what about Sirius Black?" Hermione hissed. "He could be using one of the passages on that map to get into the castle! The teachers have got to know!"

    "He can't be getting in through a passage," said Harry quickly. [...]

    Harry hesitated. What if Black did know the passage was there? (10.3.85)

    The detail of Harry's super quick response to Hermione's super logical objection to the super cool Map (we'll stop now) is really key here. Harry doesn't want Hermione to be right, so he quickly comes up with a whole series of reasons why she's wrong, even as he's hesitating and wondering if she is indeed right. Sometimes the most dangerous lies are the ones we tell ourselves, which is a lesson Harry has to learn in Book 3.

  • Freedom and Confinement

    It took Harry several days to get used to his strange new freedom. Never before had he been able to get up whenever he wanted or eat whatever he fancied. He could even go wherever he pleased, so long as it was in Diagon Alley [...] (4.1.1)

    Harry sort of lives out everyone's childhood dream here – what would it be like to have no adult supervision? It's fitting that this novel starts out with Harry living out a child's fantasy since, for the rest of it, Harry has to do a lot of growing up, which is a largely unpleasant business. As we'll see, growing up can involve a lot of restrictions on that very freedom.

    He accompanied them to the entrance hall, where Filch, the caretaker, was standing inside the front doors, checking off names against a long list, peering suspiciously into every face, and making sure that no one was sneaking out who shouldn't be going. (8.4.5)

    The image here of Harry having to stay behind with Filch, who acts like a jail warden, is really powerful. Hogwarts has become a sort of prison for Harry.

    "The fortress is set on a tiny island, way out to sea, but they don't need walls and water to keep the prisoners in, not when they're all trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most of them go mad within weeks." (10.2.39)

    Azkaban is really the ultimate prison since it traps people within their own minds, the worst kind of entrapment, really. However, you don't have to be in Azkaban to experience that kind of entrapment. Take Snape, for instance, who's so consumed with rage over the past that he's basically trapped by it. What other characters are trapped in their own heads or by their own emotions?

    "I certainly believe his master's defeat unhinged him for a while. The murder of Pettigrew and all those Muggles was the action of a cornered and desperate man – cruel [...] pointless." (10.3.177)

    It's fascinating to revisit passages like this after learning the truth about Pettigrew (yeah, this book calls for a re-read). Peter is such a coward that you'd expect him to just beg for mercy when he's cornered. But he has a vicious streak as well as Houdini-like escape abilities, which make for a dangerous combination. Turns out the massacre that Black supposedly did whilst "unhinged" is even scarier than anyone realizes; it was actually the calculated act of a cruel and selfish man.

    "Where's Buckbeak, Hagrid?" said Hermione hesitantly.

    "I – I took him outside," said Hagrid, spilling milk all over the table as he filled up the jug. "He's tethered in me pumpkin patch. Thought he oughta see the trees an' – an' smell fresh air – before –." (16.2.9-10)

    Hagrid basically equates freedom with nature here, which is interesting given how often freedom and flying are linked together in this book.

    "Harry!" said a voice in his right ear. Harry started and looked around at Hermione, who was sitting at the table right behind them and clearing a space in the wall of books that had been hiding her. (14.1.49)

    We love how meaningful the details are here. First, we have Harry hearing Hermione's voice in his right ear, like one of those mini angels perched on his soldier, trying to drown out the voice of the mini devil on the other shoulder. This hints that Hermione might just be more than Captain Logic – she also functions as a sort of conscience for Harry, trying to get him to do the responsible and "right" thing. Second, the image of Hermione clearing a hole in her wall of books is perfect – it demonstrates how she's literally built up walls and trapped herself with her own overachiever tendencies.

    "I don't know how I did it," he said slowly. "I think the only reason I never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. That wasn't a happy thought, so the Dementors couldn't suck it out of me [...] but it kept me sane and knowing who I am [...] (19.124)

    Sirius finds a sort of freedom in his own efforts to remain sane. It seems like freedom boiled down to keeping a hold of his sense of self, which is probably still true outside of Azkaban.

