The third installment of J.K. Rowlings bestselling Harry Potter series features the looming threat of the supposedly dark wizard Sirius Black. Black has escaped from Azkaban, the wizard's prison. Throughout the book Black seems hellbent on finding, and possibly killing, the 13-year-old Harry Potter. As usual, Harry is accompanied on his many wizarding adventures by his best friends, the red-haired Ronaldo Weasly and the over-achieving Hermione Granger.
The Aunt Marge Blow Up
The story begins as almost all in the series begin, with Harry spending the summer between school years with his mean-spirited, non-magical Aunt and Uncle Dursley and their bullying son Dudley. His uncle's sister, Aunt Marge, takes to picking on Harry, who in a fit of rage accidentally uses magic to blow Marge up like a balloon. Harry flees the rage of his aunt and uncle and the law because underage magic is strictly forbidden outside of his school, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. While fleeing, Harry runs into the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, who assures Harry that he's in no trouble over the Aunt Marge incident.
Dementors and Black's Breakout
Harry soon discovers that his pardon is due to his need to be protected by the heavy magic shields of Horgwarts. The escaped prisoner, Sirius Black, is a follower of the dark Lord Voldemort, the most powerful evil wizard of all time. Black is after Voldemort's most famous foiler, Harry. Soul-sucking Azkaban prison guards have been placed around Hogwarts for extra protection, but the wraiths can't seem to tell friend from foe, and end up causing more harm than good.
To defend Harry from the dementors, Harry's Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, a werewolf named Lupin, teaches Harry how to conjure a patronus. A patronus is a protective, ghost-like animal. Lupin was close friends with Harry's deceased parents, belonging to a tight group of friends that also included Black before he joined forces with Voldemort. Harry learns that Black is actually his godfather and that Black betrayed the whereabouts of Harry's parents to Voldemort the night the Dark Lord killed Harry's parents.
Weasly is attacked by a large black dog who drags the boy into a secret passage underneath a particularly violent magical tree called the Whomping Willow. Harry, Hermione and Lupin follow Ron and the dog through the passage to the Shrieking Shack, a remote safe house that was set up for Lupin to stay in while undergoing his werewolf transformations. The dog reveals himself to be Black in disguise and claims innocence. Black forces Ron's pet rat Scabbers to transform into his true human form. It turns out Scabbers is a disguised wizard named Peter Pettigrew, who was another member of Harry's parents' circle of friends. Black says that it was Pettigrew, not him, who really betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort.
Harry's grumpy Potions professor Snape stumbles onto the scene. Snape is knocked out and remains unconscious throughout the Pettigrew transformation and Black explanation. By the time Snape comes to, Pettigrew has escaped and Lupin has transformed into a werewolf. It appears to Snape that Black has bewitched the children into believing he's innocent. Snape captures Black and Black is executed by the dementors. However, Hermione has a magic hourglass called a Time-Turner, which the children use to go back in time and rescue Black from the dementors.
- "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"; J.K. Rowling; 1999
- Kirkus Reviews: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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