In Prisoner of Azkaban, Draco Malfoy makes the follow taunts at Harry:

‘Thinking of trying to catch Black single-handed, Potter?’
‘Yeah, that’s right,’ said Harry offhandedly.
Malfoy’s thin mouth was curving in a mean smile.
‘Of course, if it was me,’ he said quietly, ‘I’d have done something before now. I wouldn’t be staying in school like a good boy, I’d be out there looking for him.’
‘What are you talking about, Malfoy?’ said Ron roughly.
‘Don’t you know, Potter?’ breathed Malfoy, his pale eyes narrowed.
‘Know what?’
Malfoy let out a low, sneering laugh.
‘Maybe you’d rather not risk your neck,’ he said. ‘Want to leave it to the Dementors, do you? But if it was me, I’d want revenge. I’d hunt him down myself.’

Prisoner of Azkaban, chapter seven (“The Boggart in the Wardrobe”), p. 96–97 (UK/Bloomsbury paperback)

As we find out later in the book, this is referencing Sirius’ responsibility for Harry’s parents’ death by betraying them as Secret Keeper of the Fidelius Charm protecting them.

Why does Draco do this, though? It seems rather strange, considering that:

  • The fact that Sirius was Lily and James’ Secret Keeper was not widely known (Fudge says when telling Madam Rosmerta about it that it was kept out of the papers and kept under wraps), so it’s not something Draco would be likely to have just come across—certainly not at the time, when Draco himself was only a year old, but also not now.

  • Draco’s father, Lucius Malfoy, who has his fingers in lots of Ministry pies and is frequently Draco’s source of confidential and insider information, was a Death Eater when Lily and James were killed, as far as we know among the Death Eaters closest to Voldemort. He, along with the other Death Eaters close to Voldemort, would surely know that Sirius Black was never a Death Eater nor a traitor, and they would almost certainly know that Peter Pettigrew was a Death Eater and was the one who betrayed Lily and James.1

If Lucius had ever told his son anything about this whole spiel, it would presumably have been the truth: that Peter had been a Death Eater (or spy) who had betrayed the Potters, divulging their Fidelius secret to Voldemort and bringing about their deaths; but that Sirius had been successfully framed for it. Otherwise, the most likely scenario would be that he just hadn’t told Draco about it at all (which we can probably rule out). There seems to be no logical reason for Lucius to give Draco confidential information that he knows to be false, as though it were truth.

So why does Draco deliberately lie and taunt Harry about going after Sirius, then? He is presumably one of the relatively few people who are aware that Sirius was never a Death Eater and has no reason whatsoever to be after Harry. The most he could possibly hope to accomplish would be for Harry to tear off seeking out Sirius. This would get Harry out of Hogwarts and out of Draco’s hair, but would also be one hell of a long shot.


1 That is, assuming Peter really was a Death Eater at that time. There is no mention of him having a Dark Mark until Goblet of Fire, at which point he certainly was a Death Eater, so it is possible he was only a spy during the First War, rather than a fully-fledged Death Eater. Even so, Sirius’ allegiance and Peter’s betrayal must surely have been familiar to Voldemort’s closest circle of Death Eaters.

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    I think you could narrow this question down significantly by just asking How did Draco know Sirius was Harry's Godfather? That's all you need to ask, IMO, perhaps with a few sentences explaining why it's unclear. My eyes crossed at the wall o'text up there :) Also, the "tattoo-thingey" is called a Dark Mark. Just my $0.02 (and please don't take my comments as me trying to be unkind -- I'm totally known for wall o'text posts myself :) Apr 20, 2015 at 18:07
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    @Slytherincess Did Draco know that Sirius was Harry’s godfather, though? I'm not sure he did. He knew (or pretended to know) that he was Lily and James’ secret keeper, but that's not necessarily the same thing. I wanted to call it the Dark Mark, but then I kept thinking the Dark Mark is the one conjured up by Morsmordre and I couldn't remember what this one was called… the same thing, then! Apr 20, 2015 at 18:10
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    You could also ask Did Draco know that Sirius was Harry's Godfather in a separate question. I only make the points in my comment above because when posing questions here, we want other users to answer and debate them (the person asking a question is welcome to join in the discussion, of course). If we answer them ourselves -- or give a full list of all caveats -- in the body of the question, where's the inspiration for discussion and answers from within the community? I've really liked your thoughts on HP, so I just wanted to offer a couple of suggestions :) Apr 20, 2015 at 18:34
  • @Slytherincess Ah, now that I was unaware of. I'm still rather new here, and my ‘regular hunting grounds’ (ELU) is quite different, in that over there, we expect the asker to list all the relevant caveats and points of discussion in the question. Good to know I don't have to be quite so thorough here, perhaps. :-) Apr 20, 2015 at 18:37
  • I think He taunted Harry for the same reason.If Draco knew that Sirius was not the person who betrayed Potters.But if Harry thinks he was the one, then make it true so that Harry can take revenge by killing sirius.It will be useful because Sirius would be killed and Harry will go to Azakaban.
    – Rajan
    Apr 27, 2015 at 18:24

