Literature: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third Harry Potter book. Published July 8, 1999, this was the last book published at separate times in the US and UK and the last "quiet" release of a Harry Potter book. Often considered the point at which the series Grew the Beard.

Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban, the wizarding prison. In response, the Ministry of Magic sends Dementors, a Black Cloaked race of dreadful creatures who guard Azkaban, to guard Hogwarts and their Emotion Eating powers seem to affect Harry especially. Remus Lupin, meanwhile, makes his first appearance, taking on the dreaded Defense Against the Dark Arts post.

The book's popularity may be partially due to the introductions of Sirius and Lupin, considered by some fans to be two of the coolest characters in the series. It also marks the point where the books started to become more serialized with each ending setting up the next one. It also has, quite possibly, the most complicated plot of the entire series, drawing in characters and events from all over the place; the Prisoner of Azkaban is obviously important, but the way he is important zig-zags several times over the course of the novel, and the same thing happens to a bunch of other characters. The end result is that, by the end of the novel, the story's landscape has irrevocably changed... and readers know that things are going to get really interesting from now on.

Followed by Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I solemnly swear that these tropes are up to no good:

  • The Alcatraz: Azkaban, which was first mentioned in Book 2, becomes central to the plot in this one.
  • Anxiety Dreams: Harry has these whenever Dementors are around.
  • Arc Villain: Subverted. Sirius is built up as the main antagonist but he's actually a good guy. The real villains, ironically, are the Dementors, the ones guarding the titular prisoner.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The reason the Care of Magical Creatures post is available for Hagrid.
    Dumbledore: I am sorry to say that Professor Kettleburn has retired from his post at the end of last term, in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs.
  • Awful Truth: Done twice, first with the story Harry overhears about how Sirius betrayed Harry's parents, and isn't just an insane criminal, then the real truth of Peter's even crueller betrayal. Whether the real truth is slightly better or slightly worse is debatable. On one hand, the traitor wasn't James' best friend, and said best friend is still alive. On the other hand Peter not only betrayed the Potters and murdered about a dozen innocent people, but also framed Sirius for his crimes, and got to live happily at the Weasleys' for twelve years.
  • Berserk Button
    • When Snape calls Hermione an annoying know-it-all, Ron lashes out at Snape, despite having himself insulted Hermione thusly.
    • And don't call Hagrid pathetic in front of Hermione, unless you're looking for a slap in the face...
    • Do not venture out of Hogwarts to see Hagrid, especially if you're Harry and have a known murderer out to get you.
    • This book shows us how McGonagall reacts to someone deliberately pulling off foul play in Quidditch. TWICE.
    • And don't forget Harry's reaction to Aunt Marge's taunts.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Remus Lupin. At the climax of the book when he and Sirius confront Peter with the evidence of his betrayal, Sirius asks him casually "Shall we kill him together?" and Remus simply answers "Yes, I think so".
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The Dementors and Peter Pettigrew.
    • As a side note, this is the only volume in the series where Voldemort doesn't make an appearance in any way and is only mentioned.
  • Big "NO!": Ron when Sirius breaks into the boys' dormitory to murder Pettigrew and Ron thinks Sirius is after him. His scream prior to invoking this trope takes up an entire line on the page.
  • Big "Shut Up!": Harry yells this at Snape in the latter's office when he keeps insulting Harry's dad. He does it again when Snape asks him to repeat what he just said ("What did you say to me, Potter?" "I told you to shut up about my dad!").
  • Book Ends: The first and last chapters are called "Owl Post" and "Owl Post Again", respectively.
  • Book Snap: Hermione does this and storms off to another class when Ron makes an Innocently Insensitive remark. This leaves Harry and Ron confused, since they don't know she's using a time turner to attend multiple classes.
  • Bully Bulldog: Aunt Marge breeds them as pets. One of them, named Ripper, used to chase Harry around when he was little.
