The Werewolf Caper:
Well, by now, this essay has now been shoved down the track to the point that I think we may be coming in at the station. I’ve also tucked it back into the main collection again. Even though it does spend a great deal of time tracing the progression and development of the sequential theories related to the matter through several of its earlier interpretations — all of them theories that Rowling either foreclosed upon, or that I finally just abandoned because they didn’t completely answer the underlying questions.
But, as of around 2012 or 2013 I really did think that I had finally figured it out. (Actually I think I did so some time earlier. But it took the need to be moving the whole site into a different website building program to produce a compelling opportunity to be worth having to redo all the sidebars.)
Warning: this piece is long. And it goes through several older iterations of various theories, now abandoned, as they had developed over the past 20 years. Yes, that’s right. It’s now been over 20 years since the publication of ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.’
The readers of the Harry Potter series have known *about* the werewolf caper ever since 1999, when PoA was released and Remus Lupin and Sirius Black finally filled Harry in on just why Snape had spent the first three books behaving like an arsehole to Harry (even as he was trying to save the kid’s life), and, incidentally, gave us the story behind the “official” reason that Snape hated Harry’s father (given to us in brief by Dumbledore back in book 1). Not coincidentally, this explanation also very economically covered the probable cause of Snape’s detestation for Lupin and his outright loathing of Sirius Black.
It was a really clever bit of exposition. Sketched in without much detail, it gave us just enough solid information to grab the ball and run with it.
In the wrong direction entirely, it would now appear.
Or at any rate so it now seems after the train wreck of DHs, when we — most unexpectedly — had it thrown in our faces that the disgraceful exhibition which we saw in our Pensive junket with Harry during the Occlumency lessons sequence of OotP had taken place after the werewolf caper, rather than before.
I do not think that there is a single reader who would have guessed that those two incidents took place in that order, not until Rowling insisted on it. It is an utterly destructive order for those incidents to have taken place. And, to insist on it destroyed a great deal of the glowing regard for Harry’s parents upon which the reader had expended so much effort over the previous eight years. Indeed, that revelation amounted to outright character assasination. (Which, after the fact, it appears that Rowling may very well have deliberately intended.)
In any case, that particular bombshell managed to throw schrapnel in all directions.
But, by that time, having forced the reader into the position of supporting Harry’s viewpoint (mainly by giving us nothing else), most of us felt we had rather a lot invested in attempting to regard James Potter and his friends as favorably as Harry did.
And, one must not forget, as favorably as James Potter & Co. undoubtedly regarded themselves.
It now rather looks like Albus Dumbledore isn’t the only utterly vain and self-congratulatory character who managed to completely convince Harry that he was on Harry’s side. Nor the only thoroughly hypocritical and ineffective one, either.
Rowling stated years ago that there was more to that incident than we had been told yet, but if that is the case, she still hasn’t chosen to tell us everything about it now, either. Rowling has changed her mind so many times on so many subjects after giving us statements of intent that were never followed through on, that it is way too easy to simply chalk this down as another of them.
But the addition of that passing reference to the werewolf caper in the course of a nagging session from Lily before summarily dumping her friendship with Snape, in itself tells us nothing of what brought either incident about, nor what any of the participants meant by it. We are just going to have to go back to square one to try to figure that out for ourselves.
Which pretty much forces us to deconstruct the visit we all paid to June 1976 in the Pensieve, and, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight take another look at what we thought we saw.
Warning: this is NOT going to be a pleasant trip in *any* particular.
Frankly the way that Rowling tried to dress it up and shove it at us really doesn’t work. Not unless Rowling was trying to say something altogether other than what we thought she was.
In retrospect, I’d say she was so bound and determined to conceal turn the fact that Snape and Lily had once been friends, and lob it at us as one of her bombshells in the final book led her to constructing a grand exhibition of character assasination on everyone present forit. But by the end of DHs I can’t be certain that that might not have been exactly what she intended.
And whatever that “something else” may have been, it wasn’t very nice. And it definitely did not say anything nice about Lily Evans, who at that point we had all really wanted to be able to think well of.
But now we can’t. We really can’t. The shallow little user that Lily Evans was depicted in DHs deserved to end up with a bullying lout like James Potter.
Who turned out to have been even worse than he came across in OotP.
For what it’s worth; even at that point in the series rather a lot of fans were inclined to wonder whether Snape’s lashing out at Lily Evans for trying to “rescue” him might not have been an inherent component of just what made that particular memory so awful to him. After all, they do tell us, a painful memory is just as likely to be over something ‘unworthy’ that you did as it is to be something that was done to you. And I agree that they were making an entirely valid point. But I was not completely convinced of that interpretation, either.
Although, given my views of the Pensieve junket, I did already suspect that Snape’s lashing out at Lily may have been not just relevant to, but a major part of the whole point of showing us that disgusting exercise.
It certainly had a major impact on it. Indeed, calling Lily Evans a mudblood carried some of the most long-range consequences of any action taken by anybody in that whole episode. At least by the standards of a 16-year-old James Potter. (And, as it now turns out, a lifetime of regret for Severus Snape as well.)
But if Rowling had been trying to show us a decisive moment in which a long-standing, mutually valued friendship was irrevocably destroyed, she didn’t do a very good job of it. There is absolutely no indication on Lily Evans’s part which would suggest that she still considered Severus Snape any kind of a friend whatsoever by the time James Potter and Sirius Black attacked him on the school grounds during OWLs week. Not that we were shown in the course of that episode, at least.
Completely leaving aside how completely, irrationally, insanely jealous James Potter must have been to think that attacking and publicly humiliating Lily’s pet geek was going to impress her to his benefit.
Especially when he presented the whole issue as if he felt that his attention toward her was doing her some sort of a whacking big favor.
We seemed to be missing a major piece of the puzzle, here.
So, let’s take a reality check.
And try to make yet another overdue re-evaluation of just what went down in that little donnybrook. At least trying to keepin mind the point of view of what we knew at the time we were shown it, compared with what we know now.
Reread the Pensieve incident. Reread the lead-in to that attack on Snape.
James makes very sure that he is in full sight of those girls by the lake (who he had been keeping track of with brief, sidelong glances as he was showing off with the stolen Snitch) before he abruptly — and loudly — addresses “Snivelus”. He is playing this scene to the balcony. Or at least to his audience of admiring schoolgirls.
And, I’m sorry, but does Lily Evans really come across as a girl who was rescuing a friend?
Does she even come across as someone who is sticking up for somebody she knows personally?
No, not really.
At best she reads as a girl who is conspicuously “doing the right thing” in the sight of all observers. That is certainly the pose she appears to be striking. And “doing the right thing” certainly must have had something to do with why she is getting involved, for we certainly can’t discern any other reason from her behavior. Not from what is actually written there on the page, anyway. And even when Rowling revisited the scene again in ‘The Prince’s Tale’ you will notice that she didn’t bother to show us anything in addition, that we might have missed the first time.
This whole performance is a courting display designed by James to get Lily’s attention.
And she knows this.
And she agrees to it.
Okay, he got her attention. She barged right in like a one-girl rescue squad just like she was expected to. It was right there in her script.
Of course, she also probably knew that if she didn’t, the whole exhibition was only going to get worse. (“I’m a bad, bad boy and I’m going to keep on doing this until YOU make me stop!”) She has picked up James’s gauntlet and stepped right into her assigned rôle.
But she doesn’t address Snape. Not one word; she does not even spare him a glance to see whether he is all right, not even when he is hanging upside down and choking on soapsuds. She freezes him out from the beginning, and ignores him entirely.
That is not a rescue of a friend. This is not even pretending to rescue a friend. This is being publicly seen to “do the right thing”. Snape himself doesn’t matter. He’s just a prop. Lowly set-dressing.
And, as it played out, she even had to suppress a smile when James had first Levicorpused him, putting the greying underpants on public display. She wasn’t really outraged by James’s behavior. She was basking in every minute of publicly being the focus of the popular James Potter’s attention.
Snape and his well-being isn’t even on her radar. This is ALL about James. And, of course, herself.
And now I wonder whether Snape might have had just enough objectivity to recognize that.
Or the intuition.
Or even just the paranoia.
I mean, c’mon, how “perceptive” do you have to be in order to recognize an act of public betrayal when it’s rubbed in your face! As Rowling has chosen to write it, Lily has clearly already made her decision to cut Snape loose and hang him out to dry. Even if she is only just now putting it on display.
If you ask me, that’s what makes this memory so utterly horrible. If he had ever viewed it in that Pensieve himself he could have scarcely missed it.
Despite Rowling’s belated attempt to backpedal and ramp Snape’s cluelessness up to epic levels, retroactively in ‘The Prince’s Tale’, I fail to be convinced. Even as anti-social and unpopular as Snape seems to have been by 5th year, he probably wasn’t as clueless as Harry. Rowling spent the whole 7th book dismantling our understanding of Albus Dumbledore. It needed more than just a few perfunctory paragraphs to do the same for Snape. Over the past six and a half books she had established him as being much too sharp to not have been aware of something.
At the very least, he could tell that he was being used by both of them. As a stage prop. And he was furious. And he was also probably deeply hurt. Lily — who, post-DHs we now know had been nagging him for months, if not years, about his acquaintances — who he couldn’t have shed, since they knew where he slept — was treating him like dirt and now had publicly sided with his enemies against him. She was using the whole situation as an opportunity to strike poses back at James (who you realize that she had to have been taking a great deal of interest in, in order to have such an extensive list of criticisms to later make).
And Snape smacked her down for it. As hard as he could.
And at that moment he meant it.
He would have had to be something other than human not to.
So, now let’s go back and take another look at this scene now that we all know that not only was Lily supposed to be Snape’s best friend in the world, but that the werewolf caper had already taken place. What else changes?
Well, right from the top, Lily’s refusal to spare even the slightest effort to assure herself of Snape’s welfare certainly doesn’t say much for the quality of her friendship. In fact it now comes across as just plain cruel. The received message is that she may be stepping in and “doing the right thing” but Snape had better damned well not get the idea that she’s doing it on his account. Or at any rate, that’s the pose she is striking for James Potter’s benefit.
Frankly, she’s looking like about as much of a bargain as Tom Riddle Sr.
And what about James Potter? We suddenly have a rather nasty backstory inserted here. He supposedly just saved Lily’s pet geek’s life some days or weeks ago, according to him. (And of course his own friends. And the staff of the school.) Or at any rate that’s how the matter seems to have been explained to Lily, because she’s already rubbed Snape’s nose in it, and charged him with being ungrateful.
And just how did Lily find out about that business anyway? Snape didn’t tell her. He had a vow of secrecy forced on him by the Headmaster. It sounds to me like someone went out of their way to make sure that she should learn about it. Or, James’s side of it, anyway. And Snape wasn’t free to say a word in his own defense.
It also occurs to me that Lily is a lot more closely involved with setting up the werewolf caper than she has any business being. I’m no longer convinced that she didn’t have some hand in that. Even if she did it inadvertently.
She was mighty quick to shove Snape’s indebtedness to James in his face, wasn’t she? Yet, in all fairness, she didn’t really sound like she was all that impressed with James. And in the course of that same conversation it is made quite clear to the reader that Snape’s suspicion that Lupin was a werewolf had already been discussed between them.
Which Snape has also not confirmed to her, even though he knew his suspicions were right by then — because he has already been sworn to secrecy.
And now I am beginning to wonder; if she is so quick to throw Snape’s rescue by James in his face, whether she might not have been just as quick to throw Snape’s suspicion of Lupin in James’s face. Or Sirius’s.
I think we may have just found our information leak.
And, for that matter, we’ve probably also found the leak which first raised Snape’s suspicions of what Lupin’s problem was, too.
Im going to have to admit that by this time, nothing about the werewolf caper strikes me as being especially spontaneous. Not now that Rowling has switched the timing of the incident to before the Pensieve junket. And when you stop and consider, it’s always been tacitly admitted that Sirius knew about Snape’s suspicions when he fed him the lure of how to get down into the tunnel.
And the fact that James had already saved Snape when he initiated that disgraceful exhibition at the side of the lake now very much makes me suspect that perhaps the right handle for getting hold of what was really going on that day is that James was dragging a strictly private matter out into the public arena, and demonstrating that since he had already saved her pet geek, then she was under obligation to him. And if she really wants him to leave her ugly puppy alone, they need to negotiate terms.
And he’d go easy on her, really.
And then, his hostage, Snape, derailed the whole thing by calling Lily a mudblood.