5 Answers 5


If Lucius had ever told his son anything about this whole spiel, it would presumably have been the truth: that Peter had been a Death Eater (or spy) who had betrayed the Potters, divulging their Fidelius secret to Voldemort and bringing about their deaths; but that Sirius had been successfully framed for it.

I'd disagree with this assumption. Malfoy is thirteen year old - perfect, perhaps, in his parents eyes, but still a child. He's given to arrogant outbursts (sorry, arrogant? I'm sure you meant brave). I don't think Lucius, if he did know of Peter's involvement, would trust Draco with this info at this age.

Consider Chamber Of Secrets, where Lucius refuses to give Draco information regarding the Chamber. He doesn't just withhold the fact that he's responsible(ish) this time; he doesn't even let Draco know too much about it originally opening, for fear it'll look suspicious. He doesn't tell Draco about Riddle, or Hagrid, and insist he not repeat it. Instead, he simply refuses to answer the question, showing that he doesn't trust Draco to keep his mouth shut.

That part about looking suspicious is the Malfoys in a nutshell. Public, thinly veiled respectability. Plausible deniability. That kind of performance takes a level of control that Draco simply does not possess at age thirteen, and evidently Lucius agrees. The easiest way to deal with a bratty child who insists on knowing what the big deal is about Black would be to just give him the official story and let it lie. After all, Voldemort is (apparently) dead and gone by this point - why bring up your Death Eater past with your kid when all it can do is put you at risk?

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    But the official story is that Sirius is in Azkaban for killing Muggles and Peter. The part about Sirius being Lily and James’ Secret Keeper is not part of the official story. That’s what puzzles me. If Lucius had just given Draco the official story, I would not have worried (that would be a wise thing to do, even if he did think that Voldemort was gone for good)—but he clearly didn’t. Apr 20, 2015 at 15:52
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    As far as I remember - correct me if I'm wrong - it IS part of the official story, it's just not well known. After all, the Mr Weasley clearly knew, despite never having known the Potters. The Hogwarts teachers (including Hargrid) knew (it was Rosmerta that Fudge was revealing this "new" info to). The public just doesn't associate the two incidents - the Potters deaths, and the Black murders - with each other. After all, very few people knew the Potters were in hiding. Given that, them being killed would just be viewed as a tragedy, no traitors necessary, so news wouldn't spread on that front.
    – DavidS
    Apr 20, 2015 at 16:07
  • After all, when writing a news headline, you can go with "Man kills 13 people" or "Man tells Voldemort where to find people. Voldemort then went and killed them". From an emotional distance, Sirius' supposed role in the Potters deaths really isn't important compared to the 13 people blown to bits.
    – DavidS
    Apr 20, 2015 at 16:11
  • Mr Weasley did know the Potters. Both the Weasleys and many of the Hogwarts teachers were members of the original Order of the Phoenix, as was Sirius—as such, they would have been privy to the Fidelius plan. Unlike the Death Eaters, however, they would not know that Sirius and Peter switched. I must admit, though, that Fudge does not say outright that the Fidelius plan was deliberately kept out of the papers—that was my memory being wrong. He only says that few people know of it (which presumably amounts to it not being in the papers, too). Apr 20, 2015 at 16:15
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    Are you sure? I'm gonna have to look that up - from what I remember, Molly and Arthur were significantly older than the Potters, didn't go to school with them and weren't in the original Order, so I don't think they ever met. And true, maybe Order members knew, but that doesn't explain Fudge casually talking about it to a bartender in a crowded place.
    – DavidS
    Apr 20, 2015 at 16:22

This is a really good question. I just reached this part of Prisoner of Azkaban in my reread, and I came on here to post a similar question.

I came up with the following as the only reasonable explanation, and I admit that--at best--it is canon-based speculation:

Lucius Malfoy may or may not have known about Peter Pettigrew's Death Eater activity, but he undoubtedly would have known that Sirius Black was not in league with Voldemort. If not simply for the fact that he would have never seen Sirius at meetings or the like, Lucius' knowledge would be reinforced by the fact that he married Narcissa Black, who could have put an end to the debate that her "blood traitor" cousin would ever help the Death Eaters.

