The Servant of Lord Voldemort

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Chapter 19 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Servant of Lord Voldemort← Chapter 18 | Chapter 20 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Snape had found Harry's Invisibility Cloak by the Whomping Willow. He was bringing Lupin his Wolfsbane potion when he noticed a very interesting map on Lupin's desk that confirmed his suspicion Lupin was helping Black. Snape magically binds Lupin before he can explain, then insists everyone return to the castle so he can have a word with the Dementors. Harry blocks the door, demanding Snape listen. When Snape refuses, Harry disarms him, helped by Ron and, surprisingly, Hermione. Their triple-force spell tosses Snape against the wall and knocks him out.

Harry still doubts Lupin's story. Lupin makes Ron hand over Scabbers, though Ron protests that even if Peter Pettigrew assumes a rat form, why would it be Scabbers? Black explains that when Fudge visited him at Azkaban, he gave him the newspaper containing the Weasley family photograph. Black recognized Pettigrew (as Scabbers) in the photo by his missing toe. Pettigrew severed his finger before killing the Muggles, then, shouting that Black murdered James and Lily for bystanders to hear, Pettigrew blew up the street. Amid the chaos, he transformed, disappearing into the sewer, his severed finger left behind as evidence he was dead. Lupin points out that Scabbers has been in the Weasley family for twelve years, whereas a common rat lives only three or four. Lupin observes that Scabbers is looking unwell, though Ron claims it is stress caused by "that mad cat" going after him all the time. Harry figures differently: Scabbers was already looking ill in Diagon Alley, and before Hermione bought Crookshanks, presumably because he had heard about Black's escape.

Crookshanks recognized Pettigrew for what he was. He had also spotted Black and initially distrusted him, but helped him once he understood what Black's purpose was. Unable to bring Scabbers to Sirius, Crookshanks stole Neville's password list and later told Black that Scabbers had vanished, leaving blood and hairs on Ron's sheets. Black believed Peter had gone into hiding again; after all, appearing dead had worked once before.

Just as Black is about to kill Pettigrew, Harry says Black was his parents' Secret-Keeper and he betrayed them. Black claims he was responsible for their deaths, but was not the Secret-Keeper; he had persuaded James and Lily to switch Secret-Keepers, using Pettigrew rather than him, believing no one would suspect a weak wizard like Pettigrew. When Black checked on Pettigrew's hiding place and found him missing without any apparent struggle, he feared something had happened. He went to Godric's Hollow, and finding James and Lily's bodies amid their destroyed house, realized Pettigrew betrayed the Potters to Voldemort.

Lupin calls a halt, and he and Black cast a spell that transforms Scabbers into a human: a short man with vaguely rat-like features, colorless hair, and a large bald spot—it is Peter Pettigrew. When Lupin demands an explanation about the night James and Lily died, Pettigrew feebly claims he faked his death because he feared Black, after betraying the Potters, would also come after him, and he possessed powers that "He Who Must Not Be Named" taught him. Black responds that Voldemort's followers are unhappy with Pettigrew, that Voldemort went to the Potters' on Pettigrew's information and died there. Black says that his fellow prisoners, the Death Eaters in Azkaban, think Pettigrew double-crossed Voldemort; many others are still at large, and probably believe the same. Lupin asks why an innocent man would stay hidden for twelve years. Pettigrew claims he was scared because he put Voldemort's top lieutenant, Sirius Black, in Azkaban. Sirius angrily reminds Pettigrew that he (Pettigrew) was the Potter's Secret-Keeper. Pettigrew says that his not harming Harry during the previous three years is proof that he's not a Death Eater. Black counters that Pettigrew never harmed Harry because he would never risk acting on Voldemort's behalf unless he knew Voldemort could protect him.

