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Page history last edited by McKay 15 years, 10 months ago

Title: A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

Author: McKay

Spoilers: through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Notes: Thanks to everyone who helped with resources and quotes! :)

All quotes come from the US hardback editions.

PoA = Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

GoF = Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

OotP = Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


The stranger was wearing an extremely shabby set of wizard's robes that had been darned in several places. He looked ill and exhausted. Though quite young, his light brown hair was flecked with gray.


"Who d'you reckon he is?" Ron hissed as they sat down and slid the door shut, taking the seats farthest away from the window.


"Professor R. J. Lupin," whispered Hermione at once.


"How d'you know that?"


"It's on his case," she replied, pointing at the luggage rack over the man's head, where there was a small, battered case held together with a large quantity of neatly knotted string. The name Professor R. J. Lupin was stamped across one corner in peeling letters. (PoA, pg. 74)


With this passage, we get our first glimpse of a character who has become one of the series' most popular and well-beloved characters: Remus Lupin. There's a great deal we don't know about Lupin; it's easier to list what we do know. He's a werewolf; he was friends with James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew; he taught Defense Against the Dark Arts in the 1993-4 school year, and he was good at it; he was one of the most popular, well-liked teachers in the school, so much so that two years later, his students still refer to him as one of the best teachers they ever had; he is poor, and, in his own words, "I have been shunned all my adult life, unable to find paid work because of what I am" (PoA, pg. 356).


He is easily one of the most likeable characters in the series for many people. If a reader isn't captivated when he protects Harry, Hermione, and Ron by driving off a Dementor on the Hogwarts Express, then watching him encourage Neville, who is insecure regarding his magical abilities, during the Boggart lesson will suck them in to Lupin Lurve. Speaking as a teacher myself, I think he does indeed possess certain attributes of a good teacher. He gives the students practical lessons that are not only useful in the real world, but are also engaging and apt to keep their attention, and he offers positive reinforcement. He obviously knows his subject and is capable of gaining his students' respect rather than trying to dominate them through fear like Snape.


We don't see anything of him in GoF other than a brief mention at the end of the book, but Lupin fans everywhere rejoiced at the release of book 5, in which our favorite werewolf has a significant presence throughout the book, and we also learn more about his past. We discover that he was a prefect while in school, and we get a glimpse of his dry sense of humor:


"Did you like question ten, Moony?" asked Sirius as they emerged into the entrance hall.


"Loved it," said Lupin briskly. "'Give five signs that identify the werewolf'. Excellent question."


"D'you think you managed to get all the signs?" said James in tones of mock concern.


"Think I did," said Lupin seriously, as they joined the crowd thronging around the front doors eager to get out into the sunlit grounds. "One: He's sitting on my chair. Two: He's wearing my clothes. Three: His name's Remus Lupin..." (OotP, pg 643).


Once we learn the truth about Lupin -- that he's a werewolf and suffers from the prejudice and fear that the wizarding world exhibits toward werewolves -- it's easy to sympathize with him. Readers tend to root for underdog characters, and in spite of the fact that he does turn into a bloodthirsty monster capable of killing anyone who gets in his path once a month unless he takes the Wolfsbane Potion (which is difficult to brew, and as far as we know, Lupin was only able to take it during the year he taught Defense; there is no canonical evidence so far that Snape continued brewing it for him once he resigned), we side with him because of his likeableness. After all, it isn't his fault that he bears the curse of lycanthropy:


"I was a very small boy when I received the bite. My parents tried everything, but in those days, there was no cure." (PoA, pg. 352)


Lupin's lycanthropy can be seen as symbolic of real world issues: racism and/or fear and prejudice against those suffering from AIDs. Indeed, there is still no cure for lycanthropy just as there is no cure for AIDs. The Wolfsbane Potion allows Lupin to retain his rational mind after the transformation, but it doesn't prevent him from turning into wolf form.


But as easy as it is to sympathize with and like Lupin, he isn't without flaws. He has one rather large flaw, as a matter of fact: after being feared and shunned his entire life, he's so desperate for acceptance and friendship that he'll sometimes compromise his integrity in order to keep it.


