Chapter 12 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Patronus
Harry and Ron remain furious at Hermione for her part in Harry's new Firebolt being confiscated. As a result, Hermione tries to avoid the common room, doing her endless studying in the library and, presumably, her dorm. Holidays end, and the night before classes start, Oliver Wood corners Harry and asks if he has his Dementor problem sorted out. Harry says that Professor Lupin has promised to help with that. Oliver asks about a new broom, and Ron tells him about the Firebolt. Oliver thinks it is unlikely it was sent by Black, a fugitive on the run. He promises to make Professor McGonagall see sense.
Classes start but are no fun. Hagrid, however, has cheered up, and for his first lesson has a large bonfire filled with flame-loving salamanders. Professor Trelawney has moved the Divination class on to palmistry and wastes no time in pronouncing that Harry has the shortest life lines she has ever seen. Harry is eager for Defence Against the Dark Arts class and Professor Lupin's promised anti-Dementor lessons. Ron mentions that Lupin looks sick and wonders what is wrong with him. Hermione, overhearing, remarks that it is obvious, but does not elaborate.
Later that evening, Harry meets with Lupin, who is carrying a Boggart in a case. Lupin says it will turn into a Dementor against which Harry can practice. Lupin teaches Harry the Patronus charm, saying Harry must recall a happy memory. Harry, concentrating, causes white vapour to eject from his wand. He is ready for a test. The Boggart is released and appears as a Dementor. Harry tries casting a Patronus, but hearing his mother's screams, passes out. Lupin brings him around and gives him a Chocolate Frog. Harry wants to try again and selects a new memory. This time he hears the screaming and also his father's voice, then faints. When he revives, Harry says this time he heard his father; Lupin, looking shaken, admits that he knew James and suggests calling it a night. But Harry wants to continue and remembers the day he learned he was a Wizard and would be leaving the Dursleys. The Boggart is released. Harry tries to conjure a Patronus, and again hears screaming, but fainter. Something huge and white bursts from his wand, and the false Dementor is halted. Lupin quickly steps in and uses the Riddikulus charm to return it to the case. Lupin says Harry has done enough, and they will try again next week. Harry, remembering that his father and Sirius Black had been friends, asks if Lupin knew Black, and Lupin admits that he and Black went to Hogwarts at the same time.
Ravenclaw plays Slytherin and loses by a slim margin. This cheers Oliver Wood because if Gryffindor can beat Ravenclaw, Gryffindor will be in second place. Wood increases practice to five times a week, which combined with weekly anti-Dementor lessons leaves Harry only one night a week for homework. Hermione seems to have it worse, though she is somehow is getting to all her classes, even those which seem to be at the same time. Oliver tells Harry that the Firebolt will not be returned immediately. Oliver felt that Harry flying a jinxed broom would not be a problem if he won the match before it threw him off, though McGonagall, for some reason he is unable to fathom, felt this was rather insensitive. He suggests Harry order a Nimbus 2001, but Harry declines, saying he does not want to use a broom that Draco thinks is good.
The anti-Dementor lessons are not going well either. Despite his earlier success, Harry can now only produce a thin, silvery mist. After one long session, Professor Lupin brings out Butterbeer from the Three Broomsticks. Harry nearly lets it slip that he has been there. They discuss Dementors, and Lupin says the Ministry has given the Dementors permission to administer the "Kiss" to Black, sucking out his soul. Harry thinks Black deserves this, though Lupin expresses some skepticism.
As Harry returns to the Gryffindor common room after this session, Professor McGonagall stops him to return the Firebolt, declaring it jinx free. Outside Sir Cadogan's portrait, Neville is in tears. He had written down the passwords for the week—Sir Cadogan changes them several times a day—but he has lost the list. Harry gives the password, and they enter. Nearly everyone wants to see the Firebolt, and there is renewed hope they can win the Cup. Harry and Ron finally reconcile with Hermione, who looks exhausted. Ron offers to take the Firebolt up to the dorm, it being time for Scabbers' rat tonic. As Harry again wonders how Hermione can be taking so many classes, Ron suddenly reappears, howling that Scabbers is missing, and carrying a bloody sheet covered with what looks like Crookshanks' hairs.
Harry's struggle with the anti-Dementor lessons somewhat mirrors his own life. When he initially fails in something, rather than giving up, his determination compels him to keep trying until he gets it right. It is also telling that Harry must struggle to find a memory that is happy enough for an effective Patronus. Harry's initial failure may have an underlying cause, however: he now realizes that it is when he is approached by a Dementor that he hears his parents' voices, and he realizes that overcoming his fear when facing a Dementor will end this, about the only tangible tie he has to them.
