'Harry Potter' Refresher: Inside 'Prisoner Of Azkaban'

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanWe're all about "Harry Potter" this week at MTV Movies Blog, and we figure there is no better way to celebrate the beginning of the end of the beloved franchise than by looking back at the six previous films.

So each day this week we'll be providing recaps of the earlier "Harry Potter" movies. Consider them a kind of affectionate Cliff's Notes and a much-need refresher to prepare for the November 19 release of "Deathly Hallows: Part 1." Yesterday, we brought you up to speed on the first two "Potter" films: "Sorcerer's Stone" and "Chamber of Secrets," which means today we're going to talk about the lowest-grossing but best-received film in the franchise (and my personal favorite), "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

For the first time in the series, author J.K. Rowling really threw fans for a loop, revealing that what they thought they knew about Harry and his unfortunate history might not be entirely accurate. It also introduced fan-favorite character Sirius Black, who became even more memorable when Gary Oldman was cast to play him in the film version.

Dementors and Azkaban

With his third year at Hogwarts about to start, Harry Potter is met with some disconcerting news. His godfather Sirius Black, who had been found guilty for betraying Harry's parents Lily and James Potter to Voldemort and subsequently causing their deaths, has just escaped from the wizard prison Azkaban. The Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, warns Harry that Sirius might attempt to come after him now and that Azkaban's guards, the Dementors, will be stationed at Hogwarts to protect the students and try to catch Sirius. For the uninitiated, Dementors are feared for their Dementor's kiss, which sucks the soul out of their victims -- a punishment viewed as worse than death.

Expecto Patronum!

There is only one defense against Dementors, and that is the Patronus charm. The new Defense Against Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin, attempts to teach his third year students the spell so that they can defend themselves against the dark creatures. Fortunately, Harry catches on pretty quick; unfortunately, he's forced to use the charm to defend himself against the Dementors several times over the course of the year.

Care of Magical Creatures

Harry's friend and protector Hagrid gets promoted from groundskeeper at Hogwarts to the Care of Magical Creatures professor, resulting in some bizarre teaching techniques that come to a head when he shows the class a hippogriff (part eagle, part horse) named Buckbeak. When treated politely, Buckbeak responds accordingly, but the creature attacks Draco Malfoy, causing Draco's father Lucius, who is powerful in the Ministry of Magic, to sentence the hippogriff to death.


The most exciting and magical new location introduced in "Prisoner of Azkaban" is Hogsmeade village, which only students in their third year and above at Hogwarts can visit. It includes the Hog's Head Pub, the Three Broomsticks, Zonko's joke shop and Honeydukes candy shop. But, most important to this storyline, it also is home to the spooky Shrieking Shack. Since Harry didn't receive an adult signature to allow him to join his friends at Hogwarts, he has to find another way to the magical place. Fortunately, that's what the Weasley twins are for! George and Fred get their hands on the Marauder's Map, which shows where every person is at a given time in Hogwarts, and show Harry all the secret passageways in the medieval castle. With the help of that and his father's cloak of invisibility, Harry is able to move around the school unnoticed.

Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs

Here's something we maybe should have established before: Each young wizard gets their own magical pet in the world of "Harry Potter." For Harry, that pet is an owl named Hedwig; for Hermione, a cat named Crookshanks; and for Ron, a hand-me-down rat named Scabbers. In "Prisoner of Azkaban," we learn that there's more to Scabbers than meets the eye. As the story unfolds, we find out that Lupin is actually a werewolf and that his three best friends -- James Potter, Sirius Black and a young boy named Peter Pettigrew (who was allegedly killed by Sirius) -- all learned how to turn themselves into animals so that they could spend time with Lupin during his monthly change. They would hang out at the Shrieking Shack (Lupin's transformation was the cause of all the shrieking) and created code names based on the animal they changed into. Lupin was Moony because he was a werewolf, while James was Prongs because he changed into a stag. Sirius was Padfoot because he became a dog, and Peter named himself Wormtail... because he changed into a rat.

One night, a strange black dog attacks Ron and drags him to the Shrieking Shack. Confused and scared, Harry and Hermione follow him and discovered that, yes, the dog actually is Sirius Black. When Harry tries to attack Sirius for causing the deaths of his parents, but Lupin steps in to stop the fight, then embraces Sirius as an old friend. Turns out Peter was the one who betrayed the Potters to Voldemort, and then framed Sirius. Sirius had attacked Ron because he had seen Scabbers, a.k.a. Peter Pettigrew, with him. Harry prevents Sirius from killing Peter and instead convinces him to bring the traitor to Dumbledore, but Peter turns into a rat and escapes.

Hermione's Secret

Now that Sirius has revealed himself, the Dementors swarm down on him and take him to receive the Dementor's kiss in a Hogwarts Tower. Harry awakes from the ordeal in the Hogwarts hospital, and Hermione reveals a secret she had been keeping from him and Ron all year: She had a time-turner device that allowed her to take extra classes (quite the good student, that Hermione Granger). With Dumbledore's support, Harry and Hermione decide to go back and see if they can change the outcome of things. First they manage to save Buckbeak from his scheduled beheading, and then Harry dispels the Dementors with a powerful Patronus charm to save Sirius. Sirius flies away on Buckbeak, but first explains that he was named Harry's godfather by James and Lily, and would like to be a part of Harry's life. After all, with his father's looks and his mother's green eyes, Harry is the image of his parents -- and now, finally, Harry has an adult in his life that loves him.

What are you favorite parts of "Prisoner of Azkaban"? Tell us in the comments!