In Chapter 5, we’re headed back on the Hogwarts Express, meet the infamous and terrifying Azkaban guards, and also meet one of the most beloved characters in the series. Let’s go!
I love trains. I wish we traveled more by train here in the U.S. There’s just something romantic and adventurous about a train ride . . . especially if you are travelling to a magical castle full of witches and wizards. Okay, maybe we don’t have that either. I’ve just always loved the Hogwarts Express, the idea of hopping onto the train to go off to your future.
I know, it’s probably silly. Oh well.
One important thing does happen on Platform 9 3/4 though. Mr. Weasley takes Harry aside in order to tell him about Black, but Harry let’s him know that he had over heard Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, so it’s okay. Harry knows the truth, and Mr. Weasley hasn’t broken his promise not to tell. But then there’s this:
“Harry, swear to me that you won’t go looking for Black.”
Harry stared. “What?”
There was a loud whistle. Guards were walking along the train, slamming all the doors shut.
“Promise me, Harry,” said Mr. Weasley, talking more quickly still, “that whatever happens -”
“Why would I go looking for someone I know wants to kill me?” said Harry blankly.
A fair point. This is the first time we really see that there might be more to Sirius Black than meets the eye. If he was just one more escaped follower of Voldemort, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Harry has handled those before, although he has gone after them before as well. In this case, Harry is presented with proof that a supposed Voldemort follower is out to get him, has murdered before, and has no qualms of doing it again. Why would Harry seek this out? What else could there be about Black that would make him do so?
Of course, we know NOW. But we sure didn’t know then, did we.
They find a compartment on the train, the only one with room, that only has one occupant: the new professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts, R.J. Lupin. He is sound asleep (they learn his name from the stamp on his suitcase). Harry informs Ron and Hermione about what he has learned about Black, which of course freaks them right out. They are also sad to hear that Harry doesn’t think he’ll be able to come to Hogsmede either.
It is a bit weird that Professor Lupin just . . . stays asleep. He sleeps through the conversations between Harry, Ron and Hermione; he sleeps through the trolley cart lady coming through; and he sleeps through Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle showing up. He must be really, really tired (for reasons we’ll find out later, of course).
Suddenly, something weird happens. I mean, weird for wizards anyway. The train slows down and comes to a stop. All the lights go out. Neville and Ginny stumble in trying to find out what’s going on. Lupin wakes up. And then . . .
Standing in the doorway, illuminated by the shivering flames in Lupin’s hand, was a cloaked figure that towered to the ceiling. Its face was completely hidden beneath its hood. Harry’s eyes darted downward, and what he saw made his stomach contract. There was a hand protruding from the cloak and it was glistening, grayish, slimy-looking, and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water . . .
I would die. I would absolutely die. These things sound terrifying and I don’t want any part of them. Harry doesn’t either. He becomes completely cold and hears screaming coming from far away before he faints into a white fog.
When he comes to, the lights are back on and the train is on its way again. Lupin gives Harry some chocolate and explains that the dead, scary thing was actually a dementor, one of the guards of Azkaban. And while everyone else was scared and shaking (Ron describes it as feeling “like I’d never be cheerful again”), Harry was the only one to actually fall out of his seat and pass out.
Which he hears about, once they arrive at the carriages. Malfoy (of course) teases Harry about it, and Professor McGonagall pulls Harry aside to make sure he’s okay. She also pulls Hermione out of the line and takes both of them to her office. Madam Pomfrey (yay!) is also there, ready to also administer chocolate (I love how this is the best way to cure the effects of a dementor – I know chocolate makes me feel better about most things).
Once they deduce that Harry is fine, McGonagall keeps Hermione back for a moment to discuss her schedule. This also becomes very important later.
Meanwhile, Dumbledore speaks to the school after the sorting, before the feast, to explain to everyone who the dementors are and what they are doing there.
“They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds,” Dumbledore continued, “and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises – or even Invisibility Cloaks,” he added blandly, and Harry and Ron glanced at each other. “It is not in the nature of a dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you . . .”
Yeah, keeping these things around a school full of mischievous children sounds like a great idea.
After this warning, Dumbledore introduces Lupin as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Ron notices that Snape, who is known to have wanted that position, is staring at Lupin with a look of complete loathing. More than maybe there should be towards another colleague, perhaps.
The other new teacher this year? Hagrid! Hagrid will be teaching the Care of Magical Creatures class this year. As Ron said, “Who else would have assigned us a biting book?” Hagrid is so excited, he can’t believe it. I’m not sure I would have given him the job, to be honest, especially since he never actually graduated, but we all know how much he loves animals and creatures, so I guess that counts for something.
They finally go to bed, after a very exciting and terrifying day, ready to start their new year at Hogwarts.
See you next time for Chapter 6!