And he did it, not directly to her, but to James. Insulting his choice of object.
So just what happened after he let fly with that dirty name? How did Lily take that? What did she do?
She was shocked.
Absolutely shocked. Very much as if she had suddenly found herself being cussed out by a chair or a table. Originally I drew the conclusion that Lily must have got a lot better treatment over her years at Hogwarts than Hermione had.
Now we all understand that she had taken it for granted that, however she might treat him, she had never believed that Snape would ever retaliate. It was completely unthinkable that he should ever retaliate.
She got knocked right out of James’s little psychodrama and was abruptly looking at it from the outside. And that may have been a bit shocking, too.
Suddenly their little pigtails-in-the-inkwell “schoolhouse romance” had turned into a real incident; and it was a nasty incident. And it did not make her look good. Her lapdog Snape had essentially bitten her, and James had deliberately provoked the whole thing!
Well from what we were shown of Lily in DHs it is clear that anything that goes wrong is never going to be Lily’s fault. Not in her nice cozy worldview anyway. She is as every bit as good at deflecting the blame as Albus. And she doesn’t really care very much as to where that blame ends up landing.
She flatly disowned any obligation to either of them! Right then and there!
First; she clambered up on her high horse and attempted to save face with a quick recovery and some retaliation on Snape.
And then she turned around and completely blew up at James.
And then she flounced off, leaving him going “Wha...?”
That may have never happened to him before. Certainly not from a girl that he was interested in.
I originally believed that Lily Evans was cringingly embarrassed to have ever gotten involved in such a disgracefully public exhibition, recognized that it was a disgraceful exhibition, was furious with James, furious at Snape, and angry at herself. Now I can see that she was simply furious at both of them and riding a wave of self-righteousness. How dare they try to burden her with obligations!
She did not even just go back to her group of girls by the lake, she left the field altogether.
But she’d already maximized the damage, by then.
So first; let’s fire up the wayback machine and take a survey of the kind of theories one could still come up with before Rowling rubbed our noses in the alleged truth of the matter, and we could still try to give all the little twerps the benefit of the doubt.
Dateline 1999: we were given “the story” in the grand reveal of ‘HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban’. The main thing that everyone who was there seemed to agree upon was that the hostilities between James Potter and Severus Snape had been ongoing from the beginning of their Hogwarts “careers”.
Another understanding which enjoys a general consensus among the readers — who are always inclined to follow Harry’s lead in the matter — is that neither James nor Remus knew of the werewolf “trick” before it actually took place.
In strict point of fact, it was Harry who leapt to that conclusion. No one else present actually made that claim.
Keep this in the back of your mind as we continue to explore various possibilities.
We’d been given no reason in PoA to suppose that Harry’s informants were deliberately lying, but Lupin neither confirmed nor refuted Harry’s stated conviction that Remus had not known of the plan, and neither did Sirius Black.
At that point in the series, it was simply too difficult for any of us to imagine any version of the incident wherein Remus would have agreed to make such a use of his “condition”. Even this far down the road, based upon only the information available at that time, the idea still seems too difficult to entertain.
But from where we are standing now, it is no longer impossible. Not now that we’ve seen what a pack of filthy little curs the Marauders actually were.
The third thing that we were told regarding the matter is that the whole affair was completely hushed up, and only those persons actually involved in it — and probably their families — the Headmaster (and presumably the Hogwarts staff) ever knew about it. The rest of the student body never found out. And for some eight years we assumed that this included Lily Evans as well. Until Rowling showed us differently. And that little reveal makes quite a difference, too.
Possibly all the difference in the world.
The fourth detail that everybody agreed upon was that Sirius Black was the one to set the situation up. We did not know how, we did not know why. We did not even know whether he did it alone.
We were, however, all willing to take a stab as to when.
Before getting properly into the business, however, I probably need to add a couple of riders.
First; this is a long trip down memory lane and covers the development of several theories past, over a number of different stages, over a period of close to 15 years. All of which I intend to at least try to delineate, even though most of these iterations have since turned out to be wrong.
Second; I probably first need to summarize a whole other theory which is gone into in detail in the piece entitled ‘The Malfoy Connection’ which is still down in the UNhallowed collection (along with most of my other Snape essays). It has aome impact on the issue of Snape and his housemates, which does have some impact on where the Marauders were coming from in regards to their choice of targeting him.
That particular line of reasoning is relevant to the development of a great many of my earlier theories about what else was going on during the Marauder era. And that particular element was not disallowed by Rowling’s big reveal in DHs. It’s still on the table, even if not quite in its original form.
For that line of reasoning to work, we need only to be willing to consider that Lucius Malfoy, even while at Hogwarts had at least a clue about the proper way to build and to maintain a following. He was another one of Slughorn’s favorites, after all. Slughorn’s own personal mission has always been to teach the students how the system works, and how to work the system.
In the first place, you don’t limit your potential following to your own year group. And indeed we’ve been given some confirmation since PoA, which suggests that kids from the same general social backgrounds tend to group together in Slytherin House, possibly without regard to their exact year, which increases the overall influence of the group. In the lower years, Draco often tagged along after the rest of the Quidditch team, all of whom were older than he. (Harry, by contrast, only seems to have interacted with his other team members during practice sessions, although he remained on good terms with the Weasley twins.)
Insde this scenario, according to Sirius Black; Severus Snape, who showed up at Hogwarts with a predilection for the Dark Arts and a remarkable stock of homemade hexes and curses, seemed (according to Sirius Black anyway) to have been “taken up” by the Black/Lestrange circle of “cool kids”.
Since we have never seen ANY indication of any degree of residual friendship between Snape and Bellatrix, or, for that matter between Bellatrix and Malfoy, and we do get heavy hints that there is a long-standing association between Snape and Malfoy, the simplest conclusion to draw is that at some point there must have been a cooling-off or a falling out between Snape and the Black/Lestrange crowd and a transfer of Snape’s affiliation to Malfoy. What to me seems likely is that Malfoy’s circle was to some degree a rival of Bellatrix’s, and replaced hers in influence once she and her contemporaries had finished school. Rowling’s subsequent endorsement of the Lexicon’s 1960 birth date for the whole Marauder cohort makes this reading more difficult to support, but not impossible. (The chief difficulty is placing Bellatrix in the school at the same time as Snape at all. It is stated outright in canon that she was, but this can only be done by dismissing the birthdates on the dodgy Black family tapestry sketch.)
I also suspect that Severus Snape, like Hermione Granger, probably was better at projecting a favorable image to people older than himself than he was at relating to his own immediate peers. Once he was accepted by Bellatrix’s “junior DE’s” circle, he didn’t bother to build additional alliances with members of his own year group and ended up being considered stuck up without any legitimate cause, and consequently unpopular. Even inside Slytherin House.
This is even more likely to be the case since his own background was hardly out of the top drawer. He no doubt spent much of his first years at Hogwarts determinedly trying to learn to “pass” as a kid from his patrons’ perceived social level. In short, he was a social climber. And a successful one. Upon the whole, this did him no favors with the Marauders either.
This overall perception was, if anything, consolidated when his affiliations transferred to Malfoy and his slightly younger group of cool (and perhaps even richer) kids. Possibly before the end of Snape’s first year, certainly by the first term of his second.
Given Sirius Black’s relationship with his own family, the Black/Lestrange association alone would probably be a large part of why Snape was targeted by James and Sirius and their little pack. Particularly after the bad mutual impression was made on the Hogwarts Express, which we were eventually shown in DHs. With the backing of the Black/et als. set(s), Severus may even have had the upper hand in the hostilities between himself and James Potter and his friends for their first couple of years at Hogwarts.
However, Bellatrix had to have already been a 7th year when Severus arrived, and even Malfoy had probably finished Hogwarts by the end of Snape’s 2nd year. Narcissa Black finished school the at the end of his 4th. Leaving only “Mulciber” and Avery who may have been originally a part of the Black/Lestrange crowd, but had also later transferred to Malfoy’s, as the highest status group available once Bellatrix and the Lestranges had finished.
As a side note, regarding Mulciber; I suspect that Rowling did not consult her notes to double-check precisely who these people were before doing sitting down to write ‘The Prince’s Tale’, recalling only that both Avery and a Mulciber were mentioned in GoF and that Sirius Black had given us the names of a number of Snape’s future DE associates in that particular installment. Avery had indeed been mentioned as one of Snape’s “gang of Slytherins”, also that he, like Lucius Malfoy (who, interestingly, was not identified in GoF by Sirius Black as one of Snape’s associates), had got off on an Imperius defense. Mulciber however, (who also was not named by Sirius Black), only was mentioned in Karkaroff’s plea bargain hearing, as one of Voldemort’s Imperius experts. A Mulciber had also cropped up in HBP as one of the DEs who accompanied Riddle to the Hog’s Head at the time of his interview with Dumbledore upon his return to the ww after his 10-year exile, roughly around 1960. Obviously these cannot be the same man. We must retrofit and assume that one Mulciber is the first one’s son, or nephew, or other relative, although it has not ever been openly established in canon that there were two different Mulcibers. Rowling would have done better to have used Rosier or Wilkes as her 2nd junior DE in the account of the Prince’s Tale. And indeed I suspect that she originally did intend to do so (why else did she bother to give Evan Rosier a first name if she never intended to refer to him again?) and was too distracted to cross-check.
I suspect that Snape was probably the only one of Malfoy’s group in his own year, although at least Avery and “Mulciber” were still in the school when Snape and his classmates sat their OWLs. They do not appear to have been in the same year as Snape, however. They were apparently not sitting their OWLs with him, or discussing them with him afterwards. He appears to have been entirely on his own.
That Sirius Black did not even think to mention Mucliber as one of Snape’s school companions suggests — other than that Rowling simply used the wrong name — that if we can take Sirius Black’s word on the subject at all, Mucliber occasionally permitted Snape to tag along after him, but did not treat him as a boon companion.
After Malfoy’s departure, another member of the group would have probably taken his place at the top of the pecking order. Mulciber might have been this leader, or he might not. We have no information to establish this possibility as anything more than a definite maybe.
By 4th and 5th year Snape may have been progressively even more often on his own and the tables were turning. Certainly he would have been less often in company with Lily, who seems to have taken up with a “peer group” of other girls, and seems to have taken her girlfriends’ verdict regarding Snape (that he was a geek and a looser) to heart, and was gradually viewing him as an embarrassment and a social liability. That gaggle of girls would emphatically not have welcomed Snape among themselves and closed ranks, keeping him away.
Unfortunately, James & Co. did not regard their now superior numbers as any reason to ease off in their “get Snape” directive. There was already way too much of a history between them all for them to reflect that four against one was not fair. By the end of 5th year, as we saw in the Pensieve, Snape was twitchy and half-expecting to be attacked at any moment.
Also, at some point during this period, Lily had clearly caught James’s attention and the whole dynamic of the situation was now poised to get much, much worse.
In any case, skipping back to the information we had to reason from before the release of DHs:
I felt that I had ample reason to suspect that after what we saw in the Pensieve, Snape would have taken no statement from any of the “Marauders” at face value. Which made his insistence that Black “told” him how to get into the passage under the Whomping Willow rather curious, and very difficult to justify. (Perhaps that’s why Rowling reversed the timing of those two incidents. But I wouldn’t count on it.)
Something else that seemed curious, once one considers it, is the fact that from the minute that the werewolf caper was first brought up in the Shrieking Shack, all the way back in Book 3, on that single issue at least, the majority of readers have seemingly always been solidly on Snape’s side. Much as they may dislike him, no fair-minded reader has ever been in agreement with Sirius Black that “he deserved it”, regarding his being set up to be savaged by a werewolf. And it became even less so since we were forced to witness the hazing attack on Snape in the Pensieve two books later.
We had also always rather supposed that the “werewolf caper” was deliberately set up by Sirius Black in advance. But one had to admit that it might not have been.
So, as of 2003 (post OotP), when I was first drafting out this essay, the most plausible possibilities, so far as I could see them, came down to three basic models.
First; Sirius could have inadvertently given something away without realizing it until later. Post HBP, once we had an even better idea of the mental sharpness of a young Severus Snape, this definitely seemed a possibility that we ought not to overlook.
Second; the fact that Sirius supposedly did not consult James on the matter, given what we knew of the closeness of the friendship between them, suggested that Black, who was nothing if not impulsive, may well have seized upon an opportunity that presented itself without premeditation, or, indeed, any sort of forethought whatsoever.
Which is still no excuse. But it might explain a bit.
