Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’: Chapter 12

In the twelfth chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry tries his best to manage his grief over losing the Firebolt by taking anti-dementor lessons with Professor Lupin. And just when things look like they’re finally working out for Harry, everything is sad and stressful again. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.


I think some of the best moments of the series are in this chapter.

Something I’ve been (briefly) discussing in the comments with people (mainly bradsmith) is that there are still errors and problems with Rowling’s writing style. I’ve been ignoring them because I’m so caught up in the story and the characters, but, while she’s definitely getting better, there’s a lot of “listing” that appears.

Rowling is definitely talented and I don’t want this to seem as any sort attack on her work as a whole. I’m enjoying this greatly and, so far, this is easily my favorite book of the series, no doubt about that. But I’m reviewing these for a reason and I don’t want my rabid obsession great enjoyment of them to cloud my critical eye.

Perhaps I’m afraid of people saying, WELL YOU ARE TOO EASY ON ROWLING THAT ISN’T FAIR SINCE YOU BASICALLY THREW MEYER INTO A GARBAGE DISPOSAL AND LEFT IT ON A REALLY LONG TIME. Which I did, by the way. That’s a pretty accurate metaphor for what happened with that series.

It’s a bit harder for me to step away from these books and say, HEY WHAT IS THIS SHUT UP U R DUM or anything because I’m having such a good time.

ANYWAY. Point of all this: I am aware of some of the problems this series has so far and I’m not ignoring them because I want to marry J.K. Rowling. (I kind of do? Fuck boys.) I ignore some of these things for a greater narrative purpose; for example, today’s other review wouldn’t have had the same emotional impact had I interjected my dislike of her “listing” amidst the saddest GIFS of all time. I was trying to make a point and chose to ignore some things that may have distracted from it.

I’m trying to be a good critical thinker. I promise!

There are few examples of Rowling’s “list” style in chapter 12, but this is also a section where the plot twists and character development completely outshine any mistake I could find.

  • Ron was furious with Hermione too. As far as he was concerned, the stripping-down of a brand-new Firebolt was nothing less than criminal damage. Hermione, who remained convinced that she had acted for the best, started avoiding the common room. Harry and Ron supposed she had taken refuge in the library and didn’t try to persuade her to come back. All in all, they were glad when the rest of the school returned shortly after New Year, and Gryffindor Tower became crowded and noisy again.

Obviously, this paragraph serves a very specific purpose and it serves the purpose well: we’re given critical information about the effects of Hermione’s action. We can now move past this point onto the events that follow in chapter 12.

And there’s not necessarily a problem with this; nearly every author ever has to do it. It’s unavoidable, for the most part. But Rowling relies heavy on this in her books so far. I imagine part of it is that while the subject of her novels aren’t childish, she’s still got to write so that kids who are eleven, twelve, thirteen, and so on, can still read them.

I mean…I remember trying to read Proust when I was thirteen. (If that isn’t a very specific window into my bizarre childhood, then you clearly do not know me.) Note that I said “trying.” I failed. Rowling would fail too if she tried to write these books like that.

Still, it’s something to think about, right?

Chapter 12 highlights the growing tension between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, most especially between Ron and Hermione. Those two certainly exist on opposite ends of the personality spectrum and….well, seriously, they’re going to totally kiss in a later book, right? I don’t think Rowling’s making it obvious at all, but I feel like there should be some Ron/Hermione shipping going on in the distant future. They’re basically a married couple now, amirite? DON’T TELL ME, THOUGH.

Check it:

  • “I said I wonder what’s wrong with Lupin, and you–”

    “Well, isn’t it obvious?” said Hermione, with a look of maddening superiority.

    “If you don’t want to tell us, don’t,” snapped Ron.

    “Fine,” said Hermione haughtily, and she marched off.

    “She doesn’t know,” said Ron, staring resentfully after Hermione. “She’s just trying to get us to talk to her again.”


This is a good passage, though, because it’s a pretty darn accurate depiction of how most of us, when we were snotty teenagers, dealt with a world that wasn’t quite our perfect worldview. To Ron, talking to McGonagall is treason. To Hermione, it’s perfectly sensible. And when these worlds collide, we get passive-aggressive bullshit and petty arguing.


She also knows how to create characters and ideas that are so wonderfully brilliant that I’m curious to know if she’s, like, in league with Satan or something.

  • “Well, when it works correctly, it conjures up a Patronus,” said Lupin, “which is a kind of anti-dementor–a guardian that acts as a shield between you and the dementor.”

    Harry suddenly had a vision of himself crouching behind a Hagrid-sized figure holding a large club. Professor Lupin continued, “The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementor feeds upon–hope, happiness, the desire to survive–but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the dementors can’t hurt it.”

Not only is this such a rad bit of poetric symmetry, it also serves as a fantastic moment for Rowling to ruminate a bit more on the nature of depression and what has helped a lot of people (certainly Rowling and myself) deal with the debilitating experience.

  • “What does a Patronus look like?” said Harry curiously.

    “Each one is unique to the wizard who conjures it.”

    “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.”

The subtext to this is also important: there is no cure-all for depression. What works for you isn’t going to work for someone else.

