The Dementor

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Chapter 5 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Dementor← Chapter 4 | Chapter 6 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Surprisingly, the Weasleys, Hermione, and Harry are all ready on time the next morning. Ministry cars spirit them away to catch the Hogwarts Express at King's Cross Station. At Platform Nine and Three Quarters, Mr. Weasley takes Harry aside to discuss Sirius Black. Harry admits that he overheard Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's conversation about Black. Mr. Weasley asks him to promise that, no matter what he hears, he will not go looking for Black. Harry is puzzled, but the departing Hogwarts Express prevents him from making that promise. Wanting to talk privately to Ron and Hermione, the Trio shoo away Ron's sister Ginny. The only available compartment is occupied by someone named R. J. Lupin, apparently fast asleep. Despite his presence, Harry relates everything he knows about Black, including what Mr. Weasley said. The pocket Sneakoscope Ron gave Harry starts whistling. Ron says it is cheap and likely defective, and Harry bundles it back up in his trunk to deaden the noise.

The conversation turns to Hogsmeade, and Ron and Hermione are appalled that Harry will be unable to join them, as neither Uncle Vernon nor Fudge would sign his permission slip.

Later, Draco and his two sidekicks, Crabbe and Goyle, show up intending to cause mayhem, but Lupin's presence deters them.

The train lurches to an unexpected stop. Ginny and Neville Longbottom make their way through darkness to Harry's compartment, and amidst the confusion, Lupin wakes up and provides some illumination. As he is about to go and find out what is happening, the compartment door slides open and a black-robed figure, as tall as the doorway, glides in, briefly displaying a hideous, dead-looking hand. Harry hears a woman screaming and passes out.

When he regains consciousness, the creature is gone and the train is moving again. Lupin says it was a Dementor, an Azkaban prison guard searching for Sirius Black. To counteract the Dementor's effect, he gives each student chocolate, then leaves to speak with the driver. During his absence, Harry asks if anyone else fainted, but they tell him no, nor did they hear screaming. Hermione tells Harry that Lupin repelled the Dementor by casting a silvery object from his wand.

They arrive at Hogwarts in a driving rain. As Hagrid rounds up the first-years for the boat ride across the lake, the Trio find horseless carriages waiting for them. Upon hearing from Neville that Harry fainted, Malfoy maliciously attempts to taunt him, but Lupin arrives on the scene, defusing the incident. As they head to the Great Hall, Professor McGonagall asks to see Harry and Hermione in her office; she reassures Ron that his two friends are not in any trouble. Hearing about Harry's encounter with the Dementor, she has summoned him to be checked over by Madam Pomfrey, who approves Lupin giving the students chocolate. Professor McGonagall suggests keeping Harry in the infirmary overnight. Not wishing to give Malfoy further ammunition to humiliate him with, Harry insists he is fine and asks to attend the Welcoming Feast. Professor McGonagall grants permission, and then asks for a private word with Hermione about her class schedule. Afterwards, they go to the feast together.

Although they have missed the Sorting ceremony, the Feast is just beginning; Professor Dumbledore warns students that the school grounds are being guarded by Dementors and any attempt to slip past them by subterfuge will fail as they do not rely on sight to hunt their prey. He also welcomes two new teachers: Rubeus Hagrid, who will be teaching Care of Magical Creatures and Professor Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry notes that Lupin receives a loathing look from Professor Snape. Harry, Ron, and Hermione congratulate Hagrid on his appointment and then head for Gryffindor Tower.

Analysis[edit]

The Ministry providing cars to transport Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys to King's Cross Station is highly unusual, and indicates there is deep concern for Harry's safety that is probably tied to Sirius Black's escape. Mr. Weasley's warning to Harry to not go looking for Black is revealing, though Harry nonchalantly dismisses its significance, more concerned with finding a way to attend the Hogsmeade weekends with his friends than with avoiding an escaped murderer.

Also, a valuable story clue may appear here, but Harry quickly bundles it up and stows it away. There is some question as to whether the Sneakoscope actually works. Ron's note to Harry claimed it was just a cheap and probably inaccurate device, because it apparently had alarmed twice while he was preparing to send it to Harry, but as we have seen, on both of those occasions it was reacting properly. The reader can see that it is more effective and reliable than anyone realizes, but Harry follows Ron's lead and disregards its warnings.

