The Enigma in Wolf’s Clothing:
Well after the character assassination mill that Rowling chose to run former Professor Lupin through in DHs (both literal and figurative), I’m not sure how many fans are likely to still have that much interest in him.
Not that any of his myriad spinelessness came as a surprise, mind you. That much had been being telegraphed from the day we first met him. But we seem to have gone from being offered a delicately-shaded portrait to a crudly-drawn cartoon without a lot of warning.
Indeed, many readers were probably inclined to drop him with a thud and a “Ew,” after that amazingly sanctimonious confrontation in Chapter 11. If, that is they were among the ones who found it credible in the first place. It was poorly handled to say the least. He didn't really make a much better impression when we next saw him in Chapter 25 announcing his son’s birth, and he was summarily disposed of in a gratuitous, offstage death only revealed after the fact in Chapter 33. We haven’t a clue as to what he was doing with himself over the course of the book. Although he did make at least one appearance on Potterwatch.
And, raise your hands everyone who is convinced that Rowling killed him off for no better reason that so he could make the fourth of Harry’s “honor guard” on his suicide march through the forest. He served absolutely no purpose there. Anyone else we have seen die over the course of the series would have done it as well. And Tonks’s death was even more gratuitous and dismissable.
For the record; I think you are on the right track. But that isn’t the only reason why Rowling killed him. Not really. She had another reason. Not necessarily a better reason. But a different one.
Rowling claims that Remus and Tonks were the two people who she had not originally planned to kill off. But I am not sure that I believe her. Their deaths certainly didn’t end up serving any purpose.
And I certainly don’t believe that she went into DHs not intending to kill them, either. They were obviously (from the vantage point of 20/20 hindsight, of course) set up from the minute they first appeared. With Tonks glowing with happiness flashing around her wedding ring (in the fine old tradition of soap opera ingenues who I am informed always automatically tempt fate by daring to declare themselves to be happy), to Remus’s hangdog look. You immediately wonder what was behind that whirlwind marriage. Did the Weasleys pounce on him, roll him up in a carpet and not turn him loose until he said “I do”?
From that moment we all might have guessed that they were both goners if you were looking for that sort of clue. But one might have expected the whole thing to have been handled with a little more dignity, and to not have it feel quite so gratuitous. Because it totally wasn’t handled well.
However, from where Rowling apparantly was coming from their deaths were both absolutely necessary.
Every bit as necessary as the endless camping trip from hell and the months and months through the middle of the book where it was clear to everyone reading it that nothing was happening.
Rowling had to drag the story out until she could get that baby born.
Apparently this was all necessary to create another symbolic war orphan.
And, the minute Little Teddy arrived she finally buckled down and finished off the story. (Even though she could scarcely bother to even mention little Teddy except for a cameo part in the »spits« epilogue.)
Still, I feel as if I really owe it to the collection to include an article devoted to former Professor Remus John Lupin.
After all, I have an article regarding Black and Potter. I speak about Sirius Black on his own, as well. I speak (at great length) concerning the possible motivations of Peter Pettigrew. I touch upon Lily, and her face-off with the Dark Lord. I also discuss the Pensieve expedition and the timing of the werewolf caper. Over in the “unhallowed” collection I play around with the question of what James Potter did for a living. I even have a whole sub-collection of articles regarding Severus Snape. Surely Mr Lupin should also be considered a suitable subject for examination.
Unfortunately, Mr Lupin never seemed to agree with me.
It is very clear that former professor Lupin had no desire to submit himself to my examination, or to that of anyone else. I finally began to suspect that he may have had a very good reason for this reticence. And he (no doubt most politely) would have requested that the Red Hen keep her overly large beak out of other people’s business, thank you very much.
For, try as one may, almost any serious attempt to “read” Remus Lupin seems to ultimately end in an exercise in self-hypnosis; virtually all attempts at observation either immediately or inevitably run up against his smooth, solid wall of polite, respectful, and utterly impenetrable, reserve. Eventually you have to ask whether this is any kind of an accident.
It certainly proves to be a far more effective method of self-concealment than Severus Snape’s practice of building fortress-like walls to retreat behind, and then making himself conspicuous by striking intimidating poses from the battlements. We know even less about Remus Lupin than we did about Severus Snape (although certainly more than we knew about Pettigrew), but somehow it does not occur to most readers to wonder whether there is any mystery to be solved about him.
This habitual reserve is also probably a good part of the reason why there is a sub-set of fans who were absolutely convinced that Lupin was Ever-So-Evil, and who, now that Voldemort is back, had been called back to heel, and would ultimately betray Harry and the trio, and be revealed as a traitor at some point in the last book of the series. Not merely because they were determined to float whatever unlikely theory shows the most promise of “bang”, and were twisting perceptions to comply with it, but because they really believed this.
I did not agree with them. I rejected all Evil!Lupin theories pretty much out of hand. From what Rowling always had to say regarding Lupin they were unequivocally bogus. Plus, she never wrote him as evil. She wrote him as weak. Let somebody down in a major way, I could readily believe (and indeed he did, his own wife in fact) betray them to an enemy, no.
Throwing suspicion his way, however did not seem inappropriate. Lupin was clearly NOT being straight with us, or with Harry. He WAS hiding things, and he had learned the art of selective and incomplete truth-telling from a master. Albus was a master at that particular art.
But forcing him to wear the traitor hat and stand in the corner is excessive. That little circle already had its representative traitor in Pettigrew, and the demands of the story did not require two of them. For that matter, given the monster of an agenda that Rowling already assigned herself for Book 7, playing the traitor card on Lupin’s behalf, would have been very much superfluous to the requirements.
But I think I can see a little of where these fans may have gotten the idea. There was a singular lack of enthusiasm about Remus Lupin’s service to the cause of the Light.
In fact there was a overwhelming lack of enthusiasm about Remus John Lupin altogether. There was no “fire” there.
