Cat, Rat, and Dog

chapter seventeen of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

After Scabbers bites Ron to try to get away, a large dog soon attacks Ron instead and drags both him and Scabbers into a hidden tunnel. After Harry and Hermione follow, they discover the dog to be Sirius Black. When Harry tries to attack Black, however, Lupin arrives and throws things into confusion – especially when he reveals that Scabbers is really an Animagus as well.

Ron is Pulled into the Base of the Whomping Willow by the Mysterious Black Dog, by Drew Graham

And there, at the base of the trunk, was the dog, dragging Ron backward into a large gap in the roots –


He's the Dog, by Tealin Raintree

“He’s the dog… he’s an Animagus….”


Nightfall, by Dunland

It was Sirius Black.

(by Dunland)


There Will Be Only One Murder Here Tonight, by Ani Bester

“There’ll be only one murder here tonight,” said Black, and his grin widened.


Trio, by glockgal

“Why’s that?” Harry spat, trying to wrench himself free of Ron and Hermione. “Didn’t care last time, did you? Didn’t mind slaughtering all those Muggles to get at Pettigrew….”


by Tealin Raintree

“Going to kill me, Harry?”


by Amanda Grazini

“No, he’s not,” said Lupin quietly. “He’s a wizard.”
“An Animagus,” said Black, “by the name of Peter Pettigrew.”


about the chapter


In a sense, this chapter is where the books grow up. In just a few pages the series transforms from lighthearted kids’ books into something far deeper and more real. Suddenly Crookshanks answers Hermione’s call for help and then fights for Black; Lupin starts to reveal a deep, complex past; characters are thrown into confusion as we can’t be sure who to trust; and with the final line in the chapter – “An Animagus… by the name of Peter Pettigrew,” Harry’s world is turned upside down as we learn that Ron’s longtime pet is in fact a transformed human who was believed dead. This book is a favorite of many a Harry Potter fan, and I think this is a big reason why – we (and Harry) discover very quickly that we can’t assume anything in this world of magic. The villains aren’t cardboard cutouts, deception and evil run deep, and there is far more happening underneath the surface than we would ever have imagined. It’s time for Harry to brace himself for an wild – and scary – few years, spun by an absolute master storyteller.

The Boy Who Lived

When Harry has a lengthy chance to kill Sirius Black, he can’t pull the trigger, instead finding he doesn’t have it in him. It’s not a surprise, really, for a thirteen-year-old, and we’ll see an older student respond similarly to a similar situation down the road. This is Harry’s first lesson that there’s a difference between a desire for revenge, or “righteous anger” (as a future nemesis will put it), and a willingness to pull the trigger and do actual harm to another human being. Harry doesn’t think much of it now, but it’s a dilemma he’ll continue to grapple with over the years.

Something to Remember

When Hermione blurts out that Lupin is a werewolf, our reaction is mostly one of surprise that he was withholding such a massive secret; along with, of course, curiosity as to what other secrets he might hold. But a close look at Ron’s reaction (“Get away from me, werewolf!”) reveals something deeper, and in many ways stronger, than the emotions Harry and Hermione are feeling. His utter revulsion to the idea that Lupin would be a werewolf, and his revulsion toward Lupin, a man he’s gotten to know and like all year long, just barely hints at how the rest of the wizarding world would feel about Lupin’s state, and also start to give some insight into where this character might be headed. Not to mention where he’s coming from….

27 Responses to “Cat, Rat, and Dog”

  1. Everytime I read the passage in which Harry has his chance to kill Sirius I can’t help but think that even if he did find it in him to kill the man, HE WOULD NOT KNOW HOW! Not with magic at least. Harry won’t learn about Avada Kedavra until his next year and right now he probably doesn’t know enough magic to cause Sirius more than a nosebleed.

  2. I like the word choice used when you say that this chapter is where the books grow up. I noticed recently that books 4-7 are much more in depth and darker than the first three, but I never pointed to this chapter as the moment. It is definitely in this sequence though that the story we are being told transforms from more of a childish fairy tale into a much more complex world of good, evil, corruption, and secrets.


    I agree with Lola that Harry has yet to hear of Avada Kedavra (and certainly isn’t powerful enough to cast it effectively). However I am sure there are other spells that can kill, even if not designed for that. Imagine a Reductor Curse cast on someone or an Incendio! Also, at the end of DH Molly Weasley kills Bellatrix with a spell that isn’t named but gets under her guard. As Avada Kedavra is unblockable, could this be a different spell?

  4. I remember being on my bed and not be able to stop reading. All the things we start to learn about Remus, Sirius, James and Peter makes Harry’s parents alive and not a mere memory or two people who just sacrifize themselves to save him. They existed, and, as Josie points out, this is when the book grows. And knowing that may be Harry’s life can be better it’s great.