Or, Third; that Snape was right, and Sirius could indeed have deliberately planned it.
But why? And why then?
Well, that’s a big part of the question, isn’t it? Just when was “then?”
In common with just about everyone else, I thought it was a pretty safe bet that it was after the scene we witnessed during our Pensieve junket. Which is to say some time after the sitting of the OWLs at the end of 5th year. I could not imagine that disgraceful exhibition taking place in public at any point after the werewolf caper had already occurred. To engage in such an exhibition after such a close call with expulsion would require insane levels of arrogance, and a sense of bullet-proof entitlement which leaves Draco Malfoy’s in the dust.
And it still doesn’t add up to any kind of rational administration of a school. I mean, allowing that kind of an incident — which was nothing if not public — without any hint of any kind of consequences puts Dumbledore’s performance as a school administrator on close to the same level as the Carrows’. One belatedly allows that Lucius Malfoy’s contention that Albus was the worst thing to have ever happened to the school might have a valid point. A public attack of that nature was an inexcusable breech of discipline. And nothing appears to have ever been done in response to it.
Taking the hazing incident that we saw in the Pensieve as our starting point, and stacking that kind of behavior up against what everyone (except Snape) has ever had to say about James Potter, I found the suggestion that this incident could have taken place after they had already been pitched into the consequences that followed the werewolf caper, to be insupportable. It is also very clear from the conversation among the Marauders leaving the Castle after sitting the DADA OWL that their monthly full-moon adventures “wandering with werewolves” is still a well-kept secret among the four of them. I found it hard to believe that Lupin’s condition had already been discovered by anyone else.
(Although, really, upon consideration, just about any female student above say, 3rd year, could probably have figured it out, if she took any sort of interest in Lupin and was able to concentrate on anything taking place beyond her own nose. One is being made rather forcably aware of moon cycles at that age.)
So, circa 2003, our parameters for the timing of the werewolf caper appeared to be that it could not have taken place before the end of 5th year, when the hazing incident took place.
It was certainly possible that the werewolf caper might have taken place at some point during 6th year. Many, if not most fans believed this to be the case.
Sirius, acto Snape, was 16 years of age when the werewolf caper took place, and he would have had to have reached his 16th birthday before starting his 6th year. However, most students’s birthdays take place at some point during the school year, so they end the School year a (numerical) year older than they began it, even though less than a full calendar year has passed.
IF Sirius Black was the eldest of the four with a birthday between September 2 and December 31, he would have turned 17 by the end of the first term of 6th year.
If his birthday was after January 1, but before September 1 he might have turned 16 at any point from January 1 to the end of the school year during 5th year. We have no hint as to which of these is the case. (Although Sirius’s excuse that James was “only 15” at the time of the Pensive junket is a flat-out lie. James had definitely already turned 16 by the time he was sitting the OWLs.)
We thought we could probably eliminate most of their cohort’s 5th year from our reckoning. We do not know at exactly what point during 5th year all three of the Marauders had finally succeeded in becoming Animagi, but it probably was not accomplished until well into the year, and our Pensieve junket did not take place until the end of it.
We could also safely eliminate the period of the summer break following the end of the term, around June 30. None of the participants of that incident were at Hogwarts during the summer break.
However, I could not quite accept that the incident took place during the course of year 6, however obviously such a date might seem to fit.
Which, for me, nailed the timing of the werewolf caper to the very tag-end of June 1976.
Either during, or at the end of sitting their OWLs.
Right after the hazing of Severus Snape which we witnessed in the Pensieve. Probably before that week was out.
I still believe that this timing would have worked better than what we got if Rowling really did intend for the reader to be able to regard the Marauders as no worse than a lot of nasty, spoiled little brats who nevertheless managed to grow out of the worst of it.
But that apparantly is not what she meant. So they evidently weren’t.
However, this assignment was still supported by everything else that had ever been either said or shown to us regarding this event in canon up to the end of HBP.
In fact, at that point I was prepared to stick my neck out and say that I was convinced that the incident we witnessed in the Pensieve was an intrinsic part of the final run-up of hostilities that cumulated in the werewolf caper. And indeed, I did say so. For some years. One could believe this right up to reading the events of ‘The Prince’s Tale’.
And got the rug firmly yanked out from under us thereby.
So what was it that we actually saw in the course of that incident back in OotP?
We saw James Potter stage an impromptu performance of; “I’m a bad, bad boy but you can make me be good,” for the benefit of one Lily Evans.
We saw James’s “stage prop” haul off and call Miss Evans a foul name, disrupting the show, bringing the curtain down on that particular act prematurely and completely derailing James’s budding schoolhouse romance.
Which up to that point had been developing quite satisfactorily, thank you.
But that hardly explains why Sirius would have fitted Snape up to be savaged by a werewolf in return.
Or does it?
By the end of HBP I was totally unconvinced that Lily Evans had anything to do with why Snape had signed on with Dumbledore. But I was no longer so sure that she had nothing to do with why Black set Snape up to be cornered by a werewolf.
Lupin — who clearly knows how dangerous an unmedicated werewolf can be — refers to the incident as a “trick” that Sirius played on Snape. Dumbledore seems not to take Snape’s insistence that Black was trying to murder him seriously. Although Albus may have been hinting at something else altogether with his rather odd statement that his memory of the event is as good as ever. (Actually I think that this is in fact a fairly heavy hint as to the reasons for the various end results of that particular “trick”.)
But we never heard Sirius Black deny that it was attempted murder, did we?
We watched Snape cause James to lose his chosen girlfriend with one dirty name.
Up to that point she was clearly interested, and flattered by Potter’s attention, and everything was going along swimmingly, and all of it was on James’s terms. (Two years later, when they finally got together, I suspect it would have been on Lily’s terms.)
Snape called her a name. Which shocked her. And then she blew up at both him and James and stormed away, effectively declaring a plague on both their houses, and now (maybe a day or two later) she is probably still not speaking to James and giving him the cold shoulder.
Maybe Sirius thought that Snape ought to be punished for that. And if Lupin does make a meal of him, it’s no loss.
This was also the point at which we found out that Snape had been right all along about the young James Potter being an arrogant, swaggering berk. So maybe, just maybe, he was right about Sirius Black as well.
So, I thought that after the episode that we witnessed, Snape might have been absolutely fixated on getting his own back on the lot of them. Particularly if the upheaval had also thrown him off his stride enough to have caused him to botch his DADA practicals that afternoon. In his determination to get revenge, he may have become at least somewhat incautious. (Boy howdy. Remember that as well.)
From Remus Lupin’s observed condition at the time of the pants episode, the full moon was obviously either rapidly approaching or just past, and I thought that it was likely that the werewolf caper played out within the next couple of days. (It should be noted that a cross-check with an almanac at this point is unlikely to be of any help on this issue. Rowling notoriously does not coordinate her story with actual moon cycles.)
Still, however incautious; I seriously question whether Snape would have believed or followed up on anything that any of the four Marauders would have told him about getting past the Whomping Willow if it was said directly to his face under anything like a normal circumstance. He would have expected some kind of a catch.
Given the glimpse we got in the Pensieve of their typical attitude and conduct toward Snape, it becomes interesting to speculate just how Sirius’s luring Snape to the Shrieking Shack was actually accomplished. Particularly since it has always been strongly implied that Sirius managed to do it without James’s knowledge.
Which, prior to OotP, made me suspect that Snape might have been led to believe that he had discovered the key to the ongoing mystery, and his opportunity for revenge, all by himself. And that the best way this could have been managed would have been for Sirius to stage a conversation for Snape to overhear while he was lurking about in the bushes spying on them. You need two people to hold a conversation. It was still widely accepted that neither James nor Remus knew about the set-up. Who does that leave?
ETA: In consideration of the information dumped on us (from a great height) in ‘The Prince’s Tale’ if — given Lupin's condition at the time — the full moon was that close at the time of the hazing, we are forced to conclude that the hazing we witnesed may have taken place as soon as the following day. In which case, just when is that argument between Snape and Lily, when Lily reproaches him over not being sufficiently grateful for having been rescued supposed to have taken place? That argument certainly did not take place after the public hazing. I think we may need to adjust our timing to concluding that the werewolf caper had probably taken place at least a month earlier than the OWLs.
Well, it is usually a mistake to attribute to malice and cunning what can amply be explained by bad timing and stupidity. Which in this case was probably amplified by irresponsibility, machismo and mutual stupidity on a grand order. We had already seen that even 20 years later any confrontation between Sirius and Severus was conducted at middle school level (at best). And it was probably only by the merest fluke that James wasn’t on hand to have deflected it merely by his presence.
So here is another scenario which I thought played pretty well. At least before we had to deal with DHs:
In OotP we were given at least a few hints that the wizarding world may be a good deal laxer about alcohol usage than the Muggle one. And it has also been generally noted that the view on alcoholism in Europe is not so... focused as it is in the United States.
To be sure, we’d had comic drunkards in the storyline before that point. Hagrid and Trelawney are both in that tradition. But in OotP that tradition was not really being played for laughs. Mundungus Fletcher might have been pure comic relief a book earlier. Here, he was simply dodgy. And Sirius Black had become a source of considerable concern.
We already knew that butterbeer, widely marketed to teenagers, has at least a slight alcoholic content. This is accepted as a matter of course by everyone. We also see both Hermione (age 16) and Luna (age 14–15) with unidentified drinks of the sort served with paper umbrellas and/or cocktail onions in an establishment as reputable as the Three Broomsticks. In company with Rita Skeeter who is openly drinking firewhisky.
Which raises the possibility that underage drinking may also not be as difficult to accomplish in the wizarding world as, perhaps, it ought to be. (Even though Hermione’s drink could just be Professor Flitwick’s favorite tipple of cherry syrup, soda and ice, and Luna’s something equally innocuous. The onion argues against it, but, then again, this is Luna. Onion-like vegetables appear to be a continuing theme there.)
Experimenting with alcohol is something that a great many teens simply do. And, one of the commonest demographics of the sort of teens who pull this particular stupid stunt are the “popular” kids. The ones “above” the rules, The nobs, the jocks, the swaggering “big man on campus” kids.
Kids exactly like Sirius Black. And, for that matter, like James Potter, too.
Who Madam Rosemerta recalls as having been frequent guests.
Two boys that we already know had a handy invisibility cloak to facilitate being where they ought not to be, and who we have just seen were not above “liberating”, without permission, school property to which they were not entitled. Most typically from the Hogwarts kitchens — with which we have already been told they were intimately familiar. Nor, in their day was there much real difficulty getting off the campus and into the village. There were other still usable secret tunnels in addition to the one to Honeydukes’ cellar back in the ’70s. And Filch may not yet have known about some of the others, back then.
I feel I should point out that it is not necessary to postulate a pair of full-blown teenaged alcoholics here. Just a pair of irresponsible young scofflaws who did not consider themselves bound by rules that inconvenienced them. In fact the awareness that they were breaking the rules probably just added that much more spice to the adventure.
And it probably didn’t happen all that often, either. But it is no stretch whatsoever to imagine that the occasional bottle of burgundy, or brandy, or whatever, may have disappeared from the kitchen stores on those occasions that there might be something for James and Sirius to celebrate.
I also suspect that these celebratory occasions did not necessarily involve all four of the Marauders.
Remus, as a Prefect, might not have felt he ought to take part in anything like that. And while Peter would have been quite eager to join them, and they may have sometimes let him, this is something that I suspect they more often did on their own.
Which brings us back around to the werewolf caper.
One finally concludes that Rowling fully intended that we should never be given any compelling reason to attempt to keep a good opinion of James Potter. I ask you; what kind of an unmitigated jerk reluctantly saves a person’s life, presumably to keep his own friends from getting into trouble — and then takes it out of the victim’s hide in public?
But at that point, we had to work from what we had been shown. While I find it next to impossible to accept that Severus Snape would have believed and acted on any information that Sirius Black might have told him when he was sober, he might very well have chosen to follow up on something that Sirius let fly while he was drunk and indiscreet.
If this is the case, it becomes not merely possible, but likely that the werewolf caper, as such, was not some elaborate set-up, or even planned at all.
And; if this was the case, since I doubt that the teenaged Sirius was a solitary drinker, I suspect that it was only by some fortuitous chance that James was not present (or perhaps just not conscious) when Snape and an inebriated Sirius crossed paths and ended up getting into a confrontation.
And; that by the time James caught up with Sirius, Snape had stormed off and Sirius (possibly quite thoroughly hexed) was ranting over something Snape had done or said and not thinking at all of anything he had said. Until the recollection caught up to him, afterwards.
