Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’: Chapter 21

In the twenty-first chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry awakes to discover Snape dooming Sirius Black to death. Dumbledore arrives with some bad news, but Hermione’s bizarre secret ends up helping them to save the day. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.


We are having a Hermione party today. We haven’t had one, I believe, but she completely saves everything by being her overachieving, having-all-the-logics self.

Harry awakes in the Infirmary to the sounds of Snape summarizing the events of the last couple hours to Cornelius Fudge. Of course, he’s got everything backwards, not the least because he was unconscious for at least one of those hours. Which sort of says a lot about Snape as a person, if you think about it. Despite that he wasn’t even remotely aware of what just happened, he presumes to know everything.

He predictably wants to assure that Harry, Hermione, and Ron get in serious trouble. Sigh. Oh, Snape, when will you ever learn that this just doesn’t happen? Except…well, this situation does prove to be pretty dire and I got freaked out a bit.

When Dumbledore shows up and demands to speak to Hermione and Harry alone, Snape is pretty indignant that there’s the possibility that the Headmaster will listen to two thirteen-year old wizards. Even I expected that Dumbledore would lessen my fears for the situation.

  • “It is your turn to listen, and I beg you will not interrupt me, because there is very little time,” he said quietly. “There is not a shred of proof to support Black’s story, except your word–and the word of two thirteen-year-old wizards will not convince anybody. A street full of eyewitnesses swore they saw Sirius murder Pettigrew. I myself gave the evidence to the Ministry that Sirius had been the Potters’ Secret-Keeper.”

    “Professor Lupin can tell you–” Harry said, unable to stop himself.

    “Professor Lupin is currently deep in the forest, unable to tell anyone anything. By the time he is human again, it will be too late, Sirius will be worse than dead. I might add that werewolves are so mistrusted by most of our kind that his support will count for very little–and the fact that he and Sirius are old friends–“


    “Listen to me, Harry. It is too late, you understand me? You must see that Professor Snape’s version of events is far more convincing than yours.”

Wait. So….wait. There’s nothing Dumbledore can do this time? You mean there isn’t a big scary adult who can just fix my problems anymore?

  • Harry stared up into the grave face and felt as though the ground beneath him were falling sharply away. He had grown used to the idea that Dumbledore could solve anything. He had expected Dumbledore to pull some amazing solution out of the air. But no…their last hope was gone.

Jesus. Oh god. I had a feeling this wouldn’t end well, and this paragraph is like…the most depressing thing ever. HEY HARRY YOU ARE GROWING UP GOOD LUCK DUDE.

  • “What we need,” said Dumbledore slowly, and his light blue eyes moved from harry to Hermione, “is more time.”

    “But–” Hermione began. And then her eyes became very round. “OH!”


  • “Now, pay attention,” said Dumbledore, speaking very low, and very clearly. “Sirius is locked in Professor Flitwick’s office on the seventh floor. Thirteenth window from the right of the West Tower. If all goes well, you will be able to save more than one innocent life tonight. But remember this, both of you: you must not be seen. Miss Granger, you know the law–you know what is at stake….You–must–not–be–seen.”


  • “I am going to lock you in. It is–” he consulted his watch, “five minutes to midnight. Miss Granger, three turns should do it. Good luck.”

Seriously this is mind-boggling. Three turns of what?

  • But Hermione was fumbling with the neck of her robes, pulling from beneath them a very long, very fine gold chain.

    “Harry, come here,” she said urgently. “Quick!”

    Harry moved toward her, completely bewildered. She was holding the chain out. He saw a tiny, sparkling hourglass hanging from it.


    She had thrown the chain around his neck too.

    “Ready?” she said breathlessly.

    “What are we doing?” Harry said, completely lost.

    Hermione turned the hourglass over three times.

oh. my. god. Wait…is this??

  • “We’ve gone back in time,” Hermione whispered, lifting the chain of Harry’s neck in the darkness. “Three hours back…”


  • “Where did you get that hourglass thing?”

    “It’s called a Time-Turner,” Hermione whispered, “and I got it from Professor McGonagall on our first day back. I’ve been using it all year to get to all my lessons. Professor McGonagall made me swear I wouldn’t tell anyone. She had to write all sorts of letters to the Ministry of Magic so I could have one. She had to tell them I was a model student, and that I’d never, ever use it for anything except my studies….I’ve been turning it back so I could do hours over again, that’s how I’ve been doing several lessons at once, see?”

You guys. Seriously. One of my favorite tropes in science fiction is time travel. Like…nearly any show or book or comic book that deals with it is is ALREADY MY FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD.