  • Burn the Witch!: Lampshaded: Harry's over-the-summer essay is about how pointless medieval witch burnings were, since the few times the victim was a wizard and not a poor ordinary Muggle, they could simply cast a flame-freezing charm and pretend to be suffering. They go on to mention that some witches and wizards allowed themselves to be caught and burned multiple times because they liked the fact that it felt like being tickled.
  • Care Bear Stare: Riddikulus (laugh!) has this effect on Boggarts and Expecto Patronum (think happy thoughts!) on Dementors.
  • Cassandra Truth: Due to the convoluted truth of what really happened that night, Harry has a hard time convincing anybody. Also done comically, as Trelawney doesn't believe a prophecy that she herself just spoke.
    • Ron bought Harry a Sneakoscope, which is basically a dark wizard detector. Harry thought it was broken as it was constantly going off, not realizing that it only sounded when Scabbers was around. Of course, we learn that Scabbers was actually Peter Pettigrew, the man who turned James and Lily over to Voldemort, in animagus form.
  • Cats Are Mean: Ron firmly believes this for most of the book.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Notably, this is the first book to go into detail about Lily and James Potter's deaths. Mark says it best:
    Hey children did you enjoy this wonderful children's book full of wonderful awesome things for children well let me WRITE A BOOK BUILT ENTIRELY ON THE FEAR THAT A DERANGED, PSYCHOPATHIC MURDERER IS GOING TO EITHER KILL YOU IN YOUR SLEEP OR DESTROY YOU IN ANY SORT OF OPEN, PUBLIC SPACE.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The series has its own page.
  • Contrived Coincidence
    • If the climax hadn't occurred on a night with a full moon, Pettigrew would have been arrested and Sirius cleared, completely changing the arc of the next 4 books. Lupin probably would have also remained teacher, since Snape wouldn't have found Sirius while trying to bring Lupin his Wolfsbane potion and ultimately outed Lupin as a werewolf out of spite. This is especially funny when it's revealed, three books later, that Voldemort cursed the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. So with this curse Voldemort was ultimately able to make a new body.
    • The only reason that Sirius even breaks out of Azkaban in the first place is that A) the Weasleys win the wizard lottery, B) this is apparently front-page news, C) Ron has Scabbers in the picture, and D) Cornelius Fudge just happens to be carrying that exact issue of the Daily Prophet when he visits Black's cell.
    • Harry just happens to get his hands on the Marauder's Map the very same year that one of its creators is teaching at Hogwarts. Not to mention the other two surviving creators also being around Hogwarts for that same year.
    • That Peter Pettigrew happened to choose the Weasleys to live with, who happened to befriend Harry Potter.
  • Cool Teacher: Lupin effortlessly puts Peeves in his place, tries to help Neville face his fear of Snape, and tutors Harry on how to repel emotion-eating monsters.
  • Covert Pervert: A History of Magic contains an amusing little anecdote: witches and wizards who were caught and burned at the stake cast a charm that would protect them from the fire while all they felt was a gentle tickling sensation. Wendelin the Weird enjoyed it so much that she allowed herself to be caught forty-seven times. Yep, she definitely enjoyed it.
  • Cruel Mercy: Harry asks Sirius and Lupin to spare Pettigrew's life, but not because he feels sorry for him; he just doesn't want them to become murderers. "He can go to Azkaban. If anyone deserves that place, he does."
  • Curious Qualms of Conscience: When Harry has Sirius at his mercy, he rehearsed all the reasons he has to hate him, and argues against his efforts to protect Crookshanks being evidence in his favor, but he does not manage to act before he is interrupted and stopped. His first reaction to being interrupted is that he "failed", and then that Sirius will suffer the Dementor's kiss, which is a Fate Worse Than Death.
  • Deadpan Snarker: McGonagall throughout, but particularly in this book.
    "You look in excellent health to me, Potter, so you will excuse me if I don't let you off homework today. I assure you that if you do die, you need not hand it in."