And; that Snape who now had every intention of following them past the Willow to catch them all up to something expulsion-worthy, did not stop to report his having encountered Sirius’s drinking on school property. He was saving that up to add to the whole report, later.
And; if such was the case, and Sirius was drunk when he “sent” Snape to the Shrieking Shack, it becomes much easier to understand how Remus could have forgiven him for it.
Remus, who is the quintessential “follower” and all too often behaves as a classic codependent “facilitator”, is very good at making allowances for other people’s weaknesses. After the fact. Also for valiantly trying to protect his friends from the consequences of their own actions. It might even make some sense as to why Dumbledore apparantly believed that Sirius had later revealed the Potters’ whereabouts without investigating further. The werewolf caper may have been successfully hushed up, but Dumbledore remembers what is supposed to have caused it.
And this does at least absolve Sirius of plotting a deliberate murder.
Needless to say; at that point I believed that the smart money was on the chance that, in the aftermath of the pants episode, Severus Snape managed to come across Sirius Black, alone, by some fluke, in a situation where there was sufficient evidence of rule-breaking to permit him to engage in a thoroughgoing “Aha!” confrontation about finally being able to get Black expelled; and that in the ensuing fracas Black incautiously let something slip without realizing it until much later.
Snape — who (unlike his creator) has amply demonstrated his ability to add 2+2 and come up with 4 — in hopes of being able to gather evidence against all four of the marauders, rather than just Black alone, delayed reporting the incident, pending further investigation. With the results as already stated in canon.
That certainly played. Rather well, I thought. Around 2005, anyway.
I also rather thought that if the girlfriend Sirius’s best friend James wants has just thrown him over because Severus Snape called her a dirty name, maybe Sirius Black believed that Severus Snape deserved to have something very nasty happen to him.
Maybe Sirius thought he was doing a friend a favor.
And, maybe I was still just missing something.
In fact, we all were.
Our continuing line of exploration at this point still pertains specifically to the timing of the incident, not the motives. Mind you, this was all extrapolated out before Rowling dropped her version of the timing on us in DHs.
So. About that timing:
To repeat; it was generally agreed upon by everybody connected with it that the matter was successfully hushed up.
By which I mean, that we were all strongly led to believe that neither Remus’s lycanthropy, Sirius’s perfidy, Pettigrew’s possible complicity, Snape’s peril, OR James’s heroism was ever made openly known to the rest of the Hogwarts student body. Which included Lily Evans, unless somebody told her about it later. Possibly much later.
And a screw-up of that magnitude is a lot more likely to be successfully covered up during a period where the people who are most likely to notice that something is amiss — like the rest of the students in the group’s own year — are already so distracted, anxious, and self-absorbed that breaks in routine go unremarked. In short, a period such as the two weeks during which the OWLs were being administered.
This particular timing makes it all the more likely that the staff was able to hush it up so thoroughly — since everybody was also sent home within a couple of weeks afterward.
In Harry’s year, the DADA OWL was given on Thursday of the first week of the two weeks of testing. We do not know for a fact that this was the case in his father’s day. It is possible that the tests are set according to a standard order. But it is also possible that the order in which they are given changes by the year.
However, if the DADA OWL in James’s year was given on Thursday or Friday, the 2-day window of Remus Lupin’s condition as the full moon approached suggests that the werewolf caper may have taken place on either that Friday or, even more likely, that Saturday night. With Sunday as a third possibility.
Second; we also have to consider the fact that James was undeniably Head Boy in his 7th year without having ever served as a Prefect.
Post-HBP we now realize that he had probably been Quidditch Captain, which we were informed to be an equivalent office to Prefect. Rowling states that you do not have to be a Prefect in order to be Head Boy (although it certainly helps). James may not have been the first Head Boy to have gotten the appointment by way of the Quidditch Pitch.
However, until that possibility was handed to us, the fact that Remus was the male Gryffindor Prefect in their 5th year, while James became Head Boy in their 7th suggested that somewhere along the line there may have been a change-over, and it is easy to see how the werewolf caper taking place at the end of 5th year would have provided an opportunity to make such a change.
I wasn’t convinced that Dumbledore and the rest of the staff would have regarded saving Snape at the end of 5th year as sufficient cause to just hand the Head Boy badge over to James two years later. Not when it was his own friends and his own actions which set up the situation that made saving Snape necessary in the first place. And particularly not when everyone was actively engaged in attempting to hush the matter up.
Or at any rate, I didn’t think so at that time. I've had some second thoughts more recently.
One would certainly like to think that the Hogwarts staff were neither completely blind nor completely stupid. They may, in the aftermath of the werewolf caper have permitted (or even encouraged) Remus to give up the Prefect’s office, for “reasons of his health” — which I suspect that he might have been all too willing to do by then. And transferred the office to James, challenging him with; “All right, you’ve shown that you at least know the right thing to do. Let’s see if you can do it on a more regular basis.” Any such transfer of office would have been much more convincing if it was decided upon at the end of the term, and arranged over the summer break rather than sprung on the whole student body, without explanation, in the middle of the academic year.
It has to have already been abundantly clear to everyone on the staff that Remus was vastly unequal to the task of keeping James and Sirius in line. Perhaps, now that James had gotten a strong wake-up call, he would be more amenable to policing both his own and Sirius’s behavior. And Pettigrew’s as well.
In addition, Severus Snape clearly knew good and well that Lupin was a werewolf, and, vows of silence notwithstanding, perhaps keeping Lupin on as a Prefect might not have looked like a wise move.
And, for all that they would have recognized James’s apparent heroism in saving a fellow student, at considerable personal risk, I think that with his track record, the staff of Hogwarts would have wanted to see James “prove himself” for a reasonable period of time afterwards before they did anything like awarding him such an accolade as appointing him Head Boy. And I think that in order to keep the whole sorry matter under wraps it would have been necessary for them to provide some other public arena from which awarding the Head Boy’s office to James Potter would have made sense. After the fact, appointing him Quidditch Captain for year 6 now seems the most likely method, assuming that he wasn’t Captain already — which he may have been. He was certainly a Quidditch star by then. All of this reasoning still plays, even in the wake of DHs.
And for that matter, we do not even know what the competition for Head Boy was like in James’s year. His having been appointed Head Boy may simply have been because he really was the best candidate in that year’s field of possibilities. He could well have been appointed despite the werewolf caper (and the public hazing incident) rather than because of it.
In any rationally-operated school, being involved in such a disgraceful incident as the hazing of Snape during OWLs week would have blown his chances at becoming Head Boy out of the water, permanently. However as one of the participants in the (now departed) Café Dangereux put it: “boarding-school novels tend to be driven by plotting imperatives other than current best-practice administrative and teaching principles, (and to be preoccupied with themes other than the long-term potential of your adolescent protagonists’ budding romances/ affairs/ whatever)”.
In any case, whatever happened in the public arena that made James Potter Head Boy material would seem to have taken place over their 6th year. For it certainly didn’t happen in their 5th. And I thought that it was quite possible that nothing in particular actually did happen apart from James turning over something of a new leaf and sticking to it. Or of his being the best pick of a sorry lot.
Because the timing of these events was really not all that negotiable. Something had to have happened between the end of 5th year, when we saw James being a bullying git showing off to Lily Evans, and the end of 6th for James to have turned himself around to such a degree that he would not only have plausibly been appointed as Head Boy the following year, but would have also finally managed to convince Lily to go out with him after 7th year had begun.
Despite the clear indications that he was already crushing on “Evans” as early as the day we saw him sitting the OWLs, after the pants episode there was no certainty of it ever coming to anything, given the level of immaturity at which he was attempting to conduct his courtship. Particularly since we were all “privileged” to watch it blow up in his face. And from the information that we had at our disposal at that point, the werewolf caper seemed the most likely candidate for a life-changing event that we had to work from.
At that point, it still appeared to most readers that something must first have given him enough of a shock to force him decide to make a change, and that he must also have managed to sustain that “new leaf” long enough for other people to start believing in it.
I conceeded that something else could have taken place during 6th year that made James look like a hero off of the Quidditch pitch. But I had no suggestions for what that something might have been, and I refused to try to pull yet another rabbit out of my hat.
And another vague, nebulous “something” was not necessary to the argument when the werewolf caper served the purpose so extravagantly well. If James was a Prefect or Quidditch Captain for his 6th year then, from the average student’s PoV, all that was really necessary would have been for James to look like a better candidate for Head Boy than the other male 6th year Prefects or Captains.
As for Lily; James’s parents were still alive until his 7th year (or at least so we have been led to believe), and died of natural causes. Being left an orphan at 17 might explain Lily’s finally taking pity on him, but it had nothing to do with the Head Boy appointment, for, according to Sirius, he had already been appointed Head Boy by then.
In those days it was almost laughably easy to suppose that the werewolf caper was every bit as shattering an experience for James as the trip into Snape’s Pensieve was for Harry. It seemed obvious that it had forced James to face exactly what his best friend really was. And that was a dangerously loose cannon with next to no moral compass or ethical sensibilities!
I rather missed those days in the aftermath of DHs.
James had saved Snape, whom he despised, because he wasn’t going to stand by and see his friends commit a murder. And we were nearly all willing to believe that to James, as well as to Snape, it would have read as a “murder”. James really had been set up as being a bright boy, as little as he might have acted it, and that he probably was capable of realizing that his years of picking on Snape “because he exists” had contributed substantially to the situation. It was quite easy to extrapolate that he had had to live through his own little “dark night of the soul” wherein he faced the fact that he had been letting Sirius lead him around every bit as much as he had led Sirius. (“I’m bored.” «Do something about it» et. als.)
After the werewolf caper few of us believed that this was so much the case. I thought that after the werewolf caper James finally took the full lead of his little pack, rather than continuing as a co-leader.
I even thought that the werewolf caper may have been a far more obviously life-changing incident for James than it was for Snape, and certainly more than it ever was for Sirius Black who seems to have missed the point of this particular life-lesson entirely. I convinced myself that James went down from Hogwarts at the end of that year thoroughly ashamed of himself and determined that if he could save that utter git Snape just because it was the right thing to do, he could certainly throw some effort into saving Sirius — from himself, if nothing else.
And, since no good deed goes unpunished, he soon had Sirius camping out at his parents’ house with him and ample opportunity to do it.
Because, now that we mention it:
We also have to consider the timing on just when Sirius Black ran away from home and went to live with the Potters.
With the werewolf caper in mind, the timing of Sirius Black’s leaving home (at, he tells us, the age of about 16) and moving in with the Potters starts looking more than a little suspicious. There are few coincidences in a well-built backstory (which we could still convince ourselves this was, back then). The affair may have been successfully hushed up at school, but I cannot see the families of the perps not being told at least something; and the fallout from that might well have been the last straw for the situation between Sirius and his parents.
Sirius’s relations with his family had been strained for years, and his getting himself sorted into Gryffindor had probably only worsened the situation. (Harry is probably not the first student who has put on the Hat mentally shouting “Not Slytherin!”) But this was almost certainly the event that finally sent him storming out and got his name blasted off the family tapestry. This kind of falling-out would also be more readily precipitated during the summer break when everybody in the Black household was face-to-face.
(I wonder just how our Sev got on with Regulus Black. They were in the same House even though Reggie was somewhat younger.)
I also contended that Snape was probably left conspicuously alone for some time after the werewolf caper. With the end result that any attempt, on Snape’s, part to retaliate was likely to bring the staff down on him, hard, in hobnail boots.
Well, it certainly appears that I was way out in left field on all of those suppositions.
It is certainly beyond question that after James pulled him out of the tunnel to the Shack, Snape’s most probable action would have been to go storming off to Dumbledore’s office, demanding justice. Which in accordance with some of my own theories regarding the Snape backstory would certainly have provided an opportunity for Dumbledore to have a serious talk with this particular clever, prickly, somewhat solitary Slytherin boy — who had a pre-existing, connection with the Malfoy set.
Since my own interpretation up to the release of DHs was that Snape had already been working for Dumbledore by the time the Trelawney Prophecy was made, I had to seriously consider this possibility. But we do not need to consider it in any depth here. It is explored in considerable depth elsewhere in various articles over in the Potterverse UNhallowed collection.
So, instead, let’s take a closer look at Black himself — and the situation he is said to have set up, while we are at it.
At least insofar as we understood it prior to the release of DHs.
Was Sirius Black capable of murder at the age of 16?
