A Marauder's youth

Lupin retells stories of his marauding youth and the birth of Snape's life-long hatred

Extract from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

by J.K. Rowling

He pushed his greying hair out of his eyes, thought for a moment, then said, ‘That’s where all of this starts with my becoming a werewolf. None of this could have happened if I hadn’t been bitten and if I hadn’t been so foolhardy.’

He looked sober and tired. Ron started to interrupt, but Hermione said, ‘Shh!’ She was watching Lupin very intently.

‘I was a very small boy when I received the bite. My parents tried everything, but in those days there was no cure. The Potion that Professor Snape has been making for me is a very recent discovery. It makes me safe, you see. As long as I take it in the week preceding the full moon, I keep my mind when I transform, I am able to curl up in my office, a harmless wolf, and wait for the moon to wane again.

‘Before the Wolfsbane Potion was discovered, however, I became a fully fledged monster once a month. It seemed impossible that I would be able to come to Hogwarts. Other parents weren’t likely to want their children exposed to me.

‘But then Dumbledore became Headmaster, and he was sympathetic. He said that, as long as we took certain precautions, there was no reason I shouldn’t come to school’ Lupin sighed, and looked directly at Harry. ‘I told you, months ago, that the Whomping Willow was planted the year I came to Hogwarts.

The truth is that it was planted because I had come to Hogwarts. This house’ Lupin looked miserably around the room, ‘the tunnel that leads to it they were built for my use. Once a month, I was smuggled out of the castle, into this place, to transform. The tree was placed at the tunnel mouth to stop anyone coming across me while I was dangerous.’

Harry couldn’t see where this story was going, but he was listening raptly all the same. The only sound apart from Lupin’s voice was Scabbers’s frightened squeaking.

‘My transformations in those days were terrible. It is very painful to turn into a werewolf. I was separated from humans to bite, so I bit and scratched myself instead. The villagers heard the noise and the screaming and thought they were hearing particularly violent spirits. Dumbledore encouraged the rumour, even now, when the house has been silent for years, the villagers don’t dare approach it.

‘But apart from my transformations, I was happier than I had ever been in my life. For the first time ever, I had friends, three great friends. Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew and, of course, your father, Harry, James Potter.

‘Now, my three friends could hardly fail to notice that I disappeared once a month. I made up all sorts of stories. I told them my mother was ill, and that I had to go home to see her, I was terrified they would desert me the moment they found out what I was. But of course, they, like you, Hermione, worked out the truth.

‘And they didn’t desert me at all. Instead they did something for me that would make my transformations not only bearable, but the best times of my life. They became Animagi.’

‘My dad, too?’ said Harry, astounded.

‘Yes, indeed,’ said Lupin. ‘It took them the best part of three years to work out how to do it. Your father and Sirius here were the cleverest students in the school, and lucky they were, because the Animagus transformation can go horribly wrong one reason the Ministry keeps a close watch on those attempting to do it. Peter needed all the help he could get from James and Sirius. Finally, in our fifth year, they managed it. They could each turn into a different animal at will.’

‘But how did that help you?’ said Hermione, sounding puzzled.

‘They couldn’t keep me company as humans, so they kept me company as animals,’ said Lupin. ‘A werewolf is only a danger to people. They sneaked out of the castle every month under James’s Invisibility Cloak. They transformed, Peter, as the smallest, could slip beneath the Willow’s attacking branches and touch the knot that freezes it. They would then slip down the tunnel and join me. Under their influence, I became less dangerous. My body was still wolfish, but my mind seemed to become less so while I was with them.’

‘Hurry up, Remus,’ snarled Black, who was still watching Scabbers with a horrible sort of hunger in his face.

‘I’m getting there, Sirius, I’m getting there, well, highly exciting possibilities were open to us now we could all transform. Soon we were leaving the Shrieking Shack and roaming the school grounds and the village by night. Sirius and James transformed into such large animals, they were able to keep a werewolf in check. I doubt whether any Hogwarts students ever found out more about the Hogwarts grounds and Hogsmeade than we did and that’s how we came to write the Marauder’s Map, and sign it with our nicknames. Sirius is Padfoot. Peter is Wormtail. James was Prongs.’

‘What sort of animal?’ Harry began, but Hermione cut across him.

‘That was still really dangerous! Running around in the dark with a werewolf! What if you’d given the others the slip, and bitten somebody?’

‘A thought that still haunts me,’ said Lupin heavily. ‘And there were near misses, many of them. We laughed about them afterwards. We were young, thoughtless, carried away with our own cleverness.’

‘I sometimes felt guilty about betraying Dumbledore’s trust, of course he had admitted me to Hogwarts when no other Headmaster would have done so, and he had no idea I was breaking the rules he had set down for my own and others’ safety. He never knew I had led three fellow students into becoming Animagi illegally. But I always managed to forget my guilty feelings every time we sat down to plan our next month’s adventure. And I haven’t changed.’

Lupin’s face had hardened, and there was self-disgust in his voice. ‘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. He let me into Hogwarts as a boy, and he gave me a job, when I have been shunned all my adult life, unable to find paid work because of what I am. And so I convinced myself that Sirius was getting into the school using Dark Arts he learnt from Voldemort, that being an Animagus had nothing to do with it ...so, in a way, Snape’s been right about me all along.’

‘Snape?’ said Black harshly, taking his eyes off Scabbers for the first time in minutes and looking up at Lupin. ‘What’s Snape got to do with it?’

‘He’s here, Sirius,’ said Lupin heavily. ‘He’s teaching here as well.’ He looked up at Harry, Ron and Hermione.

‘Professor Snape was at school with us. He fought very hard against my appointment to the Defence Against the Dark Arts job. He has been telling Dumbledore all year that I am not to be trusted. He has his reasons you see, Sirius here played a trick on him which nearly killed him, a trick which involved me’

Black made a derisive noise.

‘It served him right,’ he sneered. ‘Sneaking around, trying to find out what we were up to hoping he could get us expelled.’

‘Severus was very interested in where I went every month,’ Lupin told Harry, Ron and Hermione.

‘We were in the same year, you know, and we didn’t like each other very much. He especially disliked James. Jealous, I think, of James’s talent on the Quidditch pitch anyway, Snape had seen me crossing the grounds with Madam Pomfrey one evening as she led me towards the Whomping Willow to transform. Sirius thought it would be amusing, to tell Snape all he had to do was prod the knot on the tree-trunk with a long stick, and he’d be able to get in after me. Well, of course, Snape tried it if he’d got as far as this house, he’d have met a fully grown werewolf but your father, who’d heard what Sirius had done, went after Snape and pulled him back, at great risk to his life, Snape glimpsed me, though, at the end of the tunnel. He was forbidden to tell anybody by Dumbledore, but from that time on he knew what I was.’

‘So that’s why Snape doesn’t like you,’ said Harry slowly, ‘because he thought you were in on the joke?’

‘That’s right,’ sneered a cold voice from the wall behind Lupin.

Severus Snape was pulling off the Invisibility Cloak, his wand pointing directly at Lupin.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

by J.K. Rowling

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