  • Debate and Switch: Played With. Is it a colossal dick move to purchase, as a pet, a cat that tried to eat your friend's pet rat at the pet shop, and then make no effort whatsoever to keep said cat away from sneaking off to eat said rat, which it inevitably does? ...Probably. Is it bad enough to justify the rat owner never speaking to the cat owner again? That isn't entirely addressed, although Ron and Hermione make up when Hermione reveals that Buckbeak lost his trial and is going to be executed, despite her helping Hagrid find research, and Ron vows to help her with the appeal so she won't be overworked. Turns out that Crookshanks is a highly intelligent part kneazle who knew that Scabbers was really Peter Pettigrew in disguise and was working with Sirius Black to bring Peter to justice. Crookshanks' actions turned out to be heroic, Scabbers turned out to be evil, and Crookshanks never even ate Scabbers in the first place, so the debate doesn't really apply. Ron even acknowledges it by having Crookshanks check out an owl before accepting it as a pet.
  • Demoted to Extra: Ginny Weasley.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: A weird in-universe example, as the Marauders evidently anticipated Snape one day getting a hold of their Map and charmed it to insult him if he ever identified himself when trying to open it. This failsafe kicks in nearly twenty years later.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Malfoy when he insults Buckbeak after Harry managed to tame and ride him. Needless to say, Buckbeak nearly tore Malfoy's arm off at the insult.
  • Dirty Coward: Peter Pettigrew.
  • Disappointed In You: Lupin to Harry, making him feel a lot worse than he did when Snape was the one giving him into trouble.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Harry is shocked to see Snape taking delight in the thought of a former school bully receiving the Dementor's Kiss ("YOU'RE PATHETIC! JUST BECAUSE THEY MADE A FOOL OF YOU AT SCHOOL..."). The real reason for Snape's hatred of Sirius can be deduced from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as Snape assumed like everyone else that Sirius betrayed Lily to Voldemort.
    • What makes Snape's actions even more appalling is that Sirius is fully willing to co-operate with his arrest so long as he's taken to proper authorities with Ron bringing Scabbers as evidence:
    Sirius: "As long as this boy [Ron] brings his rat up to the castle, I’ll come quietly..."
  • Doctor's Orders: Madame Pomfrey asserts herself quite strongly, if not always successfully, when authority figures want to speak to students in her care.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?
    • Lupin's werewolf condition and the wizarding community's reactions to it was thought by fans to be a social commentary on living with HIV. Word Of God confirmed it later.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Scabbers, Ron's pet rat who seems to be involved in a minor subplot regarding Hermione's new cat, who has been around since the first book, is secretly a not-so-dead Peter Pettigrew, who is the real villain of the book.
  • Dragon Their Feet: The public's general opinion of Sirius Black; on the day after Voldemort's downfall, he was outed as a Death Eater, and went on to kill 13 people (12 Muggles, plus the wizard trying to apprehend him) before finally getting caught. It turns out that the real Dragon was Pettigrew, who ultimately goes on to resurrect Voldemort.
  • Dungeon-Based Economy: Implied. Ron off-handedly mentions in a letter to Harry that his eldest brother Bill makes his living breaking curses on Egyptian tombs for Gringotts Bank (implying that Gringotts then mines the grave goods).
  • Dynamic Entry: Lupin busts the door open — "EXPELLIARMUS!"
  • Emotion Eater: The Dementors.
  • Empty Shell: The result of the Dementor's Kiss.
  • Everybody Lives: Along with Chamber of Secrets, the only book in the series where no character dies (though several characters die in the Backstory).
  • Evil Detecting Cat: Crookshanks. Justified in that J.K. Rowling stated that Crookshanks is half-Kneazle, a magical cat-like animal that can tell if someone is untrustworthy.
  • Evil Former Friend: Peter, although evil is too respectful a word to describe him.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Hagrid being Hagrid, he sees nothing wrong with assigning The Monster Book of Monsters. You have to tame the book before you can open it, and it is absolutely feral until you do.
    • The manager of Flourish and Blotts also mentions a book called The Invisible Book of Invisibility. Presumably, if a wizarding book can follow this trend, it will.