JK Rowling tells us that Remus is about the only teacher at Hogwarts she would want to see teaching her children. A fair enough assessment, for he seems to have been a supportive teacher who was actually good at teaching. She also tells us that Lupin’s problem was that he wanted to be liked. In most cases he managed to succeed at that goal. Or, at least until other people discovered what he was. And he did not appear to have the confidence to expect this liking to survive that discovery. He had probably been too often disappointed.
There is certainly no reason to beat the bushes looking for obscure causes for the oddity which was Remus Lupin. The fact that he had been a werewolf from childhood is ample cause in itself. Until the advent of Fenrir Greyback, and his predilection for children, most werewolves probably did not become afflicted by this curse until much later in life, after their basic character had already been formed. Remus was not so fortunate. He was infected early enough that the very core of his personality is shaped by the fact of his being a werewolf. And Lycanthropy, although it may be somewhat controlled in the Potterverse, in virtually every cultural mythos which includes it, is an incurable curse.
Which brings us to the recurring question of what the condition of lycanthropy “signifies” within the Potterverse.
I am not altogether convinced that it signifies anything in particular. Despite the impulse to read symbolism, analogy, or metaphor into every aspect of traditional folklore, it seems entirely possible that it’s “purpose” in the Potterverse serves merely to provide yet another example of a fundamental injustice, serving to illustrate yet another of the myriad corruptions and bigotries running rife in wizarding society. It may very well have no specific “codified” meaning which identifies it as the intended analog to any Real World condition or disability. I could, of course, be wrong about that.
If the condition of lycanthropy is intended as a parallel of some actual Real World disability, there is no shortage of candidates. Fanon seems to be split pretty much equally between identifying the curse of lycanthropy with either AIDS, or more broadly applied, with homosexuality itself, or, conversely, as a blanket identification of persons who have a history of recurrent “mental disorders” such as schizophrenia.
In the Potterverse there is the additional element that — when you stop to consider the matter — you realize that the majority of lycanthropes are almost certainly infected Muggles. Wizards know to stay indoors on nights of a full moon in areas where a werewolf has been sighted. Muggles, in their enforced ignorance, are sitting ducks. And, moreover, are apt to consider the light of the full moon romantic.
The reading of the condition as signifying AIDS is probably the underlying cause for much of fanon’s determination to interpret Remus Lupin as homosexual. There is no genuine support for this interpretation in canon. Nor, did we ever get any. This particular reading is clearly irrelevant to the story which Rowling has chosen to tell.
— Although one has to admit that the conduct and motivations of Fenrir Greyback make it irresistible to summarily dub him “Werewolf Zero”.
The second possibility is broader and more flexible. There are a host of mental/emotional disturbances which can adversely affect an individual’s quality of life. Some of these conditions are cyclic, and their recurrences are a real issue in attempting to address the problem. With some of these imbalances the safety of the patient, and, indeed, of others in contact with him may become a compelling issue. And, most of such conditions traditionally carry considerable social stigma, regardless of the fact that they are typically not communicable (except through inherited tendency). Many of these maladies have in recent decades been determined to have an organic basis, which can be at least partially controlled by medication.
Which introduces a secondary consideration, possibly relevant, related to the sometimes uneasy relationship between such a patient and his medication. It is a fairly widely known problem regarding persons who have been diagnosed with such conditions that a great many of them repeatedly get themselves into difficulties because they do not take their medication.
To people who do not suffer from such conditions this may seem inexplicable. If a medication exists which can mostly-reliably stabilize such conditions to the point that a person who has such a condition can live a mostly "normal" life, why on earth would they not take it? Are they afraid of the side effects? Can this possibly be due to pure forgetfulness?
Most indications are that it is not. The sticking point, in many cases seems to be that while under such medication, the subject does not feel like himself.
Which is a whole other can of worms, one which I would rather not try to explore in detail in this essay.
While we are at it, maybe it is time to take a closer look at some of our own assumptions about werewolves. We actually got quite a lot of information over the course of HBP regarding them, and about Remus Lupin. Information that stretches all the way back to the events of PS/SS.
WOLVES are pack animals.
There is no compelling reason to believe that werewolves are as well. They certainly aren’t so in any form of folklore that includes them that I’ve ever heard of (this statement does not, I will concede, apply to various works of contemporary fiction which do propose it, but fiction is not folklore). Instead, in folklore, they are almost uniformly “lone wolves”; outcast, solitary — and they hunt alone.
In addition: there are no natural wolves in Great Britain outside of a zoo. Not unless someone is keeping one as a pet. They were eradicated in the wild some at time in the 18th century.
Ergo: for all that DADA classes seem to expect students to be able describe the ways in which to distinguish between a werewolf and a natural wolf, for any practical purposes anything that looks like a wolf which one is likely to encounter on the night of a full moon in Britain is almost guaranteed to be a werewolf.
Well, in DHs, after the whole big buildup of HBP one might have expected to see the werewolf thread followed up on and used for something, wouldn’t one? Even if only to let the trio have a close call during the endless camping trip.
But, no. Werewolves turn out to be yet another of the list of disposable plot devices. At least this device was used in two books rather than the just usual one. Because once we got to DHs, the whole issue of werewolves was completely dropped. Nothing, and I mean nothing in DHs appears to have taken place upon a night of a full moon. Ergo: the only werewolf we ever identified in the whole book was Fenrir Greyback. Who is a nasty piece of work, but hardly constitutes a national emergency in himself.
Which also calls into serious question the usefulness of werewolves as allies. If you give them the wolfsbane potion they lose the edge of frenzy and blood-lust that their condition inflicts on them, and if you don’t, you certainly cannot fight alongside them. Plus, they are only useful as werewolves on the nights of the full moon. And if they are for the most part infected Muggles, what use are they to wizards at any other time?
So, apart from producing that nice kick of atavistic fear, what practical use are they in general? Even if they were born wizards, unless they were bitten as adults they haven’t been trained, and they cannot cast spells while the “wolf” has control of them anyway. Wolves do not perform magic.
