Remus Lupin was the only child of the wizard Lyall Lupin and his Muggle wife Hope Howell.
Lyall Lupin was a very clever, rather shy young man who, by the time he was thirty, had become a world-renowned authority on Non-Human Spiritous Apparitions. These include poltergeists, Boggarts and other strange creatures that, while sometimes ghostlike in appearance and behaviour, have never been truly alive and remain something of a mystery even to the wizarding world.
On an investigative trip into a dense Welsh forest in which a particularly vicious Boggart was supposed to be lurking, Lyall ran across his future wife. Hope Howell, a beautiful Muggle girl who worked in an insurance office in Cardiff, had taken an ill-advised walk through what she believed to be innocent woodland. Boggarts and poltergeists may be sensed by Muggles, and Hope, a particularly imaginative and sensitive person, had become convinced that something was watching her from between the dark trees. Eventually, her imagination became so overactive that the Boggart assumed a form: that of a large, evil-looking man, bearing down on her with a snarl and outstretched hands in the gloom. Hearing her scream, young Lyall came sprinting through the trees, causing the apparition to shrink into a field mushroom with one wave of his wand. The terrified Hope thought, in her confusion, that he had driven her would-be attacker away, and his first words to her – ‘it’s all right, it was only a Boggart’ – made no impression on her. Noticing how very beautiful she was, Lyall made the wise decision not to talk about Boggarts any more, but instead agreed that the man had been very big and scary, and that the only sensible thing to do was for him to accompany Hope home to protect her.
The young couple fell in love, and not even Lyall’s shamefaced admission, some months later, that Hope had never really been in danger, dented her enthusiasm for him. To Lyall’s delight, Hope accepted his proposal of marriage and threw herself enthusiastically into preparations for the wedding, complete with a Boggart-topped cake.
Lyall and Hope’s first and only child, Remus John, was born after a year of marriage. A happy, healthy little boy, he showed early signs of magic and both parents imagined that he would follow in his father’s footsteps, attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in due course.
By the time that Remus was four years old, the amount of Dark magical activity across the country was increasing steadily. While few yet knew what lay behind the mounting attacks and sightings, Lord Voldemort’s first ascent to power was in progress and Death Eaters were recruiting all kinds of Dark creatures to join them in their quest to overthrow the Ministry of Magic. The Ministry called in the services of authorities on Dark creatures – even those as minor as Boggarts and poltergeists – to help it understand and contain the threat. Lyall Lupin was among those asked to join the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, which he did gladly. It was here that Lyall came face-to-face with a werewolf called Fenrir Greyback, who had been brought in for questioning about the death of two Muggle children.
The Werewolf Registry was badly maintained. Werewolves were so shunned by wizarding society that they generally avoided contact with other people; they lived in self-described ‘packs’ and did all they could to avoid being registered. Greyback, whom the Ministry did not know to be a werewolf, claimed to be nothing more than a Muggle tramp who was utterly amazed at finding himself in a room full of wizards, and horrified by the talk about the poor, dead children.
Greyback’s filthy clothing and lack of wand were sufficient to persuade two overworked and ignorant members of the questioning committee that he was telling the truth, but Lyall Lupin was not so easily fooled. He recognised certain telltale signs in Greyback’s appearance and behaviour and told the committee that Greyback ought to be kept in detention until the next full moon, a mere twenty-four hours later.
Greyback sat in silence while Lyall was laughed at by his fellow committee members (‘Lyall, you just stick to Welsh Boggarts, that’s what you’re good at’). Lyall, generally a mild-mannered man, grew angry. He described werewolves as ‘soulless, evil, deserving nothing but death’. The committee ordered Lyall out of the room, the head of the committee apologised to the Muggle tramp and Greyback was released.
The wizard who escorted Greyback out of the inquiry was intending to place a Memory Charm upon him, so that he would forget having been inside the Ministry. Before he had a chance to do so, he was overpowered by Greyback and two accomplices who had been lurking at the entrance, and the three werewolves fled.
Greyback lost no time in sharing with his friends how Lyall Lupin had just described them. Their revenge on the wizard who thought that werewolves deserved nothing but death would be swift and terrible.
Shortly before Remus Lupin’s fifth birthday, as he slept peacefully in his bed, Fenrir Greyback forced open the boy’s window and attacked him. Lyall reached the bedroom in time to save his son’s life, driving Greyback out of the house with a number of powerful curses. However, henceforth, Remus would be a fully fledged werewolf.
