Literature / Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
aka: Prisoner Of Azkaban

"I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me."
Harry Potter

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 lot of other characters. The result is that, by the end of this book, 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:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Sirius Black's last crime before being imprisoned: murder of thirteen people. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you think of the thirteenth "victim", 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 realise 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, in a way, the first to rise out of the thirteen.
  • Adult Fear: The incident with Buckbeak and Draco. Imagine that you own a dog, normally a Big, Friendly Dog. Now, some twerp deliberately taunts your big dog, after you specifically tell him not to, gets bitten, then complains to his influential father, who gets an order to have your dog put down because it's 'dangerous'.
    • On the other hand, imagine that a teacher brings a creature they know is dangerous to your son's school. Now, imagine your child getting mauled by said creature, and the teacher faces no reprimand. Suddenly, Lucius Malfoy becomes a lot more sympathetic...
  • The Alcatraz: Azkaban, which was first mentioned in Book 2, becomes central to the plot in this one.
  • Amusing Injuries:
    • Averted when Buckbeak breaks Malfoy's arm, and the injuries inflicted by the Whomping Willow, including Ron's broken leg.
    • Played straight when, on Christmas morning, after Crookshanks once again goes for Scabbers, Ron tries to kick Crookshanks but misses and hits Harry's trunk instead.
  • 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. And Pettigrew.
  • 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.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: It's implied that this is the fate of victims of the Dementor's Kiss, since their souls are devoured by the Dementors and forever lost.
  • Berserk Button:
    • When Snape calls Hermione an insufferable 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 Minerva McGonagall reacts to someone deliberately pulling off foul play in Quidditch. TWICE.
    • And don't forget Harry's reaction to taunts about his parents from first Aunt Marge and then Snape.
  • 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.
  • 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 James. 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!").
  • Big "WHAT?!": Harry gets two.
    • Harry after Uncle Vernon tells him they've told Aunt Marge that he (Harry) attends a school for incurably criminal boys.
    • Harry near the end after Madam Pomfrey tells him Sirius has been captured and is about to suffer The Dementor's Kiss.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In a departure from the unambiguously happy endings of the first two books. Sirius proves his innocence to Harry, Ron, Hermione, Lupin, and Dumbledore, but is forced to go on the run with Buckbeak when Pettigrew escapes. Additionally, Lupin is forced to resign when the school discovers he's a werewolf and Harry worries about Trelawney's prophecy and the consequences of sparing Wormtail potentially bringing Voldemort back. Depressed about the prospect of continuing to live with the Dursleys instead of his godfather, Harry cheers up when he gets a letter from Sirius and is glad that he now has someone who he can consider real family.
  • Book Ends: The first and last chapters are called "Owl Post" and "Owl Post Again", respectively.
    • Lupin's first lesson for the third-years is about the Boggart. For his final exam near the end of the school year, Lupin sets up an obstacle course of magical creatures, ending with a Boggart confrontation.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, we learn that Hagrid got his flying motorbike from Sirius. In this book, Sirius flies away on Buckbeak, Hagrid's pet Hippogriff.
  • Bully Bulldog: Aunt Marge breeds them as pets. One of them, 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: The Riddikulus spell has this effect on Boggarts as does Expecto Patronum 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 realising that it only sounded when Scabbers was around. Of course, we learn Scabbers was actually Peter Pettigrew, who divulged James and Lily's whereabouts 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. Additionally the Dementors are pretty scary, and scenes like a knife-wielding Sirius Black breaking into the Gryffindor boys' dormitory is pretty scary as well.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: McGonagall mentions in the middle of a scene focused on Professor Trelawney's dubious oracular record the fact that there are wizards known as Animagi who can transform themselves into animals (of whom she is one of only seven registered in Britain in the last century). Towards the end of the book, it is revealed that Sirius Black is an Animagus, and so were Peter Pettrigrew and James Potter.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The series has its own page.
