Grim Defeat

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Chapter 9 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Grim Defeat← Chapter 8 | Chapter 10 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Following Sirius Black's break-in, Professor Dumbledore orders all students to spend the night in the Great Hall. Prefects stand guard while the teachers search the castle. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are still awake when Professor Dumbledore receives the all clear from Professor Snape. Snape reminds Dumbledore that he had expressed concerns over an appointment Dumbledore made. Dumbledore interrupts, saying he is certain that nobody in the castle would have helped Black.

Sir Cadogan becomes the new Gryffindor guard, the only portrait brave enough to take the job. There is wild speculation throughout the school as to how Black broke in. It becomes apparent that the school knows Black's objective: Harry notices that a teacher is always walking alongside him, and the pompous Percy Weasley trails behind, reinforcing Harry's belief that he is Black's target. Professor McGonagall summons Harry to her office to tell him about Black, but is taken aback when he admits he already knows. When McGonagall suggests that Quidditch practice might be an unnecessary risk, Harry protests; it is only a week until the match with Slytherin. Professor McGonagall relents and suggests that Madam Hooch can watch him during practice.

In the final practice session before the Slytherin match, the team Captain, Oliver Wood, announces a schedule change: they are playing Hufflepuff rather than Slytherin. This means that their practice to counter Slytherin's moves is wasted. Hufflepuff has a completely different playing style, due in part to their new Captain and Seeker, Cedric Diggory.

Oliver keeps cornering Harry between classes with strategy pointers, making Harry ten minutes late for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Unfortunately, Snape is substituting for an absent Professor Lupin. After doling out House point penalties, Snape lectures about Werewolves, even though this topic is scheduled for later in the term. He assigns a homework essay on recognition and means of defeating Werewolves.

The Quidditch match is played in a fierce storm, and Harry is unable to see. During a time-out, Hermione charms Harry's glasses to repel water. Harry is now able to play properly, but his lighter body weight causes the wind to push him around more than Cedric. Momentarily distracted by a large black dog, possibly a Grim, in the stands, Harry nearly misses seeing the Snitch that Cedric has already started after. As he chases it, Dementors appear, and hearing screaming inside his head, Harry loses consciousness and falls off his broom, plummeting to the ground.

Harry awakens in the Hospital Wing to find his teammates, still in their muddy uniforms, surrounding his bed. Gryffindor lost, but Harry learns that Diggory has demanded a rematch. Wood, however, admitted Gryffindor had been beaten, and Cedric's request had been denied. Harry is depressed over his first Quidditch match loss. Madam Pomfrey ousts everyone except Ron and Hermione, who say it was Professor Dumbledore who stopped Harry's fall and banished the Dementors from the pitch. Unfortunately, Harry's Nimbus 2000 was blown into the Whomping Willow and destroyed.

Analysis[edit]

Although Snape clearly despises Lupin, just why is unknown. When he substitutes for Lupin in Defence Against the Dark Arts class, he inexplicably has the class study Werewolves before Lupin's schedule calls for it; he may have some specific reason for this, but if so we do not know what it could be. Snape is also being required by Professor Dumbledore (presumably) to do things he is clearly unhappy about. One, as seen in the previous chapter, is having to prepare a potion for Lupin. Although Harry suspects Snape may have poisoned it in an attempt to get rid of Lupin, Lupin apparently trusts Snape enough to drink it, with no evident ill effects.

After Black breaks into the castle, Snape's comments to Dumbledore about a misguided appointment also seem pointed at Lupin, though his name is never mentioned. Doubtless Snape previously expressed his opinion that Dumbledore erred in appointing Lupin as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Snape seems to imply that Lupin assisted Black to get into Hogwarts, an implication Dumbledore clearly disputes. It is unclear why Snape believes Lupin is aiding Black, but it indicates that Snape may know about some prior connection between the two.

The Dementors entering the castle grounds against strict orders to remain outside is disturbing, even more so when they blatantly approach Harry during the Quidditch match. These strange creatures are unpredictable, and this is the second time they have singled out Harry, who they are supposedly guarding. Harry, meanwhile, is at a low point; he not only suffers his first Quidditch loss, but also loses his prized Nimbus 2000. Further complicating matters is his unusually sensitive reaction to the Dementors, and he struggles to understand why they affect him more than others, and why he hears someone screaming whenever they approach.

The Hufflepuff Quidditch win over Gryffindor is significant in the school's history, as they have traditionally always been the weakest team. Hufflepuff House rarely attains much glory in anything, and many probably consider it the repository for those students who failed to be sorted into the more specialized Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin Houses. There have been notable Hufflepuff students, of course, and Cedric Diggory appears to be one, making it seem plausible that the Sorting Hat may have placed him in the wrong House. However, Cedric's character also demonstrates fairness, loyalty, and a strong work ethic, which are Hufflepuff traits. Cedric's superb athletic skills and leadership abilities have helped Hufflepuff gain some long-awaited recognition. It is likely that Cedric, whose characteristics highlighted here by his team's win over Gryffindor and Cedric's evident belief that this victory was undeserved, will reappear in the series; the author always is efficient in how she uses her characters, and we can already surmise that any character given this much definition will likely play a more significant role later on.