But there was as yet no certainty that what he was attempting was in fact deliberate murder, and the rest of what we’ve observed of his character gives us fairly strong counter-indication as to whether he was ever capable of murder in cold blood. He certainly let himself be talked out of killing Pettigrew remarkably easily for somebody who had stated repeatedly that he had made that particular murder his pre-eminent goal for nearly a year. What was he waiting for, a signed permission slip?
If the werewolf incident was not due to an inadvertent or spur-of-the-moment piece of indiscrete talk in the heat of a confrontation, Most readers are inclined to agree with the majority view that still regards the notorious werewolf “trick” as having been a nasty, ill-considered, and dangerous joke in which the intended punch line was supposed to come when Snape screamed like a girl and ran away. But I was not 100% convinced of this, since Rowling had thrown us curves before, and I rather thought this was another one.
And, while we are at it, from where I was standing, Black’s sullen comment in PoA that “He deserved it” does indeed suggest intent, (and ranks right up there next to Snape’s “I see no difference” from GoF in the “most despicable statement ever” sweepstakes).
Unfortunately, what we had seen distressingly little sign of is any indication on Black’s part that he had ever admitted, even to himself, that:
1. Snape could have been killed. And Remus would probably have been executed or sent to Azkaban for it. Dumbledore and the staff members who had facilitated Remus’s attendance at the school might have been removed from their positions, or at the very least extremely publicly embarrassed. At the worst, considering Albus Dumbledore’s other honors and offices, it might have snowballed into a change of government, right at the time that Voldemort’s first rise was becoming more and more of an issue!
2. Snape could have been bitten — and survive. And, blast-ended skrewts notwithstanding, the deliberate creation of monsters is not a particularly innocent or laudable act. Certainly not when you create them out of otherwise normal humans — against their will — however much you may dislike them. Would Black have been prepared to keep Snape company on nights of a full moon in the future in reparation? I doubt it. Having now met Fenrir Greyback**, this possible outcome shows Black up in an even worse light.
3. That if Severus Snape, suspected practitioner of the Dark Arts, really did come to Hogwarts knowing more curses than half the 7th years, (and post-HBP we now know that if he didn’t show up knowing more of them, he may have known different ones — having invented them himself) and Black was aware of this; mightn’t it have been reasonable for him to consider that by the end of his 5th year Severus Snape just might possibly have managed to kill Remus Lupin? And he probably would have walked free. Because I am not convinced that using an unforgivable curse on a werewolf in wolf form entails the same legal penalties as using it against a human.
And, right up to the end of his life, Black still doesn’t seem to realize this?
What is more, according to every indication that we had ever been given, acording to Harry Potter’s reading of the situation, he seems to have set this stunt up with no warning whatsoever to Remus!
It seems small wonder that, after the fact, Remus, reluctantly, believed him capable of betraying the Potters. After all, Black had certainly betrayed him. Not for fortune or glory, or by giving in to outside pressure, but, to all appearances, for a joke. I’d say that young Mr. Black seems to have managed to earn himself some seriously bad Karma over the first 20 or so years of his life. And it doesn’t sound like he ever learned his lesson, either.
If, in fact, that is what happened. Which by this time I flatly no longer believe at all.
Although, before we move on, a remarkably valid point made by one fanfic author — probably KazVL — does make a degree of sense. One does not get much of a chance to mature in Azkaban. And he wasn’t more than 21 when he was sent there.
Well, at any event, that was my original starting point when trying to figure out what was going on and to try to make sense of it. And it was still largely my adjusted starting point even after the revelations of OotP and HBP. Bringing us up to around 2006.
And, now, while we are at it, it may be time to take a closer look at, and try to extrapolate just how the episode actually played out. I didn’t get into that particular end of the equation until quite late in the game, but having finally got off the fence on several other issues, our little halcyon before the last book came out seemed the last, best time to finally do it.
Nothing Rowling gave us in Book 7 absolutely contradicts this reading, either. But I’m going to have to admit that I am no longer convinced that it went off this way myself. I’ve had some second thoughts.
I had some help in putting together this iteration. An e-mail from a correspondent who was trying to work the sequence out, for her own purposes kicked off this particular exercise by asking me my opinion as to why James Potter had run out into the tunnel to intercept Snape without closing the door into the Shack behind him?
The first thing that hit me once I turned my attention to the problem and reread the relevant sequences, was that the whole business turns out to be much more complex than it first appears. Back in PoA Rowling turned out to have thrown us another nasty curve.
First off; there was no door for James to close.
Yes, that’s right. There is no door into the tunnel from the shack, no more than there is a door on the forest end. Harry and Hermione did not go through a door to get into the shack.
They did not appear to get there through a normal, human-sized doorway either. They went through a “small opening” directly into the house. There are internal walls and doors inside the building itself, but the tunnel has no door. The tunnel dumps you directly into a ground-floor (or underground floor) room.
Those people who simply cannot accept that the School’s security measures could have possibly been that lax, contend that this only indicates that there is no door by the time that Harry crawled through that tunnel in 1994. But the definite absence of a door in ’94, is absolutely no indication of there having originally been a door in ’76. I say that “no door” suggests a good deal more strongly that there was No Door.
Which is totally inadequate security for the situation from the get-go, at least from the school’s end of the equation!
Or, it is possible, even likely, that there had originally been a trapdoor. One which the kids did not take notice of since it was left open, lying flat on the floor next to the opening. Or, quite posibly that by the time they got there it was either broken or unsafe. Which could explain why by DHs some four years later, the opening was being blocked by a crate.
Nevertheless, even if you can depend on the afflicted child complying to an honor system. Even if they have the sense and decency to go into an internal room and close that door, before they transform. If they are late getting into the Shack, it falls apart right there, even if they don’t have 3 other little scofflaws to urge them to come out and play in the moonlight with them.
Of course the security measures aren’t completely useless. It isn’t exactly without risk to get out of the tunnel even in animal form. The Willow, unlike a werewolf, will attack anything that moves. Animals just as readily as humans. And an unmedicated werewolf isn’t really in his right mind, and may not remember about needing to press a knot on (the outside of!) the tree trunk to make it hold still. Or be able to reach the knot in order to do it.
For that matter, a reasonably-large animal like a wolf might not have been able to reach the knob to press it without having to emerge from the tunnel far enough to be attacked anyway. The whole arrangement may have been set up to assure that you could only be let out of the tunnel by someone who was already outside it (or by somebody with human hands). The gang really was lucky that one of the four was small enough to be able to dart in close enough to disarm the tree before it got them.
Second, and a major consideration; Neither Harry nor Hermione were particularly tall at that point of the series, and yet they both had to move through the tunnel “bent almost-double” and to try to run in a crouch all the way from the Willow; the full half-mile to a mile into Hogsmeade to the Shack. The tunnel never got any bigger. (Was it built for House Elves?) In DHs, now that Harry has his full growth he had to crawl through that tunnel.
A stag wouldn’t have fit in that tunnel.
James could have only used the tunnel while he was in human form.
So unless the Marauders had some other way out of the Shack — which we get no hint of; in Harry’s day the Shack’s windows are boarded up, and all the entrances are sealed well enough that even Fred and George never managed to break in — then James would have had to wait at the forest end of the tunnel for the others to emerge and not join them in the shack at all. Or not unless he joined them, and then left early enough to get out before Remus turned, and then take his Animagus form once he was in the open, and wait for them to follow.
James was the kind of boy who always wanted to be in the middle of things, but a stag just would not be able to navigate that tunnel. The idea that James would have agreed to stay in the forest as lookout until the rest of the group emerged from the tunnel certainly isn’t what he would have preferred, but the role of lookout seems to have been forced on him.
So maybe we had been out in left field ever since PoA, and James didn’t know about the trick because Sirius never said anything about it to anyone. James was waiting in the forest in stag form, dawdling about, keeping the entrance in sight, waiting for the others. He knew nothing about the plot until Snape actually showed up. He saw Snape approach the Willow and did nothing, figuring the tree could take care of itself. He may even have retreated farther into the forest to seem more in character as a stag.
But when he saw Snape actually immobilize the tree and get into the tunnel, he had to transform back into human form to intervene. Indeed, once he followed Snape in and yelled “Stop!” Snape would have scrambled farther in, and James had to chase him. He didn’t catch him until they were nearly at the shack itself. James might not have learned about the whole stunt until later.
Which means that the situation in that tunnel was extremely dangerous. James couldn’t transform in the tunnel. There isn’t room. He had to remain human to get Snape out of there. While Remus was the perfect size to run down that tunnel like the Hogwarts Express if Sirius couldn’t hold him back.
And whatever Sirius’s intentions were for Snape, he had to keep Remus from getting into the tunnel in order to protect James. And as a rat, Peter wouldn’t have been a lot of help. And no one could fault Peter for staying in rat form under those conditions.
As to the possibility of Snape catching sight of the dog as well as the wolf, I’m really not at all sure he would have. The windows are boarded, so the moonlight wasn’t streaming in, and no one was in human form to be performing Lumos but Snape himself, and possibly James, and they were both out in the tunnel, on the other side of the “small opening”.
I suspect Snape heard the wolf more than he saw it (one howl is all that it would have taken to explain the situation). He saw the gleam of eyes and teeth, turned and bolted back the way he came. He certainly wouldn’t have stuck around to try to tell whether it was only one animal yelping and snarling, or two.
Sirius apparently did manage to tackle Remus in time to keep him from getting out into the tunnel. And, Remus says that while he had company he was a little more human in his thoughts, even transformed. Once Snape and James were out of sight and scent, he might have not put up a fight against being confined to the shack that month (may have retreated to the upper floor so they knew?), and Peter and Sirius were then able to run out the tunnel, leaving the Willow to stand guard on Remus as it was designed.
So my original take on the sequence — in this iteration — was that:
1. Black somehow fed Snape the information on how to get into the tunnel. The information could have been planted or “blurted”, unwittingly, unintentionally, or deliberately, intending anything from mischief, to actual murder. Snape was determined to follow up on it.
2. Madam Pomfrey escorts Lupin to the Willow and sees him off down the tunnel.
3. Sirius and Peter get into the tunnel to join Remus in the Shack as usual. James either joins them, then leaves, or remains in the forest in Animagus form as lookout.
4. Snape follows them (and James) out of the castle, but is too late to see them transform. He disarms the Willow and enters the tunnel.
5. James resumes human form and follows, calling out for Snape to stop. Snape does nothing of the sort and James has to pursue Snape all the way into Hogsmeade.
6. Snape is almost to the shack by the time James overtakes him. Sirius has to grapple Remus to keep him from getting into the tunnel. Snape, who is right outside, the shack, catches a glimpse of Remus by his own wand’s light. He may catch a glimpse of Padfoot as well, but the light is poor, it is a “small opening”, Padfoot is a black dog, in the dark, and Snape, being occupied with the scuffle with James may not realize that there is more than one animal in the shack.
Once he realizes there is a werewolf in that shack he stops fighting and runs (doubled-over) back to Hogwarts, as does James, since he cannot transform in the tunnel and cannot return to the shack in human form.
7. Once back on Hogwarts grounds Snape is off to the Headmaster’s office howling bloody blue murder for their expulsion. James somehow managed to fend off the worst of the episode with some “likely story” about how sure the 3 knew how to get into the tunnel, but hadn’t done so themselves, and that Sirius must have said something to give Snape the idea of how to get in by accident. He was skating on thin ice because he had been caught dead to rights by being out of bounds and playing fast and loose with Dumbledore’s (inadequate) security measures. On the other hand, what are the odds that the 4 of them weren’t using the shack as a secret clubhouse during the rest of the month, and Albus realized it?
8. Meanwhile, Remus retreated to the upper story of the Shack and Sirius and Peter left and followed James as quickly as they could.
After all, Albus would have wanted to speak to them as well — Sirius in particular, and it would have looked highly suspicious if they couldn’t be found. We do know that somehow they all managed to hoodwink the Headmaster and their Animagus cover remained unblown. Nor did Snape discover it while they were all in school.
When questioned, Sirius might have tried to brazen it out by passing it off as a joke, that he intended to give Snape the fright of his life. James hadn’t a lot of choice but to play along with that interpretation, and Sirius was a good enough friend to have insisted that James knew nothing of it.
We still have a bit of a problem, however, since Sirius does make his claim to Harry that he was sure that he and James could keep Remus under control. But if he told Snape how to get into the tunnel, and the stag couldn’t fit into the tunnel, then Sirius must have known that he wouldn’t have had James’s help at the shack.