Thus, we might expect that Lucius' son Draco would and should know that Sirius didn't actually betray the Potters. However, we need to bear in mind the steps Lucius took at the end of the 1st war to escape Azkaban and ensure a free life for his family. He claimed he was under the Imperius Curse and, due in no small part to his family legacy, avoided any repercussions.

Now, Lucius certainly instilled arrogance, feelings of superiority, and a prejudiced worldview in his son, but it makes sense that he would avoid telling Draco stories of old from his Death Eater days. If Draco were to let slip information beyond the accepted narrative of Black betraying the Potters, it would arouse suspicion as to why a former suspected Death Eater (his dad) has a competing story. That, along with the fact that if truly Imperiused, Lucius shouldn't remember much of anything, makes it likely that Lucius knew of Sirius' innocence, but chose not to tell his boastful son.

He probably thought: Why disturb the status quo when the status quo is good, even if you know it's a sham?


I think the goal of Draco here is to have Harry go out to seek Black, expecting Black to kill (or gravely injure) Harry in the encounter rather than the opposite. Or at least, supposing he didn't find Sirius, have Harry getting into trouble at school.

You claim that “this is referencing Sirius’ responsibility for Harry’s parents’ death by betraying them as Secret Keeper of the Fidelius Charm protecting them” but I think it's much easier than knowing the details. Remember that Peter Pettigrew confronted Sirius Black because he had betrayed James and Lily, shouting it aloud for the (surviving) muggles to hear.

A newspaper line of «Pettigrew blamed Black of Potter's death» would have been enough for Draco, even though an adult should have needed more evidence.

Most likely, Lucius told his child something along the lines

This Sirius Black who escaped Azkaban was one of the servants of You Know Who, he was a spy, and helped him in killing the Potter. He was arrested after killing a number of muggles.

Note that there are several reasons to show things that way:

  • Lucius may not know that Pettigrew was the real traitor. Voldemort did not trust him everything, and it was clearly an important secret (remember that Dumbledore had spies, too) so probably the inner circle just knew that there was a traitor, and only Voldemort knew his identity. He would have likely learnt after Voldemort visit to Godric's Hollow, but that didn't happen.
  • Sirius is part of the family, it would have been preferable to portrait him as a hero, rather than a traitor to their pure-blood conception.
  • It is also preferable to show him as one of Voldemort followers (even if he's now mad), instead of «the only Death Eater that was able to escape Azkaban, and in fact he wasn't one».
  • If he is framed as an innocent, then the actual traitor (Pettigrew) ended up killed by him in a silly way, whereas with the official version is better for Voldemort followers.
  • Lucius would probably portrait Sirius as being nowadays mad, and discourage Draco from approaching him. But that's a reason for Draco to get Harry doing so.

Additionally, do note that affirming “I was so trusted by You Know Who, that I would have known if Sirius was with us” would be a risky assertion, should Ministery officials believe it and reopen the cause against him (even though Draco brags -and surely exaggerates- in the open about these), since he almost ended up into Azkaban. He was supposedly coerced under an Imperius Curse. Probably, he does not tell any stories about that time (that are not in the public knowledge) at all.


From Chapter Thirty of Goblet of Fire:

"You must understand," said Karkaroff hurriedly, "that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named operated always in the greatest secrecy. ... He preferred that we — I mean to say, his supporters — and I regret now, very deeply, that I ever counted myself among them —"

"Get on with it," sneered Moody.

"— we never knew the names of every one of our fellows — He alone knew exactly who we all were —"

This leaves open the possibility that other Death Eaters would not necessarily have known whether Sirius or Peter were Death Eaters or not.


I'd say, as well as all of these things people have mentioned, even if Draco knew, why would he tell Harry? He clearly doesn't like him, so even if he knew better, why wouldn't he taunt him?

  • (@rand I’ve rolled back your edit; the intended meaning, I think, is “even if Draco did know [that it wasn’t really Sirius], why would he tell Harry that?”) Mar 24, 2016 at 23:24
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I interpreted it as "why wouldn't he tell Harry?", same as the "why wouldn't he taunt him?" at the end. (I was also trying to help the answerer here, since "why would he tell Harry?" is kinda just repeating the question whereas "why wouldn't he tell Harry?" makes it more like an actual answer.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 25, 2016 at 0:50

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