For that matter, Greyback may say that he is determined to make more werewolves, but what does he do with them? Apart from Lupin himself, we hardly ever heard of them until OotP. So there clearly can’t have been that many werewolf attacks or werewolves being made until Voldemort’s return offered them some renewed protection. I really don’t get the picture that Greyback is a particularly effective villain. He is a nasty, but completely impractical dreamer. Much like Riddle, himself.
Oh, well, yes, I suppose some people have been bitten in the 13–14 years Voldemort was away. I suspect that the victims were nearly all Muggles and the attacks never showed up in the Daily Prophet. Left to themselves and operating without Voldemort’s sponsorship and protection the werewolves are more sad than they are a threat to all wizarding society. It is Greyback himself that is the real problem, and while he may be cunning he is not intelligent. Or even clever.
And I really do suspect that the band (not pack, not really) splits up on the nights of their transformation. The fact that the blood-lust frenzy allegedly had Lupin biting and clawing himself when isolated/confined strongly suggests that if they caught sight of each other while transformed they would get into fights. Possibly fatal ones.
If werewolves do not hunt in packs and are likely to attack each other in the absence of human prey, then Fenrir’s “pack” may make a habit of separating during the full moon in order to keep their own casualty rate down. Consequently there is no way for any of them to monitor the activities of each other during the full moon. And they would be in no mental state to do so in any case. No one is keeping a tally of how many people each of them has “turned”. I think that Lupin’s assumed lack of victims (which is regularly called into question by the Evil!Lupin crowd) would have gone unnoticed or just brought him into line to be taunted as a wuss. Which, in all fairness, he is.
Lupin states that he had a hard time infiltrating the group. I should think so. He is educated, he had managed to “pass" among wizards for an extended number of years. Someone had clearly gone to a lot of trouble to enable him to reach his potential as a wizard (presumably Albus, but we have no hint of why). That ought to have made Greyback very suspicious indeed if he remembered biting Lupin as a small boy. It probably took months if not years before the rest of Greyback’s followers trusted Lupin for anything. I seriously doubt that Fenrir tried to recruit him. It’s more likely that when he showed up, he had to petition Fenrir to let him stay.
Which is where the information reaching back to PS/SS that I mentioned above comes in:
In PS/SS, 11-year old Draco Malfoy’s protest over being sent to serve a detention in the Forbidden forest at night was that there were werewolves in that forest. And Argus Filch did not disabuse him of that belief.
AND in HBP we finally are told that the supposed leader of the werewolves is a Malfoy family friend. So wouldn’t Draco be assumed to know?
Even though I suspect that the claim that Greyback is a “friend” of the family is a gross exaggeration, it sounds very much like Fenrir’s band may well have their camp in the Forbidden Forest!
And, if so, there may not have been all that many new werewolves made over the entire 20–30 years or so that he Greyback been running about loose. There are not a lot of Muggle settlements anywhere near the Forbidden Forest, and the local wizards know to stay indoors on nights of the full moon.
I also suspect that these days there are perimeter spells on the forest side of the Hogwarts grounds. They probably only activate after sunset. Or are cast manually on the nights they are needed. But I can well believe that Riddle may have suggested that Greyback set up camp in the forest, just for the nuisance value such a camp would represent.
And I doubt the Centaurs would have been enthusiastic about a band of werewolves setting up camp on their turf, either. Much Tom would have cared. He’d have found the ongoing friction amusing.
For that matter, werewolves may not be the top of the food chain in that forest, either. I certainly wouldn’t want to tangle with an angry Thestral, and there is a herd of about 100 of them. Not to mention that the scent of blood attracts them.
To say nothing of Aragog and his children. If they are in there, the werewolves may have learned to give Hogwarts a wide berth. But there is certainly more than one reason why it is called the forbidden forest.
Raises the whole issue of four little scofflaws frolicing about out of bounds after curfew to a whole new level doesn’t it?
Which brings us to Lupin, and the Wolfsbane Potion.
I seriously doubt that Remus Lupin had ever had access to the Wolfsbane Potion before he arrived to teach at Hogwarts. He tells us himself that the potion is a recent development, and at another point in the story, he tells us that not all potions brewers are able to produce it. Such circumstances are likely to render its cost well beyond the means of Remus Lupin, whose poverty is probably the first thing one observes of him.
No. Access to the wolfsbane potion, and the use thereof, was something that Albus Dumbledore offered Remus — in fact insisted upon — in their negotiations over his taking the DADA position. Consequently, Lupin only first started taking the potion in his middle-30s, long after his personal coping mechanisms to his condition had been formed and set.
And what about that job offer, while we’re on the subject? Given that just the year before Dumbledore had accepted Gilderoy Lockhart’s application — reportedly because he had had no other takers — even knowing that the man was an unconscionable fraud, just where would you rate the probability that Remus Lupin had suddenly, oh-so-conveniently, had a brainstorm and applied for the position off his own bat? “Gee, no one will offer me steady paid work because I’m a werewolf. I guess I’ll go give Dumbledore a sob story and teach little children at Hogwarts!”
I really don’t think so.
It was Albus who sought Remus out and offered him the position. And probably had to put at least some degree of pressure into convincing Remus to take it.
And Remus knew perfectly well why he was suddenly being offered respectable employment by Albus Dumbledore. He may not have been as “exceptionally clever” as James Potter or Sirius Black. But he was certainly bright enough to connect that particular pair of dots.
Dumbledore was suddenly offering him a job because Sirius Black had just broken out of Azkaban. Sometime in July. (Harry didn’t get the newspaper clipping with the picture of the Weasleys until the eve of his birthday. Sirius’s picture was being shown on Muggle television by the next morning. Poor old Errol had had to carry the newspaper clipping — and the sneakoscope — all the way from Egypt.) And Remus was well aware of his heavy obligations to Albus Dumbledore.
