Owl Post Again

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Chapter 22 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Owl Post Again← Chapter 21 |

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Hermione tugs at Harry's sleeve, saying they have only ten minutes before Dumbledore locks the Hospital Wing. They dash off, hiding as Snape and Fudge walk past on their way to watch the Dementors administer the Kiss to Sirius Black, and again as Peeves drifts past. They reach the Hospital Wing just as Dumbledore is coming out. Harry and Hermione tell him Black is safely away on Buckbeak. Dumbledore lets them into the Hospital Wing, empty except for the still unconscious Ron, and locks the door.

Madam Pomfrey, nettled, returns from her office, but is interrupted by a raging roar from above. Shortly, they hear Snape outside, shouting that Black could not have Disapparated because it is impossible inside the castle; someone must have freed him. Slamming the infirmary doors open, he proclaims that Potter must somehow be involved. Dumbledore, arriving shortly after Snape and Fudge, states that Harry has been locked in the infirmary, and Madam Pomfrey verifies that no one has left. Snape, snarling imprecations, leaves. Fudge suggests he may be unbalanced, but Dumbledore says that he has simply suffered a great disappointment. Fudge worries that the Daily Prophet will have a field day if they find out Black was in custody and escaped again. When Dumbledore suggests removing the Dementors from Hogwarts, Fudge complies—if they tried to administer the Kiss to an innocent boy, then they are certainly unsafe. Dumbledore and Fudge leave, and Madam Pomfrey relocks the door, returning to her office. When Ron wakes up, he asks what happened; Harry asks Hermione to explain.

The castle is nearly deserted when Harry, Ron, and Hermione are released from the Hospital Wing the next day. It is another Hogsmeade weekend, but Ron and Hermione decide to stay at Hogwarts with Harry. Relaxing by the lake, they are met by Hagrid, who reports that Buckbeak escaped. The Trio pretend surprise. Hagrid also says that Snape told the Slytherins that Professor Lupin is a Werewolf, and Lupin has resigned. Harry finds Lupin in his office, where nearly everything is packed. Lupin says he is unable to stay—too many parents would object to a Werewolf teaching their children. He then asks about the previous night's events, including Harry's Patronus. He says that Harry is correct, that James transformed into a stag, hence his nickname "Prongs." Lupin returns the Invisibility Cloak and the Marauder's Map to Harry, saying James would have been disappointed if Harry had not found any of the secret passages.

Dumbledore arrives to tell Lupin his carriage is ready. After Lupin leaves, an upset Harry tells Dumbledore that what he did made no difference: Pettigrew still got away. Dumbledore replies that his actions saved two innocent lives. Harry remembers Professor Trelawney's prediction during his exam, and tells Dumbledore. Dumbledore is quite pleased, saying that brings Trelawney's true predictions up to two. Harry is dismayed that even forewarned, he was unable to prevent Pettigrew's return to Voldemort. Dumbledore points out that Pettigrew now owes Harry a life debt. Voldemort will be displeased at having a servant who owes so much to his worst enemy. Harry tells Dumbledore about his Patronus' form, and that he thought it was his father casting it. Dumbledore says, "You think the dead that we have loved, ever truly leave us?" It was the memory of James that allowed Harry to produce that particular Patronus. Harry realizes Dumbledore knows about James' Animagus ability; Dumbledore confirms that Black had told him about it.

Meanwhile, Malfoy is furious that Buckbeak escaped and is convinced Hagrid is responsible, while nearly everyone is upset over Lupin's departure.

Marks come out at the end of the term, and Harry is amazed: he has passed everything, even Potions. Ron and Hermione also pass everything. Percy has his top-grade NEWTs, while the Twins have each managed to scrape a handful of OWLs. Gryffindor wins the House Cup for the third straight year, largely from winning the Quidditch Cup.

On the Hogwarts Express, Hermione tells Ron and Harry that she has dropped Muggle Studies. With that and Divination off her schedule, she no longer needs the Time-turner and has returned it to Professor McGonagall. Ron suggests Harry might like to come to the Quidditch World Cup. His dad is usually able to get tickets. Hermione spots something flying outside the window. Harry reaches out and grabs a tiny Scops owl carrying a message far too big for it. It is from Black, who writes that he is safe, and it was he who sent Harry the Firebolt for Christmas. Crookshanks carried the message to the Owl Office for him. Enclosed is a signed Hogsmeade permission form for Harry. Because Black was instrumental in losing Ron's rat, the little owl is his to keep. Holding the owl up to Crookshanks, Ron asks if it is real. Crookshanks purrs, so Ron claims him.

As he meets his uncle at King's Cross Station, Harry tells him that he has met his godfather, Sirius, who is a wizard and a convicted murderer. Since Sirius is at large, and very interested in Harry's well-being, Harry expects that the Dursleys will be treating him with a little more respect this summer.

Analysis[edit]

A number of areas in the story line are, of course, tied up in this chapter. We receive confirmation that Sirius and Buckbeak have escaped safely, we hear that Harry has passed another school year, and we can see that Hermione, freed from her superhuman workload, will likely be more companionable next year. Once again, due in part to Harry's efforts, the House Cup is won by Gryffindor. Ron's pet, lost but not lamented, is replaced; we can safely expect that the little owl, so eager to please, will likely be a recurring character in later books. And we have again lost a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher after a single year at the school. Could this be a recurring pattern?