  • Chekhov's Time Travel: When it is revealed that time-turners exist (upon Hermione taking all the possible electives in her third year), it suddenly becomes necessary to use to disguise the group's actions, and to deliver Harry to the lake, to save himself from the Dementors, though he'd thought it was his father.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Ron's reaction (An Overly Long Scream and a Big "NO!") when he woke up to find Sirius Black holding a knife and standing over him.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Had the climax not occurred on a night with a full moon, Pettigrew would have been arrested and Sirius cleared, completely changing the arc of the next four 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 Defence 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, another one was his own departed father, a third was Ron's rat, and lastly, the eponymous prisoner of Azkaban.
  • 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.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Sirius Black, who turns out to be innocent of the murder of twelve people, and is not after Harry. He's after Peter Pettigrew, who framed him for said murder and betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort.
  • 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."
  • Developers' Foresight: A weird in-universe example, as the Marauders evidently anticipated Snape one day getting hold of their Map and charmed it to insult him if he ever identified himself when trying to open it. This failsafe kicks in around 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...
    Snape: Up to the castle? I don’t think we need to go that far. All I have to do is call the Dementors once we get out of the Willow. They’ll be very pleased to see you, Black...pleased enough to give you a little kiss, I daresay.
  • 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 has been around since the first book, who seems to be involved in a minor subplot regarding Hermione's new cat, is secretly a not-so-dead Peter Pettigrew, 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 thirteen people (twelve 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.
  • The Dreaded: The guards of Azkaban, the Dementors. This book shows us exactly why they are rightfully feared by most of the wizarding world.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: When Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to see Hagrid after their first Care of Magical Creatures class, Hagrid is doing this out of gloominess due to Malfoy taunting Buckbeak, which nearly resulted in Malfoy's arm being torn off.
  • 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).
  • Dustbin School: The Dursleys want Harry to say to aunt Marge he is in the St Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys.
  • 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 Dog: 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, who was friends with James, Sirius, and Lupin when they were younger.
  • 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, forgets that Sirius is holding three wands, and forgets that Sirius is also older, larger, and stronger. Harry charges Sirius down and nearly suffocates him.
  • Fake Kill Scare: At one point, the Golden Trio hear what they think is Buckbeak being executed. It turns out to be the executioner hitting the fence 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 sucks out a person's soul while leaving them otherwise alive.
  • Finger Snap Lighter: When the train comes to a halt as the dementors come to search it, Lupin lights the dark train car by snapping his fingers to summon a flame.
  • Foreshadowing: Has its own page.
  • Forgiveness: At the climax of the story, Remus and Sirius both ask for, and receive, forgiveness for suspecting each other.
  • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: This is one of only two volumes in the series (it would be followed by The Half-Blood Prince) where Voldemort doesn't make an appearance in any way and is only mentioned. He still ultimately drives the plot, since Pettigrew gave up the Potters to him in the war he started.
  • Hate Sink: Snape is at his most detestable in this novel. With very little of the Deadpan Snarker on display, sadistically torturing Neville openly in class, insulting another teacher publicly in front of his students and in the end psychotically looking forward to feeding a man to Dementors even when he was willing to come quietly and requested a fair hearing, and then after being exposed of his stupidity, he outs Lupin as a werewolf out of spite. In the end, the Trio attack him when he starts insulting James yet again, and this after Sirius and Remus called him a fool.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Remus acknowledges this failing in the climax, even noting that Snape was metaphorically 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 he hoped Sirius had tried to get in via Dark Arts rather than his skills as an Animagus.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Subverted. Everyone said Sirius Black was a Death Eater, so an appearance of Voldemort was expected. It's the only book not to feature Voldemort as the Big Bad, replaced instead by Sirius Black, or more accurately, Peter Pettigrew.
  • Hope Spot: After convincing Harry of his innocence in the death of James and Lily, Sirius offers to adopt Harry formally once he is officially acquitted. This marks a brief moment of happiness for Harry, since it meant that he didn't have to return to the Dursleys anymore. Unfortunately, circumstances led them to never clear Sirius' name, and he has to go on the run again. Tellingly, this is the memory Harry used in order to conjure a Patronus to protect himself and Sirius from the Dementors, and failed.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The titular escaped convict breaks into Hogwarts on All Hallows' Eve, acting violently when the Fat Lady refuses to let him into Gryffindor Tower. This is the third and final time this happens while Harry is at Hogwarts.
