Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor

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Remembering the Man, Remus Lupin

Published November 2, 2013 by A. Featherquill

Here is a screen capture from the entry on Remus Lupin in Harry Potter Wikia:

remus

Now, here’s the one for Tom Marvolo Riddle (aka Lord Voldemort):

voldemort

It is painful for me to see that Remus Lupin is classified not as a human being but as a werewolf. Does he really deserve being stripped of the label “human”? I find it unfair that Tom Riddle/Voldemort, who is more dangerous than Remus, is classified as human, while Remus, who is more humane than the Dark Lord, is given a label that is categorized, according to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, under the heading of beasts. That his lycanthropy made life very much unfair for this talented, good-hearted wizard makes the issue all the more painful.

In Pottermore, I have read his backstory and I learned that, even as an infant, Remus has shown much brilliance and magical potential. His parents, a wizard father and a muggle mother, envision their son to soon attend Hogwarts and become a successful wizard like his father Lyall who is an authority on mysterious creatures and works for the Ministry’s Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

Unfortunately, Lyall’s job at the Ministry has indirectly caused the lycanthropy of his son.

Suspecting that Fenrir Greyback is a werewolf, Lyall wanted to detain him until full moon. However, his colleagues laughed at him and ridiculed him by saying “Lyall, you just stick to Welsh Boggarts, that’s what you’re good at”. His workmates even decided to release Greyback. This series of insults angered Lyall and provoked him to say, in the presence of Greyback, that werewolves are “soulless, evil, deserving nothing but death”.

This harsh statement led Greyback to exact revenge on Lyall. One night, Greyback forced himself inside Remus’s room and attacked the boy during his sleep. Lyall was able to save his son from death but the effect of the werewolf’s bite could not be reversed. From then on, Remus became a werewolf.

All the family’s hopes were ruined. The prejudice against werewolves then was so great that, in order to ensure the secrecy of their son’s condition, the parents prevented Remus from mingling with other people. With this set up, Remus could never study at Hogwarts or in any school. While this decision was painful for the parents, they felt they had no other choice or else they would risk the exposure of their son’s lycanthropy.

So it became a surprise to the Lupins when, shortly before Remus’s eleventh birthday, Albus Dumbledore visited them and presented the arrangements that he had planned in order to allow Remus to attend school. This news made Remus very happy. Finally, he would meet other children and possibly be able to make a few friends.

In school, he became close to James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew who, along with him, compose the Marauders.Though the group was generally famous for mischief, Remus was clearly the most mature in the group. He did not join in teasing Severus Snape, although he would admit later on that he did not try enough to stop his friends from bullying Snape, because he valued so much the very few friends he was able to make.

With his good performance as a student and relatively mature attitude, he was made prefect of Gryffindor house in his 5th year. However, after graduating, he found it very difficult to find a decent job because of his being a werewolf.

Here, we return to the unfair discrimination that Remus experienced due to a condition which he did not deserve and had no control over.

Those who have read the books and watched the movies will know how great a teacher Remus Lupin is. He has a practical approach, an organized way of teaching, and, quoting Pottermore’s very apt description, “a profound understanding of his pupils”.

He contributed a lot in developing Neville’s confidence as one can see in the class about Boggarts. He taught Harry the Patronus Charm outside of the class because the student badly needed to learn the spell. Yet, possibly learning from his mistakes when still a student, he would not tolerate mischief-making. When Snape caught Ron and Harry with the Marauder’s Map, Remus helped the two escape from the Potions professor. But when left alone with the two, he reprimanded Ron and Harry without being too harsh and without embarassing them.

Sadly, his goodness and talents are usually overlooked. Some people cannot see through the shabby clothes and his sickly, dishevelled look. For instance, Draco and his friends has often insulted Remus because of his looks. He is not invited to dinner parties because of his “furry little problem”. Most of all, he cannot find a permanent job that suits his magical abilities. By the end of Prisoner of Azkaban, because his lycanthropy has been exposed, he had to resign from his teaching job and once more become out of work.

But discrimination only made Remus kind, fair, and humble. He surely had flaws as a teenager. Because he wanted to keep his friends so badly, he failed to stop them from bullying Snape even though he was against bullying. Learning from his mistakes, the older Remus practiced fairness and humility to all. Finally, if there is anything I admire so much about him, it is his never developing a grudge against other people, even those who hurt him.

He forgave Sirius for thinking that he was Voldemort’s spy. He did not lash out on Snape for revealing to the school his lycanthropy. He forgave Harry after their fight. He never exacted revenge on the students who insulted him due to his appearance. When he sees that he did something wrong, he admits his mistakes as proven by his expression of his regret for not stopping his friends from bullying Snape. When people do good to him, he knows how to be grateful. He remained loyal to Dumbledore and bravely tried to ask Greyback’s pack to side with The Order of the Phoenix. As I said in an earlier post, facing the werewolf who caused his lycanthropy is surely not an easy task. Even more difficult is trying to convince his pack to shift sides. Asking their alliance is like humbling himself in front of those who caused the root of all his problems.

Truly,  Remus is a great individual, someone who deserves the title Order of Merlin, First Class. It is sad that it is only after his death that his reputation has been redeemed. The Order of Merlin award would have opened a lot of opportunities for a gifted and capable wizard like him. Then again, he achieved something else: paving the way for the lifting of the stigma on werewolves in the wizarding world.

The story of Remus Lupin is a reminder of how damaging discrimination and strict (yet faulty) categorization can be.

It is true that we need to classify in order to grasp certain systems. It is likewise true that we have to be aware of type differences in order to know how to deal with the things, beings and situations we encounter. But we have to realize that we need to learn these things in order to grow in understanding. Here, I use the term ‘understand’ to mean not just intellectual understanding but an understanding that involves our whole being – social, emotional, psychological, etc. We learn not just to enhance our mental capacity but in order to become, as a whole, better persons.

Furthermore, I guess, whenever we create categories, we have to be mindful that a classification will most likely have some exceptions. So even though we encounter a representative of a type, we must also try to learn how this thing differs from the group where it belongs. In this way, our knowledge of the thing or being will be richer and more meaningful.

As we reach the end of this post, here are a few more questions that we can all ponder on: When do we judge people based on how they look or what qualities they have? When is it fair or unfair to do so? When does putting labels on people become harmful? What groups does society often treat like the werewolves in Harry Potter? Do we think that society is right in treating them as such? Finally, are we bound by what we are, or can we transcend into something greater?

I hope that we do not forget the lessons we learn from the life of Remus so that his death will not be in vain and his wish to create a better place may be possible in our world, too.

Stay Magical,
A. Featherquill

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For most of his life, Lupin has been almost like an outcast. Still, even though his kind has been scorned by the wizarding world, he has dedicated his life to protect its members, and has sown goodness in the magical community. Thus, the theme of the month is being able to transcend the discrimination that you have experienced.

On the third week of November, I will post a good example of this theme. I am supposed to be searching the internet for days until I find a good topic. Luckily, this month’s best-from-the-web feature will not anymore be a problem. Last night, I have been reminded of something that fits well with the theme and can be found online. Clue: It has something to do with magic, and you can collect it like Chocolate Frog Cards.

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