The book concludes as usual with Harry returning to the Dursleys' at school's end. Unlike the previous two summers, Harry has a much happier outlook about the time he must spend there. He is comforted by knowing that he now has a caring godfather that he may eventually be able to live with. Harry also knows that Sirius being a wanted fugitive will provide him some leverage with the Dursleys, who will likely be intimidated by this new information into treating Harry better. Ron also throws out hope that Harry's stay there will be shorter than usual, further uplifting Harry's spirits.

Questions[edit]

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

Review[edit]

  1. Why does Lupin resign?
  2. What does Dumbledore tell Harry about his Patronus?
  3. What does Black give Harry? What does he give to Ron and why?
  4. Why does Harry tell Uncle Vernon about his new-found godfather?

Further Study[edit]

  1. Dumbledore tells Snape that Harry could not have set Sirius free, saying, "Unless you are suggesting that Harry and Hermione can be in two places at the same time." Is Dumbledore deliberately giving Snape a hint as to what has happened? If so, why? Wouldn't Snape likely already know about Hermione using the Time Turner all year?
  2. What does Pettigrew now owe Harry? How will this affect Pettigrew's relationship with Voldemort?

Greater Picture[edit]

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

The return of the Time-Turner to Professor McGonagall is a minor but necessary plot point. The time-turner is an amazingly useful device for a wizard intent on evil; as mentioned in the write-up for the device, if Voldemort had a Time-Turner, it would be possible for him to multiply himself any number of times to overpower any enemy by sheer numbers. Thus, in order to prevent this device from getting into Voldemort's hands once he controls the Ministry, it is necessary for all such devices to be destroyed. This is done by, first, getting the sample in Hermione's possession back to the Ministry, and then by having the entire collection at the Ministry destroyed by an errant spell.

When Dumbledore mentions that this would be Trelawney's second real prediction it is easy to brush it off as unimportant, but this is actually a major plot detail for the fifth installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In that book, Voldemort's energies are bent towards procuring the record of that first prophecy, which eventually results in Voldemort deceiving Harry into retrieving the record for him. Voldemort's attempt fails, however, as the prophecy is destroyed before he gets to hear it.

We can already guess that, despite seeing him wing off into the night, this is not the last time Sirius Black will be seen. He reappears in the next two books, and again in the seventh. Lupin also reappears; he is mentioned in the fourth book, and appears in person in the fifth, sixth, and seventh books. Despite Sirius being Harry's godfather, we see that Lupin, whose ideas and personality resonate more closely with Harry's, has a greater effect on Harry's maturation than Sirius, whose own maturity and judgment appears to have been stunted by his time in Azkaban and the subsequent years of being a fugitive.

Pettigrew's owing a life debt to Harry has no immediate effect on Voldemort's and Pettigrew's relationship. Voldemort understands what Pettigrew is—a weak-willed, largely ineffectual menial, almost a classic toady, who hitches himself to Voldemort's star to gain rewards. We have already seen that in his nature in the Shrieking Shack, and learned that it is how he befriended James Potter, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin. We are hardly surprised that Voldemort, a keen judge of character, sees this in him as well. As a result, Voldemort exploits Pettigrew as his means to return from near-death, at least initially depends on him for survival, but understands that Pettigrew's loyalty is to the main chance, and so never entirely trusts him. In the end, this life-debt saves Harry's life at the cost of Pettigrew's; Harry, at a critical point, reminds Pettigrew of that debt, causing Pettigrew to hesitate. The weapon he is wielding, which Voldemort gave him, senses this hesitation and fatally turns on Pettigrew.

There is one small inconsistency in this chapter. We are told that Fred and George receive their OWL results at the end of term, and Percy receives his NEWT results at the same time. While Harry, Ron, and Hermione sit their OWLs at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, they do not get their results until the summer. As the description of Harry receiving his OWL results is quite detailed, where the description in this chapter of Percy and the Twins getting their results is one throw-away sentence, this is almost certainly a slight mistake by the author. It is much more likely that the Twins would not have actually gotten their results until summer, because decisions depending on OWL results are not necessarily made until the following September. However, as employment starts right after graduation, and would be expected to depend upon NEWT results, it is likely that these results would have come back sooner for Percy, quite possibly before end of term. This is, of course, assuming that Wizarding bureaucracy is no more inefficient than Muggle civil servants.

Connections[edit]

  • As mentioned, the Time-Turner is an extremely dangerous item to leave around where Dark wizards might use it. To prevent them being used against Harry, they should be somehow rendered harmless. This is done in a later book, though it is only revealed in a still-later book that Neville's misplaced curse had destroyed the entire world's supply of Time-turners.
  • Pettigrew's life debt to Harry will play a role in the final book in the series. Harry, being strangled by Pettigrew, will remind Pettigrew of this debt. Pettigrew will hesitate, and the weapon he is using, the silver hand given him by Voldemort three years earlier, will fatally turn on him.
  • Dumbledore mentions that the episode Harry describes is Trelawney's second real prediction. We will discover that Trelawney had been hired almost entirely because of an earlier prediction, which will see in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It will turn out that this earlier prophecy drives most of the action of the entire series. When the Ministry claims power over the hiring and firing of Hogwarts teachers, and then fires Trelawney, in that same book, Professor Dumbledore acts to keep her at Hogwarts despite her dismissal. This is apparently because Voldemort is then actively seeking the full text of the original Prophecy, and Dumbledore believes that Trelawney's life is not safe if she leaves the school.
  • Harry learns that it was Sirius Black who sent him the Firebolt, as Hermione had suspected earlier in this book. In the final book of the series, Harry will find out that Sirius had also given him a toy broomstick on his first birthday.