Special arrangements were made for Lupin to attend Hogwarts as a boy. As he explains to Harry and the others, the Shrieking Shack and the tunnel that connected it to the school were built for his use, and the Whomping Willow that guards the entrance to the tunnel was planted to safeguard against someone coming across him when he was in wolf form (PoA, pg. 353). His friends became Animagi for him (i.e. learnt the ability to turn themselves into a specific type of animal. They didn't register with the Ministry of Magic as Animagi so no one else aside from the four of them knew of their ability), so they could be with him during the transformation because werewolves are harmless to other animals, and he was made a prefect. While this sounds idyllic, he was still hiding a rather large secret, and he admits that he "was terrified my friends would desert me the moment they found out what I was" (PoA, pg. 354). They didn't, of course, but his insecurity colored their interactions.


We see an example of this in chapter 28 of OotP, in which James and Sirius harass Snape because they were bored, and he happened to come along at the wrong moment. Lupin is with them, but in spite of being a prefect -- thus having both the authority and responsibility to stop them -- he buries his nose in a book, frowning to show his disapproval of their actions, but making no attempt to intervene. Years later, he admits, "Did I ever have the guts to tell you Sirius and James I thought you were out of order?" (pg. 671) when Harry asks him and Sirius about the event.


He also keeps his knowledge of Sirius Black's Animagus ability a secret even though he believes Black to be a murderer, and it appears that Black is attempting to break into the school to kill Harry. As he explains, "All this year, I have been battling with myself, wondering whether I should tell Dumbledore that Sirius was an Animagus. But I didn't do it. Why? Because I was too cowardly. It would have meant admitting that I'd betrayed his trust while I was at school, admitting that I'd led others along with me... and Dumbledore's trust has meant everything to me" (PoA, pg. 356).


He sees his weakness as being cowardice, and it is, in the sense that he's afraid of being rejected because of what he is. In other ways, however, he is not at all cowardly. He's lived with this curse, suffering agonizing pain month and after month during each transformation, yet he hasn't allowed it to make him bitter or angry. He deals with his situation not perfectly, but with admirable grace nonetheless, and that too makes him likeable. He was also an active member of the Order of the Phoenix during the first war with Voldemort in the late 1970s/early 1980s, and he has resumed active duty during the second war as well. On the Hogwarts Express, he confronts the Dementor and protects Harry, Hermione, and Ron without hesitation -- not the behavior of a coward, especially considering the horrific effects a Dementor has on a person.


At first glimpse, this quiet, calm man might not seem to fit in with his carefree, authority-defying friends, but he is fully deserving to be one of the Marauders. Lupin exhibits a certain amount of disregard for authority of his own. For example, he returns the Marauders Map to Harry after his resignation: "I am no longer your teacher, so I don't feel guilty about giving you back this as well" (PoA, pg. 424). He also doesn't appear to have any qualms about lying to Snape about the Map to keep Harry out of trouble, and back during his school days, he left the Shrieking Shack with James, Sirius, and Peter in their animal forms in spite of the danger he presented to humans, and he contributed to the making of the Marauders Map which they -- and later Fred and George Weasley and Harry -- used to sneak out of the school. He also tutors Harry in advanced magic, teaching him the Patronus Charm so that Harry can defend himself against the Dementors guarding the school, likely without Dumbledore's knowledge or consent. In OotP, he seems to be aware that the young people are listening to Order-related discussions via Extendable Ears and doesn't try to stop them.


In a sense, it's understandable that he hesitates to reveal much information to people in authority; in this, he and Harry share a common trait: neither of them have ever been given much reason to trust authority figures. The Ministry of Magic shuffles werewolves back and forth between the Being Division with the Werewolf Support Services and the Beast Division with the Werewolf Registry and Werewolf Capture Unit, and it does nothing to provide financial assistance or the Wolfsbane Potion (which would eliminate the danger werewolves pose), or to address the rampant fear and prejudice werewolves face in wizarding society. Indeed, the Ministry, via Dolores Umbridge, passed laws that made it all but impossible for werewolves to find employment, which leads to Lupin appearing shabbier than ever when we see him in OotP. In short, he has no reason to trust the Ministry or believe that it will help him in any way, and that mistrust likely extends farther based on his experiences.