Lupin's admission that he not only knew James Potter, but also Sirius Black, is surprising; it has added to the mystery, though Lupin avoids elaborating on this connection. His reluctance in sharing Harry's opinion that Black, responsible for so many deaths, including the Potters, deserves to have his soul sucked out, seems to show great compassion and forgiveness, even for someone who committed such heinous acts against innocent people, including those Lupin cared about. However, Lupin's feelings may be conflicted for other reasons.
While Harry is dejected over his destroyed Nimbus 2000 and angry about the confiscated Firebolt, these are losses he could easily afford to replace with the considerable fortune his parents left him. His reluctance to do so is directly related to his emotional upset over losing the brooms. Rather than finding a workable solution, his anger, stubbornness, and emotional immaturity delay his taking action, and he instead slips into a temporary, self-pitying state-of-mind. Underlying all this is Harry's strong emotional attachment to these two magical objects that he believes are impossible to replace merely by buying substitutes. This reaction shows how our most valuable possessions are often not the most expensive things we own, but are items connected to another person, or even a particular place or point in time. Harry also associates these objects with who he is. The Nimbus, like his wand, was among the first magical objects Harry obtained. It not only heralded Harry's entry into the Wizarding world and his becoming the youngest Seeker at Hogwarts in over a century, but it was also a gift from someone (McGonagall) who cared about him. The Dursleys would never have bought him such a gift. The Firebolt, in particular, is meaningful because he convinces himself that, like the Nimbus, it was sent from someone who secretly cares about him, rather than an enemy wanting him dead, though he lacks proof for either possibility. When the Firebolt is returned jinx free, it further bolsters Harry's belief that someone must care and is protectively watching over him, though he has no idea who.
Although the Firebolt's return patches the rift between Hermione and the boys, a new one erupts over Scabbers's apparent demise. While the evidence is only circumstantial, it strongly suggests that Crookshanks is guilty. This rift is perhaps even harder on Hermione, who, already massively overburdened by her schoolwork and only recently reconciled with Harry and Ron, seems unable to muster much sympathy for Ron. This time, however, only Ron is upset with her; Harry seems to recall more of the facts about Scabbers than Ron does, and seems less able to blame Hermione for Crookshanks' activities.
Hermione also focuses readers' attention on yet another mystery: Lupin frequently looks ill and often misses classes. She apparently knows why, though, still angry at Harry and Ron, refuses to say anything further, leaving them to figure it out for themselves.
There is yet another of the series' endemic date and schedule contradictions here. The anti-Dementor lesson that Harry is leaving when he runs into McGonagall on her way to return his Firebolt to him is said to be his fifth – he has been unable to produce more than a faint mist in the four lessons since the first successful one; and the first lesson was in the first week of classes, "soon after the New Year". As these lessons are supposed to be every week, by that count, it can be no later than early February. However, it is only two days after the events of this chapter, as we will see, that they have the match with Ravenclaw. Less than a week later, Harry and Ron visit Hagrid and find that they are only a day away from the hearing at the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures, which is April 20th. By that count, Scabbers should have vanished about April 12, and Harry should have had about 12 lessons rather than 4; with perhaps three of them interrupted by Professor Lupin's "illness", there should still have been at least nine anti-Dementor lessons. While it's certainly true that as a teacher, Lupin will have had other things to deal with and would likely not have been able to fit twelve lessons in, still we are left with the impression that these lessons are meant to be every week, rather than every three weeks. In this case, the schedule confusion does cause a small problem in the story, as, if we miss the date of the visit with Hagrid in the following chapter, the compression at this point leads us to believe that the end-of-term exams are happening in about March.
- Why does Oliver Wood think McGonagall's comment about his being "insensitive" regarding Harry is unwarranted? Explain both positions.
- Why is it so difficult for Harry to recall a strong "happy" memory?
- Why is Neville having (more than usual) difficulty remembering the password to the Gryffindor Common room? What does he do to help him remember, and was this a bad idea? Explain.
- What could be wrong with Lupin? How did Hermione figure it out? Why does she refuse to elaborate?
- Is Ron justified in assuming that Crookshanks killed Scabbers? What is the evidence and is it conclusive?
- How does Scabbers' disappearance affect Ron's relationship with Hermione?
- Lupin tells Harry that Sirius Black was a student at Hogwarts the same time he was. Is it possible he knows Black better than he is letting on? Explain.