Which may be a strong hint that we’re just not quite there, yet.
Well, ignoring the maybe-hint, it certainly plays. But I no longer believe it. Some of it is probably correct. The stag wouldn’t have fit in the tunnel, and there is still no door from the tunnel to the shack.
But I am no longer convinced that James didn’t know anything about it.
Mind you I still have way too hard a time swallowing the idea that it was all a conspiracy to murder Severus Snape. But although Snape may have been wrong about the Marauder’s intentions, I no longer believe he was the least bit wrong in his claim that James Potter was in on it up to his neck.
And so was Remus Lupin.
So what changed?
The timing. And it was Rowling who insisted on that.
Yes. That'’s right. I've finally managed to process at least some of the indigestible brick that Rowling dropped on us when she set the timing of the werewolf caper before of that of the Pensieve junket.
I do have to admit to having found myself completely baffled as to what Rowling thought she was going to accomplish by placing the werewolf caper before the Pensieve junket. If she had wanted to try to preserve any sort of good-will toward any of the participants, she’d have done better to have simply not have referred to it at all. She certainly didn’t use the reference for anything. Certainly not to openly give us anything worth having that was of approximate value to what she summarily disallowed by it.
On the surface, it’s obvious why she did it of course. She intended to make it absolutely clear to every reader that Lily Evans was more of a user than a friend, and that she never had a kind word to say to Severus Snape after he had publicly called her a mudblood. (He might have been better off calling her a cunt. That, unlike her parentage, was something that reflected only upon her, herself, and her behavior.)
It isn’t nearly so obvious that Rowling truly intended to so harshly clarify just what such behavior at such a time says about James Potter. But maybe we ought to reconsider it.
Of course we cannot count it out. Rowling has made a couple of statements post-release that strongly suggest that she is anything but unaware that, as written, the Weasley twins come across as cruel, and James comes across as a lying young brute.
But we cannot count on that, either. Rowling has a dreary track record of only showing open disapproval of bullies inside the story when they happen to oppose Harry. Any bully who supports him has her (apparently) full approval.
All of which says nothing whatsoever to resolve the internal contradiction she has now inserted by first having Lupin and Black claiming that the staff managed to hush up the whole thing, Dumbledore forcing a vow of silence regarding the incident from Snape — and then to show Lily nagging Snape for his “ingratitude” over James having saved his life, afterwards. What were they doing, boasting of it in the common room? (For the record; I am absolutely convinced that James made very certain that Lily learned about his having saved her ugly puppy in order to impress her, and put her under some form of obligation. He clearly had designs about turning the whole episode to his benefit in aid of his courtship.)
And for that matter where does Lily actually fit into the equation now that we know that she wasn’t just some random girl off on the periphery who decided to mix in, but one of the central motivating factors involved in the whole disgusting business.
I’m not sure that we aren’t supposed to conclude that after what we witnessed in DHs that “not-so-saintly-Lily” just plain didn’t really deserve anything better than a smarmy, useless, grinning lout like James Potter.
So let’s all go back to the drawing board. Again.
Given that it took the Marauders “the better part of three years” to learn how become Animagi without adult guidance, the process isn’t necessarily easy. Or maybe the process just isn’t obvious and they couldn’t get hold of the proper resources to figure it out even with James’s cloak for sneaking into the Restricted Section. (There is no canon evidence that the Marauders ever found the Room of Requirement — in any of its iterations — and so never had access to any of the information that might have been suppressed and hidden there.)
Or just maybe Rowling is simply making up a few more sweeping, “dramatic” statements that don’t really add up to anything of substance. Let’s look at this issue a little more closely.
We know of exactly one registered Animagus who demonstrates this skill in class, but she does not teach the skill to the Hogwarts students (that we know of). In canon, the whole issue was referred to in passing in one class and never comes up again. Or at least not in the course of the formal education of the students. The whole purpose of this was set up so that the readers would be aware of the skill when it came back to bite us later.
According to Remus, the Ministry allegedly tries to keep an eye on people attempting the study of becoming Animagi because it can go horribly wrong. This Ministry oversight doesn’t really sound like it’s particularly effective since we know of at least four Animagi who were not registered at all, to only one who is. So are we supposed to understand that one is supposed to register with the Ministry when one decides to try to become an Animagus under their guidance/sponsorship, and the record becomes public if/when you succeed? Does the Ministry watch over you as you attempt it, and undo botched transformations like they do splinching? I mean, this reading does at least make a degree of sense, but we do not know whether or not it is actually the case. So just what is Rowling trying to get across to us here? I’m not convinced that she wasn’t just trying to be dramatic and that it doesn’t actually mean anything at all.
Of course, just because Harry never heard of Animagi before they were mentioned in McGonagall’s class doesn’t mean that a child raised inside the wizarding world never would, but we don’t know that for sure. We are told that it took the Marauders most of three years to manage it, and that they finally had all three managed it some time in 5th year. They evidently did not take all of first year to figure out the cause of Lupin’s monthly absences, but it might have taken them a while to decide what, if anything they could do about it. They may have started trying to become Animagi at some time in 2nd year after someone had done some research over the summer. But if Lupin is being mush-mouthed again and they didn’t manage until quite late in 5th year, they may have only started the project at the beginning of 3rd year, after McGonagall demonstrated the possibility of it in her first class of the year, just as she did in Harry’s time.
Of the two posbilities, I think it might almost make better sense to recalibrate and reason the timing for the “trick” from the standpoint that they only started trying to become Animagi after Minerva demonstrted the study in class, and worked through 3rd, 4th, and most of 5th year on the project. We now know that the werewolf caper took place before Snape’s worst memory, which was during OWLs, which wasn’t until the very end of the year. But we do not know how long before. I don’t think it was very long at all. No more than a month or two, and at the outside limit only a matter of a couple of days, i.e., that same month.
I think we might also need to rethink some of our older data and consider a reading that Remus’s reminisces about the days of the Marauders’ “wandering with werewolves” as being the times that his transformations became “not only bearable, but the best times of my life” did not begin to take place until their 6th and 7th year, i.e., not until after the business with Snape had had time to blow over, and there would be no danger of his following them outside, and either discovering, or telling anyone that they were letting Remus out of the Shack.
And, just in case it blew past us, it is also now perfectly obvious to me that Snape knew exactly what he was going to find at the end of that tunnel. (Although I really do think he might have expected there to be a door.) If he had just wanted to find out where the tunnel went, he could have disabled the tree and gone to investigate any other day of the month. No. He was there to prove his theory. Which was indeed correct.
All of which raises the likelyhood that Snape is also absolutely correct in his accusation that the whole lot of them WERE in on the “trick”.
But I’d say he’s still wrong about it being a murder attempt. On their side, that would have just been too big a risk for too little gain. It was always planned that James would pull a “rescue”. That was an inherent component of the whole conspiracy.
Like I say, I think I may have finally figured it out.
I’m not the only one to do so, either. A discussion sprung up regarding this subject on one of the boards that I look in on from time to time. It sprung up when I was swamped, so I didn’t really have the time to attend to it very closely. I skimmed a couple of Digests, and burrowed into other things elsewhere. But something from it has to have stuck because when a comment in another discussion somewhere else nudged me, it came bubbling right up to the top.
I later embarrassed myself by mentioning my conclusions in the original forum, only to have it pointed out that they’d already discussed that and come to the same conclusion some weeks earlier, thanks.
But, in any case, let us remind ourselves; just what is that first axiom to which any theorist needs to apply anything that they run across in the Potterverse, again? All together now:
“What happened, is what was MEANT to happen.”
So, okay, just what actually happened as a result of the werewolf caper?
It wasn’t a murder attempt. It wasn’t an irresponsible prank on Sirius’s part, either. The whole point of the werewolf caper was to *shut Snape’s mouth*. They knew they couldn’t do that on their own, so they had to bring in the heavy artillery. Which is to say, the Hogwarts staff.
The Marauders alreadyknew that Snape had figured out that Lupin was a werewolf.
And just how did they know that?
Well, duh. Little Miss Lily had been flapping her jaws again.
Nor would this have been the first time we saw Lily jumping into a situation to pop off about what she had found out about somebody, and throwing it in their face. And from our observations between Lily and Petunia on Platform 9 3/4, any fault incured by that popping off was always her associate’s responsibility when she discovered that this performance did not result in general admiration.
She may have been pretty, and she may have been clever, but post DHs, we don’t really get any kind of an indication that she was any good at keeping a confidence confidential, do we? That would have denied her too many opportunities to show off. And we also learned in passing from that nagging session between her and Snape — which took place some time before the OWLs — that Snape had already discussed his suspicions with Lily before he learned the truth and had been forbidden to speak of the matter further; not even to inform her that he was right.
Perhaps with this in mind one ought to re-examine that Pensieve junket, keeping in mind the fact that — as we now know — James initiated that performance from what he considered to be the rock-solid position of being the proven hero of the secret confrontation in that tunnel. His private rescue of Snape had probably been intended — at least in part — to put Lily in the position of being under obligation to him, and he was now intending to call in the favor and make that fact a matter of public record.
Snape derailed the whole performance by calling Lily a mudblood and she retaliated by disowning any sense of obligation to either of them. And she didn’t forgive either of them for over a year. I don't think she was willing to reconsider James until he lost both his parents and she felt sorry for him. She never seems to have really forgiven Snape at all.
At which point we all need a salutary reminder that the scerets which were being kept were not Remus Lupin’s. This is where a lot of theorists and fanfic authors trip over their own feet because they forget to apply the meta.
Yeah, sure, Lupin was a werewolf, and he'd be happy if as few people were aware of it as possible. But the fact that a werewolf was attending classes at Hogwarts, and sleeping in the Gryffindor dormatory 25–26 days a month was hardly Lupin’s secret. Or the Marauders’ secret, either.
That was Albus’s secret.
Oh, sure, he probably was resigned to the fact that the boy’s dorm mates were likely to figure it out at some point during their time at Hogwarts. And they probably did so rather earlier than he found convenient. He also probably had a contingency plan if any of them came to him or to McGonagall with concerns. He may even have had a “worst case scenareo” ready in case one of them blurted to their parents (in retrospect one has to seriously wonder whether Umbridge’s mail ward in OotP was the first time that sort of thing had been imposed). When the whole group closed ranks areound the young unfortunate, he breathed a sigh of relief and carefully distanced himself from them, and the whole situation.
Which, when you stop and think about it, *could* explain at least some of the laxness in high places, regarding the Marauder’s activities. The last thing Albus wanted to do was draw any attention to his own involvement regarding any of them.
Snape’s mistake, of course, is that he lost track of just whose secrets he was messing with. He thought he was uncovering one of the Marauders’ secrets.
And I really don’t think that Albus takes well to people poking their noses into his secrets. And much of the harshness regarding his dealing with the intrusion was probably because of that.
Of course it was an easy mistake for Snape to make. It had been the four of them against him (and Lily) ever since their first trip on the Hogwarts Express. And precious little the Hogwarts staff seems to have done to put a damper on it. Of course he assumed that the Marauders were keeping secrets. And of course they were. But this one wasn't their secret.
The Marauders knew that the school wanted the fact that there was a werewolf attending classes kept under wraps. The Headmaster and Poppy Pomfrey obviously knew, and they were hushing it up. Minerva probably knew and was also hushing it up. The whole staff could have been engaged in hushing it up. And the Marauders may have already been given a private talking to and forbidden to speak about it except among themselves once it was clear that they knew. They probably suspected that anyone who found out about it would also be forcibly silenced and kept from spreading it around.
(One suddenly wonders once again about the peculiar way that none of the staff — Minerva, Filius, and Hagrid — in the 3 Broomsticks eavesdropping scene even mentioned Remus’s name. Could they still be under orders not to speak of him or his lycanthropy in the presence of outsiders, such as Fudge and Rosemerta? For that matter did Fudge or Rosemerta even know that Lupin was a werewolf at that point?)
The Marauders had a great deal invested in getting Snape thorughly out of the equation before they took matters to the next level and started joining their furry little friend in his transformations and romping around the school grounds, the forest, and the village. I now believe that the whole werewolf caper may have been in the nature of a preemptive strike.
The Marauders knew (from Lily) that Snape was poking about and suspicious. But they certainly hadn’t the authority to make him shut up if he managed to stumble across the truth, themselves. Not if it was only them. Not if it was only their word against his. Only the staff could do that.
So, obviously, the thing to do was to make sure that the staff knew that Snape had stumbled across the truth. In a private enough manner that the staff could be trusted to shut him up.