But the wolfsbane potion is foul. And if it really is based upon wolfsbane, then it is based upon a substance which is highly toxic to humans, and he must drink it while in human form. Not to mention that the potion is also a new development about which any long-term effects may still be largely unknown.
It is impossible to determine whether taking the potion is something that Dumbledore insisted upon, but is so foul that Remus really would rather not, or whether he really was grateful to have it provided, but *wishes* that the provider just wasn’t Severus Snape.
Which brings us to our next point.
Over the course of PoA we were shown a lot of evidence regarding Severus Snape’s loathing for Remus Lupin. It is not as easy to determine Lupin’s disdain and contempt for Snape.
Only just enough to know that it was there.
There is a pronounced passive-aggressive quality about Lupin’s interaction with Severus Snape over the course of PoA. Despite their mutual history, or perhaps, because of their mutual history, Lupin cannot be unaware of the horror, the atavistic fear that underlies Snape’s loathing for him.
And yet he would not drink the damn potion in the man’s presence and let him set his mind at rest. Which just strikes me as... cruel. Or at least a piece of spiteful pettiness on every bit as high an order as any of Snape’s own.
And, while we are on the subject; just what about that positively inspired bit of passive-aggressiveness which volunteered the suggestion of decking a confidently anticipated Snape-boggart out in granny drag? That particular stunt stands in absolutely perfect symmetry to Snape’s suggestion that Malfoy throw a snake at Potter at the single meeting of the dueling club the year before. Particularly when you factor in the long-reaching effects upon the objects of these two exercises. Clearly, in the Potterverse, what goes around, certainly does come around.
Three years later, Lupin had evidently rethought the matter, and had reluctantly admitted to himself that Snape is not all bad. That, in fact, Snape had had him at his mercy throughout that year at Hogwarts, and done nothing more than sneer at him (until he gave Snape good reason to do more by omitting to drink his potion when he needed to).
Even if this was only because he was under Dumbledore’s eye, Snape had done Remus no harm when he had had ample means to do so, and he could have easily made it look like an accident. But it is by no means clear that this reflection ever reached the forefront of Lupin’s mind, during that year.
And we never actually got any response from Remus over Harry’s little epiphany that the reason that Snape dislikes Lupin is because he believed Lupin was in on Sirius’s “joke”. Although Snape himself confirmed it. Nor did Remus make any effort whatsoever to soft-pedal Sirius’s flat statement that “He deserved it.”
For years we all thought it unlikely in the extreme for Lupin to have agreed to take any part of such a stunt, but there was clearly more to that incident than we had been given any clear hints to expect. And in the end, Rowling didn’t even show us the incident itself in Snape’s Pensieve.
And, for the record; I think that Snape was absolutely right. Lupin was in on it. As of the most recent general revision, the essay on ‘The Werewolf Caper’ has been moved back into this collection.
Which raises the side issue in that; as miserable a git, and as thoroughly nasty a piece of work as we have always been led to regard Severus Snape, from the minute we first heard of the werewolf caper, we have also been left alone to conclude that whatever Snape deserved, he didn’t deserve to be set up in a situation where he might be savaged by a werewolf. Rowling is not at all averse to trying to bully her readers into how they ought to think about her characters. Yet somehow, on this matter she has let us make up our own minds. And, somehow, as regards this particular incident, nearly every reader has always somehow found themselves on Snape’s side.
Snape’s personality alone was certainly not reason enough for the werewolf caper. But we have very carefully never been shown anything of Snape’s behavior related to this incident.
[An insertion here regarding the revelations of Book 6: so far as the werewolf caper goes, we are forever doomed to waiting. But we definitely had another shoe fall regarding the hazing incident from the Pensieve expedition in OotP. Double and in spades. Our initial impression of a completely unprovoked attack by two against one has now been recast by the Snape-haters as “giving Snape a taste of his own medicine”. Nevertheless, I doubted that such a simple reversal is showing us the whole story either. It is now abundantly clear that on James’s part, at the very least the whole incident was done purely in an attempt to get Lily Evans’s attention, as just another ploy in a sort of pigtails-in-the-inkwell schoolhouse romance. Although why he should think that it would impress her favorably to gratuitously attack the little geek she’s always let trail after her like a tantony pig, I do not know.]
[And as an insterion regarding the revelations of Book 7: words fail me. Well, actually, no, they don’t. Polite words fail me.]
Another contention which I hold regarding Remus Lupin is that at some point probably between November, 1981 and September, 1993 Lupin discovered — or had pointed out to him — and made a point of learning something of the obscure branch of magic known as Legilimency.
All of the evidence suggests that neither he, not the rest of the Marauders were aware of this branch of magic during the final days of VoldWar I when the Order knew that someone close to he Potters was a spy. But there is ample evidence over the course of PoA to suggest that he had learned it by the time he showed up at Hogwarts to teach in Harry’s 3rd year.
I am not convinced that Lupin is especially good at it. Or that he uses it particularly often. But he gets by. And his sphere of competence is definitely at the Legilimency end of the scale rather than the Occlumency end. His early experience would have clearly given him a greater degree of motivation to discern others’ intentions concerning him than it would to cause him to fend others out of his head in self-defense. And he knew enough, after a year of locking horns with the man, to be able to state with conviction that Snape was a “superb Occlumens.”
And; about those statements; it takes more than one reading before it finally penetrates that in the entire course of PoA, the statements made by Remus Lupin are — almost without exception — so reasonable, so balanced, so objective, that you are left knowing absolutely nothing about what he personally thinks or feels on just about any subject whatsoever.
Oh, well, yes. You can safely conclude that he doesn’t like Dementors.
But that’s about it.
He does so fine, and so expert a job of transmitting the completely fair, “non-biased” reading of every subject under discussion that you never get any honest feeling for what his own stand on it is. He fills you in on the accepted “PC” viewpoint of every issue. He rarely comes out and tells you that he actually agrees with it.