  • Hypnosis-Proof Dogs: Sirius Black turns into a dog to escape Azkaban because Dementors don't affect dogs as much as they do humans.
  • Hypocrite: Lupin tells Harry that he's appalled that Harry never told a teacher about the Marauder's Map given how useful it would be to catch Sirius or how useful it would be to Sirius if he found it. Yet Lupin never bothers telling Dumbledore (or indeed, 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 defence, he was using the Map to find and track Sirius anyway.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: When Snape takes over Defence Against the Dark Arts for Professor Lupin when he's ill, Snape devotes the entire class solely to making Lupin look bad by asking them questions they aren't supposed to cover for several months in the hope that nobody will be able to answer them, and ignores Hermione because obviously she'd know. 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 student in the class, even though 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 twice a week.
  • I Will Tear Your Arms Off: Hagrid says that had he known Sirius' apparent 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.
  • I'll Kill You!: Harry threatening to kill Sirius.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: During her visit to Privet Drive, 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 anything else.
  • Idiot Ball: James, Sirius, and Lupin not realising that Peter was The Mole for Voldemort and his followers despite being the perfect suspect. Lampshaded by Sirius who says he'll never understand why he didn't realize it from the beginning.
  • 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 introduce the Marauder's Map, which shows not just a map of Hogwarts but also the footsteps of all the people within it. It looks like just an empty sheet of old paper, unless you know the charm for activating it.
  • It Was a Gift: The Firebolt and Pigwidgeon.
  • It's All My Fault:
    • Sirius doesn't deny that he got Harry's parents killed. It's because he convinced them to make Pettigrew the Secret Keeper, which no one else knew, and led to Voldemort finding the Potters. As he puts it in a choked voice, "I as good as killed them."
    • Harry is depressed when he realises that due to his Cruel Mercy to Pettigrew, the latter escaped and is likely going to find Voldemort. Although Dumbledore tells him that prophecies are inexact, he's still confused about it.
  • Jerkass 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.
    • Malfoy makes the valid point that assigning thirteen-year-old children a book that bites, and simply expecting them to figure out that you open the book by stroking the spine, is incredibly irresponsible and unprofessional.
    • Uncle Vernon voices some of his characteristic views when the Muggle news reports on the escaped prisoner Sirius Black, but he's not wrong to complain that the report never explains from where this prisoner escaped.
  • Just in Time: Harry and Hermione send themselves three hours into the past at the end to save Buckbeak and Sirius, but they need to get back to the hospital wing at just the moment they sent themselves back in time, otherwise Dumbledore will lock them out and the plan will be exposed. Luckily, they manage to get back there just as Dumbledore is closing the door to lock it.
  • 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. It earns him a Death Glare from Harry.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Sirius claims that Snape deserved the nasty prank that nearly got Snape killed, namely seeing werewolf Lupin. Snape begs to differ.
  • 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 and Where to Find Them: "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.
  • Lawful Stupid: Sir Cadogan allows a known mass murderer into a tower full of sleeping children simply because he knew the password.
  • 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.
  • Mirthless Laughter: When people are telling Harry Potter about Sirius Black's crime of having killed a streetful of Muggles, they make sure to point out the fact that he stood there laughing afterwards as further proof of just how off-the-rails he is. As we learn by the end of the book, it was actually Sirius' good friend Peter Pettigrew who killed all those people, then used his animagus power to transform into a rat and flee the scene, leaving Sirius to take the blame. Author J.K. Rowling has clarified in interviews that Black's laughter was this type of laughter, evoked by the sheer insanity of the situation.
  • 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 him out of the way, to avoid the spell.
  • Motive Misidentification:
    • Everyone believes that the reason Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban prison and travelled to Hogwarts is to kill Harry. It turns out he actually broke out to protect Harry because he discovered that Peter Pettigrew, the one who actually sold Harry's parents to Voldemort and framed Sirius for it, is hiding as Ron's pet rat Scabbers, waiting for the right moment to bring Harry to Voldemort.