  5. I cringe every time I reread Ron’s words: “Get away from me, werewolf!” Imagine how poor Lupin must have felt at beind addressed in this way. Even if you don’t know the standing of werewolves in wizarding society, Ron’s voice sounds (reads?) full of disdain and contempt. I can only compare it to Malfoy calling Hermione a “mudblood”. We don’t know the meaning of th word “mudblood”, but right away deduce it must not be something pretty.

  6. this is my favorite chapter to read i reread this book all the time just for this and the next two chapters it’s so thrilling to read what we learn as background infomation for the characters as josie points out this is the beginning of a new twist for the series.

  7. @Ozzie I agree with you. Though i don’t believe Harry learns reductio till the 3rd task in book 4. but as you said there are other spells that could kill. Even the levitation one could. you levitate someone off the side of cliff or something. I think any spell can be used badly.

  8. One of the best sections (this whole end chapters) in the entire series. The 1st time I read this I was SHOCKED. Brillantly written.

  9. I always try to imagine how Remus must have felt, when Ron blurted, “Get away from me, werewolf!” I mean, he must have been dealing with people’s prejudice, revulsion, and fear for nearly his whole life, and then to have it all brought back by a thirteen year old boy in a place that probably became a haven? Poor Lupin.

  10. There are other spells to kill people with. I’m sure Harry knows something that might be able to do it. Avada kadavra bears the distinction in dueling for two reasons. 1. the user seems to be required to say the words and two the spell is unblockable. but we know that spells like Sectumsempra could easily kill someone if it hits

  11. I absolutely agree with what you said about this chapter revealing a darker side to the series because the villians aren’t ‘cardboard cutouts’ they’ve gone to a deeper level of evil. It truly is why this is my favorite book of all time. The plot twist is mind-blowing!
    I love this website! I used to think about small details about the books but not to this extent!

  12. I’ve heard many say that Scabbers was the most surprising plot twist of the series. I agree. :)

  13. I find it interesting how Sirius (as the dog) instead of going straight for Ron and Sabbers, jumped on top of Harry instead.
    Was it an overly friendly greeting? Or something else?

  14. I think it was probably because he believed Harry to be the one most likely to stop him from taking Ron and Scabbers so he handicapped him first.

  15. Knowing what we know in this chapter and the next about Lupin and Sirius’s friendship, it’s interesting to think about Dumbledore’s appointment of Lupin this year. Was it pure coincidence/literary necessity that Lupin happened to be teaching the same year that Sirius escaped? If he had been helping Sirius try to kill Harry, it would have been a well-worked out plot of theirs; but that wasn’t the case. However, I think it may be a thought-out defensive plan of Dumbledore’s, like so many other things.
    If Sirius Black should appear in the castle disguised or try to get in through any of the old ways, Lupin would be the first to realize it. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Dumbledore encouraged the relationship between Lupin and Harry; the closer Lupin is to Harry, the safer Harry may be. This year, Lupin was strategically placed as a professor to help guard Hogwarts, and Harry, against the murderer Sirius Black.
    I would really like to see an essay about Dumbledore’s careful choices in professors for the seven years that we are at Hogwarts…

  16. Ragmar Dorkins, you have a very interesting point that I’d never considered before. But I love the idea of Lupin’s appointment being deliberate. It makes sense – Dumbledore obviously trusts Lupin, and Lupin would know more about Sirius than anybody else alive. A great source of protection for Harry.

    I don’t know about the essay, though… most of the professorial appointments just aren’t that interesting. I’ve written an essay on Quirrell’s appointment already; I don’t see any particular reason for hiring Lockhart other than just needing a body; and Moody, Umbridge, Slughorn, and Snape are, I think, all pretty well explained in the books. I don’t know that I’d have much to add to the discussion.

  17. I always thought that Dumbledore might have had doubts as to Sirius’ guilt, remember Hagrid borrowed his motorcycle when he delivered baby Harry to the Dursleys, had he wanted to kill Harry that would have been a good time to do it.
    Also… was Wormtale always Scabbers or did he kill the real Scabbers and take his place at some time shortly before this book?

  18. @Paul Menkens. It was implied that Scabbers was Wormtail all along. Scabbers had been in the Weasley family for twelve years, the same length of time Wormtail had been ‘dead’.

  19. I also always wondered how Harry was planning to kill Sirius. I was well aware he didn’t need the AK curse, but I always wondered just what spells were running through his head for a weapon he would use. Or if he even got as far as thinking about it. And the moment Ron finds out about Lupin is so shocking to me. I mean, yes, it shows the great prejudice against werewolves in the Wizarding world, but he did just get to know him for a full year, and all of a sudden he’s revolted by him? This is one of those moments I really start to dislike Ron in the series.

    About Lupin being deliberately appointed to the DADA position, the first time I reread the series I realized that Dumbledore must have thought of Lupin as a defense for Harry, just in case. Remember in DH when Lupin comes to Grimmauld to have a discussion with the trio? He tries to sell himself as a defender for them while they travel. He says something like how he has a set of certain skills that they could use to their advantage. I definitely think there’s more to Lupin than we realize, even throughout the series. I have a feeling he could have been a great auror if not for his “condition”.