However, this lack of respect for authority leads to his other significant flaw: his failure as an authority figure himself. I mentioned earlier that I think he possesses attributes of a good teacher; however, he doesn't hold up so well as an authority figure. Part of this ties in to his need to be accepted and his likely desperation for a job, but he puts everyone in Hogwarts at risk when he doesn't tell Dumbledore the truth about Black. We find out later that the danger wasn't real, but on the night when Black got into Gryffindor Tower and ripped up Ron's bed, we don't know that, and neither does Lupin. At that point, he still believes Black to be a murderer just like everyone else, yet in the face of this blatant attack, he remains quiet -- a poor error in judgment for one entrusted with the safety of minors.


He does step up as an authority figure when he admonishes Harry for sneaking out of the castle, pulling no punches and saying the exactly right things to make Harry feel foolish and guilty, but that doesn't make up for the greater danger he exposes Harry -- and everyone else -- to by remaining silent. From a narrative standpoint, it's necessary; if he'd spoken up, the book would have been a handful of chapters long at best. But from a characterization standpoint, it doesn't reflect well on him.


In OotP, it seems that he considers the young people intelligent enough to understand and deal with the truth regarding Voldemort and the war, Harry in particular. It seems likely based on what he tells Molly -- namely that he thinks Harry is old enough to be told what's happening -- that he turns a blind eye to the Extendable Ears because he believes the better informed they are, the better prepared they'll be to face the danger when confronted with it -- and Harry and those most closely associated with him will be confronted it, as has been proven repeatedly throughout the series. Lupin seems to believe that knowledge is power, and he tries to protect Harry by keeping him informed and aware of what's going on, hearkening back to his agreeing to teach Harry the Patronus charm two years prior. In this, he is the opposite of Dumbledore, who seeks to protect Harry by keeping information from him so that he won't have to cope with the burden of it. However, by the end of the book, we see that Lupin's way would have served Harry much better.


I've rambled on about him this much and not even touched on the fact that he seems to have undergone a slight change between PoA and OotP, perhaps because of being forced to resign when Snape leaks his secret to the school in a fit of spite; he is now a known werewolf, unable to hide his secret any longer, and he's been forced to deal with the tougher laws passed by the Ministry. The most notable events from OotP are


~He was entrusted with the responsibility of being one of the advance guard that protects Harry.


~He still doesn't jump into the middle of conflict, but he seems less hesitant about speaking up, illustrated by his telling Sirius that he'd thought they were out of order, and by his breaking up a row between Sirius and Molly Weasley: "Molly, you're not the only one at this table who cares about Harry... Sirius, sit down" Notably: Sirius, a character known for being somewhat headstrong, obeys. Lupin adds, "I think Harry ought to be allowed a say in this... He's old enough to decide for himself" (OotP, pg. 90).


~The fact that he insists on calling Tonks by her first name (Nymphadora, which she hates) may well be a manifestation of his sense of humor, teasing her in a way he knows winds her up. It's similar to the way he uses calm courtesy to drive Snape insane in PoA, and it seems clear that he's doing it on purpose, knowing it infuriates Snape when he remains unruffled in the face of Snape's attempts to provoke him. Lupin seems to be one of those quiet, deadpan people who can wind someone up until they're ready to combust all without ever losing his cool himself.


~He goes and speaks to a man who has been bitten by a werewolf when he visits Arthur Weasley in St. Mungo's.


There's more -- much more -- because Lupin is a complex character who, in spite of not being part of the major recurring cast to appear in all 5 books, is intriguing, and the glimpses and hints we get are tantalizing, calling out for interpretation, speculation, and analysis. This brings us to fandom and its myriad interpretations of Lupin.