  • Extreme Melee Revenge: When Harry first meets Sirius, Harry becomes so enraged that he forgets all about magic, forgets that Sirius is supposedly a powerful dark wizard trained by Voldemort himself, and forgets that Sirius is holding three wands. Harry charges Sirius down and nearly suffocates him.
  • Fake Kill Scare: At one point, they hear what they think is Buckbeak being executed. It turns out to be the executioner hitting the fence (in the movie: a pumpkin) with his axe after he finds out Buckbeak escaped.
  • Fantastic Time Management: Hermione Granger uses daily time travel to take more classes than would be otherwise possible.
  • Fate Worse Than Death. The Dementor's Kiss.
  • Finger Snap Lighter: Lupin.
  • Foreshadowing
    • Lupin teaching Harry's class how to deal with the Boggart, a magical creature that is warded off with the combination of a spell and positive thoughts, foreshadowing him teaching Harry how to deal with Dementors. In this class, we learn that the Boggart can take on the form of a person's greatest fear. When Lupin pushes himself in front of Harry to protect him from the Boggart-as-Dementor, the boggart turns into a full moon. Why a full moon? Hmmmm...
    • On that note, Snape spends the entire book dropping hints about Lupin's condition, in hopes that one of the students will catch on and get him fired. In the end, Snape himself spills the beans, which gets Lupin fired
    • Dumbledore mentioning to Harry that Trelawney's latest prophecy brings her number of accurate prophecies up to “two.”
    • The conversation Hagrid mentions he had with Sirius Black foreshadows that he's not as bad as he appears to be.
    • Harry's two Quidditch-related dreams foreshadow two following books:
      • After the match against Ravenclaw, Harry dreams about following a silver shape through a forest, together with a galloping shape before coming to a clearing, foreshadows both Harry's own Patronus (a stag) and the scene in book seven where Harry follows Snape's Patronus (a doe) through a forest into a clearing.
      • Before the Quidditch final, Harry dreams that the Slytherins came to the match riding dragons and that he has to dodge the dragons' fire on his broom. Cue book four, where Harry dodges a dragon on his broom in the first trial.
    • Professor Trelawney mentions Voldemort's servant returning him to life.
    • This book introduces us to Sirius Black, named after the constellation Sirius. Notice how the only other similarly-named character in the books is Draco Malfoy? That's not an accident. As we learn in the fifth book, Draco's mother Narcissa is Sirius' first cousin, and the twisted history of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black becomes a major source of drama in later books.
    • The Dementor's storming the Quidditch match and attempting to give Harry the Dementor's Kiss are the first hints that the Ministry's control over them is limited.
    • The dinner scene. Dumbleore offers Trewlawny a chair, but she is panicked because if she sits the first to rise will die because there will be thirteen people at the table. But there already were thirteen people, because Scabbers aka Pettigrew was in Ron's pocket. And Dumbledore got up first.
  • Forgiveness: At the climax of the story, Remus and Sirius both ask for, and receive, forgiveness for suspecting each other.
  • Girls with Moustaches: Aunt Marge, in addition to being "large, beefy and purple-faced", has a small moustache.
  • A Glass in the Hand: After one jibe too many about his family, Harry makes the glass Marge is holding shatter. She assumes she was gripping it too hard, having done the same thing before.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: Lupin explains that this is one of the advantages to tackling a Boggart in groups. It might try and combine two people's fears and end up with something a lot less scary than either of them.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The purpose behind telling no one that the Secret-Keepers were switched was to make sure everyone went after Sirius Black. It worked.
  • Grand Finale: For the original Gryffindor Quidditch team. This is the only book to show all three Gryffindor matches, and the first time they manage to win the Cup. It's also the last time Quidditch is a major part of the plot, with later books coming up with ways of preventing Harry from getting on the pitch.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Sirius Black, initially set up as the Big Bad, turns out to be this.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Subverted. Everyone said Sirius Black was a Death Eater, so an appearance of Voldemort was expected. It's the only book to not feature Voldemort as the Big Bad, replaced instead by Sirius Black, or more accurately, Peter Pettigrew.