Black kept his sanity in Azkaban by changing into a dog when things became unbearable. A dog's simpler thoughts are less affected by the Dementors than a human's. Dementors are blind and were unable to detect him transforming. Instead, they sense and navigate towards emotions. When Black recognized Pettigrew's Animagus form in the photograph, he vowed to expose the traitor. As a dog, he was able to evade the Dementors during his escape. He journeyed north to Hogwarts and lived in the Forbidden Forest, emerging to watch the Quidditch matches.

Harry is finally convinced that Black is innocent. Pettigrew's pleas for mercy are ignored, and he admits to serving the Dark Lord, because Voldemort would have killed him if he resisted. Black says he should have died for his friends, as they would have done for him. Lupin and Black prepare to execute Peter, but Harry intervenes to protect his father's two best friends from becoming murderers; Pettigrew will be turned over to the Dementors. Black and Lupin relent, and Lupin binds Pettigrew and splints Ron's leg. Black warns Pettigrew that if he transforms, he will kill him. Lupin charms the unconscious Snape to float along with them. Black suggests having two people chained to Pettigrew to prevent him escaping. Lupin and Ron volunteer, and Black, using Snape's wand, conjures manacles. With Crookshanks leading, they return to the tunnel.

Analysis[edit]

Harry is awash in turmoil as he attempts to sort out who is telling the truth. His emotions can rule his actions, and he often acts on them without considering all facts, but now he listens to each person's story. Until then, he was single-mindedly determined to kill Sirius Black to avenge his parents, disregarding any consequences. However, Harry's already admirable character quickly takes another leap forward here. After the initial shock and confusion, Harry swiftly regains his composure, and by logically analyzing the situation, realizes the probable outcome: if Lupin and Black kill Pettigrew, even to avenge the Potters, they will be convicted as murderers. He acts quickly to prevent them from executing Pettigrew, protecting both them and the truth by keeping Pettigrew alive. He will allow justice to properly deal with Pettigrew. For once, it is the student guiding the teacher.

In Chapter 13, it was believed that Neville lost the password list and Sirius Black found it. In fact, Crookshanks stole it from Neville at Sirius' request. Granted, losing the list is something Neville would likely do, and it is debatable whether or not he should even have made and carried such a list despite his poor memory, but it appears that he was punished for an act that was only partially his fault. This point actually merits some study as an instance of the meticulous planning the author applied to her plotting. Sirius must get into the dormitory, but he cannot do so without the password, even in his dog shape. Nobody can be helping Sirius, so he cannot be given the password, he must steal it. It makes sense that it could be most easily stolen if it was written down, and Neville has a history (from the first book) of losing passwords, so he would be the most likely person to have a written copy. The Fat Lady, however, is not in the habit of changing passwords, so Neville can't be expected, as late in the year as when the list was stolen, to have forgotten the password. So we have to evict the Fat Lady and put a more paranoid guardian on the Gryffindor Tower portal, one who can be expected to change passwords frequently enough to catch Neville off guard. Crookshanks, of course, plays a role as the agent of this theft, but is not central to it; he was brought in largely to disguise Scabbers' ongoing stress-related illness.

It is not explained how Crookshanks left Gryffindor Tower with the password list unobserved. However, we do note that Crookshanks seems to be able to pass freely between the Tower and outdoors. Given the toileting needs of cats, and their long association in the Muggle world with witches, it is not unreasonable to suspect the existence of a magical "cat door" that provides direct access to the grounds from Gryffindor tower, keyed specifically to cats. The list of allowable pets in the first book, does not mention cats as being allowed; that may be a first-year restriction only, like brooms. We do note that no other Gryffindor student seems to have a cat as a pet.

Snape here has quite clearly decided what the truth is, and, rejecting any explanation that might destroy his "understanding," has bound and gagged both Sirius and Lupin. While Harry does not yet fully believe Black's story, he is certain Lupin is trustworthy, and resists Snape's stubborn refusal to even listen to Lupin. While Ron joining Harry in this rebellion is expected, it is surprising to everyone, including herself, that Hermione also participates.