    • Snape's determination to bring Black to the Dementors is believed by Harry and company to be him holding onto a grudge for what Black did to him back in their schooldays. By the seventh book, it becomes clear that the real reason is that he believes that Black was the one who revealed Lily's location to Voldemort, which resulted in her death.
  • Must Make Amends: A minor sort; since Sirius knew that because of him Ron no longer has a rat], he purchases an owl and gives 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 [Katie Bell, Angelina Johnson, and Alicia Spinnet]. We've got two unbeatable Beaters [Fred and George Weasley]. And we've got a Seeker who has never failed to win us a match [Harry]! [After long pause in which he realises 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 My Fault: Lucius Malfoy helps Draco lobby to get Buckbeak executed after the Hippogriff slashes Draco's arm. However, the only reason he did that was because Draco ignored Hagrid's instructions about never insulting a Hippogriff and proceeded to call him a "great ugly brute".
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Subverted, sort of, when Harry realises 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 to seven. Though Dumbledore tells Harry that prophecies are so inexact, and something similar might have happened without Harry's help.
  • Nightmare Retardant: In-universe example: the Riddikulus spell involves making your worst fear funny.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: As you might have guessed, Azkaban takes major pointers from Alcatraz.
  • 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.
  • Non-Appearing Title: This is the only book of the original septology that doesn't have a Title Drop — the phrase "prisoner of Azkaban" is never used anywhere in the narration or the dialogue. It's also one of only two books not to have a titular chapter, the other one being The Philosopher's Stone.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Just prior to the events of the book Sirius escapes from Azkaban, so he's not technically a "Prisoner of Azkaban."
  • Not Helping Your Case: Sirius invokes this so many times that Dumbledore lampshades it at the end, saying that he "has not 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."
  • Obvious Judas: In-Universe, Sirius considers himself and the rest of those fighting against Voldemort idiots for not realizing Pettigrew was the spy since he was a coward who always sought protection from those stronger than him.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Harry after he's run away from the Dursleys and realises that he's now a magical fugitive for blowing up his aunt. As he tells Ron and Hermione later, he thought he was going to be arrested.
    • Hermione when Ron shows her faked evidence that Crookshanks has eaten Scabbers, the blood on the sheets.
    • After Ron wakes up to find Sirius Black standing over him with a knife in hand, McGonagall finds out that Sirius was able to get into Gryffindor Tower because he had a piece of paper with that week's passwords on it. In a shaking voice of Tranquil Fury, McGonagall asks who wrote down the passwords for that week and mislaid them. Cue this trope in the form of a small squeak from a terrified Neville as he raises a shaking hand.
    • Neville, when he receives a Howler from his grandmother after his mislaying of the Gryffindor Tower passwords led to Sirius Black breaking in. Ron tells him to run for it, and Neville does, so the Howler goes off in the Entrance Hall instead.
    • Sirius, when Snape rather smugly tells him he'll get the Dementor's Kiss.
    • Pettigrew in rat form as Sirius lunges for him in the Shrieking Shack. When forced back into human shape he's squeaking the whole time and trying to beg for his life.
    • According to Lupin, Malfoy had one when, during the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw match, Harry shot a Patronus at him while he was dressed as a Dementor.
    • Harry has one when, while using the Time-Turner and seeing Lupin transform into a werewolf, he and Hermione have to move, and fast, because werewolf-Lupin is about to run into the Forest, straight at them. When he tells Hermione this, she has one too. Not only because of how they can't be seen, but, more obviously, a werewolf is about to come running straight at them.
  • 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.
  • Plot Hole: How did Fred and George know how to work the Marauder's Map? Rowling later Hand Waved this on the "Pottermore" website, revealing that the map identified them as fellow troublemakers and gave them hints until they were able to figure out how to work it.
  • Properly Paranoid: Snape has no idea how Sirius escaped, but swears up and down that "THIS HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH POTTER!" despite having no proof whatsoever. Well, he may never prove it, but he's not wrong...
  • Power Incontinence: What happens when thirteen-year-old witches and wizards lose their temper.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Done by Ron in the first chapter when yelling down the phone at Uncle Vernon: "I — WANT — TO — TALK — TO — HARRY — POTTER!" and "I'M — A — FRIEND — OF — HARRY'S — FROM — SCHOOL—".
