Shrieking Shack from Pottermore

This Plot Hole in ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ Drives Me Crazy

There’s a plot hole in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that drives me to distraction, if I think about it too much.

I don’t usually look for plot holes. I have an incredible talent for suspending my disbelief, which is a requirement for any story. Some entertainment junkies are like me, willing to go along with pretty much any plot device. Others, like my husband, can’t enjoy something if it’s not firmly grounded in a consistent reality. In fact, if we see a movie or TV show together, when he questions me about perceived plot holes, I almost always cobble together a fantastic answer, which doesn’t usually satisfy him.

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The first time I spotted this giant plot hole in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I had already read it (and the other Harry Potter books) several times. (I lost count.) When I realized it was possible that J.K. Rowling overlooked this problem, the feeling was akin to finding out that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real. I was devastated!

I still worship J.K. Rowling and admire her unbelievable ability to play the long game for even the tiniest details. For instance, the Vanishing Cabinet makes its first appearance in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s referenced again in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Fred and George shoved Montague into a “broken” cabinet. (Peeves dropped it in Chamber of Secrets, hence the state of disrepair.) And, you’ll remember, it played a big part in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was seen again in the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

So how could she have missed this?

As you’ll recall, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black was believed to be a ruthless killer who was out to get Harry. Hogwarts was on high alert. (In the wizarding world, it’s probably something like DEFCON aubergine.) The Ministry of Magic placed Dementors around the perimeter of the school. Dumbledore and the staff increased security measures throughout the castle.

The closest Sirius got to Harry (before Harry made his way to the Shrieking Shack, that is) was the door to Gryffindor tower. The Fat Lady refused him entrance, he shredded her portrait, and she fled to another painting. Of course, all this was discovered after the fact, when Sirius was already gone.

Now, jump ahead to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. At this point, Sirius escaped capture and was hiding out in a cave near Hogsmeade. He and Harry were on wonderful terms, after Harry found out that Peter Pettigrew was the one who had betrayed his parents, and that Sirius was Harry’s godfather. The two of them corresponded frequently through Owl Post.

But remember what happened when Sirius was so distraught over Harry’s latest missive that he absolutely needed to talk to Harry? Hm? Do you remember?

He appeared in the fireplace of Gryffindor common room and spoke to Harry.

Gryffindor Common Room from Pottermore

Gryffindor Common Room CR: Pottermore

Why the hell didn’t he do that in Prisoner of Azkaban? He could have waited until Harry was alone in the common room, or with Ron and Hermione, popped up and said, “Don’t be alarmed. It’s just me, your godfather, Sirius. Guess what? I wasn’t the one who betrayed your parents. It was that dirty, stinking rat who’s sitting on Ron’s lap!” To take it one step further, he could have just used the Floo Network to get his whole body into Gryffindor tower!

Before you say, “Wait, Nancy, he couldn’t have just popped into the fire for a chat. Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and the rest of the staff had protections in place.” To that I say, bollocks! Because, remember, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, he continued to talk to Harry through the fireplace, even after Umbridge put the Floo Network under surveillance. It wasn’t until Umbridge’s fat, stubby hand reached into the fire to grab him that Sirius decided that the fireplace method of communication wasn’t terribly safe, after all.

And before you say, “Here, now, have a care. He was on the run. He didn’t have a fireplace handy,” I say bollocks to that too. He specifically said in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that he broke into a wizard’s house to use their fireplace.

So, ha! I would give my eye teeth to be able to ask J.K. Rowling about that. She has answered plenty of other fans when they’ve pointed out discrepancies — or what they thought were discrepancies, only to have Jo explain it all away. I would love to hear exactly why Sirius Black didn’t use the Floo Network in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

THAT is the one plot hole in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that drives me crazy.

Thanks for reading! Is there a plot hole or theory that drives you crazy? Let me know in the comments!

This one PLOT HOLE in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban drives me crazy! Find out what it is.

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  1. KitKat

    Going to have to disagree with you here. Although you do bring up a valid point, there are many problems with your theory. First of all, Sirius got much closer to Harry then just the portrait as he actually got in to Gryffindor tower and attacked Ron and shredded his bed curtains. Additionally, how on earth would Sirius have been able to time it right to be able to just pop into the common room and see only Harry there. He would have had no way of knowing. Sure he could have tried periodically, but the minute someone else saw him, the whole school would have panicked. Also, I don’t think Harry would have even believed him had he actually been able to talk to him. Sirius had no proof that he hadn’t at that point killed Peter, betrayed Harry’s parents, etc. So Sirius discovering and actually showing the fact that Peter was still alive by outing him as being Scabbers was what needed to be done to show that he was innocent. Additionally, while you bring up the fact of Sirius saying “it’s that rat in Ron’s lap,” off runs Scabbers and thus there would go Sirius’s proof of innocence and pretty much almost nothing would have changed from the ending. While I can’t state the validity of being able to ‘pop’ into the Gryffindor common room via Floo powder (I’m sure there is an unstated rule somewhere; we’ll have to borrow Hermione’s copy of Hogwarts: A History) I honestly don’t think that Sirius would be that stupid. See reasons as stated above of how would he know who was in the common room and such. Just some thoughts.

    • That is a very well-constructed argument. Thanks so much for reading and giving it such thought! I’m still sticking to my pet peeve. 😉

  2. Sophie Patel

    From my interpretation Sirius’ intention was never to reach Harry (he had opportunity when Harry left Privet Drive and told Harry later he wanted to see him before he set off to get Pettigrew) he never really even thought about clearing his name. His sole focus and drive was to catch and kill pettigrew and avenge his friends death with little care about what happened to himself after that. He was ashamed and told Harry he felt responsible for lily and James death by not knowing what peter was and by not being secret keeper himself and it pained him to look at and talk to Harry so I don’t think he would have attempted to talk to him even if there was a way and had no reason to think Harry would believe him anyway. Harry found out about Sirius being his godfather by accident so for all Sirius knew Harry hated him and would not have been at all reasonable should sirius head turn up in a fireplace protesting his innocence. He had been in azkaban which is said to drive everyone crazy and his focus was solely on killing peter.

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