    "I must admit Peter, I have difficulty in understanding why an innocent man would want to spend twelve years as a rat," said Lupin evenly. (19.104)

    Again, we see another kind of imprisonment, and another example of imprisonment by choice. Also, kudos to Lupin for being this book's breakout comedic star.

    "Well, in that case, Potter, you'll understand why I don't think it's a good idea for you to be practicing Quidditch in the evenings. Out on the field with only your team members, it's very exposed, Potter –." (9.2.8)

    Harry is frequently confined to the school or closely monitored during this book.

    Neither Ron nor Hermione felt like going, however, so they and Harry wandered onto the grounds, still talking about the extraordinary events of the previous night and wondering where Sirius and Buckbeak were now. (22.2.1)

    We find it really fitting and awesome that Harry and his friends choose to stay behind on the last Hogsmeade trip of the year. Harry spent the entire novel trying to go to Hogsmeade, and in the end it seems that the freedom Hogsmeade represented rather paled in comparison with the type of freedom he was able to give Sirius. There's even a sort of freedom in being with good friends that Harry discovers here; he doesn't need to go on a field trip to have that.

  • Friendship

    Knowing Hermione, he was sure it would be a large book full of very difficult spells – but it wasn't. His heart gave a huge bound as he ripped back the paper and saw a sleek black leather case, with silver words stamped across it, reading Broomstick Servicing Kit.

    "Wow, Hermione!" Harry whispered, unzipping the case to look inside. (1.63-4)

    Hermione may spend most of the book ticking off Harry (with her logic and her responsible behavior), but she is definitely a considerate friend.

    "– or we can ask Fred and George, they know every secret passage out of the castle –"

    "Ron!" said Hermione sharply. "I don't think Harry should be sneaking out of school with Black on the loose –." (5.93-4)

    Yet another great example of how Ron and Hermione approach the world in very different ways.

    Harry, Ron, and Hermione, however, were eager for it to finish so that they could talk to Hagrid. They knew how much being made a teacher would mean to him. (5.263)

    Friendships can span generation gaps. We love the image of Harry, Ron, and Hermione impatiently eating and waiting for the chance to run up and talk to Hagrid.

    "You need your Inner Eye tested, if you ask me," said Ron, and they both had to stifle their laughs as Professor Trelawney gazed in their direction. (6.1.85)

    Azkaban has lots of drama and excitement, but it also features lots of little scenes between friends, where they're laughing together or sharing a fun moment.

    "It's all Malfoy's fault,, Hagrid!" said Hermione earnestly.

    "We're witnesses," said Harry. [...] "We'll tell Dumbledore what really happened."

    "Yeah, don't worry Hagrid, we'll back you up," said Ron.

    Tears leaked out of the crinkled corners of Hagrid's beetle-black eyes. He grabbed both Harry and Ron and pulled them into a bone-breaking hug. (6.2.95-98)

    Even while supporting Hagrid, we can see the unique personalities of each member of the trio coming through here – Hermione is earnest, Harry is decisive, and Ron is reassuring.

    Crabbe and Goyle laughed openly, watching Neville sweat as he stirred his potion feverishly. Hermione was muttering instructions to him out of the corner of her mouth, so that Snape wouldn't see. (7.1.53)

    Neville doesn't play a huge role in this book, but his friendship with Hermione is a long-standing thing (since the first book, really) so it's nice to see a scene where she's got his back.

    "Excellent," said Fred, who had followed Harry through the portrait hole. "I need to visit Zonko's, I'm nearly out of Stink Pellets."

    Harry threw himself into a chair beside Ron, his spirits ebbing away. Hermione seemed to read his mind.

    "Harry, I'm sure you'll be able to go next time," she said. (8.1.29-31)

    Hermione's compassionate and perceptive nature comes out yet again here, as she quickly zeros in on Harry's sudden mopey attitude after hearing about Hogsmeade.

    Hermione went very red, put down her hand, and stared at the floor with her eyes full of tears. It was a mark of how much the class loathed Snape that they were all glaring at him, because every one of them had called Hermione a know-it-all at least once [...] (9.4.33)

    The Gryffindors function like a big family here, looking out for one of their own against the ultimate, bullying outsider, Snape.