And of course once the staff had done that, he would also be much less likely to keep poking about after them and seeing what else they were up to, wouldn’t he? Not once he knew he’d already figured out what they were hiding. Nor would he be out on the grounds during full moon once he was sure of that truth either.
They may have already been in the habit of joining Lupin in the shack before the “prank”, but I now think they didn’t start “wandering with werewolves” out in the open until after the threat of Snape ever coming across them while they did so had been removed.
So the relevant timeline on this issue may actually go:
1. Test whether other animals really were safe if confined overnight with a werewolf.
Leading me to suspect that an early stage of this test cycle may have been to steal some of the other students’ pets and shut them in a closed room inside the Shack ahead of time to see whether other animals really were safe from Remus.
2. Become Animagi, and be able to do it reliably.
This didn’t happen until toward the end of 5th year. My adjusted guess is about April or May.
3. Join Remus in the Shack as Animagi at least once and proove the theory that they would be safe from him.
During this period they also probably tested to see whether the big dog or the stag had any leverage over the wolf. It seems they did. Ergo: they were now sure that they could keep Lupin under control during any outings, as well as during their private performance to an audience consisting of one Severus Snape.
4. Set Snape up to find out about how to disable the tree, and be rescued by one of the Marauders. And, to be caught in the act by a staff member for good measure.
James may have just drawn the long straw. Sirius the short one for being the one to let Snape know how to get past the willow. Conversely, they may simply have decided that Sirius the dog would have the best chance of keeping the wolf in the Shack and keep him from actually biting anyone, since the stag couldn’t chase after the wolf if he got out into the tunnel. Besides, James had the most to gain by playing the hero.
So it was James who was to let himself be seen and to drag Snape out of the tunnel once he’d glimpsed the wolf. James’s presence would make it clear that they all knew that Snape now knew. There was no chance of Snape’s sneaking off and pretending that he’d been nowhere near the tunnel that night. Also, James’s presence might lessen the chance that Snape would attack the wolf.
Plus, it’s got to impress Lily to know that James has rescued her ugly puppy from meddling in what he ought to keep his overly large nose out of.
5. Run the prank and get Snape solidly under orders to keep his mouth shut. For good measure, James can even spin the situation into a story that he had been protecting the staff’s secrets. And Sirius had merely been indiscreet about the tree, not about Lupin.
6. We're all going to get detentions for being out of bounds. Serve them without complaint.
For that matter, Peter’s part in the show may have been to draw Hagrid (or his dog) out of his hut at the proper time so that he would be the one to catch James and Severus at the willow and haul them off to the Headmaster, so there would be no chance of Snape sneaking off without being forced to keep quiet on the subject.
Actually, when you stop and think about it, Peter was probably there at the willow, in rat form — to make sure that James could drag Severus out of the tunnel without interference from the tree. James or Severus might not necessarily have been able to reach the knot in the trunk from inside. (Although on second thought, they probably could. Pomfrey escorted Remus to the Willow, she may not have needed to let him out.)
7. Snape’s Worst Memory takes place during OWLs. Whatever James’s motive in that was, they probably were able to pass it off to the staff as retaliation for Snape’s spying on Lupin. After all, just being told to keep quiet is hardly sufficient punishment for meddling in the Headmaster’s secrets, is it?
8. Let the whole thing blow over and cool off during the summer, and next year when we transform we’ll start exploring the grounds and the forest and the village rather than just the Shack!
And, If we can accept that reading; as of November 2016, a further wrinkle very much belatedly occured to me (or, rather, surfaced from the subconsious related to an email discussion back in something like 2009 with the redoubtable Swythyv): we know that the Marauders set Snape up. We’ve concluded that what they were after is exactly what they got — to shut his mouth, and scare him off before they started their monthly “wanderings with werewolves” outings. We have developed a strong suspicion that the cover story of Sirius setting Snape up without anyone else’s knowledge, and James pulling all their chestnuts out of the fire when he found out, was exactly that; a cover story. One which the survivors were still sticking to 20 years later. Even after Albus had become aware that three of the four had been illegal Animagi. (Admittedly, no one has ever asked Peter his version of the incident. Somehow, no one ever thinks to ask Peter anything.)
Well, y’know; wizards clearly have a taste for drama, and unannounced amateur theatricals are hardly unknown among adolescents. Plus, the Marauders were all perfectly aware that if anything went wrong, there would be serious consequences for all of them, and particularly for Remus. Which opens up at least one more possibility for theorizing — and fanfic — purposes, anyway. There is never likely to be anything in canon to either support or contradict it. But it makes a viable plot bunny.
What if the four of them were all not quite that irresponsible? Plus, I rather doubt that they were that enthralled by the level of risk that James would be taking if Remus got into that tunnel — which was rather too small for James to turn into Prongs in if anything went wrong.
Still, it is dark in that tunnel.
If the four of them were going to set up an elaborate stunt to eliminate a security risk, mightn’t they have been just bright enough to build in at least some degree of safeguard? For themselves, even if not for Snape?
After all. We don’t know what kind of dog Sirius turns into. Just that he’s large, and black, and shaggy. And “shaggy” doesn’t necessarily mean an exceptionally long coat. A wolf can have a fairly heavy coat. The real issue is what do his ears look like, and that we can't be certain of. He is frequently mistaken for a Grim. But “Grim” is not a recognized breed of dog. Most spectral dogs in folklore are identified as hounds, but in this case, we don't know how closely Rowling is adhereing to folklore. Rowling has rather carefully avoided identifying Padfoot as any definite breed of dog, so he would probably have had a fairly generic configuration for a dog, although a large one, and, after all, all dogs descend from wolves.
If he had floppy ears, then this is not going to fly. BUT if Padfoot had erect ears, there is a fighting chance that he might very well pass for a wolf in the dark. Are you following me?
For that matter, does Transfiguration even work on Anamagi when in their animal forms? Changing the shape of an Animagus dog's ears certainly ought not to offer any more insumountable problem than changing the shape of a human's ears (which is certainly doable, given all the folktales of people ending up with asses ears). On the other hand, Ron’s spell to turn Scabbers yellow was a dismal failure. But, then, we don't know whether that was even a legitimate spell. (I mean, really, how many spells in any of the kids’ classes entailed reciting what was basically a nursery rhyme?) It would be perfectly in character for the twins to have set Ron up with a bogus spell.
Now, Snape is absolutely convinced that he saw Remus in wolf form in that tunnel. But in canon — the book, that is, NOT the film — Snape was still unconscious when Remus actually turned, and Sirius drove Remus off into the torest before Snape woke up. So there is no certainty that Snape ever actully saw Remus in wolf form other than whatever he glimpsed in the tunnel back in his 5th year. Nor that he ever saw Padfoot, apart from maybe a glimpse in the distance, until Albus had him brought into the hospital wing at the end of GoF. I seriously doubt that Snape would have ever gone to Remus’s office in Year 3 to check, and be sure that the wolfsbane potion had him properly neutralized. He trusts his own skill as a brewer. But he still would have probably avoided that whole corridor on full moon nights.
We do know that he had seen Padfoot since Sirius escaped Hogwarts, some dozen years later, but there are no wolves in the wild in Britain. He saw a large dog, indoors in a lighted room, and there was no helpful James to make possible adjustments to the dog’s appearnce via transfiguration, either. Snape isn’t making any connection between what he sees in GoF and what he glimpsed briefly some 20 years earlier. Besides, it clearly never occurred to any of the perps that it might be in their interest to let Snape know that he’d been hoodwinked into believing a dog was a wolf, 20 years after the fact. (Given the potential for mockery, I’m surprised it didn’t, but, then, they had other concerns by that time.)
So, let’s try this again. Remus, in wolf form, is barricaded inside the shack. They’ve been very careful about that this month. He isn’t going to get out. But he can smell humans in the tunnel, and is kicking up all kinds of a fuss trying to get at them. You can probably hear him quite a long way down that tunnel.
In the tunnel, you have Padfoot, pretending to be Remus, waiting for the glow of Snape’s lumos to spring out of the gloom, snarling, and scare him out a a year’s growth.
With James lurking outside the entrance, possibly as Prongs, to see Snape enter the tunnel and follow him in.
And, very likely, Peter waiting to run off and alert Hagrid or a professor, so they can get Snape leaned on by someone in authority as they ring down the curtain on the whole performance.
The only one in any real physical danger is Padfoot — if Snape decides to go on the offensive instead of running, but a good part of James’s role is to try to keep Snape from doing that, in the guise of assuring Snape’s “rescue”.
Somewhat after the fact, Albus would be able to determine that Remus was indeed secured in the shack, and there was no danger to anyone who kept away from it. Which would have gone some way in explaining his confidence that his security system was sound, and that there was more to be concerned with the security risk that Snape presented than Sirius’s irresponsibility in nearly blowing everyone’s cover.
It would also go some way in explaining Sirius’s general attitude that it was all “no big deal” some 20 years later when his recollection of the incident could be understandably hazy. His callousness on that point still disturbs nearly all readers — and it certainly seems more productive to work out a plausible reason for why he would feel that Snape never was actually in any danger, than to build up a stack of maybe-evidence for how Snape was so horrible that he really did deserve that.
And; do we know anything of what Albus was actually told? And, for that matter, just what would Snape have said himself — in the moment — and what would he have kept silent about in order to lessen his own consequences with the school authorities. He may have had Slughorn’s favor (probably), and was a good student — but he was in nowhere near as strong a position as the Gryffindors, who obviously were already effectively entrusted with the secret of why Lupin disappeared for a couple of nights every few weeks. And he was seriously, but seriously, out of bounds that night. The Marauders did have him dead to rights for spying on them.
From all the accounts 20 years later, Snape had clearly been caught by James in that tunnel. But would he have admitted to having actually been IN the tunnel at the time, if the Marauders didn’t make an issue of it? I now suspect quite possibly not.
After all, it wasn’t in the Marauders’ interest to let Albus know that just about anyone could get into that tunnel. Sirius might have admitted to having let the cat out of the bag about how one gets into the tunnel while they were still in school to Harry, but we don’t absolutely know that he said as much at the time. He well may have, but they were all in school for another two years, and that information may have leaked later. That there was no heavy consequences for anyone over the incident, strongly suggests that rather a lot of ”spin” was deployed.
And, no. Being forced to take a vow not to tell anyone about there being a werewolf attending Hogwarts is not a heavy consequence. Snape got off just as lightly as Sirius did. The Marauders basically traded off the admission that Remus was a werewolf — which they knew Snape had already figured out — for his silence on the subject, and as a bonus gave him such a disgust of the whole business that he would probably not go stalking them thereafter. Leaving the way clear for them to smuggle Remus out of the shack, and go frolicking in the woods during the full moon.
Plus, it seems fairly evident to me now that neither Snape nor James were actually caught in the tunnel by the school authorities. The Marauders — who, after all, set this whole performance up — probably jumped in with a story that they had caught Snape at the Willow before he got into the tunnel, and had seen Remus through the entrance.
Which was effectively offering Snape an easy out. They had him dead to rights for spying, but they were willing to let him off on whatever charge of reckless endangerment might be invoked IF he was willing to take it. Which would have made Snape himself complicit in the cover-up.
And that was just the finishing touch to the whole setup. If he hadn’t hated them before he certainly would have over that. And any suggestion of life debts for having ”saved” him from going into the tunnel would have just infuriated him further.
And might have made them all far more confident about publicly hazing him maybe a month later.
In all fairness, I feel I ought now to at least fill everyone in on Swythyv's original version, which I rather suspect that my own was a much belated spinoff of. Hers is nowhere near as benign.
And, in a backhanded sort of way, hers does reflect somewhat well on James. What had been planned was a bit crueler than James was prepared to contenence. In addition, he could also see that it also had a lot of potential to have unforeseen consequences that could seriously impede their future activities.
It was a setup all right. But in this version, Sirius was working alone on it. Remus knew nothing about it, and Peter probably didn't either. One can, after all, get in under the Willow by levitating a stick to poke the knot. Sirius didn't actually need Peter. And James only knew about it because Sirus had brought up the possibility of his splendid “prank” as a laugh at some point. And at the time, James probably had laughed.
It was only that James, following a hunch — probably because he couldn't find Sirius that evening— went to check the matter out, and derailed it.
Remus was safely in the shack, all right. And Padfoot was in the tunnel, waiting for Snape.
Waiting to give him a fright, and a nip. And watch him stew for a month, agonizing over whether he was going to turn, next full moon.
