Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 21-22: What we need is more time.


The chapter begins in media res, with Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, commending Professor Severus Snape on a job well done and promising him the Order of Merlin, First Class for rescuing the Confunded children and single-handedly capturing mass murderer Sirius Black.

Wait, what?

I think this chapter begins so brilliantly; we, as readers, are confused by this sudden re-write of recent history because Harry is confused, overhearing snippets of conversation as he slowly regains consciousness in the Hogwarts hospital wing.  But once fully awake he and Hermione jump immediately to Sirius’s defense, their pleas falling on deaf ears, for “[t]here is not a shred of proof to support Black’s story, except [their] word–and the word of two thirteen-year-old wizards will not convince anybody.”


So many of the stories we read and watch concern The Truth and the search for it as a life’s ultimate goal, that no matter the result it’s important to us as humans that it is revealed.  The two that come most immediately to mind, for reasons of I JUST WATCHED/READ THEM, are The X-Files and Mulder’s obsessive need to learn what’s out there, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, and Tris’s quest to discover and disseminate the truth about her community.  No matter what ultimately happened to Mulder and Tris, they’re deemed heroic characters for their value of the truth above all else, even though securing the evidence of their respective truths didn’t really help either of them all that much.

This, too, is a chapter about The Truth, especially the hard truth that sometimes in life The Truth is not enough.  (Man, how relevant is this right in this particular moment of United States history?)  Because even Albus Dumbledore, the greatest wizard to have ever lived, has no power to make other men see the truth.  Especially an inconvenient truth.  No, what we need is more time.

And this is when everything you thought you knew about this series was chucked clear off the Astronomy Tower, because wizards CAN GO BACK IN TIME.  Well, Hermione can anyway, and her insistence on proper semantics about time travel cracks me up:

“There must be something that happened around now he wants us to change,” [Harry] said slowly.  “What happened?  We were walking down to Hagrid’s three hours ago. . . .”

“This is three hours ago, and we are walking down to Hagrid’s,” said Hermione.


When the truth is not enough, we need more time.  And action.  And if there’s one thing Harry’s good at, it’s action.  He quickly figures out that they’re meant to save Buckbeak from execution, fly him up to Professor Flitwick’s office, rescue Sirius before the Dementors get to him first, and then watch as Sirius flies away on Buckbeak, saving both of their lives.  All without being seen.  What we need is time, action, and an Invisibility Cloak a shitload of luck.

And this is when we learn that time travel is for the young, because Harry and Hermione need to remember everything they did three hours ago in excruciating detail to ensure they remain out of sight, and legit, I can’t even remember what I did three minutes ago.  (Write the last paragraph, probably.)  Luckily Harry and Hermione are not old and decrepit like me, and manage to rescue Buckbeak and retreat safely into the Forbidden Forest, where they watch the rest of the last chapter’s events unfold.  Harry admits to Hermione that he thinks he saw his father conjure the Patronus that saved them from the Dementors.  I cry like a baby.  Harry runs to the lake to witness his father rescue them from the Dementors.  I cry like a baby.  Harry suddenly realizes that his father didn’t rescue them from the Dementors, he rescued them.  I cry like a baby.

The Patronus turned.  It was cantering back toward Harry across the still surface of the water.  It wasn’t a horse.  It wasn’t a unicorn, either.  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.

I cry like a baby.


“An easy mistake to make,” said Dumbledore softly.  “I expect you’ll tire of hearing it, but you do look extraordinarily like James.  Except for the eyes . . . you have your mother’s eyes.”

Everybody drink.


This chapter deserves a lot more than I can really give it right now, because it introduces so many themes that are central to the rest of the series, especially the loss of loved ones and their continued impact on our lives after they’ve gone.  But I lost my own Winston six months ago today, and I can’t really see straight (let alone think straight) for all the crying like a baby, so I think I’ll just leave this picture here as a placeholder.


I miss you, buddy.

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20 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 21-22: What we need is more time.

  1. Jennie says:

    Winston. 😦 I have that exact picture sitting right next to me this very minute, thanks to your Calendar of Winstonia.

    Also, talking about time travel and The X-Files in the same post? MY FAVORITE.

  2. Kevin O'Shea says:

    *takes a shot*

    My love of all things sci-fi can be attributed to my mother, and one of her absolute favorite elements of sci-fi is time travel. It, like everything else she introduced me to, has always had a very special place in my heart, so when I realized that this amazing series, which I had already fallen in love with be the time of this book, also had time travel? Completely and irrevocably beholden to it forever.

    Realizing the shape of his Patronus has always been my favorite Harry moment of all time, and will never be replaced by anything ever. WHICH IS WHY I STILL HAVE ANGRY THOUGHTS ABOUT HOW IT WAS HANDLED IN THE MOVIE but we already went over this in the comments of a previous post so I won’t rehash it here.

    I’m sorry about your cat. He’s beautiful.

    • Jen says:

      I always had a vague inkling about this movie. I liked it, and it was certainly more cinematic than the first two, but I always thought there was something off about it. In doing this re-read and watching all the movies, I noticed that there are so many big pieces missing from the story: the patronus stuff, Lupin revealing information to Harry (or in the movie’s case, NOT REVEALING ANYTHING), and Crookshanks playing a much smaller role. I know these are all things we’ve discussed before, but I just needed to say it all again. Good thing we are book readers, and not just movie watchers.

      • Ashley says:

        I think it’s weird to watch the movies having read the books. Since we already know the story, our brains just automatically fill in the missing pieces. I know it’s taken me a couple of watches of each just to pinpoint stuff that was missing or never explained, because I already knew the answer. Watching with a non-reader is helpful in this regard, because they get all confused and start asking questions. If you can stomach being in the same room with a non-reader, that is 🙂

  3. Ashley says:

    I bet Hermione would have loved The X-Files. Holy crap. Except she probably never saw it because this book takes place in 1993-1994, which is when XF premiered. And one thing that wizards are totally missing out on is television.

    • Kevin O'Shea says:

      Her parents taped it and she binged on it over the summer. Problem solved.

      • Jen says:

        TV. Movies. The Internet. These are probably the things I would miss most if I were muggle-born. I wonder if Mr. Weasley could rig me up a laptop that’s powered by magic.

        • Kevin O'Shea says:

          I wouldn’t trust him to do it. He’d take it apart and never get around to putting it back together because he’d be having too much fun poking at the parts to see what they do.

  4. Lindsay says:

    I get huge fucking chills every time I read or think about the patrons scene.

  5. Gretchen Alice says:

    Aw, Winston. 😦
    I love when Harry talks about how weird the whole situation is getting. That’s one of the reasons why I love PoA so much. It’s just a weird, good book.

  6. curryalley says:

    What a beautiful cat. I’m sorry for your loss.

  7. […] Remember the time that she kept a woman alive in a jar for weeks? Or that time she had access to a time machine for an entire year and used it to hide a wanted fugitive from the government? […]

  8. Thelal says:

    “This, too, is a chapter about The Truth, especially the hard truth that sometimes in life The Truth is not enough. (Man, how relevant is this right in this particular moment of United States history?)”

    Still as relevant, if not more, in 2019.


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