    "Come on, Hermione, it's Christmas. Harry deserves a break."

    Hermione bit her lip, looking extremely worried.

    "Are you going to report me?" Harry asked her, grinning.

    "Oh – of course not – but honestly, Harry –" (10.3.89-92)

    We love the details about Hermione here – biting her lip, pausing between her words. She's such a worrywart.

    "Naturally," said Madame Rosmerta, with a small laugh. "Never saw one without the other, did you? The number of times I had them in here – ooh, how they used to make me laugh. Quite the double act, Sirius Black and James Potter!" (10.3.140)

    Rosmerta's description of Sirius and James as a "double act" make them sound an awful lot like Fred and George Weasley.

    "I gotta tell yeh, I thought you two'd value yer friend more'n broomsticks or rats. That's all."

    Harry and Ron exchanged uncomfortable looks. (14.1.40-41)

    Hagrid pretty much sums up the theme of friendship in this novel and in a way that teaches Ron and Harry a lesson without sounding like an after-school special. Well-played, Hagrid.


    OK, we take it back. Hagrid ties with Sirius Black for best summation of the book's friendship theme, though Sirius expresses a darker and more adult take on the theme.

    Without knowing what he was doing, he started forward, but there was a sudden movement on either side of him and two pairs of hands grabbed him and held him back [...] "No, Harry!" Hermione gasped in a petrified whisper; Ron, however, spoke to Black. "If you want to kill Harry, you'll have to kill us too!" he said fiercely, though the effort of standing upright was draining him of still more color [...] (19.79-80)

    Hermione and Ron's actions in this scene speak volumes about their friendship with Harry and about their own characters. Hermione, scared as she is, helps yank Harry back from danger while Ron, despite the pain he's in, manages to speak up boldly to Black.

  • Family

    The Dursleys had ignored his last two birthdays, and he had no reason to suppose they would remember this one. (1.26)

    This sentence pretty much sums up Harry's experience with the Dursleys and clues us in to the awful people that they are.

    "As I expected!"' said Aunt Marge, taking a huge swig of brandy and wiping her chin on her sleeve. "A no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger who –"

    "He was not," said Harry suddenly. The table went very quiet. Harry was shaking all over. He had never felt so angry in his life.


    "No, Vernon," hiccuped Aunt Marge, holding up a hand, her tiny bloodshot eyes fixed on Harry's. "Go on, boy, go on. Proud of your parents, are you? They go and get themselves killed in a car crash (drunk, I expect) -"

    "They didn't die in a car crash!" said Harry, who found himself on his feet. (2.3.17-21)

    As we discover in this book, nothing sets Harry off as fast as a disparaging remark about his family. We also love the irony of Aunt Marge dissing James for being a drunk loser while she herself is getting pretty wasted and belligerent at the moment.

    "I notice they haven't made you two prefects."

    "What do we want to be prefects for?" said George, looking revolted at the very idea. "It'd take all the fun out of life."

    Ginny giggled.

    "You want to set a better example for your sister!" snapped Mrs. Weasley.

    "Ginny's got other brothers to set her an example, Mother," said Percy loftily. [...]

    He disappeared and George heaved a sigh.

    "We tried to shut him up in a pyramid," he told Harry. "But Mum spotted us." (4.2.86-9)

    The interactions we see in Weasley clan are the best examples of family dynamics in the entire book.

    Mrs. Weasley kissed all her children, then Hermione, and finally, Harry. He was embarrassed, but really quite pleased, when she gave him an extra hug.

    "Do take care, won't you, Harry?" she said as she straightened up, her eyes oddly bright. Then she opened her enormous handbag and said "I've made you all sandwiches [...] Here you are, Ron [...] no, they're not corned beef [...] Fred? Where's Fred? Here you are, dear [...]" (5.24-5)

    Mrs. Weasley is definitely the mother figure of the book, and is really the sort of mom everyone wants – loving, considerate, and strict (hey, it's a good thing sometimes).