This would appear to be the first time that we see two or more wizards combining their efforts to produce a single spell. The apparent effect is to increase the power of the spell, and in the first case, the Trio jinxing Snape, the additional power is unexpected to any of the participants. In the second case, Lupin and Black combining forces to transform Scabbers into Pettigrew, the additional force may be necessary to reverse Pettigrew's Animagus transform. It may be worth noting that both Lupin and Black apparently realize that they must combine forces to revert Pettigrew's transformation.

Questions[edit]

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

Review[edit]

  1. How could Black be so certain that Pettigrew was still alive?
  2. Why did Black and Pettigrew switch places as the Potters' "Secret Keeper"?
  3. Why do Harry, Ron, and Hermione knock out Snape in the Shrieking Shack?
  4. How did Black escape from Azkaban prison? Why were the Dementors unable to detect him?
  5. Why does Harry prevent Lupin and Black from killing Pettigrew?
  6. Why did Pettigrew, who had close access to Harry, never try to kill him?
  7. Although Sirius is innocent, why does he, by his own admission, claim he is responsible for the Potters' deaths?

Further Study[edit]

  1. How could Crookshanks have "told" Sirius that Scabbers had vanished?
  2. Why did the Weasley family fail to notice or question Scabbers' unusually long life?
  3. If Sirius was able to fool the Dementors when in his Animagus form, why did it take him twelve years to escape Azkaban?
  4. Why was Pettigrew never suspected as being a Voldemort follower? Were there signs that the Potters and Sirius should have seen?
  5. Even though Sirius never betrayed the Potters, he claims he is still responsible for their deaths. Is he? Explain why or why not.
  6. Why did Hermione help Harry and Ron attack Snape?
  7. Why does Snape refuse to consider either Lupin's or Black's explanation about Pettigrew and the Potters?

Greater Picture[edit]

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

It has become obvious over the past few chapters that Crookshanks is something other than an ordinary cat. According to the author, he is actually part Kneazle, a cat-like creature that often associates with Wizards. Intelligent, they are able to communicate with other animals, which is how Black, in his dog form, was able to receive and relay information.

Harry's decision to prevent Lupin and Black from executing Pettigrew, though humane and the right thing to do, has far-reaching, tragic repercussions. Pettigrew escapes shortly, and will, as predicted, return to Voldemort. He will later entrap Bertha Jorkins, a Ministry of Magic employee, and it will be with her unwilling assistance, eventual murder, and Pettigrew's help, that Voldemort will capture Harry, command Cedric Diggory's murder, and re-embody himself in a gruesome ritual. Pettigrew's direct participation in the Dark Lord's resurrection ultimately results in many more deaths. If Lupin and Black had executed Pettigrew, however, both would likely have been sentenced to Azkaban for killing him.

It should be noted here that Lupin missing his last Wolfsbane potion will have serious consequences. Though he knows there is a full moon that night, Lupin, in his excitement at seeing Pettigrew's and Black's names on the Marauder's Map, rushes off before Snape brings him the potion. As a result, Lupin transforms into a Werewolf without consciousness of his human self, thus endangering his companions. If Lupin had taken his final draught, he would have retained his mind after transforming, and Pettigrew would likely have been unable to escape. By missing that final dose, Lupin becomes a mindless, savage animal, and Sirius must assume his dog form to protect Harry and the others. While both fully-grown Wizards are occupied, Pettigrew seizes the opportunity to transform back into a rat and escape.

Snape being knocked out will turn out to be a necessary plot device. If Snape was conscious, even bound and gagged, he would have been unable to miss seeing Pettigrew returned to human shape, and his world view might have been upset. It is Snape's stubborn insistence on Black's guilt that sets up not only the final chapters of this book, but Black's donation of his house to the Order of the Phoenix for use as their headquarters. Thwarted in his hopes of receiving the Order of Merlin for his part in Black's recapture, Snape reveals Lupin's werewolf nature, thus forcing Lupin out of his position as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher role and fulfilling the conditions of what we later learn is a curse on that position, without destroying Lupin in the process.

Connections[edit]