In fandom, Lupin appears to be one of those characters who can be paired off with a vast array of other characters with relative ease, and much of what is written about him involves either a het or slash romance. Those of us who read and write about Lupin have our pet pairings, of course, but we're united by one common trait: love of the character. There's something about him that calls to us, fascinates and intrigues us enough to return to him again and again and again. I put out a call on my LJ for people's opinions about the character, and I want to share some of the thoughts and insights those who responded provided [the full quotes can be found here]:


From amberdiceless: "My Remus is a very quiet, patient person, usually very tired (not just physically but spiritually), and altogether too forgiving, but with a Gryffindor backbone that will surface if you push him hard enough. I don't picture him being angry or resentful at his lot in life; frustrated, yes, terribly so at times, but not bitter... He's also, as of the end of OotP, keenly aware of the fact that he's the last Marauder--again, more in the spiritual sense than the literal, even though Pettigrew is still alive. I would not be at all surprised if those two came to deadly blows before the end; I don't see Remus as a hateful person at all, but if there's one person he has reason to loathe, it's Peter, who cost him pretty much everything... And of course he feels a certain sense of responsibility for Harry, and would be willing to act as surrogate godfather if Harry will let him. Whether he has the wherewithal to keep trying if Harry rebuffs him is another matter. Remus does so want to be liked and accepted, it colors everything he does."


From blacksatinrose: "Remus is, in my opinion, a fairly intelligent man, but I hesitate to call him more than that, intellectually. Mostly, I suspect he is well schooled, scholarly, above average but not brilliant (brilliance, after all, being James and Sirius's area of expertise.) In school, I see him doing well, but having to work harder to not quite keep up with what those two did effortlessly. I don't see him resenting that; I think he would be glad for them, and pretty accepting of where he stood. Because that's one thing I see in him: acceptance of his lot. He accepts that he is a werewolf with very little drama, he accepts that his friends are arses with absolutely none. He is realistic, if not a bit cynical, and often deals with the few things he does find disturbing through his rather dry sense of humor. It all goes hand in hand with his rather endless capacity to forgive; he appears to forgive just about everything and anything anyone does to him, and not just forgive it but cast it aside as though it does not matter, and never did."


From daralis: "My Remus is almost schizophrenic too. The mildness is a forced thing because he's never been free to be angry, to be upset or jealous or anything like that. From the time he was bitten he's had to push all of that down because he knew how lucky he was not to have been abandoned, killed or worse. Part of being smart is that you can end up knowing more than you want. He's never had the kind of personal freedom people like Sirius and Harry take for granted. He's always been treated like a ticking bomb and tried to defuse it with niceness but at the expense of large parts of his soul."


From froda_baggins: "He's kind, quiet and thoughtful. He's an eloquent speaker and he's not shy, just reserved. He's a man with a lot to hide, or at least he thinks so... He's got a wicked sense of humour, and an overactive imagination, but very few people have ever seen this side of him, save James, Sirius and Peter. And Snape, though not in such a positive light... He's a pragmatist, and he's passive-aggressive. He's also very proud, and doesn't like being beholden to anyone, though he will go far to repay debts. The whole reason for his loyalty to Dumbledore is because he feels he owes Albus a lot, and is trying to repay that... He's a very cultured man, he tries very hard to be "civilized", almost in defiance of the "monster" he becomes once a month... In general, he's a closed book, and it takes a hell of a lot of patience to really learn anything about him. He's a supremely caring man, but he's very good at not showing that too much, mostly from fear of rejection."


From idroppedarice: "I think that his close friendship with James, Peter and Sirius is an exception for him, and not the rule. As in, they were the only people in his life that he really let himself go with, and that's shown a bit in PoA when he's willing to kill Peter along with Sirius, something he would probably never advocate if it was just the Trio in the room. With this also, is a strong sense of justice. He's quick to forgive, but his loyalties to his friends won't allow him to forget past injustices to them. He's a quiet caring person, and has most likely given up trying to prove himself like I'm sure he did when he was younger, but rather, he now simply tries to work to the best of his ability, for the sake of the Order's cause and for Harry, whom I'm sure he feels he owes his life to."


From jedi_penguin: "He goes to extraordinary lengths to be decent. I think it highly unlikely that this kindness is divorced from the fact that he is a snarling monster, the darkest of evil creatures, once a month... The fact that he's not entirely human means that he doesn't always think the same way. This isn't often obvious, but it does show up... He's in his early to mid-thirties for goodness sake! Despite the young uns writing HP, that is NOT old. However, it does seem likely that a lifetime of battling a recurring illness has made him seem old before his time. He has an outward gravitas that makes his flippancy towards authority and his teasing of Tonks all the more fun and startling... He is absolutely no kind of father-figure towards Harry. He tries to treat Harry as an adult and has no sense that the boy needs to be protected just because he's a child. Whether this is because Remus is only twenty years older than Harry and doesn't feel that they are truly a generation apart or part of his "not thinking exactly like humans no matter how well he covers it" I'm not exactly certain."