    Percy Weasley (acting, Harry suspected, on his mother's orders) was tailing him everywhere like an extremely pompous guard dog. (9.2.5)

    Percy shouldn't pursue a career as a spy. Details like this really emphasize how Harry is basically a part of the Weasley clan now. And they look out for their own.

    Everyone said the Dementors were horrible, but no one else collapsed every time they were near one. No one else heard echoes in their head of their dying parents. (10.1.4)

    Harry's status as an orphan is central to his character. Others define him as such, and Harry, interestingly enough, is fixated on his parents death himself. This has a lot to do with how they died, of course, and it's also worth remembering that Harry only learned how they died two years prior, in Book 1. He hasn't had much time to come to terms with that yet.

    "Your mum and dad wouldn't want you to get hurt, would they? They'd never want you to go looking or Black!"

    "I'll never know what they'd have wanted, because thanks to Black, I've never spoken to them," said Harry shortly. (11.2.27-8)

    This is a really tense scene and we can see how Ron and Hermione are out of their element here. They don't really know how to talk to Harry or comfort him about his parents. This is partly why the introduction of Lupin and Sirius in this book is so important – Harry also needs some adults he can confide in and talk to.

    "And the Acid Pops? Fred gave me one of those when I was seven – it burnt a hole right through my tongue. I remember Mum walloping him with her broomstick." Ron stared broodingly into the Acid Pop box. "Reckon Fred'd take a bit of a Cockroach Cluster if I told him they were peanuts?" (10.3.93)

    Ah, sibling rivalry. Thankfully, none of our siblings burnt a hole in our tongues with acid. We don't actually see Ron interact with his brothers a ton, even though they attend the same boarding school. But whenever they do interact, they're usually teasing or fighting – so, typical sibling antics.

    "Potter trusted Black beyond all his other friends. Nothing changed when they left school. Black was best man when James married Lily. Then they named him godfather to Harry." (10.3.145)

    The detail of Sirius becoming Harry's godfather represents how friends can become family over time and particularly as you grow up. We can already see this happening with the trio, who manage to survive a year of almost non-stop arguing and still emerge on the other side of it all as stronger friends.

    Rage such as he had not felt since his last night in Privet Drive was coursing through him. He didn't care that Snape's face had gone rigid, the black eyes flashing dangerously.

    "What did you say to me, Potter?"

    "I told you to shut up about my dad!" Harry yelled. (14.3.75-7)

    Great callback to the night Harry blew up at his aunt for shooting her mouth off about his family (and blew her up too, for that matter). Given how Harry's parents were practically martyred in the war with Voldemort, it's no wonder that he's overly-sensitive to any insult dished out at them.

    It was a stag. It was shining brightly as the moon above [...] it was coming back to him [...]

    It stopped on the bank. Its hooves made no mark on the soft ground as it stared at Harry with its large, silver eyes. Slowly, it bowed its antlered head. And Harry realized [...]

    "Prongs," he whispered.

    But as his trembling fingertips stretched toward the creature, it vanished. (21.301)

    This is definitely the emotional climax of the novel. The anticipation builds up, and we get the sense Harry is holding his breath, until Prongs finally vanishes. The detail about Harry's trembling fingers is really powerful too.

    "You know Harry, in a way you did see your father last night [...] You found him inside yourself." (22.3.56)

    Leave it to Dumbledore to perfectly sum up a theme for us. Dumbledore is saying that the people we've loved and lost are still a part of us. So Harry still has his parents with him after all.

  • Justice and Judgment

    "She deserved it," Harry said, breathing very fast. "She deserved what she got. You keep away from me." (2.3.30)

    Harry issues a rather harsh judgment against Aunt Marge here, and it's notably a judgment borne out of anger. The detail about Harry's quick breathing reveals just how agitated he is.

    Hagrid wasn't a fully qualified wizard; he had been expelled from Hogwarts in his third year for a crime he had not committed. It had been Harry, Ron, and Hermione who had cleared Hagrid's name last year. (5.264)

    The justice system in the wizarding world has definite flaws – it's an idea that got introduced in the second book, and we definitely learn more about it here.