For example: he tells us that he is very lucky to be working alongside Professor Snape, since there aren’t many wizards who are up to making his potion. But that is hardly information that clues us in on what he may actually feel about the situation. He certainly doesn’t come across as being particularly delighted by it.
And while we are on the subject: despite the overall impression of his always relating the most trustworthy, fair, reasonable and balanced viewpoint that is available, it is from Lupin that we have gotten a couple of the wildest, most distorted and thoroughly misleading statements in all canon!
The big problem with Lupin is that he was not nearly so well put together as he appeared. This was a very damaged man. His whole life had been warped out of shape by the fact that he was infected with lycanthropy as a child.
Yet on the surface, although reserved, he functioned very well. He was polite, civilized, just terribly “politically correct” and rational.
But the minute he got upset he was apt to pop out with some wildly exaggerated statement or claim which was positively ridiculous, when closely examined, or a statement which simply makes no sense.
A rather puzzling line of reasoning which raised its head after the release of PoA and carried us theorists off up a blind alley (where we were later mugged by new canon) followed a progression which goes:
IF Remus Lupin’s statement that; “It wasn’t thought that I would be able to attend Hogwarts. But then Dumbledore became Headmaster...” was an indication of just when Dumbledore became Headmaster (i.e., just before Lupin and the rest of his friends started Hogwarts) then the timing of all things related to Tom Riddle suddenly became highly suggestive.
Lupin and his friends, from the information finally put in writing in DHs, can now be determined to have been around 21 years old when Voldemort was first defeated, on the night of October 31, 1981. Consequently if this group were around 20 when Harry was born, in 1980, they would probably have started Hogwarts in September of 1971.
However, until the Black family tapestry information hit the web in early 2006, we were all forced to calculate from rather mushily stated website and interview information which strongly suggested that the Marauder cohort was born a year earlier than it now turns out it was, which led me, and quite a few others, to the belief that they had started at Hogwarts in September, 1970. By the time canon was closed we were left having to completely dismiss the dates on the tapestry in order to make the events tied to it conform to the dates given in canon.
However, this assumed coincidence in timing set off an initial flurry of possibilities. In the first place it fed comfortably into Dumbledore’s statement in the first chapter of PS/SS that the wizarding world had had little to celebrate for the past eleven years. From which we had reasoned that Voldemort’s first rise had begun some eleven years earlier, or, around 1970, coinciding with Dumbledore’s appointment as Headmaster.
If Dumbledore had only just become Headmaster in 1970, what had he been doing since 1945, one asked? Either defeating Grindelwald had been no big deal, and despite being “famous” for it, no one made a great hero of him over the matter and he had been blamelessly teaching at Hogwarts throughout the intervening period, under either Dippett or a succession of other yet unnamed Headmasters or Headmistresses; or; defeating Grindelwald really was a big enough deal that he was offered, and had accepted, some other job, somewhere else, only returning to Hogwarts as Headmaster, for the academic year beginning in September 1970.
We were later shown a precedent for this kind of thing in OotP with the example of a former Headmistress of the mid-18th century who went directly from her former post as a Healer at St Mungo’s hospital, to being Headmistress of Hogwarts. (I suspect that this is actually a clue to something else, but have touched upon that in another article.)
Which left us all wondering whether Voldemort only chose to surface once Dumbledore was safely occupied at Hogwarts, rather than in some more potentially dangerous position somewhere in the Ministry.
Unfortunately, much of this reasoning had to be abandoned in the wake of additional new information also given us in OotP, which made it clear that Minerva McGonagall was hired by Hogwarts Academy for the spring term which began in January of 1957, in the middle of an academic year. This hiring would have taken place at least a full year before Lupin and the rest of his contemporaries were born. DHs also eliminated this line of reasoning. Even the oldest of the Marauder cohort at Hogwarts would have been born no earlier than the autumn of 1959.
That Minerva was hired in the middle of an Academic year suggested that there had been an unscheduled turnover in the senior Staff during the previous school Term. It does not seem likely that Professor McGonagall was originally hired to teach any subject other than Transfiguration, and we already know that Albus Dumbledore had been serving as the Transfigurations master in the school some ten years earlier. Ergo; one automatically assumes that Minerva was hired to fill Albus’s former position which had fallen vacant.
This presented a strong inference that Albus Dumbledore had succeeded Armando Dippett as Headmaster at this point in time, 1956–7. This supposition was tentatively confirmed by the glimpse we got in HBP which shows Dumbledore newly installed as Headmaster with the snow falling outside the windows.
It appears now that both of these conclusions were probably faulty. The chances that Tom Riddle did not return to the wizarding world until the Marauder cohort was ready to start at Hogwarts looks highly unlikely in the face of Cornelius Fudge’s statement in the first chapter of HBP that the Ministry has been trying to catch him since the mid-1960s.
We were half right, however. The beginning of Voldemort’s first rise did apparently coincide with Albus Dumbledore’s appointment to the post of Headmaster of Hogwarts Academy. But that fact now seems coincidental rather than significant. At this point there is nothing to suggest that Tom Riddle only chose to return to the wizarding world once Dumbledore was Headmaster. Indeed, discovering upon his return that Dumbledore was now Headmaster may have come as a rather nasty shock, and upset his already laid plans.
As to the now clearly inaccurate statements made by Lupin which inspired this line of reasoning; first, from the “meta” standpoint, I believed that this might be an indication of a minor shift in intention on the part of the author. Rowling hammered out her original outline for the series nearly than a decade earlier, and the basic outline has not changed. But much of the “infill” between the headings and subheadings probably had, and I thought that this was one of the things that did. She originally intended that 11 years for some purpose. But she had either never been able to fit the rest of that piece of background into the story, or at some point during the 3-year summer, she modified the backstory for some reason of her own, and we were left just having to deal with it. Consequently, for the purposes of trying to re-establish some level of internal continuity, we need to ask whether Lupin’s statements are mere colloquial sloppiness, deliberate obfuscation, or an honest misunderstanding.