    • Ron does it on Christmas morning when Crookshanks tries to get Ron again: "GET — HIM — OUT — OF — HERE!"
    • A furious Snape does it again in the final chapter: "THIS — HAS — SOMETHING — TO — DO — WITH — POTTER!"
  • The Quisling: In The Reveal, Peter Pettigrew is found to be one.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Sirius is just barely holding back his anger towards Pettigrew when they're in the Shrieking Shack. Then when the latter starts begging Harry for mercy and talks about James, Sirius absolutely loses it.
  • 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 in private 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.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When Harry gets a Firebolt broomstick for Christmas with no card saying who it's from, Hermione assumes Sirius Black sent it and jinxed the broom so it would kill Harry when he rides it. Sirius was the sender, but he didn't jinx it. He sent it to Harry to make up for the thirteen years' worth of Christmas and birthday gifts he didn't get from Sirius since he was locked up in prison.
  • 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: Ron also loses Scabbers by the end of the book, and he turns out to have been a disguised Animagus all along. That said, he does receive a pet owl at the end of the book, reinforcing this for now.
  • Rushed Inverted Reading: When Hermione tells Professor McGonagall about Harry getting a Firebolt for Christmas and then the teacher goes to confiscate it temporarily so 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.
  • Save Our Students: The previous Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers we saw were both lackluster and didn't teach their students anything of use, making the subject a complete joke with the students. In comes Professor Lupin who turns out to be a highly competent expert who teaches the Hogwarts students everything they need to know about dealing with Dark creatures. With him teaching, DADA quickly becomes almost everyone's favorite subject.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: This is how Draco and Lucius Malfoy get the charges against Buckbeak to stick, despite Hermione and Ron's research. Fudge is convinced that Buckbeak is a "mad Hippogriff" and thus Shoot the Dog is necessary.
  • 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 — Harry stays quiet when Snape insults him, but explodes when Snape starts badmouthing his dad.
  • Stable Time Loop: In the climax, Harry and co. are saved from the Dementors by Harry's *own future self*, allowing the "present" Harry to go back in time and repeat what he's already seen.
  • 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.
  • Stealth Pun:
    Hermione: I think Divination seems very woolly. A lot of guesswork, if you ask me.
    Ron: There was nothing woolly about the Grim in that cup!
    Hermione: You didn't seem quite so confident when you were telling Harry it was a sheep.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Toilet Humour: For Ron speaking out against Snape when he covers Lupin's class in chapter nine, Snape gives him detention. Namely, he has to scrub out the hospital wing's bedpans, without magic. Understandably, Ron is furious.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Malfoy insulting Buckbeak after Hagrid specifically warned the class. Even if he was trying to get Hagrid in trouble, at which he succeeded brilliantly, he's lucky that his arm didn't get torn off when it happened, or Madam Pomfrey would have had to bring out the Skele-Gro.
    • 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.
    • Later on it is 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. Luckily 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.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Harry learns the Patronus Charm in this book, a difficult defensive spell, thus signalling the beginnings of him becoming an expert in magical combat. To the point where, in Book 5, gets an Outstanding on his DADA OWL exam, the only subject in which he bests Hermione.
  • Totem Pole Trench: Totem Pole Dementor Cloak, actually.
  • Tranquil Fury:
    • Harry when he finally comes face to face with Sirius and thinking that not only does Sirius want to kill him, but led Voldemort to his parents, resulting in their deaths. He's wrong on both counts.
    • McGonagall when she finds out someone wrote down the passwords for Gryffindor Tower and left them lying around, which resulted in Sirius Black being able to get into Gryffindor Tower. Justified because at this point, everyone still thinks Sirius was after Harry.
  • 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. Crookshanks turns out to be Properly Paranoid about Scabbers being an Animagus 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 and warned their Head of House 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.
  • Wrecked Weapon: "Weapon" isn't the exact term, but this is more or less what happens to Harry's prized Nimbus 2000.
  • 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 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. Sirius himself says he'll never understand why he didn't realise Peter was the spy from the beginning.

Alternative Title(s): Prisoner Of Azkaban