And while Harry is foolishly brushing off concerns about Sirius Black, he soon becomes fixated on Dementors. Although the eerie creatures have been assigned to protect him and hunt Black, they strongly affect anyone near them, feeding on unhappy emotions and memories, while leaving behind darkness, coldness, and despair. The Dementor that entered Harry's compartment may have deliberately targeted Harry, though its purpose, apart from finding Black, is unknown. This, compounded with what Harry believes is a recurring death omen and Sirius Black's escape, likely foreshadows a difficult and dangerous year ahead at Hogwarts. Professor Lupin, however, unexpectedly demonstrates an ability to repel Dementors with an unknown spell, suggesting that it is possible to protect oneself from them.

A future relationship between Harry and Ginny may be hinted at here. As Percy goes to meet his girlfriend Penelope, Harry and Ginny look at each other and silently laugh. While this hardly indicates that Harry is romantically interested in Ginny, it does show they share a similar sense of humor that may be common enough ground on which a relationship could build.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Review[edit]

  1. Why would the Ministry of Magic provide cars to transport Harry, Hermione, and the Weasley family to the train station?
  2. Why does Lupin give the students chocolate after their encounter with the Dementor?
  3. How did Lupin repel the Dementor?

Further Study[edit]

  1. Why would a Dementor enter Harry's compartment?
  2. Why is Harry affected more than the others by the Dementor's presence?
  3. Who might Harry have heard screaming as he fainted? Why did no one else hear it?
  4. Why does Snape give Professor Lupin such a loathing look during the Welcoming Feast?
  5. Why does Harry's Sneakoscope sound an alarm when there is apparently no danger? Is it faulty as Ron claims, or could something else be amiss?
  6. Why would Mr. Weasley tell Harry not to go looking for Sirius Black? Is Harry likely to follow his advice?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Harry's reaction to the Dementors seems far more severe than anybody else's, as nobody else heard screaming, or fainted. Harry fears some inner weakness makes him more susceptible, though Lupin assures him later this is not so; Dementors feed on peoples' memories, leaving only despair in their victims' minds, and Harry, having had so many bad experiences in his life, is more deeply affected. The memory that the Dementors appear to be fixating on in Harry is the moment his mother died; as Harry encounters Dementors throughout this story, this memory will be repeatedly brought forward and strengthened until he is able to recall not only his mother's words but also Voldemort's.

This is Harry and Ron's first encounter with the "horseless" carriages, as they had arrived at Hogwarts the previous year in Mr. Weasley's flying Ford Anglia, which, presumably, is still roaming wild in the Forbidden Forest. Although some students, like Luna Lovegood, who appears later in the series, know what pulls the carriages, for some reason they avoid mentioning it. Most students, at least younger ones, seem to assume the carriages are propelled by their own power. Even Ron, who has extensive magical knowledge that he always generously shares with Harry, is unaware that something else may be at work here. Harry, however, notes to himself that invisible horses must be pulling the carriages. This thought foreshadows his learning much later that they are indeed being pulled by strange horse-like creatures called Thestrals that are only visible to certain people. Only later does Harry gain the ability to see them.

There is no evidence yet that the pocket Sneakoscope is emitting false alarms. Assuming it is working properly, someone in the compartment must be untrustworthy. Apart from the Trio, the only other human there is Lupin. While the Trio, guessing correctly that he is a new teacher, apparently never consider that he could be untrustworthy, little is known yet about Lupin's background. Considering that a former Defence Against the Arts instructor (Professor Quirrell) was Voldemort's servant, it is easy to suspect Lupin, which may be what the author intended here. We should assume, however, that Dumbledore exerted far more caution when selecting Quirrell's successor. However, Crookshanks, Hedwig, and Scabbers are also present in the compartment, and our attention has already been pointed at Scabbers, who has apparently lived much longer than any rat should. Still, when the truth about Scabbers is revealed, it will be surprising.

And though it is not Lupin who set the Sneakoscope off, his shabby appearance indicates he has had difficulty finding work. This may explain why he accepted the Defence Against the Dark Arts post, which is now widely believed to be jinxed so that instructors never last longer than one year. Lupin is revealed later to be a Werewolf, and the next few books mention a significant Werewolf prejudice in the Wizarding world, as well as discrimination against other non-human magical creatures. It is this prejudice, merited or not, that presumably has prevented Lupin from finding employment.

Connections[edit]