    "Miss Dursley has been punctured and her memory has been modified. She has no recollection of the incident at all. So that's that, and no harm done."

    Fudge smiled at Harry over the rim of his teacup, rather like an uncle surveying a favorite nephew. Harry, who couldn't believe his ears, opened his mouth to speak, couldn't think of anything to say, and closed it again. (3.122-3)

    Harry gets a crash course in politics here, as Fudge opts to not punish him for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with actual rules or laws.

    "Five points from Gryffindor," said Snape, which wiped the smile from every face. "I told you not to help him, Miss Granger. Class dismissed." (7.1.62)

    Snape might be the most unfair teacher of all time and scenes with him usually reveal a lot of anger and frustration in his students/victims.

    Malfoy let out a low, sneering laugh.

    "Maybe you'd rather not risk your neck," he said. "Want to leave it to the Dementors, do you? But if it was me, I'd want revenge. I'd hunt him down myself." (7.1.54)

    Malfoy is a little punk, and his spiel about vigilante justice is definitely ironic, considering how much of a coward he is (see how he quits bullying Harry the second a teacher like Lupin appears, or how he rushes off after Hermione hits him, not willing to risk an actual all-out fight with her).

    The map was one of those dangerous magical objects Mr. Weasley had been warning him against [...] but then, Harry reasoned, he only wanted to use it to get into Hogsmeade, it wasn't as though he wanted to steal anything or attack anyone [...] and Fred and George had been using years without anything horrible happening [...] (10.3.52)

    Harry's judgment is definitely biased here. Stylistically, we get a series of clauses where Harry tries to convince himself that using the Map is OK. The clauses emphasize how quickly Harry is thinking and how desperate he is to justify his decision to use the Map.

    Did he realize he was facing twelve years in Azkaban, twelve years that would make him unrecognizable?

    But the Dementors don't affect him, Harry thought, staring into the handsome, laughing face. He doesn't have to hear my mum screaming if they get too close . (11.1.5-6)

    It's interesting that Harry feels some compassion at first for the happy young man in the picture, before remembering what he heard about how Black is holding up freakishly well in prison. Harry concludes that Black isn't being punished enough since Harry is still suffering.

    "Don't be silly," said Hermione, in a panicky voice. "Harry doesn't want to kill anyone, do you, Harry?"

    Again, Harry didn't answer. He didn't know what he wanted to do, All he knew was that the idea of doing nothing, while Black was at liberty, was almost more than he could stand." (11.2.19-20)

    Harry definitely has to deal with a major moral dilemma after learning what he thinks is the truth about Black. Should he avenge his parents' death or not? Though the answer to that is definitely no (or this book series would have taken a very odd turn), but reaching that conclusion is a definite struggle for Harry. See the scene where he freezes when trying to kill Sirius.

    He had forgotten about magic – he had forgotten that he was short and skinny and thirteen, whereas Black was a tall, full-grown man – all Harry could think was that he wanted to hurt Black as badly as he could and that he didn't care how much he got hurt in return –. (17.88)

    It's fitting that this scene, in which Harry is consumed by anger, focuses so much on forgetting. His entire world has boiled down to the desire to hurt Black.

    Professor Snape is here at school with us. [...] Sirius here played a trick on him which nearly killed him, a trick which involved me –"

    Black made a derisive noise.

    "It served him right," he sneered. "Sneaking around, trying to find out what we were up to [...] hoping he could get us expelled [...]" (18.55-7)

    Sirius's idea of justice could use some adjustment. It's really interesting that he says essentially the same thing about Snape as he later does about Peter. He has nothing but contempt for people who "sneak" around and try to cause problems for others.

    "See here, Snape, be reasonable," said Fudge. "This door's been locked, we just saw –"

    "THEY HELPED HIM ESCAPE, I KNOW IT!" Snape howled, pointing at Harry and Hermione. His face was twisted; spit was flying from his mouth.