Lyall Lupin never forgave himself for the words he had spoken in front of Greyback at the inquiry: ‘soulless, evil, deserving nothing but death’. He had parroted what was the common view of werewolves in his community, but his son was what he had always been – loveable and clever – except for that terrible period at the full moon when he suffered an excruciating transformation and became a danger to everyone around him. For many years, Lyall kept the truth about the attack, including the identity of the attacker, from his son, fearing Remus’s recriminations.
Lyall did all he could to find a cure, but neither potions nor spells could help his son. From this time onwards, the family’s lives were dominated by the need to hide Remus’s condition. They uprooted themselves from village to town, leaving the instant that rumours of the boy’s odd behaviour started. Fellow witches and wizards noticed how peaky Remus became as new moon approached, not to mention his monthly disappearances. Remus was not allowed to play with other children, in case he let slip the truth of his condition. In consequence, and in spite of his loving parents, he was a very lonely boy.
While Remus was small, his containment during his transformation was not difficult; a locked room and plenty of silencing spells usually sufficed. However, as he grew, so did his wolfish self, and by the time he was ten years old, he was capable of pounding down doors and smashing windows. Ever more powerful spells were needed to contain him and both Hope and Lyall grew thin with worry and fear. They adored their son, but they knew that their community – already beset with fears at the mounting Dark activity around them – would not be lenient on an uncontrolled werewolf. The hopes that they had once had for their son seemed in ruins, and Lyall educated Remus at home, certain that he would never be able to set foot in school.
Shortly before Remus’s eleventh birthday, no less a person than Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, arrived uninvited on the Lupins’ doorstep. Flustered and frightened, Lyall and Hope tried to block his entrance, but somehow, five minutes later, Dumbledore was sitting at the fireside, eating crumpets and playing Gobstones with Remus.
Dumbledore explained to the Lupins that he knew what had happened to their son. Greyback had boasted of what he had done and Dumbledore had spies among Dark creatures. However, Dumbledore told the Lupins that he saw no reason why Remus should not come to school, and described the arrangements that he had made to give the boy a safe and secure place for his transformations. Due to the widespread prejudice around werewolves, Dumbledore agreed that for Remus’s own sake his condition should not be broadcast. Once a month, he would leave for a secure and comfortable house in the village of Hogsmeade, guarded by many spells and reached only by an underground passage from the Hogwarts grounds, where he could transform in peace.
Remus’s excitement was beyond anything he had known before. It was the dream of his life to meet other children and have, for the first time, friends and playmates.
Sorted into Gryffindor house, Remus Lupin was swiftly befriended by two cheerful, confident and rebellious boys, James Potter and Sirius Black. They were attracted by Remus’s quiet sense of humour and a kindness that they valued, even if they did not always possess it themselves. Remus, always the underdog’s friend, was kind to short and rather slow Peter Pettigrew, a fellow Gryffindor, whom James and Sirius might not have thought worthy of their attention without Remus’s persuasion. Soon, these four became inseparable.
Remus functioned as the conscience of this group, but it was an occasionally faulty conscience. He did not approve of their relentless bullying of Severus Snape, but he loved James and Sirius so much, and was so grateful for their acceptance, that he did not always stand up to them as much as he knew he should.
Inevitably, his three best friends soon became curious as to why Remus had to vanish once a month. Convinced by his lonely childhood that his friends would desert him if they knew that he was a werewolf, Remus made up ever more elaborate lies to account for his absences. James and Sirius guessed the truth in their second year. To Remus’s astonished gratitude, they not only remained his friends but thought up an ingenious method of easing his monthly isolation. They also gave him a nickname that would follow him all through school: ‘Moony’. Remus finished his school career as a Prefect.
By the time the four friends left school, Lord Voldemort’s ascendancy was almost complete. True resistance to him was concentrated in the underground organisation called the Order of the Phoenix, which all four young men joined.
The death of James Potter, along with his wife Lily, at the hands of Lord Voldemort, was one of the most traumatic events of Remus’s already troubled life. His friends meant even more to him than to other people, because he had long since accepted the fact that most people would treat him as untouchable, and that there could be no possibility of marrying and having children. Even worse, within twenty-four hours he had also lost his two other best friends. Remus was in the north of the country on Order of the Phoenix business when he heard the horrible news that one of them had murdered the other, and was now in Azkaban, a traitor to the Order and to Lily and James themselves.
The downfall of Voldemort, such a source of jubilation to the rest of the wizarding community, marked the beginning of a long stretch of loneliness and unhappiness for Remus. He had lost his three close friends and, with the Order disbanded, his previous comrades returned to busy lives with families. His mother was now dead, and while Lyall, his father, was always delighted to see his son, Remus refused to endanger his father’s peaceful existence by returning to live with him.