    Also, in this chapter, when Harry is contemplating killing Sirius, just before Lupin enters, the passage reads “Harry gripped his wand convulsively — *Do it now!* said a voice in his head –” we can only ponder over what this voice really is. Is it really just a person’s inner voice, or something much more sinister? ;)

    And Josie, I hope you don’t mind, but I quoted your “About the Chapter” section in my personal blog. I gave you credit for writing it and everything. It just gave me such chills, I just *had* to put it down! =D

  20. Casey, I love what you said about a voice in Harry’s head telling him to kill Sirius. It’s the kind of thing that can’t really be confirmed but I’m definitely adding it to my personal canon!

    Prejudices run deep for humans, whether they are magical or Muggle. To get such a strong reaction from Ron, the prejudice against werewolves must be something he was taught from a small age. Makes you wonder what wizarding parents teach their children as they raise them. (Werewolves are monsters, don’t say You-Know-Who’s name or you’ll be cursed, blood mania is idiotic/Mudbloods are scum…)

  21. Jo Rowling set up the central deception in this story well in advance. Readers who paid attention to who was present when the Sneakoscope went off probably concluded that the untrustworthy character was Crookshanks. We didn’t consider Scabbers because he wasn’t a new character. He had been part of the story ever since Harry met Ron on the train in book 1. It was clear to us that Scabbers was just a rat. Crookshanks, on the other hand, was a new character and clearly had more to him than met the eye.

  22. Lupin has always been one of my favorite characters. But I have very strong feelings about his conduct throughout the book. If he was put in a position to protect Harry, which I believe he was, then he failed miserably. Black was able to get into the school and Gryphindor tower not once, but twice. Both of these instances became common knowledge fairly quickly. Yet in this chapter it is revealed that Lupin knew exactly how Sirius got in undetected and he failed to tell Dumbledore. He explains later that he never told Dumbledore because he was afraid that Dumbledore would be disappointed in him for so many years of deception. Poor excuse in my opinion. When so many lives are at stake, particularly Harry’s, the decent thing to do is tell what you know and face the consequences. What if Sirius really was the murderous monster everyone thought him to be? Harry and his friends would never have left the Shrieking Shack alive, if they even managed to survive up to that point. By not warning Dumbledore that Sirius was an unregistered animagus, he put everyone at Hogwarts at risk.

    Now I realize that Rowling had to do this in order for Siruis to escape, because he was the good guy after all. But no one in the story, including Lupin, was to know that. So I maintain that Lupin’s actions, or lack thereof, were selfish, irresponsible, and cowardly. It just goes to show that he has a particular weakness where he puts his desire for acceptance above doing the right thing. ;)

  23. It is absurd that I, whohave read these last chapters of PoA at least ten times over since I first laid hands on the book, is actually sitting here at six in the morning without being able to stop reading. Spell-binding, indeed…

  24. I gotta say Jen, that you’re absolutely right. I never thought about any of that at all. That’s what makes Lupin such a tragic and complex character though. He’s admitted to himself and others more than once (maybe just once idk) that that’s what he is at the core. Selfish, Irresponsible and cowardly. We see it when in this book, we see it in Snape’s memory, and we see it in the last book in his situation with Tonks. It’s really sad in my opinion.
    Also, @ valeria and erica…. I think when I read that line for the first time I actually jerked back in shock. I was all like “gasp! RON!!!” I was all shocked and angry for Lupin. Later I felt so so sad, when I FINALLY understood *why* he’s treated that way. My heart actually ached. Lupin can barely afford to take care of himself!!! All because of something that wasn’t his fault!!?

  25. Sirius is one of my favorite characters and I always feel so bad for him in this chapter. Here is his godson, whom he loves dearly, wanting to kill him, and reminding him so forcefully about what happened to James and Lily-which we know Sirius partly blames himself for. Harry is really twisting the knife here (unknowingly of course). Meanwhile the person responsible for it all is finally so close, yet Sirius has a lot to explain before he can get to him. He must be absolutely bursting with emotions right about now.

  26. I read Ron’s comment as scared disgust. Though in my fanfics I gave Ron and the Weasleys, through Molly, a reason to be. After all, how many people form the attitude to the whole group because of – monsters – like Greyback causing the death of family members or friends.
    In the books, it’s interesting to note… Ron, the pureblood, is the one who jumps to conclusions about giants and werewolves, and explains the traditions to the others – Mudblood, Beedle Bard fairytales, etc. Hermione is the muggleborn who finds everything out through books (too insecure to ask teachers, e.g., about house-elves, for fear of seeming ignorant in pureblood-dominated world?). Then there’s Harry, who straddles both worlds as a half-blood and is better for it.

  27. Avada kadavra:
    I remember in a future book Harry tried to use this spell on someone but failed. That person turns to him and say in order to use that spell you have to really want that person dead (I cant remember the actual quote or who says it). I cant think of harry actually wanting someone dead no matter how bad they are it’s just not in his nature.

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