Questions[edit]

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

Review[edit]

  1. What happens when Harry is approached by Dementors during the Quidditch match?
  2. Other than the Dementors, what unusual thing does Harry see during the game?

Further Study[edit]

  1. What does Snape mean when he says he expressed concerns over an appointment Dumbledore made? What is Dumbledore's response?
  2. Why would Snape, who is substituting for an absent Lupin, suddenly assign homework on werewolves, a subject that was scheduled to be covered much later in the term?
  3. Why would the Dementors continually single out and approach Harry in such a menacing manner?

Greater Picture[edit]

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

Snape is, apparently, questioning Dumbledore about Lupin's appointment as the Dark Arts Professor. This ironically mirrors the same suspicions others will express about Snape in the future. Despite the obvious things that Snape does at Dumbledore’s behest, such as making the Wolfsbane Potion for Lupin in this book, and giving Harry Occlumency lessons in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Snape’s Death Eater history cannot be easily forgotten, or forgiven. Snape, however, has either fully accepted the Ministry story about Black, or is using it to suit his own ends, and here expresses (and later will act upon) the belief that Lupin, who was fast friends with Black, the late James Potter, and the supposedly late Peter Pettigrew, is helping his old friend enter the castle undetected. However, Dumbledore trusts both Snape and Lupin and will never publicly entertain doubts regarding either man's loyalty.

Snape has known that Lupin is a Werewolf since their school days together at Hogwarts. As students, Pettigrew and Black tricked Snape into going to the tunnel leading to the Shrieking Shack, where Lupin was confined during his transformations. If not for James Potter's intervention, Snape would likely have been killed. Even though James was not involved in the prank, Snape still blamed him, probably because Lupin, Black and Pettigrew were James' friends. At that time, Dumbledore made Snape swear never to reveal Lupin's condition to the other students. Now, Snape probably agreed to continue concealing Lupin's condition when Lupin was hired. His Werewolf lecture while substituting for Lupin is an attempt to circumvent that restriction. Snape hopes a student will recognize those characteristics in Lupin and reveal them to classmates, and they, in turn, would tell their parents, who likely would pressure Dumbledore to dismiss Lupin. At the end of this book, something similar will happen; Snape will deliberately let Lupin's nature slip to Slytherin house, and as a result Lupin will leave the school. For now, Lupin is lucky that only Hermione discovers his secret, a fact she reveals only to Harry and Ron when Pettigrew is unmasked in the Shrieking Shack scene later in the book.

The large black dog that Harry sees is Sirius Black in his Animagus form, coming to watch his godson playing Quidditch. During the game, Harry is nearly injured when the Dementors appear on the pitch. Juxtaposing the dog with Harry's nearly falling to his death will reinforce Harry's mistaken belief that he is seeing a Grim, rather than a canine. Harry continues to fret about this until he sees the dog interacting with Crookshanks later in this book. Once he has proof that the dog is physical rather than spectral, his fear passes. Black later apologizes for having frightened Harry.

One unaddressed fact is that Lupin knows that Black is an unregistered Animagus. Lupin may have guessed that Black is evading the Dementors in his dog form. It is never explained why Lupin withholds this rather important possibility from Dumbledore, particularly after Black gained entrance into the castle. Though Lupin supposedly believes that Black betrayed the Potters, he may actually be harboring some lingering doubts as to Black's actual guilt, preventing him from revealing Black's ability to change shape. It is certainly true that Lupin is quick to accept Black's disavowal of responsibility in the Shrieking Shack. It is easier to guess why Snape, if he knew, might avoid informing Dumbledore. Snape, as we start to see in this chapter, retains a powerful grudge against Lupin for events dating back to their school days together, and may have convinced himself that Lupin is somehow helping Sirius enter the castle. Knowing that Black can transform into a dog and evade the guards would weaken this theory substantially. By removing the requirement for inside help in entering the school, so we can suppose that if Snape ever knew of the ability, he is subconsciously suppressing the memory. Given his later disbelief as to Scabbers' true identity, however, Snape seems simply unaware that Black is an Animagus. Also, in the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it is revealed that Snape has always been loyal to Dumbledore and dedicated to protecting Harry. It would seem likely that immediately after Black's escape, and knowing his supposed intent to kill Harry, that Snape, if he knew, would have mentioned Black's ability to Dumbledore and/or the Ministry, particularly during discussions regarding Harry's protection at Hogwarts from Black. Of course, given that an Animagus must be registered with the Ministry of Magic or face serious legal consequences, it is safe to suppose that Black, Peter Pettigrew, and James Potter would have kept this ability strictly secret, and Lupin would presumably keep their secret, out of loyalty to the other three Marauders, and possibly also to avoid being considered an accessory to their crime.