The first is possible, certainly, although it would be disappointing. No one but the “Remus Lupin is Ever-So-Evil” crowd can see anything clearly to be gained by the second possibility. But, there is some reason to suspect that the last could be the case. It is altogether possible that Remus’s parents had assumed that after contracting lycanthropy he would be barred from attending Hogwarts and only learned differently when they responded to his Hogwarts letter with their regrets explaining why he would not be attending. And rightfully concluding that such a concession would not have been made under Headmaster Dippett.
On a different matter; Remus also unhesitatingly backs up Sirius Black’s story that his younger brother had joined the DEs and been murdered on Voldemort’s orders when he got cold feet and wanted out. Remus backed it up, complete with the touching detail of Regulus only having managed to evade the DEs for less than a week before he was killed.
Except that anyone who has read chapter 10 of DHs and now knows the official story on the death of Regulus Black is aware that Sirius’s whole account is a complete fable. It never happened. Voldemort never ordered Regulus’s death. Reggie never ran off dodging DEs. The DEs never killed him.
And yet Lupin backed him up.
What now appears to have happened is that Sirius was told that his brother was dead, and had probably gotten swept up in the DE movement. Strung a story together that made both pieces fit, and Remus bought it.
And then embroidered it when he passed it on. All the while believing that what he told people was the truth.
It is, therefore, perfectly within reason to suppose that young Remus may have come by his impression that Dumbledore became Headmaster “just in the nick of time” quite by error. For it is certainly more likely that Lupin would be under a mistaken impression as to the exact details of the arrangements made on his behalf than that Minerva McGonagall would be mistaken about just what year (or decade) she became a teacher at the school. Or even that Tom Riddle delayed his return to the wizarding world until 1970.
If we are prepared to accept this, we may very well have also been handed what is now a strong hint that Remus Lupin was not necessarily our most reliable source of information. Despite the fact that he may have appeared to be, and indeed, usually was entirely sincere in what he chose to tell us.
Nor is this the only instance where Remus Lupin’s statements appear to have later been shown to be grossly inflated and manifestly untrue. We were handed another even more blatant example in the form of another statement made early in OotP wherein Lupin assured Molly that “last time” the DEs had outnumbered the Order members 20 to 1.
This statement is positively ridiculous. It is also quite obviously false. Harry Potter saw every surviving Death Eater at liberty in Britain, if not all of Europe, show up at the graveyard in Little Hangleton (barring those three famous no-shows and the 10 still in Azkaban) a scant two months earlier, and there were only about 40 of them. We know that Ron and Hermione have met about 20 Order members, although they suspect there may be more. 20 to 1? Give us a break!
Nor can I see any reason why Lupin would choose to deliberately lie about something which has already been shown to the reader be so completely out in left field. The obvious conclusion is that, wrong as it might be, Lupin may have sincerely believed this to be the case. For that matter, and given the same bit of eyewitness evidence, why is Sirius Black talking about armies? 40–50 Death Eaters does not constitute an army. Although it may constitute a mob.
What seems far more plausible is that small groups of Order members were being attacked 20 to 1, or at least by some other grossly uneven odds. Even though Voldemort was turning out to have had rather more “troops” than we had been led to believe by the end of OotP, their total still did not add up to 20:1 against a couple of dozen Order members, and until the Battle of Hogwarts, he never seems to have deployed them all at once.
It is this kind of statement that by HBP had me rapidly backpedaling and reevaluating all of Lupin’s statements regarding the quintessential cleverness of James Potter and Sirius Black. They may have been “exceptionally clever”. acto Minerva, and they probably were cleverer than Lupin, who comes across as solidly “bright-average”. But I’m not convinced that they were universally the brightest students in the school, as Remus seemed to believe. Or, if they were, it was only in specific subjects, such as Transfiguration, not across the board.
I then (i.e., OotP–HBP era) came around to the viewpoint that the purpose (if any) of these discontinuities was to hint that the whole issue of the threat of Voldemort and his followers was grossly inflated by public perception, and that we had all been locked in a wardrobe filled with a pair of old cloaks and all of the Emperor’s new clothes.
And, by the time we had worked our way through OotP, my respect for Remus Lupin had taken a considerable slide.
To be sure, he was a bit more forthcoming once he was no longer in a position where he may have felt obligated to treat Harry as much as possible like every other student. I have not forgotten that he never approached Harry to volunteer the information that he had known Harry’s father. Harry had to virtually pry that info out of him. But he was clearly unequal to the task of deterring Sirius from the worst kind of self-destructive behavior. He, far more than Harry must have recognized the amount of drinking Sirius was engaged in, even if he probably still would not have been able to keep Sirius from joining in on the raid on the DoM.
On this account at least, I think I probably ought to cut the man some slack. What Remus Lupin and Sirius Black were most probably sharing over that year of the Return of the Scam was not a homosexual love affair, but an all too “practical lesson” about living with clinical depression.
Or, as is looking ever more likely, Remus, in common with the rest of the Order, was saddled with the thankless job of having to effectively babysit Sirius, who was in disgrace and under house arrest for having disobeyed Albus’s orders by sneaking back into the country after Albus had engineered his escape, and told him to keep away.
And, over the course of OotP it became progressively more clear that in the matter of raw intelligence, Sirius Black really was cleverer than Remus Lupin. But Remus had better judgement, immeasurably more real world experience, and the ability to learn from it. Something that he rarely made the point of “making a point” of. The man was incredibly averse to taking the lead in any way, shape, or form. Even his teaching style had been to stand on the sidelines and suggest ways in which the student might solve his own problems. (I hope Tonks realized this. She would be much happier in the long run if she realized at the outset that the post of “leader” in that relationship was up to her.)
And in short, Lupin all too easily fell right back into the patterns of adolescence, where Sirius led, and he followed, without protest and without question. Despite he fact that over the ensuing years, he was now probably better qualified to be a sound leader. No, Remus was not “brilliant”, but he was a “sadder but wiser” man than Sirius Black.