  • Honorary Aunt: "Aunt Marge" — though Harry is forced to call her that.
  • Hypnosis Proof Dogs: Sirius Black turns into a dog to escape Azkaban because Dementors don't affect dogs as much as humans.
  • Hypocrite: Lupin tells Harry that he's appalled that Harry never brought the Marauder's Map to a teacher's attention given how useful it would be to catch Sirius or how useful it'd be to Sirius if he found it. Yet Lupin never bothers telling Dumbledore (or anyone except Harry, Ron, and Hermione) that Sirius is an animagus and knows about the tunnel from the Shrieking Shack onto Hogwarts grounds. In Lupin's defense, he was using the map to find and track Sirius anyway.
    • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Remus acknowledges this failing in the climax, even noting that Snape From a Certain Point of View was right about him not being trustworthy. He noted that he was grateful to Dumbledore for giving him the chance to study at Hogwarts and could never admit that his friends became illegal animagi and risked their lives for him and lied to Dumbledore for over seven years. He says that he hoped that Sirius had tried to get in via dark arts rather than his skills as an animagus.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: When Snape takes over Defense Against The Dark Arts for Professor Lupin when he's sick, Snape is absolutely awful to everyone, even more so than normal, intentionally trying to paint Lupin in the worst conceivable light imaginable despite repeatedly being at odds with reality. Snape asks the class if they know the difference between werewolves and true wolves, and ignores Hermione when she raises her hand, then gets on the class's case for not knowing something "So simple", despite it not being on the curriculum for several months at the bare minimum, and says he'll have to report to Dumbledore about how incompetent a teacher Lupin is. When Hermione then speaks out of turn and starts trying to answer the question, Snape interrupts her and takes five points from Gryffindor "for being an insufferable know-it-all", an action that instantly enrages every single person in the entire class, despite the fact that all of them had called Hermione a know-it-all themselves at some point before. For bonus points, the angriest is Ron, who (the narration explicitly points out) calls Hermione a know-it-all at least once a week.
  • I'll Kill You!: Harry threatening to kill Sirius.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Aunt Marge makes several disparaging remarks about Harry and his parents while sitting at the same table as Harry. Harry spends most of the week trying very, very hard to think about something else.
  • Intellectual Animal: The Wolfsbane Potion sort of invokes this. When a werewolf drinks it, they are able to keep their mind human when transformed, but without it, the animal part takes over completely.
  • Invented Invalid: Lupin mentions that he would often claim his mother was ill as an excuse for his frequent absences, since he didn't want anyone finding out he was a werewolf and needed to be away from the school during his transformations.
  • Invisible Writing: Fred and George introduced the Marauder's Map, which doesn't just show the map of whichever building the holder is in, but also shows the footsteps of people. It looks like just an empty sheet of old paper... unless you know the chant for activating it.
  • It Was a Gift: The Firebolt and Pigwidgeon.
  • I Will Tear Your Arms Off: Hagrid says that if he had known Sirius' role in the Potters' death, he would have ripped him limb from limb. Hagrid is a half-giant, so a threat like this should be taken very seriously.
    • Fudge rather pompously tells Hagrid that only trained “Hit Wizards” would have stood a chance. It seems reasonable to think Hagrid would have fared better.
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: While Snape refuses to believe that Harry isn't an arrogant glory hound, he is right to call Harry out for sneaking out of Hogwarts to have fun at Hogsmeade even when everyone up to and including the Minister for Magic is trying to keep him safe from a killer who broke out of Azkaban. Lupin later tells Harry the same thing.
  • Kick the Dog: It's bad enough that Snape belittles and insults Neville in his own classes... but to have a small rant about how useless he is to another teacher is beyond cruel.
  • Knight Templar: The Dementors are initially viewed as this. Subverted because they're actually outright evil.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Snape has a moment of this when subbing for Lupin, claiming that the Kappa is more commonly found in Mongolia when it's actually Japanese. This gets followed up on in Fantastic Beasts: "Snape hasn't read this."
  • Large Ham: Sir Cadogan.