Oh god, I love this.

  • A dementor rose slowly from the box, its hooded face turned toward Harry, one glistening, scabbed hand gripping its cloak. The lamps around the classroom flickered and went out. The dementor stepped from the box and started to sweep silently toward Harry, drawing a deep, rattling breath. A wave of piercing cold broke over him–

    “Expecto patronum!” Harry yelled. “Expecto patronum! Expecto–“

    But the classroom and the dementor were dissolving….Harry was falling again through thick white fog, and his mother’s voice was louder than ever, echoing inside his head–“Not Harry! Not Harry! Please–I’ll do anything–”

    “Stand aside. Stand aside, girl!”


    Harry jerked back to life. He was lying flat on his back on the floor. The classroom lamps were alight again. He didn’t have to ask what had happened.

First of all, I’m glad Harry didn’t find success in his initial attempt. I mean…story wise. Obviously, it would be great if EVERYTHING FINALLY WORKED FOR HARRY, but he’s a 13-year-old wizard and a spell of this magnitude shouldn’t be a piece of cake. And it’s not.

He first latches on to the memory of riding a broom for the first time. Not happy enough. He tries a second time with the thought of winning the Gryffindor cup the year before.

He fails again. Only this time, something different happens:

  • White fog obscured his senses…big, blurred shapes were moving around him…then came a new voice, a man’s voice, shouting, panicking–

    “Lily, take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off–”

    The sounds of someone stumbling from a room–a door bursting open–a cackle of high-pitched laughter–

    “Harry! Harry…wake up….”

Yeah. He hears his father for the first time. What??? Why are his memories slowly becoming even more traumatic than before?

Harry experiences some success from remembering the moment when Hagrid told him he was a wizard and would be leaving the Dursleys. I found it interesting that this works because it’s a moment where Harry realizes he can escape a painful, traumatic experience. Does that sort of revelation provide more happiness to a person?

(I think it does.)

Harry questions Lupin about Sirius Black after Lupin reveals that he knew Harry’s father; it’s kind of an awkward moment and it’s not really helping me figure out what is going on with Lupin.

Obviously, something is making him appear sick. Harry is drained after his experiences; perhaps Lupin is being drained by the dementors? And…he doesn’t like crystal balls? And Professor Trelawney predicted he’ll die…ugh. I DON’T KNOW I CANNOT FIGURE THIS OUT BRAIN HURT

Harry also begins the healing process in this chapter, with the first instance of him attempting to reconcile his own pain over the loss of his parents:

  • “They’re dead,” he told himself sternly. “They’re dead and listening to echoes of them won’t bring them back. You’d better get a grip on yourself if you want that Quidditch cup.”

We are watching Harry begin to grow up. ::tear::

We also revisit this strange Hermione business again; Ron is still weirded out by the fact that she is apparently taking class simultaneously. No, like, appearing physically in two places at the exact same time.


I have no idea how this relates to the general narrative and I have no idea how Hermione is cloning herself. Is this a way for Rowling to talk to us about overachievement and spreading one’s self too thin? WHO KNOWS.

Harry’s anti-dementors lessons aren’t going as planned either. And Rowling actually includes a bit which I think gives a clue as to why he can’t produce a full Patronus:

  • Several sessions on, he was able to produce an indistinct, silvery shadow every time the boggart-dementor approached him, but his Patronus was too feeble to drive the dementor away. All it did was hover, like a semi-transparent cloud, draining Harry of energy as he fought to keep it there. Harry felt angry with himself, guilty about his secret desire to hear his parents’ voices again.

Yeah, how heartbreaking is that? So while Harry is making progress towards reconciliation, he’s still got a long way to go.

Of course, it doesn’t help when Harry asks Lupin questions like this:

  • “What’s under a dementor’s hood?”


  • “Hmmm…well, the only people who really know are in no condition to tell us. You see, the dementor lowers its hood only to use its last and worst weapon.”

    “What’s that?”

    “They call it the Dementor’s Kiss,” said Lupin, with a slightly twisted smile. “It’s what the dementors do to those they wish to destroy utterly. I suppose there must be some kind of mouth under there, because they clamp their jaws upon the mouth of the victim and–and suck out his soul.”

    Harry accidentally spat out a bit of butterbeer.

    “What–they kill–?”

    “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. And your soul is gone forever…lost.”

Thanks, Rowling, for taking an already nightmarish creature and making it a thousand times more nightmarish.

Good lord.

Harry gets his Firebolt broom back from McGonagall. It’s not really that important, though, because something else distracts everyone else: the possible death of Scabbers.

  • Hermione was leaning away from Ron, looking utterly bewildered. Harry looked down at the sheet Ron was holding. There was something red on it. Something that looked horribly like–

    “BLOOD!” Ron yelled into the stunned silence. “HE’S GONE! AND YOU KNOW WHAT WAS ON THE FLOOR?”

    “N–no,” said Hermione in a trembling voice.

    Ron threw something down onto Hermione’s rune translation. Hermione and Harry leaned forward. Lying on top of the weird silky shapes were several long, ginger cat hairs.

So much for the Ron/Hermione shippers. :/