    "Calm down, man!" Fudge barked. "You're talking nonsense!" (22.1.36-8)

    It's fitting that Snape gets a taste of his own medicine here. He's usually horribly unfair to everyone else, so it's fitting that he gets to experience an unfair situation too, where he basically gets screwed over.

    Black and Lupin were looking at each other. Then, with one movement, they lowered their wands.

    "You're the only person who has the right to decide, Harry," said Black. "But think [...] think what he did [...]"

    "He can go to Azkaban," Harry repeated. "If anyone deserves that place, he does [...]" (19.175-7)

    Harry's phrasing here is very interesting. He refers to Azkaban as "that place," implying that it's truly awful. But he decides that Peter really does deserve it, even if no one else really does.

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    "Poor Crookshanks, that witch said he'd been in there for ages, no one wanted him." (4.2.61)

    Hermione's compassionate nature appears most clearly in her interactions with, and long-running defense of, poor unlovable Crookshanks (who turns out to be smarter than anyone else in the book – pretty cool). Don't judge a book by a its cover, or an ugly cat by its ugly face.

    "Well, look at it logically," said Hermione, turning to the rest of the group. "I mean, Binky didn't even die today, did he? Lavender just got the news today – " Lavender wailed loudly "– and she can't have been dreading it, because it's come as a real shock –"

    Don't mind Hermione, Lavender," said Ron loudly, "she doesn't think other people's pets matter very much." (8.2.21-2)

    Hermione is super compassionate, but there's a definite flip-side to her personality: relentless logic. In the tradition of Agent Scully, Agent Brennan on Bones, and Christina Yang on Grey's Anatomy, Hermione is often so extremely logical that she becomes horribly unsympathetic. The detail about Lavender wailing in the midst of Hermione's spiel is really spot-on.

    "Pettigrew [...] that fat little boy who was always tagging around after them at Hogwarts?" said Madam Rosmerta.

    "Hero-worshipped Black and Potter," said Professor McGonagall. "Never quite in the same league, talent-wise. I was often rather sharp with him. You can imagine how I – how I regret that now [...]" She sounded as though she had a sudden head cold. (1067-8)

    The details we learn about Pettigrew create a lot of sympathy for him among the trio, and among readers. Even the usually stern McGonagall is moved by the situation.

    Ron and Hermione glanced quickly at Harry, as though expecting him to start berating Hagrid for not telling him the truth about Black. But Harry couldn't bring himself to do it, not now that he saw Hagrid so miserable and scared. (11.2.66)

    It's interesting that Ron and Hermione seem to think that Harry's temper is so extreme that he'll go off on Hagrid even when Hagrid is clearly upset. Anger management classes might be in Harry's future, at this rate.

    Harry knew that Hermione had meant well, but that didn't stop him from being angry with her. He had been the owner of the best broom in the world for a few short hours, and now, because of her interference, he didn't know whether he would ever see it again. (12.1.1)

    Harry clearly tries to be sympathetic towards Hermione, but he can't quite manage it. The words used to describe the broom, such as "best" and "few short hours," make it sound like Harry just met and lost the love of his life. The narrator is sort of making fun of Harry even as the narrative sympathizes with him.

    "Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"

    "Stand aside, you silly girl [...] stand aside, now [...]"

    "Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead
    –" (9.5.45-7)

    The scenes in which Harry has to listen to his mother plead with Voldemort are almost hard to read. Lily's desperation and fear, as she begs for mercy, come across powerfully here.

    "You know what – we should try to make up with Hermione [...] She was only trying to help [...]"

    "Yeah, all right," said Ron. (12.5.38-9)

    The first time the boys go to make up with Hermione, it's clear that they haven't really learned their lesson. They only decide to go make up with her after Harry gets his Firebolt back – they pretty much never forgive her while the Firebolt is still AWOL.

    Hermione burst into tears. Before Harry could say or do anything, she tucked the enormous book under her arm, and still sobbing, ran toward the staircase to the girls' dormitories and out of sight.

    "Can't you give her a break?" Harry asked Ron quietly.

    The image of Hermione running off, sobbing, is really painful. Though it's kind of pathetically funny that, even in her extreme distress, she remembers to bring her book with her. Poor kid.