I’m sure that to a couple of young bullies that prospect would have been hilarious. Fortunately, James had just enough common sense to realize that to deploy it would entail a strong likelyhood of Madam Pomfrey getting involved. She would know a cursed bite from an ordinary one.
And, in any event, that would have all kinds of potential for spinning out of their control if Snape had tried to cover the matter up, healed himself, and then put himself in harm’s way by making his way to where werewolves were suspcted of lurking, in order to turn the following month (which might have been during the summer break). Or, knowing that special arrangements had been made for Lupin, had chosen to pursue the matter of requesting that the same arrangements be made for him, and been sent off to the shack with him. No. Just too many variables for a bunch of kids to be able to antcipate.
So James followed a hunch and averted disaster. Barely.
And, now that we come right down to it; as I have stated elsewhere, I think that for years after PoA was released the fans had been skating right past what really went down with the werewolf caper — from Dumbledore’s point of view.
And that had the potential to get really, really nasty.
It also tended to slip past readers that Dumbledore even had a point of view. Which there really isn’t a lot of excuse for, because, after all, it was Dumbledore who set the whole situation up in the first place. The unanswered (and, worse, unasked) question has always been; What did Albus think he was doing?
Indeed, given what we have now been shown of Albus’s reluctance to be put in a position of responsibility for anyone else’s welfare you seriously wonder what prevailed upon him to have undertaken such a thing even the once. And it is also clear that even though the matter was successfully hushed up, the very fact that a cover-up was required must have derailed whatever plans Albus had drafted out for the experiment, because nothing whatsoever actually came of it, apart from one educated werewolf under obligation to Albus.
It took us all far too long before people started to wonder just what was at stake in this experiment for Albus. No one has ever offered any convincing reason for why Albus would have gone out on a limb for the Lupins’ kid. We’re completely lacking any kind of a reason or motive. Of course, given the debacle that it turned into, it’s easy enough to see why he wouldn’t have done it again for any other werewolf kid. Once was quite enough, and I suspect that he heartily regretted it afterwards, although he’d never have come out and admited as much.
But then we were handed the whole werewolf backstory early enough in the series that no one particularly cared about why, at the time. The big reveal in the shack needed a backstory, and what we got served the purpose beautifully.
But even just a couple of books farther on you find yourself beginning to go; “Wait a moment… ” and once the 7th book is out and we all get to air the Dumbledores’ dirty laundry, you’re stuck wondering; “What was he trying to accomplish?” Because DHs’ Albus would have definitely have to have had a reason for anything he put himself out on somebody else’s account for. And bringing a werewolf to Hogwarts to be educated alongside the rest of the WW’s kids, entirely on his own say-so, is putting himself out on a limb to a degree that seems totally mystifying.
This particular issue does also seem to link into the viewpoint that the younger fans somehow got hold of, and continue to believe that Dumbledore irrationally favors Gryffindors, just for being Gryffindors. They got that idea very early in the series. But, looked at rationally, there is absolutely no convincing evidence to confirm that reading. Nevertheless that reading continues right up to the present day.
I’ll admit there’s more to support that notion than there was for the usual baggage loaded onto the original fanon-issue interpretation of Snape-Loved-Lily, but I still think the fans are taking Albus’s alleged favoritism for Gryffindors (or for the Marauders in particular, which is a good deal worse) way farther than they ought to be. And the reasons they came to that conclusion in the first place are certainly open to other interpretations.
Absolutely the ONLY grounds we have in canon for Albus Dumbledore’s alleged favoritism for the Marauders, or for Gryffindors in general are;
1. He kept giving the house Cup to the Gryffs to impress Harry, and;
2. He did not expel Black for his part in the werewolf caper.
Well, at the end of OotP Albus openly admitted that first charge. His favoritism was to Harry personally. NOT to Gryffindor House in general. Before Harry walked in the door it seems to have been the SLYTHERINS who appear to have been the favored House, assuming there even was a favored House, (for a string of seven years straight the Slyths had taken the Cup) and I am no longer convinced that it was because Snape was cheating over the House points. I think Albus might have wanted the Slytherins to not feel they had any reason to follow their parents’ lead in grousing about Albus being Headmaster. For all that he was on the board, Lucius Malfoy may have met with quite some degree of resistance for his contention that Dumbledore was the worst thing to have ever happened to Hogwarts. Or, at least he did before the end of Harry’s first year.
And, as for that second charge, Albus just plain couldn’t afford to expel Black.
He’d have had to give people a reason for it.
Between them, the Marauders, and Snape, had him over a barrel. This was the point that Albus nearly lost his job and almost brought his whole “government” tumbling down.
Right when Riddle was on the rise, too.
Which… could be a bit of a hint. Did the fact that Albus was undertaking to secretly educate a werewolf have anything whatsoever to do with Tom Riddle? It certainly doesn’t read like that to me. Maybe we’ve all bought into the assumption that Riddle was the sum total of everything the wizarding world was ever concerned about a bit too heavily. Tom Riddle wasn’t their only problem, by a long shot. At least not right then.
The question however remains; why Lupin?
Oh sure, a number of fanfic authors have postulated that Albus was somehow beholden to Lupin’s parents. But that just reads as another retcon, and we certainly don’t need another one of those.
What we need is something that exists in canon, that could serve as a reason for why Albus would have arbitrarily drafted out some grand experiment of educating a young werewolf. Why?
Given what we have since been told regarding one Fenrir Greyback — yes, there was a reason I marked his name with asterisks up above — and his alleged philosophy that he should turn as many children as possible, and raise packs of young werewolves, separate from wizards, as his own little empire of outcasts — which one is given to understand had become public knowledge by the time of VWI, someone could just about spin a kinda/sorta plausible theory that Albus wanted to publicly offer a rebuttal to Greyback’s whole threat by proving that Greyback’s victims could still be educated, and become contributing members of wizarding society. Albus’s influence was still riding very high at that point, after all. He might have been able to carry it off with a high hand.
Especially if he could present it as a fait accompli.
We haven't been given any truly detailed account of the progress of the beginnings of VWI, but it was quite possibly known by that point that Greyback had allied with Voldemort. Ergo; to the general wizarding world, every werewolf in Britain was automatically counted as one of Voldemot’s troups. I think this was a psychological advantage that Albus thought should be neutralized.
And he probably chose Lupin as his example because Lupin’s parents hadn’t simply thrown him out once he’d been infected. They were still trying to raise him themselves, and were intending to educate him at home. We don’t know how common that was. Albus might not have had all that wide selection of possible candidates.
We don’t know that Lupin was Greyback’s first victim, either, but he seems to have been bitten fairly early on in Greyback’s career, I gather it took place before the Ministry was even admitting that they were at war. And the war was only really just really ramping up by the time the Marauder cohort started Hogwarts. Voldemort seems to have rendered himself unmentionable around 1970. The Marauders started in ’71.
It might have made a rather nice piece of propaganda for Albus, and by extension, the Ministry, to — after the fact — reveal a perfectly civilized, educated young werewolf (an ex-Prefect, no less, Lupin may have even been Albus’s original pick for Head Boy), with devoted friends from good families and a family of his own, who supported him, and with no desire whatsoever to run off and join a pack of outcasts, or follow Voldemort.
Even though I'd say that Albus had left the underlying issue unaddressed for rather too long. He had no way of knowing whether the war would still be waging by the time the kid finished school. But that’s Albus all over, never actually do anything until it’s arguably too late. Although, admittedly, such a presentation could have also been useful in a post-war.
But, of course, that potential coup would all depend upon the experiment being a success. One educated poster boy werewolf, with no dangerous consequences to anyone, that any meddling investigator would be able to dig up and smear around afterwards.
On consideration, I’m not at all surprised by Albus’s willingness to throw Sirius to the Dementors and lose the key. He hadn’t been able to do that when Sirius was in school. He’d have had to explain why, and he couldn’t very well have done that without losing all of his influence, probably his job, and quite possibly found himself sitting in a cel right next to him.
No, I’m no longer wondering how Dumbledore could let Barty Crouch throw Black to the Dementors for a dozen years, without a trial, and do nothing whatsoever to even try to find out what really happened in that explosion.
I am beginning to suspect that for all his impeccable good manners when referring to the man, his recognition of just how important Black was to Harry, and his determination to publicly do justice to Black’s good qualities, Albus Dumbledore may have detested Sirius Black every bit as much as Snape did. And I’m not convinced he was actually all that fond of James, either. And it may have been mutual.
Albus was pushed into a position where (so far as he was able to see it) he had to be very much obliged to James Potter for pulling those particular chestnuts out of the fire for him. And I don’t really think Albus is a person who likes being under obligation to others.
We were told all the way back in Book 3 that Remus Lupin is the only juvenile lycanthrope to have ever been educated at Hogwarts as a wizard.
Now that we know about Fenrir Greyback and his intentions regarding children can you really suppose that Lupin was the only one who was ever out there?
Lupin’s education was an experiment. Black nearly blew it sky high. Anyone investigating Lupin's attendance at Hogwarts would have been able to uncover the fact that something had been covered up, even if they might not be able to determine precisely what. And with investigators like Rita Skeeter underfoot, that might concievably turn out to be even be worse than the actual event.
Albus had lost his barganing chip on the werewolf issue, and couldn’t take the risk of attempting that again.
How many wizarding-born werewolves were lost to Greyback’s packs. Their magic left untrained, their socialization warped out of any kind of affiliation with humanity thanks to “Sirius Black’s trick”? Greyback wasn’t out of commission for any span of 14 years. How many young wizards has Greyback destroyed, that Albus could not take the risk of salvaging and enlisting as wizards — who would then be obliged to him — so that Voldemort might not get his claws into them?
No, the business had to be hushed up. The wizarding public could not be told that there was a young werewolf attending classes with their children at Hogwarts. And you just know that Albus never ran that plan past the Board of Governors, or the Wizengamot. Every one of those boys had to be “bought off” and their silence assured.
Lupin’s silence was already assured. Pettigrew could be bought off by threat of expulsion and not punishing him for being out-of-bounds. Black could be bought off by not expelling him and only assigning him some number of detentions for a prank that could have killed a fellow student (possibly going through faded files in Filch’s office and copying them).
James, well, we already know that James eventually became Head Boy. His silence might have been bought by not expelling his friend, and an appointment as Quidditch Captain. But however obliged, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Albus liked the boy. He already knew James was a bully, and a leader of bullies. I think Albus was all too well aware that James’s habitual behavior had contributed to the situation having gone out of control the way it did.
And the boy meddled. That was the real sticking point. Albus Dumbledore does not appreciate meddlers.
Which left Snape. Who was another meddler. Assuring his silence was absolutely crucial.
Well, we now have every reason to suspect that under Albus Dumbledore (Mach II, as per DHs) that the whole issue was probably handled with the maximum degree of pressure and injustice.
After the fact, one really has to wonder just how much effort Albus actually put into protecting the Potters (as opposed to spouting fine-sounding platitudes). For that matter, I now wonder how much of a surprise was it for him to realize that the damn Trelawney prophecy might even apply to the Potters. And also just what kind of vibes Pettigrew was picking up from Albus’s direction regarding him and his friends inside the Order to have him trying to line up protection for himself from the other team as well.
I still prefer my own version, frankly. That’s another good reason why this essay spent so long in the Potterverse UNhallowed collection.
In that version, Albus (Mach I, as we could still interpret him up to the end of HBP) still had to get an agreement to say nothing of the matter out of young Snape, and he also had to offer the boy something, something in return that was of at least equal value. I believed he had offered him a promise of protection if the DEs came and tried to force him to cooperate with them.
He may have also offered him some personal training. That may be how Snape learned formal Legilimecy and Occlumency. But even leaving that whole issue aside, the more you squint around the edges of the Harry filter, the more evident it seemed that until Harry came along Severus Snape seems to have been in a position to have functioned as Albus’s protégé, for all that Rowling was determined to deny and back-pedal away from any such possibility in the final book. But if he ever had been, it had to have started somewhere. And, really, such a relationship as that is more likely to have started while Snape was still in school than after he was out of it.
Until DHs came out, I was able to seriously consider that my statement above, about the werewolf caper having been a more life-changing incident for James Potter than it was for Severus Snape, might perhaps have been wrong. It may have been much more life-changing for Severus Snape.
In human terms, his life may have changed very much for the better.
Not that any of the Marauders were in a position to know that. Then.
But all of those threads are now off wandering in the outer darkness which is known as the UNhallowed collection. I am not going to insist on any of them here.