Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapters 6-8
New Subjects and Professors
Harry and the rest of the Hogwarts student body are settling into the new school year. For third years, this is the year where they are introduced to a lot of new subjects. Harry and Ron are taking Divination and Care of Magical Creatures and Hermione is taking those plus an uncertain number of others. She is very evasive every time Ron asks about the impossibility of her schedule but it at least includes Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, and Muggle Studies, because even though she is muggle born she wants to learn about muggles from the wizard perspective.
First we meet Professor Trelawney who teaches Divination. Her class seems terrible but it is always a delight to read about. Her predictions are nearly all doom and gloom and roughly 50% accurate. Many of her predictions are just vague enough that you can make anything fit. For example when she tells Lavender that the thing she is dreading will happen on October 16th. If you are expecting that something bad will happen, then you will find any small thing in your day that could make this prophecy true. Her rabbit ends up dying on that day which Hermione very unhelpfully points out she wasn’t exactly dreading since the death was a shock. Hermione HATES Divination and Professor Trelawney. And the feeling seems to be mutual. Trelawney tells Hermione she just doesn’t have the right aura.
Their other new subject, Care of Magical Creatures, is taught by their friend Hagrid. Being friends with Hagrid, the trio feel obligated to be extra supportive of him during class, even as he makes some poor decisions. He wants a cool and exciting lesson to start so he starts with Hippogriffs. After giving the briefest of safety lessons he turns the class loose and Malfoy gets injured. Its his own fault but considering he is only 13 years old, it really falls on Hagrid. Malfoy of course milks this injury for more than its worth and Hagrid resumes teaching boring creatures.
As a kid reading these books Hagrid was one of my favorite characters. He was in my top 4 list that I absolutely was going to be devastated if they died (for the record only 2 out of that original 4 made it through the series). But as I have gotten older I have to say Hagrid has fallen a bit out of my favor. I don’t necessarily dislike him but I am definitely less interested in his character in general. He seems like someone who requires work to be friends with. He is a good guy and he comes from a good place. But everything he does is so short-sided and he is too trusting so as an adult I get a little exhausted with him. I think later in the series Ron and Hermione kind of feel the same. He is a character designed for kids to love, but as an adult it can be hard sometimes to be in his corner.
On the other hand we have the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin. He knows how to make a class both exciting and educational. He is the cool defense teacher. In his first class he gives Peeves a taste of his own medicine, makes Neville feel good about himself, and teaches the class that the only thing to fear is fear itself. All while having a blast. The only people who don’t get to have a turn with the boggart are Harry and Hermione. Hermione presumably because there just wasn’t time, but Lupin interferes when Harry tries to fight it.
Considering all that Harry has been through, his greatest fear was unlikely to be something like spiders or snakes. Naturally his initial thought is Voldemort, which is what Lupin assumed would happen, but then he realizes that the dementors frighten him much more. Voldemort may want to kill Harry, but dementors literally take your happiness away. Leaving you with only your worst thoughts. Harry has also been able to hold his own so far with Voldemort whereas he was completely defenseless against the dementor on the train.
- Trelawney’s predictions
- She warns Neville his grandmother might not be well: false. I don’t think anything ever happens to her…
- She tells Parvati to beware a red-headed man. Kind of true? Parvati’s sister, Padma, goes to the Yule Ball with Ron in Goblet of Fire and he does treat her badly. Parvati is also there with Harry and is also treated badly.
- Classes will be disrupted by the flu in February. Eh? I don’t think this is really stated in the book as happening but it is common for people to get the flu in February so it hardly seems like a real prediction.
- Around Easter one of them will leave forever. True. Hermione ditches Divination class towards the end of the year and drops the subject for the rest of her time at Hogwarts.
- Neville will break a teacup – that one is just too obvious.
- Harry gets the Grim in his teacup. Kind of true. Harry will encounter a big dog but not the Grim.
- Neville will be late to the next class. Probably.
- “Potter you can skin Malfoy’s shrivelfig” this sentence made me throw up in my mouth a bit.
- Snape is as much of a jerk to his students as ever. He makes Neville test his potion on his own pet.
- Sirius Black makes an attempt to break into the Gryffindor dormitories, causing the Fat Lady to hide in another portrait.