Which I would say is to a great part due to the ability he perfected of disengaging himself from all that surrounds him. Including the issues that are in immediate play, the personalities of his companions, and even whatever expectations he may have regarding them. And the life that he led did not encourage him to attempt to cling to any of them. Or indeed to anything much at all.
He left his position at Hogwarts the moment his condition was publicly known, voluntarily, without protest, expressing neither anger nor regret. I suspect that — despite the pride he must have taken in a job in which he knew that he had performed well; despite the novelty he may have welcomed in the chance to live an almost normal life, with respectable employment on a level that he had certainly never known before — he was not altogether sorry to shake the dust of Hogwarts from his feet. He has made a point of consistently giving the impression that he repented every moment of the folly and recklessness that he and his friends had engaged in there. I’m not at all convinced that he was glad to be back. And he did not expect that his halcyon would last. Once the axe had fallen, he would no longer have to wait in expectation of it.
Two years later, we see him watch the last friend of his adolescence knocked through the Veil with the very same lack of protest, anger or visible grief as when Severus Snape had snatched away his best crack at a normal life in a fit of spite.
And then we come to Book 6, and my respect for Lupin began to recover somewhat. For we saw that some personal development of Remus Lupin seemed to have had taken place between books 5 & 6. I think that by the time we caught up to him again, at the Burrow, Remus had taken the time to process just what he learned in all those endless hours of “standing guard/sitting with a troubled friend” during Year 5.
And I think that having had a ringside seat of the wreckage that the years and the Dementors had made of Sirius Black forced him to face a few hard truths. Because I think that he’d had to admit to himself that it wasn’t just the years and the Dementors’ that had accomplished it. The seeds of this ruin had always been there.
James, I originally thought, had realized this right after the werewolf caper. James really was presented as a clever boy. I thought that the “new leaf” that he had turned over during 6th year, was largely composed of reigning Sirius in, for his own good, without letting Sirius realize that he had acquired a “keeper” (no such luck, James turns out to have been a prat to the end).
But I had still suspected that Remus was, understandably, deeply hurt by the werewolf caper and had withdrawn from Sirius somewhat, and never could quite feel the same degree of trust for the friend who had so betrayed him. Now, of course, I realize that it was no such thing. But I still don’t expect that he was particularly “happy” about the prank, even though the four of them got what they wanted from it.
I think that part of his lack of strong reaction to seeing Sirius fall through the Veil was that watching him do it was not without some degree of relief. By the end of Year 5, after watching Sirius deliberately self-destruct for months on end, I’m not sure Remus still believed that Sirius really still had a future.
And for all that he was cleverer than Remus, Sirius’s judgement had always been biased and faulty. And I think that Remus had never admitted it to himself until then. I don’t think that Remus’s speaking up in Snape’s favor at Christmastime in year 6 was something that he would have been able to do during PoA. The realization that Snape had had him in his power for a year and spared him, was not something that was so obvious to him at that time, since he had still been in the “idolize James and Sirius” mode, and still accepted their remembered evaluation of Snape pretty much unquestioned.
By Year 6, he is finally ready to move beyond James’s and Sirius’s judgement of the man and form his own opinions. Indeed, Remus Lupin is finally being forced to step out of James’s and Sirius’s shadows. But he is still unwilling to step out from behind his own protective wall of reserve.
For that matter, now that the last friend of his adolescence was beyond recall, the only person left from those days who was still on the same side was the previously despised Snape. Even the enemies of one’s childhood can be precious in a way. Lupin couldn’t have convinced himself that he and Snape would ever become friends, after the sort of history they shared but I think that he was indulging in building some form of castle in the air that one day there might have been some form of concord between them. In short, Remus Lupin, who refused to ever take the lead, was shopping about for a new “leader”. And Snape was beginning to look like a viable prospect.
For that matter, we have been handed another mystery here. We do not know for how long Remus Lupin had been engaged in spying on Fenrir’s band. The shabbiness that characterizes him was already noted on his first appearance back in PoA. How do we know that he had not been recalled from his undercover work at the beginning of Year 3?
For that matter, who taught Remus Lupin Legilimency, and why? Was it in preparation for going undercover with his “peers”? Could he have been he wandering with werewolves as early as 1980–’81? Is that why Sirius was so quick to suspect him?
And, no, I am beginning to think that he had never told us, or the kids, the unvarnished truth at any point since we met him.
Insofar as their contrasting relevance to Snape — who is central to the entire story arc: Pettigrew is the “mirror”, the one who crossed over in the opposite direction. Lupin is the “shadow” whose path is parallel. And we now know that Lupin was another of Dumbledore’s spies.
Although Lupin’s job was not the same kind of spying as Snape’s. The werewolves have no access to sensitive information. What Lupin was doing was monitoring their activities and movements. He was wearing his Jane Goodall hat, with the significant difference that he really was one of the creatures that he was observing. Monitoring the werewolves is a matter of periodically drifting in and out of their camp, making himself known there, and becoming accepted as a member of the group.
And letting Albus know their movements and activities. It wasn’t the kind of sensitive information that Snape was hunting for, but if the camp moved to an area closer to a human settlement Albus would presumably know to tell someone to take measures before anyone was attacked rather than afterwards.
Day-to-day surveillance is probably something Albus can entrust to one of his little silver instruments. But such instruments will not place themselves. Lupin could have concealed the transmitter in the camp. It is pinpointing their location, and Lupin checks on it periodically, moving it at need.
I do rather think that Remus Lupin was Dumbledore’s eyes on Fenrir Greyback since the final years of VoldWar I, and throughout the entire time that Voldemort was out of commission. So right there, much of his official story starts looking about as plausible as the “likely tale” of Snape’s remorse and Dumbledore’s forgiveness having not taken place until Snape actually started teaching.
