I feel very fortunate that my Prisoner of Azkaban chapters were these two. These chapters give Harry (and us) so many pieces of the puzzle he’s been agonizing over all year. It’s not all the pieces, but enough of the important pieces that you can start to tell what the picture might be and you know that maybe someday it will actually make sense. I was going to get creative/funny with these chapters until I realized what they were and that there’s no room for messing about. We need to be Sirius, if you will. (That pun will never get old.)
CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH: CAT, RAT, AND DOG
The chapter opens with our Trio standing somewhere between the castle and Hagrid’s hut, under the Invisibility Cloak, frozen in horror at the sound they just heard – the sound of the executioner’s axe. Hermione can’t believe that after all her hard work, filling in the spare time she didn’t have with research, Buckbeak still got sentenced to death. They barely have time to mourn the hippogriff, however, because things quickly begin to escalate. Scabbers is in Ron’s hands and freaking the freak out, and then out of nowhere, the dog formerly known as Grim attacks. He sinks his teeth into Ron’s arm and drags him beneath the Whomping Willow, snapping his leg in the process.
SNAPPING HIS LEG.
I knew it was coming, but I still winced in the re-read. Poor Won-Won.
Harry and Hermione don’t know what to do, but Crookshanks* comes to the rescue. He trots right up to a knot in the Whomping Willow, and taps it to freeze the whipping branches. Stunned, Harry and Hermione follow the cat through a secret tunnel that leads them all the way to the Shrieking Shack. They then have a series of adorable silent nods like a couple of TV drama police detectives and find their way to Ron.
Ron barely has time to warn his friends when who should appear but Sirius Black. And honestly, the way he is described in the book, I was expecting him to look more like this:
Sirius starts spouting vague things, but all Harry knows is what he thinks he knows. Since no one ever bothered to tell him the truth, he only knows the rumors he overheard grown-ups telling – terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad rumors. And then, on top of it, this man mentions Harry’s father.
“A boiling hate erupted in Harry’s chest, leaving no place for fear.”
I think that’s a beautiful and totally accurate assessment of situations like this. What’s scary is what comes after, when Harry realizes that, for the first time in his relatively short tenure as a wizard, he didn’t want to to use his default Expelliarmus. He wanted to kill Sirius Black. Or so he thought.
Hermione and Ron try to hold him back, and Sirius tells Ron to sit down before he hurts himself more. The Trio miss this flash of empathy, however, and keep being defiant in solidarity. Though when Harry starts ticking off Black’s crimes on his fingers, Hermione suggests that perchance they shouldn’t poke the beast.
Harry doesn’t listen, of course, and there is a kerfuffle that results in Black in a crumpled heap on the floor with Harry pointing his wand at the escaped prisoner. Crookshanks doesn’t trust that Harry’s goodness is strong enough to be trusted yet, so he hops up on Sirius’s chest, stalling Harry until Lupin arrives at the Shrieking Shack.
The Trio is relieved; they’ve been saved! Until they see Lupin hug Sirius. Hermione literally shouts. I mean, all-caps, fangirl shouting. “I DON’T BELIEVE IT!” She is hysterical. All this time she’s been keeping his secret and for WHAT.
“Harry, don’t trust him, he’s been helping Black get to the castle, he wants you dead too — he’s a werewolf!”
“Not at all up to your usual standard, Hermione,” he said. “Only one out of three, I’m afraid.”
Hermione explains how she knew he was a werewolf, Lupin explains that it wasn’t actually a very big secret at all. They aren’t entirely convinced that Lupin wasn’t helping Sirius, so Lupin starts to explain how he used the Marauder’s Map to make sure Harry, Ron, and Hermione didn’t wander off – which, sure enough, they did. Harry starts to ask how he knew how the map worked and Lupin literally waves off the big reveal that he is Moony of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. Like, with an actual wave of his hand, dismisses this as non-news, when it is in fact the newsiest news. Well, no, I take that back. The newsiest news they actually do a better job of leading up to and revealing:
Scabbers is not just an ordinary rat. He is a wizard. An Animagus. He is Peter Pettigrew.
*I severely underestimated the importance of Crookshanks in my memories of this series.
**If you got this reference, let’s be best friends.
CHAPTER THE EIGHTEENTH: MOONY, WORMTAIL, PADFOOT, AND PRONGS
The Trio’s reaction to the news that Scabbers is Peter Pettigrew is very characteristic of each of them.
Harry and Ron’s logic: These guys are insane. Positively mental. We cannot wrap our heads around this truth, therefore it cannot be so.
Hermione’s logic: According to my extensive research, historical evidence does not support this story, please elaborate.
Because of course, when learning about Animagi in McGonagall’s Transfiguration class, our dear sweet Hermione went beyond the assigned class reading and learned about all seven of the registered Animagi in this century. (Which, by the way, makes McGonagall even more badass than previously assumed, in my humble opinion.) Hermione tells Lupin that Peter Pettigrew was not on the list.
Lupin then goes on to explain about his werewolfiness, Dumbledore allowing him into Hogwarts despite there having been no cure, and the Shrieking Shack being built for Lupin to go to make his painful changes at that time of the month. Eventually, his three closest friends figured it out and decided to illegally become Animagi.
This makes me wonder just how hard it is to become an Animagi. I know it took the Marauders the better part of three years to do it, but isn’t it worth it? To be able to become an animal at will? Shouldn’t more wizards be taking advantage of this skill they have at their disposal? And are there rules on what kind of animal you can turn into? Because I wouldn’t hate spending my weekends as a dragon. I’m just saying.
Anyway, with a little rat to press the Whomping Willow’s knot and a giant dog to keep him in check (and James Potter’s animal which is not yet revealed because Hermione has more important questions at the moment), Lupin’s werewolf became less wild and could go on adventures with his animal-shaped friends. He realizes in retrospect what a terrible idea this was, but they were teenage boys and, quite frankly, roaming around as dangerous beasts was probably relatively tame compared to what their Muggle counterparts were getting up to.
When they weren’t roaming around doing Merlin knows what, they were dodging a young Severus Snape. Severus was nosy and wanted to know what they got up to every month, probably to get them expelled. The ‘trick’ the Marauders played on little Sevvie was that Sirius told him how to get past the Whomping Willow. Snape took that knowledge and followed Lupin, but luckily James stopped him before he came face to teeth with the werewolf on the other end of the tunnel.
Suddenly Professor Snape’s obvious disdain for Lupin became clear to Harry – Snape must have thought Lupin was in on the joke, since the foursome was thick as thieves. However, this particular puzzle piece isn’t enough to erase the years of hatred Snape has been carrying around with him, and that he is currently clinging to underneath the Invisibility Cloak he appears out from under, pointing his wand directly at Lupin. (Instead of Sirius, curiously.)
And look, I know Snape is the antihero and whatnot, but quite frankly, if he hadn’t been so nosy and hadn’t followed Lupin to the Shrieking Shack in the first place, his life wouldn’t have been put in danger. So, while Sirius did point him in the direction of danger, Snape took the steps there all on his own.
Full disclosure, it’s been a few years since my last reread, so it’s entirely possible there’s more to this practical joke than I’m remembering, and that they’ve revealed in this chapter (and I KNOW there’s way more Snape’s harboring than the bullying), but the blame for this prank in particular doesn’t seem to be ENTIRELY on the good ol’ Padfoot.
So that’s the end of that. Harry is now about 3/4ths of the way through with the puzzle, thanks to all the pieces that were just thrown at him in rapid succession. Granted, this is only one more of the millions of puzzles he will be faced with in his lifetime, but let’s take things one book at a time, shall we?