- Why might Lupin disagree with Harry about Black deserving the "Dementor's Kiss"?
- Harry has inherited a large fortune, and could easily order a new broom. Why does he resist?
Hermione, presumably by having applied what she learned while working on Snape's werewolf assignment, has discovered Lupin's "furry little problem", as it will later be referred to. We have gathered that she was the only student to write that report, so it is hardly surprising that neither Harry nor Ron understands why Lupin often looks ill. Hermione's estrangement from Harry and Ron is important here, as that prevents her from explaining this to Harry and Ron. She finally reveals this to them during this book's climactic scene in the Shrieking Shack.
Knowing that Lupin is a Werewolf, and seeing the Boggart's effect on Harry, leaves a small contradiction. Clearly the Boggart, in Dementor form, has at least categorically the same magical effect on Harry that a real Dementor would, leaving Harry despairing and bringing horrible, buried memories to mind. (Characters in the story do expressly comment, however, that a real Dementor would be harder to fight against than a Boggart.) And yet, when the Boggart assumes the silvery orb form, representing Lupin's fear of the full moon, it has no affect on him. One can only surmise that this is similar to a "placebo effect": if you believe something will affect you, it quite often does. To this end, the Boggart-as-Dementor is believable as being something that could be present in the classroom, and it affects Harry, who is unable to handle his emotions well, because he believes that it will affect him. The Boggart-as-full-moon inside a classroom is unbelievable, and therefore it has no effect on Lupin, who, as an adult, understands what a Boggart actually is, and certainly already knows what shape it will assume, thus allowing him to deal with it differently than Harry.
Neville is technically blameless for losing the password list—Crookshanks, we will find, stole it at Sirius Black's request. Black will use it two nights hence to enter Gryffindor tower. That event causes some confusion, however, as Black apparently attacks Ron, rather than Harry, his supposed target; it is actually the departed Scabbers, who regularly slept in Ron's bed, that Black is hunting. It is worth noting, however, that Neville losing the list is a well-crafted plot device by the author; Neville has always been characterized as having memory problems, particularly with passwords, so his losing the list perfectly fits his character. However, even though it was stolen rather than lost, making and keeping such a list, particularly with others knowing about it, was still a rather careless act. As a result, Harry and others will be exposed to great danger.
Lupin is apparently torn over Sirius Black's potential fate. We learn that Lupin attended school not only with Harry's father, but also with Sirius Black and "little Peter Pettigrew". The four were close friends, and while it is assumed that Lupin must deeply despise Black for his betrayal, he apparently harbors compassionate feelings for his former friend. We may also recall that Snape attended Hogwarts at the same time — Professor Dumbledore mentioned that James saved Snape's life. While it is yet impossible to recognize James, Sirius, Pettigrew, and Lupin together as a group, we should keep in mind that they knew each other. It is a little curious that Harry is more interested in talking with Lupin about Sirius than about his father, but Sirius seems to be a more immediate concern for him.
We see a recurring pattern throughout this book: whenever someone wonders how Hermione can be taking so many classes, or whenever she seems to appear someplace suddenly, there is promptly some interruption that ends further speculation. It is a tribute to the author's skill that these interruptions, rather than being contrived, seem like normal occurrences, or as normal as they can be in the situation. Scabbers' "death" is such an occurrence, interrupting Harry's musing about the topic. While this event is extraordinary, it is not entirely unexpected. Like Ron and, to a lesser extent, Harry, we can see that Crookshanks has been targeting Scabbers ever since he entered the story in the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley. Thus Scabbers' apparent demise, seemingly at Crookshanks' claws, while somewhat surprising, is still a natural progression, making the interruption seem quite natural.
Readers who are at all familiar with the series, of course, will recognize that Scabbers is not dead, but has come to the conclusion that Sirius Black has gotten rather too close to him, and so has elected to vanish. As he had done before, when, as Pettigrew, he had determined that he had to disappear, he sets up an innocent bystander, and then vanishes leaving evidence of his supposed death that points the blame at that bystander. In the first instance, he had left Black to take the blame; in this case, the blame is left resting on Crookshanks. It is perhaps a tribute to Pettigrew's shrewdness that he sees, in both cases, how ripe his victim is to be suspected.
- It is mentioned that the Firebolt is a "world-class broom," which would imply that there is a worldwide Quidditch competition of some sort. We will see shortly that there is; in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry will receive an invitation to the Quidditch World Cup. It will turn out that the Irish side there are all riding Firebolts.