Stop and think. Greyback was at liberty that whole period, and he was not lying low for fear of being swept up with the rest of Voldemort’s supporters. For that matter, he is probably not even a real Death Eater at all. (Tacitly confirmed in DHs. He was no more than a hanger-on.) And he was a bonafide ally of Voldemort’s, not a follower. Voldemort was out of commission for nearly 14 years, while his organization deteriorated in his absence. Greyback spent those years digging in and potentially increasing his “following”. And he was just too dangerous to be left unobserved, even if he didn’t know anything.
Ergo: Lupin had a job all those years. Dumbledore gave him one. His shabby poverty is a part of his cover.
Indeed, given what we now know of Albus, it seems unlikely that he would have put himself to the effort of arranging for Remus’s education at all unless he had a designated use for him.
In fact, with the Spy+Mirror+Shadow dynamic in place, I would not have been surprised to learn that Albus made his initial suggestion of an alliance to both Snape AND Lupin in the aftermath of the werewolf caper. Both of those young men were at serious risk of being used by the enemy. We now know that either Albus or Rowling dropped the ball on the Snape end of that possibility. But we still do not know that it doesn’t apply to Lupin.
Lupin (as Albus might have believed anyway) had just been given a vile demonstration of the fact that the people who did not shun him, were capable of trying to use him. With or without his consent. Which would have led to a discussion of how Lord Voldemort was making use of werewolves in the course of the war.
I think that was the point that Lupin was finally told the truth about the werewolf who turned him. That he was not an unfortunate sufferer who lost control of himself. But that he had stalked and bitten Lupin deliberately, because Lupin’s father had offended him. i.e., Remus was already being “used”, as a weapon against people he cared about, by someone who was not his friend. Albus would have learned the story while making the arrangements for the boy’s education, and would probably have gotten the permission from the boy’s parents to tell him if he felt the situation should demand it.
Lupin wasn’t as bright as Sirius, or Snape, but he was not stupid. Albus laid it out to him that Lupin was going to have severe difficulties in the wizarding world because of his condition, through no fault of his own. Albus would have also mentioned that there was no current way for him to monitor the activities of Fenrir and his band.
I think that Albus did not ask for a decision at that time. But he made it understood, that if Lupin chose to turn his circumstances to account in the war effort, Albus would try to protect and support him.
In Lupin’s case I suspect the support was at least partially financial. His cover as an unemployed outcast dictated that his living expenses be necessarily low, but I suspected that the contents of his Gringotts vault were in somewhat better shape than could be otherwise accounted for. Albus would have seen to it that he at least had enough to cover any real emergency.
What I suspect actually happened, is that Lupin tried to go it alone for a year or so after finishing school. With very much the results that Albus had cautioned him to expect. Eventually he would have contacted Albus to ask just what his duties would entail.
Albus would have laid it out, and warned him that it would be dirty, dangerous, and extremely unpleasant. He would need to infiltrate Fenrir’s band and gain their trust. He was not to attempt to interfere with their plans or activities, not to call attention to himself at all, but he was to report back so Albus and his allies could monitor the group.
Don’t make a decision right now. Think it over. Lupin did.
He’s a Gryff. What do you think he decided?
And he probably started at it before the Potters were killed, possibly before Harry was born, and perhaps even before the Order was formed. In fact he may have been the one to bring the Potters and their friends into the Order.
He probably didn’t know about Legilimency then, or if he did he was so far out of the loop by that time that he never got the chance to fill James and Sirius in on it. Or, it is also possible that he felt he needed to keep that ability secret, even from the other members of the Order.
Which may be the real reason why Sirius thought he was the spy. He was off living in the enemy’s camp. Coming and going as if he belonged there.
After all, while I suspect everything Lupin told Harry about infiltrating the werewolves was probably literally true, he never says anything which would pin down just when it happened, did he? It could have been all the way back when he was 19 or 20.
And he knew what he was getting into. Dumbledore would have pointed out to him what he was in for over the long haul. But Lupin is a Gryffindor. He would have been quite willing to turn his condition into an asset in the war.
Close to 20 years later, he is a bit bitter about it. Unlike Snape, who — at the same earlier point — could expect to be free once Voldemort was truly dead, there is no escape from lycanthropy. And Fenrir’s band is not going to go away if their leader gets captured or taken out of commission.
I really cannot think of anything inside of canon which would conflict with this reading and it does explain some of the contradictions. It also explains one really good reason why he was so determinedly trying to give Tonks the brush-off. That complication interfered with his mission.
But I have not forgotten that in one, rare burst of complete subjectivity, we heard him state, in the Shrieking Shack, that “it had all started” with his being bitten as a child. Had that not occurred, he claims, “none of this would have happened”. And that was probably the wildest and most outrageous statement we had ever heard from him until that bizarre confrontation with Harry in DHs. I am certain that even if Remus had never been bitten, even if the werewolf caper with Severus Snape had not taken place, Lord Voldemort would still have continued to attempt to dominate wizarding Britain, and that it is entirely probable that James Potter would still have managed to get mixed up in it. And Peter Pettigrew would still have betrayed them once he was convinced that Voldemort was going to win.
Nevertheless, although like both Severus Snape, and Sirius Black, Remus Lupin was a profoundly damaged man; he was not without some strength, nor without some protection. He did not lack for physical courage. He was just totally averse to leadership, or to taking any kind of sustained responsibility. Even worse than Albus was. But he would faithfully follow the leader he chose.
It seems to me that Remus Lupin’s was the outlook of a man who had been so hurt by life, that he could no longer dare to try grasp at it. But he still managed to function within his own society, in the face of almost overwhelming odds. In fact, he functioned rather better than some others who started their lives with far greater advantages.
He was neither incapable of satisfaction, nor of humor, nor had he set himself above being pleased. And his life, such as it was, had still managed to provide him with sufficient flashes of happiness that he could produce a Patronus; although he cautioned us that he was no expert in battling Dementors.
But I do not know that he would have ever truly recognized Joy.