Remus now lived a hand-to-mouth existence, taking jobs that were far below his level of ability, always knowing that he would have to leave them before his pattern of growing sick once a month at the full moon was noticed by his workmates.
One development in the wizarding community gave Remus hope: the discovery of the Wolfsbane Potion. While this did not prevent a werewolf losing his human form once a month, it restricted his transformation to that of an ordinary and sleepy wolf. It had always been Remus’s worst fear that he would kill while out of his right mind. However, the Wolfsbane Potion was complex and the ingredients very expensive. Remus had no chance to sample it without admitting what he was and so he continued his lonely, itinerant existence.
Once again, Albus Dumbledore changed the course of Remus Lupin’s life when he tracked him down to a tumbledown, semi-derelict cottage in Yorkshire. Delighted to see the Headmaster, Remus was amazed when Dumbledore offered him the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. He was only persuaded to accept when Dumbledore explained that there would be a limitless supply of Wolfsbane Potion, courtesy of the Potions master, Severus Snape.
At Hogwarts, Remus revealed himself to be a gifted teacher, with a rare flair for his own subject and a profound understanding of his pupils. He was, as ever, particularly drawn to the underdog, and both Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter benefited from his wisdom and kindness.
However, Remus’s old flaw was at work. He had grave suspicions about one of his old friends, a known fugitive, but did not share them with anyone at Hogwarts. His desperate desire to belong and to be liked meant that he was neither as brave nor as honest as he ought to have been.
An unfortunate combination of circumstances arose that resulted in Remus undergoing a true werewolf’s transformation in the grounds of the school. Severus Snape’s resentment, never abated by Remus’s subsequent respectful politeness, made sure that it was widely known what the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher was. Remus felt obliged to resign and departed Hogwarts once more.
As Lord Voldemort once again gained ascendancy, the old resistance regrouped and Remus found himself once more part of the Order of the Phoenix.
This time, the group included an Auror who had been too young to belong to the Order during its first incarnation. Clever, brave and funny, pink-haired Nymphadora Tonks was a protégée of Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, the toughest and most grizzled Auror of them all.
Remus, so often melancholy and lonely, was first amused, then impressed, then seriously smitten by the young witch. He had never fallen in love before. If it had happened in peacetime, Remus would have simply taken himself off to a new place and a new job, so that he did not have to endure the pain of watching Tonks fall in love with a handsome, young wizard in the Auror office, which was what he expected to happen. However, this was war; they were both needed in the Order of the Phoenix, and nobody knew what the next day would bring. Remus felt justified in remaining exactly where he was, keeping his feelings to himself but secretly rejoicing every time somebody paired him with Tonks on some overnight mission.
It had never occurred to Remus that Tonks could return his feelings because he had become so used to considering himself unclean and unworthy. One night when they lay in hiding outside a known Death Eater’s house, after a year of increasingly warm friendship, Tonks made an idle remark about one of their fellow Order members (‘He’s still handsome, isn’t he, even after Azkaban?’). Before he could stop himself, Remus had replied bitterly that he supposed she had fallen for his old friend (‘He always got the women.’). At this, Tonks became suddenly angry. ‘You’d know perfectly well who I’ve fallen for, if you weren’t too busy feeling sorry for yourself to notice.’
Remus’s immediate response was a happiness he had never experienced in his life, but this was extinguished almost at once by a sense of crushing duty. He had always known that he could not marry and run the risk of passing on his painful, shameful condition. He therefore pretended not to understand Tonks, which did not fool her at all. Wiser than Remus, she was sure that he loved her, but that he was refusing to admit it out of mistaken nobility. However, he avoided any further excursions with her, barely talked to her, and started volunteering for the most dangerous missions. Tonks became desperately unhappy, convinced not only that the man she loved would never willingly spend time with her again, but also that he might walk to his death rather than admit his feelings.
Remus and Tonks both fought Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries, a battle that resulted in the public exposure of Voldemort’s return. The loss of the last of his school friends during this battle did nothing to soften Remus’s increasingly self-destructive attitude. Tonks could only watch in despair as he volunteered to spy for the Order, leaving to live among fellow werewolves to try to persuade them to Dumbledore’s side. In doing this, he was exposing himself to the possible reprisals of the werewolf who had changed his life forever, Fenrir Greyback.
Remus came face-to-face with both Greyback and Tonks at Hogwarts barely a year later, when the Order clashed with Death Eaters within the castle. During this battle, Remus lost yet another person he had loved: Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore had been adored by every member of the Order of the Phoenix, but to Remus, he had represented the sort of kindness, tolerance and understanding that he had received from nobody in the world outside his parents and his three best friends, and had been the only man ever to offer him a position within normal wizarding society.