    "No," said Ron flatly. "If she just acted like she was sorry – but she'll never admit she's wrong, Hermione." (13.3.10-2)

    Ron's stubbornness and, dare we say, competitiveness, drown out any compassion he might otherwise feel for Hermione.

    They heard the Howler go off in the entrance hall – Neville's grandmother's voice, magically magnified to a hundred times its usual volume, shrieking about how he had brought shame on the whole family.

    Harry was too busy feeling sorry for Neville to notice immediately that he had a letter too. (14.1.16-7)

    We feel horrible for Neville, which is probably the point. Can you imagine hearing your parent's shrieking voice, magnified, in hearing range of everyone you know, bawling you out for doing something stupid? Yikes.

    Hermione flung her arms around Ron's neck and broke down completely. Ron, looking quite terrified, patted her very awkwardly on the top of the head. Finally, Hermione drew away.

    "Ron, I'm really, really sorry about Scabbers [...]" she sobbed.

    "Oh – well – he was old," said Ron, looking thoroughly relieved that she had let go of him. (15.1.8-10)

    It's fitting that Ron doesn't extend the proverbial olive branch to Hermione out of compassion so much as he does out of fear. He's clearly freaked out by her breakdown and he probably would have said just about anything to get her to let go of him and stop crying. Which is pretty funny, really.

    "If you made a better rat than a human, it's not much to boast about, Peter," said Black harshly. Ron, going still paler with pain, wrenched his broken leg out of Pettigrew's reach. Pettigrew turned on his knees, staggered forward, and seized the hem of Hermione's robes.

    "Sweet girl [...] clever girl [...] you – you won't let them [...] Help me [...]"
    Hermione pulled her robes out of Pettigrew's clutching hands and backed away against the wall, looking horrified. (19.150-2)

    Peter's efforts to elicit compassion from those around him backfire spectacularly. As he begs for mercy and tries to appeal to the kids, Peter becomes even more disgusting and awful. We love the details of how Ron and Hermione physically back away from Peter.

    "When one wizard saves another wizard's life, it creates a certain bond between them [...] and I'm much mistaken if Voldemort wants his servant in the debt of Harry Potter."

    "I don't want a connection with Pettigrew!" said Harry. "He betrayed my parents!"

    "This is magic at its deepest and most impenetrable, Harry." (22.3.44-6)

    The idea that emotions are linked to magic is a running motif in the Harry Potter books. We see it with Harry's anger, as when he inflates his aunt, and here when he acts with compassion.

    "I knew your father very well, both at Hogwarts and later, Harry," he said gently. "He would have saved Pettigrew too. I am sure of it." (22.3.48)

    This little detail makes us intensely curious about Dumbledore's relationship with James. But beyond that, we love the fact that Dumbledore reassures Harry and tells him that James would have spared Peter too. We even get confirmation of this through a past act of James's: when he saved Snape from a prank gone awry. James clearly wasn't a violent man and didn't want to see people get hurt, even if they were punks.

  • Education

    This separation from his spellbooks had been a real problem for Harry, because his teachers at Hogwarts had given him a lot of holiday homework. (1.7)

    Little details like this highlight not only how awful the Dursleys are, but also how divided Harry is – he essentially exists in two worlds. We'd wager that if he attended a Muggle school, his aunt and uncle wouldn't go so far as to lock up his books for the summer.

    "What are you taking Muggle Studies for?" said Ron, rolling his eyes at Harry. "You're Muggle-born! Your mum and dad are Muggles! You already know all about Muggles!"

    "But it'll be fascinating to study them from the wizarding point of view," said Hermione earnestly. (4.2.19-20)

    Hermione's philosophy on education seems to be to learn as much as you possibly can about every subject. And that even applies to subjects you already know a lot about – there's always more to learn. Hermione's emphasis on the importance of "point of view" here is thematically significant too (see the time travel adventure, which is all about gaining new perspectives on events).

    "But everyone knows that," said Hermione in a loud whisper. Professor Trelawney stared at her.

