Padfoot, Prongs, Moony, and Wormtail – ring any bells? The four students who attended Hogwarts together were placed in the same House, Gryffindor. Together, they were called Marauders. Who are they? Moony is very obviously Remus Lupin, the werewolf. Wormtail is Peter Pettigrew, the traitor. Prongs is of course James Potter, Harry’s father. And who is Padfoot?
Padfoot is a nickname Sirius Black, Harry Potter’s godfather got during his Hogwarts years in a gang of students called the Marauders. Padfoot was the perfect name for an animagus who would turn into none other than a dog. If you have not read the books, you might have heard this name almost at the end of the franchise when Harry uses it as a code for Snape.
How did he get his name? Why was Padfoot used as a code, and why would Snape know what it means? What was the motivation behind Harry’s actions in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? You may not know, but you will certainly find out if you keep reading!
What does Padfoot mean in Harry Potter?
Padfoot is symbolic in many ways. Sirius Black transformed into a black dog since he was an animagus. This means he could transform at will, while Remus Lupin could not. Dogs are known for their walk on the tips of their toes just like cats, they have cushions on their paws like pads which protect them from getting hurt and cause their walk to be quiet.
Padfoot is like a nickname, it is endearing and a joke at the same time. The deeper symbolism is not that difficult to understand either. Sirius is the name of the star which is the shiniest star in the Canis Majoris constellation.
Canis Majoris is just the fancy name for the big dog. Many sailors often follow the star because it is often a teller of safe passage. They trust it like they would their best friend. A dog being a man’s best friend is a tale as old as time. And we know Sirius was the best friend to James Potter while being loyal to the core, even after the death of Harry’s parents.
Each member of the group has this sort of nickname, and while Padfoot is a sweet, friendly black dog, others are no less interesting!
The best friend to Padfoot was James Potter known as Prongs. Just like his Patronus, James was proud, stood tall, and showed his power to those around him. His pride did almost cost him his relationship with Lily until he stopped being childish and changed his behavior towards her and Snape.
His stag is a symbol of power and pride. This is not very unusual since he was the leader of Marauders and he was respected and loved. At least until one of them turned to serve the Dark Lord.
Remus earned his nickname by changing into a werewolf during the full moon. The wolf symbolizes loyalty and guardianship, but also loneliness. However, Lupin has found his pack. Remus was also the name of one of the sons a wolf mother raised according to Roman mythology. And Lupus means wolf in Latin. So Moony was really created from an inspiration J.K. Rowling had while reading myths from the past.
Peter Pettigrew, or Wormtail, was a rat in every sense of the word. He turned into a rat who was missing a finger and lived as a pet rat with Ron Weasley. He was the one to betray the Potters, and his nickname tells us all we need to know about his personality.
The rat symbolizes the dirty, unclean, or sick. People who betray or snitch on others are often called rats for doing it, so the connotations are not very positive. The one person he was most afraid of was Lord Voldemort, who was represented by a snake, being a Slytherin, having Nagini as a Horcrux, and being slick and sneaky like the snakes he could even talk to.
Snakes are natural predators of mice and rats, which is a very interesting explanation of their relationship. While Wormtail was afraid of Voldemort, he still served him out of fear to try and protect himself by being on the same side as the predator. This, as we know, did not work as well as he hoped.
Did Snape understand „he’s got Padfoot“?
Severus Snape was a student at Hogwarts at the same time as the Marauders. Since they often referred to each other by their nicknames, Snape must have known them, as did many other students.
He knew who Padfoot was, and he understood Harry’s code. The context behind this question takes place in Dolores Umbridge’s office after she catches the students who were training on the school grounds.
Once Dolores and her spies discovered the newly pronounced illegal actions were going on in the school she was now a headmistress of, she spent all her time trying to catch them and find out as much information as she could.
Once Harry ended up in her office along with other students, she called Severus to bring her the truth serum. When Severus told them there was no serum left since she spent the last bit on Cho, she gets an idea to torture Harry.
Just before Snape leaves, Harry tells him that „he’s got Padfoot“. Snape claimed he had no idea what that meant because Dolores demanded to know, however, we did find out later Snape understood Harry was talking about Sirius.
What does „he’s got Padfoot at the place where it’s hidden“ mean?
He refers to Voldemort. Padfoot refers to Sirius. But what is the place and what is hidden there? In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we find out that there is a prophecy. More than that, there is a place where all prophecies are kept in the form of crystal balls.
Voldemort needed Harry to take the prophecy since only the person whose prophecy it is can take it. Voldemort had to find out how Harry and he are connected and how he could beat Harry and finally kill him to be accepted and celebrated as a powerful wizard who killed the Boy Who Lived.
Prophecies are not harmless as they could be interpreted in the wrong way. If someone interpreted their prophecy incorrectly, it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy as they would fulfill it exactly by trying to ensure it would, or would not happen.
Harry’s prophecy was seen by professor Trelawney who Dumbledore hired as a seer precisely because of that: “The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…“
Harry was trying to tell Snape Voldemort has taken Sirius to the place where the prophecy is in a way Dolores would not understand it and inform the Minister. Severus did act as he had no idea what Hary meant, but he used his Patronus to visit the Order and see what was going on.
This is only one of the hidden good deeds Snape has added to his list of being a good guy without anyone knowing, and that may be very Slytherin of him, but he did take action to prevent harm coming to those who bullied him long ago to ensure the Dark Lord would lose.