  • Laughing Mad: Offscreen, Sirius when he's arrested, which certainly doesn't help his case, even though The Reveal makes it obvious that it was due to heartbroken grief over James's death, the betrayal and the overwhelming irony of Peter's escape.
  • Licked by the Dog: After the fiasco that arose from Crookshanks chasing down Pettigrew in rat form, Ron invokes this by testing the new owl that Sirius sent him on the cat. Crookshanks approves.
  • MacGuffin Location: Azkaban, which was first mentioned in the second book is now seen in all it's eerie majesty.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Sirius.
  • Moment of Weakness: Harry's blowing up Aunt Marge.
  • More Hero Than Thou: Crookshanks tries to protect Sirius by leaping between him and Harry, so that any spell would take them both; Sirius tries to protect Crookshanks by pushing it out of the way, to avoid the spell.
  • Must Make Amends: A minor sort; since Sirius knew that because of him Ron no longer has a rat], he purchases an owl and gifts it to the latter.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Oliver Wood does it to himself, when he lists the members of the Quidditch team: "We've got three superb Chasers. We've got two unbeatable Beaters. And we've got a Seeker who has never failed to win us a match! (after long pause in which he realizes he's forgotten someone) And me." This leads to a rather heartwarming moment when Fred and George lead the team in saying they consider him a great Keeper.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Subverted, sort of, when Harry realizes the person who had cast the Patronus to save him, Sirius, and Hermione from the Dementors was not his father, but himself. Otherwise played straight.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Harry's decision to spare Wormtail's life starts a chain reaction that leads to Voldemort’s return and basically the plots of books four through seven. Though Dumbledore tells Harry that prophecies are so inexact, and something similar may have happened without Harry's help.
  • Nightmare Retardant: In-universe example: the Riddikulus spell involves making your worst fear funny.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Just prior to the events of the book Sirius escapes from Azkaban, so he's not technically a 'Prisoner of Azkaban.'
  • No Sympathy for Grudgeholders: Harry has none for Snape whatsoever, and for good reason. Snape takes a lot of time to belittle and insult James, who saved Snape's life from a fully transformed Lupin, and Snape says that if there had been justice James would have been expelled for his actions. Of course, Snape then outs Lupin as a werewolf, which forces the latter to resign at the end of the school year.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Sirius invokes this so many times that Dumbledore lampshades it at the end, saying that he "hasn't acted like an innocent man . . ." in his quest of Revenge Before Reason. Among his List of Transgressions while trying to find Pettigrew at Hogwarts? Slashing the Fat Lady's portrait after she refused to let him in, breaking into Gryffindor Tower with a knife and shredding Ron's curtains on finding Pettigrew gone, later dragging an injured Ron away through the Whomping Willow passageway and disarming Hermione and Harry saying "there will only be one death tonight."
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: Buckbeak the Hippogriff is introduced in this book.
  • Overly-Long Scream: Ron uses up two whole lines of text to scream "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGH! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" after he wakes up to find Sirius Black standing over him with a knife.
  • Pet the Dog: Or rather Push Away The Cat. When Sirius tries to prevent Crookshanks' Taking the Bullet for him.
  • Power Incontinence: What happens when thirteen-year-old witches and wizards lose their temper.
  • The Quisling: In The Reveal, Peter Pettigrew is found to be one.
  • Rage Quit: Hermione in Divination. And it is awesome.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Professor Lupin, who, among other things, lies to Snape in order to rescue Harry and then proceeds to berate him because his actions could indeed have endangered himself or other people.
  • Red Herring:
    • Everyone believes that Sirius escaped Azkaban to kill Harry. His target was somebody else entirely.
    • Hermione gets a new pet cat in the same book where we learn about a sub-class of Wizards who can become animals at will; for most of the book, Ron is constantly suspicious of said cat after he tries to eat Scabbers, several characters note that he seems oddly intelligent for a common housecat, and Hermione's insistence on defending her new pet seems to be a natural set-up for a Devil in Plain Sight plot. The disguised Animagus is actually Scabbers, who has been Ron's pet since the first book.