Even better: Dumbledore is actually supporting the use of time travel to save Sirius Black and onnnnnnneeee other thing:

  • “Dumbledore just said–just said we could save more than one innocent life….” And then it hit him. “Hermione, we’re going to save Buckbeak!”

oh SHIT YES THIS RULES. Except…wait. You are time traveling and you’re about to alter the past. Surely there are ground rules to all of this? And how exactly is this going to work?

I do love that, first of all, Rowling recognizes the inherent complexity of time travel. And by setting some simple rules, she does make it much more easy to stomach than other ambitious attempts I’ve read.

First of all, let’s talk about the obvious: Do not be seen. This is a simple way for Dumbledore (and Rowling) to avoid the easy trap of time travel: paradoxes! Not only does it add a heavy dose of suspense to the narrative, it also prevents her from having to deal with characters seeing each other and not having addressed that in the story.

But on to the suspense issue. As if I needed any more stress on my brain and heart, Rowling is a mad genius who forces her characters to relive the painful and traumatic last bit of their lives. So Hermione and Harry have to watch themselves enter the Whomping Willow, watch Lupin follow them, watch Snape follow him, and then watch the violent chaos that happens when they all emerge. This. Is. Brilliant. The main appeal (and temptation) of time travel is the desire to change the past. And these two characters are faced with an experience that’s full of that exact temptation: Should they stop Snape from entering the Whomping Willow? Should they catch Scabbers/Pettigrew so he doesn’t escape and create the clusterfuck in the future?

Leave it to Hermione to realize the grim fate they might face if they interfere, because she sticks steadfast to their goal: freeing Buckbeak when no one is looking, and then flying him to Professor Flitwick’s office so Sirius can escape.

And Harry’s tempted, all right, but I was very impressed by how rational Hermione was about such a bizarre and absurd situation, even when she had to watch herself get hurt.

This isn’t to say that she’s not without a bit of curiosity herself. She brings up a good point to Harry after they watch Snape enter the tunnel under the Whomping Willow: Who created the Patronus that saved them all from the dementors?

Harry isn’t as easily determined in this regard, because he thinks he knows who saved them all:

  • “No,” said Harry. “He wasn’t a teacher.”

    “But it must be a really powerful wizard, to drive all those dementors away….If the Patronus was shining so brightly, didn’t it light him up? Couldn’t you see–?”

    “Yeah, I saw him,” said Harry slowly. “But…maybe I imagined it….I wasn’t thinking straight….I passed out right afterward….”

    “Who did you think it was?”

    “I think–Harry swallowed, knowing how strange this was going to sound. “I think it was my dad.”

Dear J.K. Rowling: I already have no brain left. Please stop this.

And once that thought is in Harry’s brain, he can’t resist. They hide in Hagrid’s hut when they realize Lupin will spot them as he is turning into a werewolf; Harry uses this opportunity to convince Hermione that he needs to be outside to see when it’s best for them to sneak up to Sirius.

That’s when Harry totally blows my mind.

  • There was a bush at the very edge of the water. Harry threw himself behind it, peering desperately through the leaves. On the opposite bank, the glimmers of silver were suddenly extinguished. A terrified excitement shot through him–any moment now–

    “Come on!” he muttered, staring about. “Where are you? Dad, come on–“

    But no one came. Harry raised his head to look at the circle of dementors across the lake. One of them was lowering its hood. It was time for the rescuer to appear–but no one was coming to help this time–

    And then it hit him–he understood. He hadn’t seen his father–he had seen himself

Unbelievable. Look at that skillful synchronicity right there. That is….holy shit, you are a genius, J.K. Rowling.

  • 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.

Possibly one of the saddest things in this whole book. In a good way, but holy god. Are you trying to make me cry, Rowling?

One last thing I want to point out before I talk about the next liveblog. Harry and Hermione help Sirius Black escape and Rowling reduces me to a sad child again:

  • “We’ll see each other again,” he said. “You are–truly your father’s son, Harry….”

    He squeezed Buckbeak’s sides with his heels. Harry and Hermione jumped back as the enormous wings rose once more….The hippogriff took off into the air….He and his rider became smaller and smaller as Harry gazed after them…then a cloud drifted across the moon….They were gone.

I won’t lie. And this is totally a testament to how bizarrely attached I have become to these books. But I actually started to tear up reading this.

Good lord, what have I become?

A note about livebloggy-ness. The official date and time for our third installment in the Mark Watches Harry Potter movie liveblog will be Wednesday, July 14, at 12:00pm PST. That’s 3:00pm on the east coast and 8:00pm in London. I’ll post the entry tomorrow after I post my final Prisoner of Azkaban review.

Almost done! In the meantime, as promised: HERMIONE PARTY IN THE COMMENTS!!!!!