From musesfool: "He has a dry, somewhat morbid sense of humor, which he uses to defuse tense situations. He always knows the polite thing to do, has spent a lifetime cultivating an inoffensive personality, so people will like him. He's reserved, but not shy. He can appear polite on the surface while needling an old schoolboy nemesis and retain his calm in the face of Snape's fury. He also seems to be the only one of the three who's not living on old grudges... No one has ever been as close to him as Sirius, Peter and James were; no one will ever get that close again. He loves Harry but will never try to be a father figure to him... He has little respect for authority, though he will pay it lip service if he finds it useful. He'll also break rules without a second thought if it suits him, though he'll feel guilty later, just not guilty enough to stop him the next time."


From violet_quill: "I also tend to write him in a way that his selflessness is exaggerated - that he puts others before himself not only out of concern for them, but of disconcern for himself, and that this is also part of the reason that he often seems so nonconfrontational... Of course, the great thing about Remus is that there's so many different aspects of his character to draw out in story to story. I'm a big fan of alpha!Remus myself, and though that tends to get quite shippy, I think it can be extended to him taking control of other aspects of his life."


From these descriptions, it's clear that there seem to be some universal traits -- he's calm (outwardly, at least), he's reserved, he's desperate to be liked and accepted to name a few -- but there are enough variations to create a rich body of stories featuring all kinds of different interpretations. There is so much we don't know about Lupin -- such as what his family life was like after he was bitten, what he did during the twelve years between the Potters' deaths and Sirius' incarceration -- and he's such a complex character that fandom writers have a huge sandbox to play in where he's concerned. Having so many empty spaces to fill is an intriguing challenge, as is exploring his personality, flaws and all. Whether you prefer an aggressive alpha werewolf, a shy and bookish scholar, or something falling in the wide range between, there are stories out there to read and enjoy. In the Harry Potter fandom, like the Buffy fandom, werewolf stories will never fall out of style.


Remus Lupin Starter Kit:


Websites and LJ Communities:

The Werewolf Registry: a general Remus Lupin fan site with art, stories, character discussion, and information on werewolf folklore

The Full Moony -- another general Remus Lupin fan site with an extensive art gallery and a bio essay, among other things.

cardigangsters -- a community dedicated to "the internet's newest sex symbol: Remus Lupin's cardigan".

remus_lupin -- a community focusing on Lupin

remus_centric -- a fanfiction community where you can sometimes find gen stories

lupin100 -- a drabble community which often has gen drabbles


Gen Stories:

[Note: These are not my personal recs as I haven't read all of them; they're a sampling of some of the different types of Lupin gen stories that are available.]

Call of the Wild, by WolfieTwins

Civilized, by Sam Vimes

Cywir Carennydd, by Lone One

Homo Homini Lupus, by Pogrebin

The Melody Lingers, by Violetquill

Sin of Lycaos, by DMP

Things That Go, by Allecto

The Boy Who Cried Wolf, by McKay


For more, visit Jetamors Page of Harry Potter Gen Recs.


Gen Art:

Grindylow, by Ildi

Bad Day Remus, by Ildi

Waiting for the Moonrise, by Ildi (not work safe)

Tea Room, by Christina Sanders

Wolfsbane, by Christina Sanders

Wolfsbane, by linnpuzzle -- I think she has one or two others at her website as well.

Blood Sugar Sex Magic -- Yukipon's site, in which she has several Lupin drawings in the "images" section, including a couple based on Thewlis-as-Lupin.

dreaming of corridors -- Lunulet's site, in which she has several drawings of Lupin in the "teachers and other adults" and "Marauders" sections.

Lisa Rourke's Gallery -- a nice-sized HP section, including some lovely Remus art

The Art Dungeon -- Marta's site, which has gen Remus and Marauders art

And you can also browse the memories section of hpart; they have a folder of Lupin art.



Essay by stella_by_moor

Eight entries in the memories of HP Essays

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