  • Rule of Three: Since Harry has Hedwig and Ron has Scabbers, it was really only a matter of time before Hermione got an Loyal Animal Companion of her own. Subverted, in that Ron also loses Scabbers by the end of the book, and he turns out to have been a disguised Animagus all along.
  • Rushed Inverted Reading: When Hermione tells Professor McGonagall about Harry getting a Firebolt for Christmas and then the teacher goes to temporarily confiscate it so that it can be checked for jinxes/hexes (on the chance that Sirius Black sent it), Hermione hides her face behind a book that she holds upside down.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Harry to the Dursleys after he blows up Marge. Shame it didn't take.
  • Secret Keeper: The Trope Namer.
  • Secret Secret Keeper: Hermione's figured out Lupin's "condition" and kept it from the others, including Lupin himself, until she came to the belief that he was an accomplice to Sirius Black. She even thought the teachers were unaware.
  • Sequel Hook: The prophecy.
  • Shout-Out: "Cockroach cluster" originally comes from a Monty Python sketch.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: Harry endures a week of Aunt Marge insulting him, but snaps when she starts on his mum and dad. When Snape learns he's been in Hogsmeade, something similar happens.
  • Stable Time Loop: See also You Already Changed The Past and You Can't Fight Fate, below.
  • Stab the Salad: Buckbeak's "death".
  • Stealth Insult
    • Aunt Marge, who is a professional dog breeder, refers to bitches when talking about Harry's mother.
      "You see it all the time with dogs. If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup —"
    • She might be using "pup" as a double entendre as well. "Pup" can mean "a cheeky or arrogant boy or young man", which would fit Aunt Marge's view of Harry.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Many instances throughout the series, but this book introduces two particularly good examples: the werewolf Remus Lupin (Romulus and Remus were humans raised by wolves in Roman mythology; "lupine" means "wolf-like") and Sirius Black (Sirius is another name for the Dog Star; he transforms into a black dog).
  • Taking the Bullet: Crookshanks leaps on Sirius in a manner that any spell directed at Sirius will hit him.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: The Azkaban guards overheard Sirius saying in his sleep: "He's at Hogwarts..." and so are deployed there to protect it. He's talking about Peter Pettigrew, not Harry.
  • Team Dad /Team Mom: Remus Lupin fulfils a quite parental role towards his students, and it is especially obvious when he takes it upon himself to help Neville out with his confidence issues. He is also one of the first true father figures that Harry has ever had, and by far the most approachable teacher yet to work at Hogwarts.
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: Sirius Black's last crime before being imprisoned: murder of 13 people. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you think of the 13th "victim", actually Peter Pettigrew. Trelawney brings this up during the Christmas feast, claiming that "the first to rise will be the first to die". Harry and Ron get up at the same time.
    “My dears! Which one of you left his seat first? Which?"
    “Dunno," said Ron, looking uneasily at Harry.
    “I doubt it will make much difference," said Professor McGonagall coldly, “unless a mad axe-man is waiting outside the doors to slaughter the first into the Entrance Hall."
    • Possible Foreshadowing/Fridge Brilliance, as you realize there were already thirteen people at the table because Peter Pettigrew disguised in Animagus form as Scabbers was in Ron's pocket, and Dumbledore stands up to greet Trelawney, making him the first to rise out of the thirteen.
  • This Is Not My Life to Take: Black and Lupin give Harry the choice of whether the man who was responsible for giving away Harry's parents' location to their murderer should live or die.
  • Time Travel: The Time Turners.
  • Time Travel Tense Trouble: The final part of the book has this with Harry, Hermione, and Dumbledore.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Largely averted, but there is one slight inconsistency. Hermione mentions that a lot of wizards who have abused time travel ended up "killing their past or future selves". The immutable timeline model used should logically preclude killing your past self (although not killing your future self). Perhaps Hermione is mistaken, or exaggerating. Or she's referring to the very first time someone goes back in time. Being a stable time loop, there has to be a time where they actually go back. Then they panic and kill their past self, since there are two of that person in the time period. Someone else could easily see someone kill themselves, then see the killer vanish and report it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Harry himself defies this when Mr. Weasley asks him to promise not to "go looking for Black."
