In the third book of the Harry Potter series, it is noticeable that Harry is starting to grow up. He is more mature (though still young at some parts) and has accepted that he is a wizard, and made peace (sort of) that he is a famous one.
When Harry’s temper gets the better of him, and he makes his incredibly rude aunt turn into a balloon shaped human, he isn’t even expelled. Harry suspects something is up when the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, is just happy he is safe and well, and doesn’t care about his serious breaking of wizarding rules. Harry is allowed to spend the rest of his vacation in Diagon Alley, which is great news for him, as he can be away from his relatives.
The leading news story in the wizarding world is the escape of a mass murderer, Sirius Black. He is now famous, being the only person to escape from the wizarding prison, Azkaban, which is guarded by Dementors – terrible creatures that make you remember every bad thing that happened to you.
On the Hogwarts express on the way to school the Dementors enter the train, and Harry is particularly affected by them – he relives when Voldemort murdered his parents. Professor Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, repels the Dementors by casting a spell on them.
At school, Professor Dumbledore informs them that the Dementors will be at school until Black is caught. This is bad news for Harry – they affect him so bad that he passes out mid-air during a Quidditch match. When his captain tells him to sort out the problem before the next match, Harry asks Professor Lupin to teach him how to repel the Dementors. Lupin teaches Harry, warning him that it is very advanced magic for an unqualified wizard.
Meanwhile, Hermoine is confusing Ron and Harry by having classes at the same time. She is very vague when asked how she does this, but they can think of no possible explanation.
Harry finally finds out why Cornelius Fudge was so happy to find him well at the beginning of summer. He accidentally hears that Sirius Black is responsible for his parents’ death, because he leaked their whereabouts to Voldemort. Afterwards, he killed one of his friends, Peter Pettigrew, and a whole street of muggles, for which he was imprisoned. Harry is filled with a sense of righteous anger, and his friends try to get him to understand how foolish it would be for him to hunt down a madman.
Professor Lupin is very popular at school, revolutionising his subject for the students. He disappears once a month, and always returns looking ill. It would seem that the only person Professor Snape (Harry’s arch enemy) dislikes more than Harry is Professor Lupin. It finally makes sense to Harry when Lupin reveals that he and James, Harry’s father, were close friends at school.
Hagrid, the gentle half-giant, is distraught when Draco Malfoy manages to fake a severe injury, causing Hagrid’s Hippogriff Buckbeak to be sentenced to death. Harry, Ron and Hermoine try to help him appeal, but in the end the verdict remains. The three sneak down to support Hagrid on the night of the execution, and when they return to the castle, a huge dog attacks Ron and pulls him under the Whomping Willow. Harry and Hermoine chase after Ron, and they find a passage leading to an old haunted house under the tree.
When they find themselves in the Shrieking Shack, they find that the dog is actually Sirius Black, who is an Animagus. Harry tries to attack him, but is stopped by Professor Lupin. Stunned by this betrayal, Hermoine reveals Lupin’s big secret – that he is a werewolf, and locks himself up once a month when he turns into a werewolf. Lupin and Black tell Harry that their friendship group, James, Sirius and a man named Peter Pettigrew all turned into Animaguses to support Lupin when he turned. They also tell him that it was never Sirius who leaked the information about Harry’s parent’s whereabouts, but Peter Pettigrew, whose Animagus form was a rat, and who disappeared after killing all the muggles, blaming Sirius. It turns out that the rat in question is Ron’s rat, Scabbers, and Lupin turns the Rat into the man Pettigrew. Sirius and Lupin want to kill Peter, but Harry tells them not to, and that they can use him to prove Sirius’s innocence.
When they return to the castle, Lupin changes into a werewolf and the group scatters. They narrowly escape the Dementors, but Peter Pettigrew flees, and Sirius is recaptured.
Dumbledore listens to their story in the hospital wing, and tells Harry and Hermoine (Ron is too badly injured to join them) to use Hermoine’s time turner to help Sirius and Buckbeak. The Time-turner, it is revealed, is how Hermoine has been managing to get to two classes at one time. They use it, and manage to free the Hippogriff and Sirius, and rush back in time before Snape throws a tantrum because Sirius got away.
The Prisoner of Azkaban is great on so many levels. Not only are we reading about more mature characters, Harry finally finds a parent figure in Sirius. He learns more about his father and mother, and begins to form into the man who would end up destroying Voldemort for good. My favourite part in the book is definitely when they win the Quidditch cup – there is no finer moment. I get Goosebumps every single time I read it. Oh, and this is the book that I can remember reading when I was eleven years old, and I am sure it is responsible for starting my reading addiction!