With the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I have found myself asking the question “Which is the best Harry Potter book?” I realize that this question is like choosing your favourite child, and has the potential to end friendships, so let’s do something less controversial, and make it “Which is your favourite Harry Potter book?”
Mine is the third. The Prisoner of Azkaban.
I’m not going to argue that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best Harry Potter book. Objectively, it plainly isn’t. It doesn’t have the childhood charm of the first two, and it doesn’t have the greater scope and in-depth themes of the last four. It’s a transition, an awkward teenage phase between innocence and coming darkness. But it remains the one book in the series that I have read multiple times, and that I feel compelled to read again, and it remains so for one main reason: Remus Lupin.
Professor Lupin is the best teacher at Hogwarts. Admittedly, the bar is not high; the teachers of the wizarding school are either lost in their own world or overly punitive. That’s without even considering the Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers, who are, in no particular order, weak and treacherous, manic and treacherous, self-absorbed, ineffective, or just plain nasty. What about Dumbledore, you say? He is a less a teacher than he is a feature of deus ex machina, a god-like figure that swoops in to alter the plot in dramatic and implausible ways.
Professor Lupin is none of those things. He is instead the one teacher in the Harry Potter books who actually teaches; he shows Harry not only how to create a Patronus charm to defend himself, but how to hold onto happy memories in the face of despair. When Lupin does have to reprimand Harry, he does so not by taking points away from his house, not by assigning him menial tasks, but by talking to him, and reminding him why his actions were selfish and wrong. It’s Professor Lupin that insists, in the face of violence and revenge, that the student must understand why. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the one non-human Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is the one who teaches with the most humanity.
I can’t confirm why The Prisoner of Azkaban appealed to me as an adolescent, but I can say why it appeals to me now, and I think it’s for the same reason; Remus Lupin teaches as we would want to be taught, and as we would want to teach. He is able to guide Harry because he connects with him. He gives Harry hope, explanation, and a sense of control at a time when Harry faces fear and uncertainty – and what adolescent doesn’t need that?
Jane Perrella. Teacher, writer. Expert knitter. Enthusiast of medieval swordplay, tea, Shakespeare, and Batman.