In the aftermath of the bloody fight, inspired by Fleur Delacour’s protestation of enduring love for Bill Weasley, who had been savaged by Greyback, Tonks made a brave, public declaration of her feelings for Remus, who was forced to admit the strength of his love for her. In spite of continuing misgivings that he was acting selfishly, Remus married Tonks quietly in the north of Scotland, with witnesses taken from the local wizarding tavern. He continued to fear that the stigma attached to him would infect his wife and wished for no fanfare around their union; he swung constantly between elation that he was married to the woman of his dreams and terror of what he might have brought upon them both.
Within a few weeks of their marriage, Remus realised that Tonks was pregnant and every fear he had ever had surfaced. He was convinced that he had passed on his condition to an innocent child and that he had condemned Tonks to the same life as his mother, forever moving around, unable to settle, having to hide her increasingly violent child from sight. Full of remorse and self-recrimination, Remus fled, leaving the pregnant Tonks, seeking out Harry and offering to accompany him on whatever death-defying adventure awaited.
To Remus’s shock and displeasure, the seventeen-year-old Harry not only declined his offer but became angry and insulting. He told his ex-teacher that he was acting selfishly and irresponsibly. Remus responded with uncharacteristic violence and stormed out of the house, taking refuge in a corner of the Leaky Cauldron, where he sat drinking and fuming.
However, after a few hours’ reflection, Remus was forced to accept that his ex-pupil had just taught him a valuable lesson. James and Lily, Remus reflected, had stuck with Harry even unto their own deaths. His own parents, Lyall and Hope, had sacrificed their peace and security to keep the family together. Bitterly ashamed, Remus left the inn and returned to his wife, where he begged her forgiveness and assured her that, come what may, he would never leave her again. For the rest of Tonks’s pregnancy, Remus eschewed missions for the Order of the Phoenix and made it his first priority to protect his wife and unborn child.
The Lupins’ son, Edward Remus (‘Teddy’), was named for Remus’s recently deceased father-in-law. To both parents’ relief and delight, he showed no sign of lycanthropy when born, but inherited his mother’s ability to change his appearance at will. On the night of Teddy’s birth, Remus briefly left Tonks and his son in the charge of his mother-in-law, so that he could go and find Harry for the first time since their angry confrontation. Here, he asked Harry to be Teddy’s godfather, feeling nothing but forgiveness and gratitude towards the person who had sent him home to the family that gave him his greatest happiness.
Both Remus and Tonks returned to Hogwarts for the final battle against Voldemort, leaving their tiny son in the care of his grandmother. The couple knew that if Voldemort won this battle, their family was sure to be eliminated: both were notorious members of the Order of the Phoenix, Tonks was a marked woman in the eyes of her Death Eater aunt, Bellatrix Lestrange, and their son was the very antithesis of a pure-blood, having many Muggle relatives and a dash of werewolf.
Having survived numerous encounters with Death Eaters and fought his way skillfully and bravely out of many tight corners, Remus Lupin met his end at the hands of Antonin Dolohov, one of the longest-serving, most devoted and sadistic of all Voldemort’s Death Eaters. Remus was no longer in prime fighting condition when he rushed to join the fight. Months of inactivity, using mostly spells of concealment and protection, had blunted his duelling capabilities, and when he ran up against a dueller of Dolohov’s skill, now battle-hardened after months of killing and maiming, his reactions were too slow.
Remus Lupin was posthumously awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class, the first werewolf ever to be accorded this honour. The example of his life and death did much to lift the stigma on werewolves. He was never forgotten by anyone who knew him: a brave, kind man who did the best he could in very difficult circumstances and who helped many more than he ever realised.
Remus Lupin was one of my favourite characters in the entire Potter series. I made myself cry all over again while writing this entry, because I hated killing him.
Lupin’s condition of lycanthropy (being a werewolf) was a metaphor for those illnesses that carry a stigma, like HIV and AIDS. All kinds of superstitions seem to surround blood-borne conditions, probably due to taboos surrounding blood itself. The wizarding community is as prone to hysteria and prejudice as the Muggle one, and the character of Lupin gave me a chance to examine those attitudes.
Remus’s Patronus is never revealed in the Potter books, even though it is he who teaches Harry the difficult and unusual art of producing one. It is, in fact, a wolf – an ordinary wolf, not a werewolf. Wolves are family-orientated and non-aggressive, but Remus dislikes the form of his Patronus, which is a constant reminder of his affliction. Everything wolfish disgusts him, and he often produces a non-corporeal Patronus deliberately, especially when others are watching.