    “Why would I go looking for someone I know wants to kill me? ” said Harry blankly.
    • Then played hilariously straight, as he feels an urge to go looking for Black after he finds out some of the Awful Truth. He ends up hating Sirius so much that, when they meet at the end of the book, Harry charges at him and tries to choke him with his bare hands, forgetting that he was unarmed, much weaker than Black, and that Black had several wands on him at the time. Lucky for him, Black was there to protect Harry, not kill him.
      • In all fairness, Harry's got so many people after him that if he wants to go looking for someone who wanted to kill him, he doesn't have to go very far.
  • Totem Pole Trench: Totem Pole Dementor Cloak, actually.
  • Trick Twist: And how!
  • Turn Coat: Peter, textbook.
  • Undying Loyalty: Sirius and Lupin are furious that Peter was not this to James, because they would have been, not only to James, but to Peter as well.
    “You don’t understand!" whined Pettigrew. “He would have killed me, Sirius!"
  • Villains Want Mercy: Peter begs Ron, Hermione and Harry to protect him from Sirius and Remus (after he fails with his begging with them).
  • Wardrobe Flaw Of Characterization: When Remus Lupin is first introduced it's mentioned that his clothes and luggage bear signs of frequent repair, establishing him as a somewhat shabby and hard-used character.
  • Was Too Hard on Him: McGonagall regrets being so stern with Peter Pettigrew, given what happened to him. If only she knew...
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Boggarts are defeated by laughter.
  • Weirder Than Usual: Harry and Dumbledore regarding Trelawney. When the Eccentric Mentor has to ask "Stranger than usual, you mean?"...
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: Chapter 7. Lupin gives the class a practical lesson in dealing with the shape-shifting boggart. He does not give Harry a go for fear of it turning into Voldemort.
  • What the Hell, Hero?
    • Ron constantly warns Hermione to stop her cat from eating Scabbers, getting irritated when she doesn't take his concerns seriously, and it seems Crookshanks can understand human speech when Ron mentions where Scabbers is. It turns out that Crookshanks is Properly Paranoid about Scabbers being an Animagius named Peter Pettigrew, but Ron couldn't have known that.
    • Harry and Ron call out Hermione for telling McGonagall about the Firebolt, thinking Sirius Black might have sent it, without even mentioning the possibility to Harry after he rolls it out. Oliver Wood even points out that the improbability that a wanted mass-murderer could just walk into a broomstick shop and get the most expensive broom on display. Weirdly it's a case that both are right, Sirius easily purchased and sent the Firebolt to Harry thanks to the fact that Gringotts Goblins lack the same oversight. So he could have cursed that device if he had wanted to. The real issue of course is that Hermione didn't once tell Harry and Ron about the dangers and merely went ahead and warned the headmistress without telling them.
    • Hagrid to Harry and Ron for alienating Hermione for the latter half of the book, though he gently puts it that he thought they would value friendship over "broomsticks and pets".
    • Both Snape and Lupin to Harry for sneaking into Hogsmeade, thereby disregarding all the effort people are going to for his safety, as well as gambling the sacrifice his parents made. Harry takes the former much harder, given Snape used it as another chance to make cheap shots about James.
    • Later, Hermione to Lupin when she thought he was the one who has been helping Sirius into Hogwarts, even though she was wrong.
  • You Already Changed The Past: The Stable Time Loop. Which renders all those fanfics in which the characters Peggy Sue themselves back in time to fix things all the more incompatible with the canon.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: See also You Already Changed The Past.
  • You Dirty Rat: Peter's Animagus form, full stop. One has to wonder how James, Sirius and Lupin didn't get suspicious about this, especially since Word Of God says that an animal form is automatic and cannot be chosen by the wizard.

Alternative Title(s):

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Prisoner Of Azkaban