Happy Birthday, Remus Lupin!

Mar 10, 2018

Posted by: Dawn Johnson

Birthdays, Books, Character Birthdays, Fandom, Fans, Films, J.K. Rowling, Movies, News

I am sorry too… Sorry I will never know him… but he will know why I died and I hope he will understand.

Today, we celebrate the birthday of Remus Lupin, one of the more tragic characters of J.K. Rowling’s invention. It’s important to acknowledge and remember this, the pain of his journey, because it informs the rest of his story and the choices made within it. For while we ache with compassion over the losses endured by Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom and feel the injustice of Hagrid’s expulsion and Sirius Black’s wrongful imprisonment, we sometimes forget that Lupin suffered a fate that was, in some ways, far worse and which set him on a life-long path of external hardship and inner turmoil.

Afflicted as a young boy with lycanthropy by a vengeful Fenrir Greyback, Lupin also lost any semblance of normal childhood. But more than that, he lost a part of his essential humanity. Not in the ways that truly mattered, of course, but this was irrelevant in the estimation of others and, at times, even his own. This rendered him an outcast, isolated monthly by necessity and daily by virtue of being different.


Even at Hogwarts, Lupin’s acceptance into the fold of young witches and wizards seemed tenuous. Oh, Albus Dumbledore made sure accommodations were made–but that kindness notwithstanding, the regular exile to the Shrieking Shack must have been demoralizing and wearisome. Only the devotion of his marauding friends eased the mental, emotional and physical anguish of those years as they marshalled all their magical prowess to become unlicensed Animagi and soften both his loneliness and his animal nature.


Upon graduation, he joined the Order of the Phoenix alongside James Potter, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, fighting bravely among wizards and witches who knew his worth, finally giving him a place of belonging and refuge. But then Voldemort murdered James, and Sirius presumably murdered Peter. Suddenly, Lupin’s world imploded.

Though the wizarding community was now safe from the Dark Lord’s reign, it was not safe for Lupin, and he found himself aimless and alone, forced to take up odd jobs that barely kept him from poverty. For over a decade he fled the scorn and prejudice of those around him, fearing what they might do to him if the truth were known and what he might do to them if he were not careful and vigilant.


It was not until Harry Potter’s third year at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that a tentative hope broke into Lupin’s existence. Dumbledore begged him back to Hogwarts with the lure of security, purpose, value–home. Lupin took up the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and was an instant success. Though ragged in appearance, his unpresuming demeanor, magical talent and ability to gently draw out his students made him an extremely effective teacher–and, in particular, a relatable and kind mentor for Harry.


It is a beautiful irony that Lupin provided for Harry what he most needed himself–a person to fall back and rely on, a person to walk with through fear and weakness and stand upon in bravery and strength. He guided Harry with incredible wisdom, as well as appropriate straightforwardness, and he did so without succumbing to the temptation, so attractive to Sirius, to act as Harry’s cohort rather than his guardian.

That year ought to have been a turning point for Lupin, but Severus Snape, his longtime enemy by association, revealed the truth to Hogwarts parents–Lupin was a werewolf. To protect the school and himself from ridicule, Lupin quietly resigned and returned to his vagabond life.

HP6-FP-00102 (L-r) NATALIA TENA as Nymphadora Tonks, JULIE WALTERS as Molly Weasley, MARK WILLIAMS as Arthur Weasley and DAVID THEWLIS as Remus Lupin in Warner Bros. PicturesÕ fantasy adventure ÒHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.Ó

It appeared, at that point, a sad and hopeless story, but Rowling would not leave him there. She forced him out of his exile and back into service with Voldemort’s return, reinstating the Order of the Phoenix. She forced him to face his place in the world. She forced him to choose love, purpose and hope over loneliness, self-inflicted misery and fear. It was not an easy choice, by any means. Lupin was so used to dwelling on his insecurities and the limitations beyond his control, that it was a constant and complex struggle.

It took well over a year for him to accept the love of Nymphadora Tonks. And when she became pregnant with their first child, he berated himself, worried about the life he believed they would be subjected to. He was so overcome with self-loathing that he invented reasons to be away from his wife, avoiding her until Harry took Lupin to task for his practical abandonment. Thankfully, Lupin eventually set his doubts and fears aside to reunite with Tonks and witness the birth of their son, Edward Remus “Teddy” Lupin.


Of course, we all know what happened next–both Lupin and Tonks fell in the Battle of Hogwarts, Lupin to the Death Eater Dolohov and Tonks to Bellatrix Lestrange. It’s a tragic end for a character who fought difficulty and despair all his life. But the point is that he fought. 

No matter how many months and years passed which found Lupin destitute and ostracized, he did not lose the essential parts of his humanity and the bedrocks of his character, after all. He chose to persevere in kindness, in compassion, in conviction and in courage. He kept fighting–for a life with his family and for wizard kind. He kept fighting even though he must have known he might not enjoy the first, bravely risking that possibility so his son could enjoy the second.

As he would later tell Harry, Teddy’s godfather: “I am sorry too… Sorry I will never know him… but he will know why I died and I hope he will understand.

We honor Lupin by remembering his story and by endeavoring to persevere in the face of darkness, as he did. It is the struggle, the fight, that matters, not the doubt that accompanies it. In the words of Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  So raise your wands in birthday tribute–Happy Birthday, Remus Lupin!


The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.