    "Well, they do," said Hermione. "Everybody knows about Harry and You-Know-Who."

    Harry and Ron stared at her with a mixture of amazement and admiration. They had never heard Hermione speak to a teacher like that before. (6.1.93-5)

    We really love the hardcore, rule-breaking Hermione that comes out to play during this book. Her reaction to Trelawney shows us that while Hermione respects authority (certainly more than her BFFs do) she doesn't respect it blindly. Some "authority" figures, like Trelawney, clearly aren't deemed worthy of respect.

    Professor McGonagall broke off, and they saw that her nostrils had gone white. She went on, more calmly. "Divination is one of the most imprecise branches of magic. I shall not conceal from you that I have very little patience with it. True Seers are very rare, and Professor Trelawney –" (6.1.126)

    Listening to McGonagall here is like listening to Hermione in a few decades, don't you think? It's fascinating how similar the two women are, in some respects. Their mutual dislike of Trelawney certainly binds them together, but it's their shared reasons for disliking Trelawney that really make the connection interesting. Both of them find Trelawney illogical and ridiculous, implying that these two gals value rationality and logic above all else.

    "Why don't you just drop a couple of subjects?" Harry asked, watching her lifting books as she searched for her rune dictionary.

    "I couldn't do that!" said Hermione, looking scandalized. (12.5.63-4)

    The use of the word "scandalized" really sums up Hermione's over-achiever tendencies. She takes her schooling as a point of pride and quitting a subject would be like some sort of defeat to her.

    Trying to answer a question with Hermione next to him, bobbing up and down on the balls of her feet with her hand in the air was very off-putting, but Harry had a go. (7.2.34)

    The image of Hermione practically jumping up and down in eagerness is really vivid, as well as funny.

    Rude and unmanageable as he almost always was, Peeves usually showed some respect toward the teachers. Everyone looked quickly at Professor Lupin to see how he would take it; to their surprise, he was still smiling.
    "I'd take the gum out of the keyhole if I were you, Peeves," he said pleasantly. "Mr. Filch won't be able to get to his brooms." (7.2.8-9)

    Lupin's encounter with Peeves tells us a lot about his character, oddly enough. First, we get a sense of how cool, calm, and collected Lupin is. Second, we get a peek at Lupin's very dry sense of humor. And third, we get a point re-emphasized to us: that Lupin is pretty young and that he experienced Hogwarts before as a student. He's in a rather odd position at the moment, as an ex-student now returning as a teacher.

    Harry was also growing to dread the hours he spent in Professor Trelawney's stifling tower room, deciphering lopsided shapes and symbols, trying to ignore the way Professor Trelawney's enormous eyes filled with tears every time she looked at him. He couldn't like her, even though she was treated with respect bordering on reverence by many of the class. (8.1.5)

    The diction used to describe Trelawney's class, such as "stifling" and "deciphering," emphasizes just how confusing and ridiculous her class is.

    Nobody really liked Care of Magical Creatures, which, after the action-packed first class, had become extremely dull. Hagrid seemed to have lost his confidence. (8.1.6)

    We get some great insight into teaching here: it's largely about confidence, like so many things are in life.

    They sat and made notes on werewolves from the textbook, while Snape prowled up and down the rows of desks, examining the work they had been doing with Professor Lupin.

    "Very poorly explained [...] That is incorrect, the kappa is more commonly found in Mongolia [...] Professor Lupin gave this eight out of ten? I wouldn't have given it a three [...]" (9.4.36-7)

    Snape once again wins Worst Teacher of the Year (and possibly of All Time) here. Though we have to admit: his running commentary on the students' essays is hilarious, albeit extremely mean.

    "You're expecting too much of yourself," said Professor Lupin sternly in their fourth week of practice. "For a thirteen-year-old wizard, even an indistinct Patronus is a huge achievement. You aren't passing out anymore are you?" (12.5.4)

    Contrast the cruel and bitter Professor Snape with the compassionate and encouraging Lupin, who teaches actual life lessons to Harry and his friends. Lupin acts as a true mentor to Harry and their scenes together shed light on nearly all of the book's major themes.