The Harry Potter books and movies are filled with a lot of kind and loving characters, and none more so than Remus Lupin. He was a friend of Harry’s father when they were both at Hogwarts. As an adult, he fought for the Order of the Phoenix.
Once he met Harry, he mentored him and become a confidant for the rest of his life. He gave great advice, but he wasn’t perfect. Here are his five worst and best moments in the series.
In Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Lupin confiscated the Marauder’s Map from Harry. We learned soon after that Lupin’s old schoolmate and turncoat, Peter Pettigrew was hiding in the castle as Ron’s rat Scabbers. The map, however, would have shown Scabbers as ‘Peter Pettigrew’ because he was a human.
Despite this slight plot hole (Harry never noticed that someone named Peter Pettigrew followed Ron around day and night?), we do know that Lupin saw Pettigrew on the map and said nothing. Lupin struggled with self-loathing, doubt, and fear of rejection for most of his life. This was one of the times that his fear got the best of him.
For all of the tragedy and abuse Harry experienced in his childhood, he was still a young teen when he met Lupin. He still had a lot to learn about the real world, and especially about intolerance. Prisoner of Azkaban was when he began to learn the depths of hatred that existed in the Wizarding World, and that intolerance is often based on things that seem insignificant to Harry.
Lupin’s resignation after the events the night of Pettigrew’s escape quickly showed Harry the nuance of intolerance. Lupin is a good man, which Harry valued above all else. He never imagined that that wouldn’t be good enough for everyone else until Lupin told him, “They will not want a werewolf teaching their children, Harry. And after last night, I see their point.”
Lupin spent most of his life thinking lycanthropy (turning into a werewolf) made him unclean and unworthy. It was an ignorant societal view that he internalized. While he often rose above that, there were times when his good nature lost to his self-loathing.
This stalled his relationship with Nyphadora Tonks. While she loved him, lycanthropy and all, he rejected her love because he thought he wasn’t good enough for her. It broke her heart, and she spent most of Half-Blood Prince pining for him. It wasn’t until the rest of the Order told him just how stupid they thought he was being that he accepted her into his life.
A large part of Prisoner of Azkaban focuses on Harry and the dementors. He takes lessons with Lupin so that he can cast a Patronus Charm to fight them off. In the course of the lessons, however, Harry struggles with the memories the dementors force him to relive, including a faint memory of the death of his parents.
Not only does Lupin give Harry chocolate to help with the pain, teaching him a useful practical remedy, but he also teaches Harry a valuable lesson: “Our pain becomes their power.” This is a lesson, of course, that applies not just to dementors but to anyone who seeks to intimidate. They use pain to control innocents.
In Order of the Phoenix, we see an awful memory of Snape’s: Harry father James (and godfather Sirius) bullying Severus relentlessly while they were both at Hogwarts. It was a humiliation that Snape never really got over.
In the memory Harry sees, Lupin remains seated by a tree while James and Sirius attack Severus. “Lupin was still staring down at his book, though his eyes were not moving and a faint frown line had appeared between his eyebrows,” Rowling wrote. He knew what was happening was wrong, but Lupin’s internalized prejudice made him so grateful for their friendship that he occasionally was afraid to stand up to them and risk losing them. It’s understandable, but awful.
“It is the quality of ones’ convictions that determines success, not the number of followers,” Lupin said in The Deathly Hallows. He was talking about how numbers of Order members were dwindling while the numbers of the Death Eaters were rising. They were fearful that being outnumbered meant they would lose, especially since at that point they had just lost their leader, Albus Dumbledore.
But Lupin’s quiet hopeful pragmatism swooped in to save the day. While many of the Death Eaters fought out of fear, the Order had hope and conviction on their side. That makes any fighter strong.
Remus was afraid to stand up to his friends in his youth. Everyone—especially Dumbledore—knows how hard that is. But as adults, he didn’t do much to stop Sirius’ continued bullying of Snape either. When Snape is knocked unconscious in Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin doesn’t step in to stop Sirius from knocking his head against things as they head back to the castle. And in Order meetings, Remus rarely stands up for Snape even though Snape is probably taking the biggest risk of them all.
Lupin made his peace with Snape when Snape brewed him the Wolfsbane Potion while he taught at Hogwarts. But he never steps between the two to try to help them move past childhood It’s one thing to be nervous as a child. It’s worse to allow bullying to continue as an adult.
Several times throughout the series Lupin is more of a “Do as I say, not as I do,” type of mentor. This is especially true when he scolds Harry for being reckless in Prisoner of Azkaban. After Harry is nearly caught sneaking out of the school to Hogsmeade when a mass murder is on the loose, Lupin tells him, “Your parents gave their lives to keep you alive, Harry. A poor way to repay them—gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks.”
Of course, when Lupin is breaking his own heart over Tonks he takes on increasingly reckless missions for the Order. He comes around and sets a better example eventually though.
Even though Lupin came around on loving Tonks, his self-loathing about lycanthropy still got the best of him occasionally. When they realized Tonks was pregnant, his fears of passing on lycanthropy to their son drove him to abandon her with her parents.
Thankfully, he’d done his best to shape Harry into a good person, and Harry was able to turn the tables and set him straight. “I’m pretty sure my father would have wanted to know why you aren’t sticking with your own kid, actually,” Harry said, sending Lupin packing when Lupin wanted to use Harry’s mission as an excuse to run away. If the sign of a good parent is how their kid turns out, this is when we know for sure that Lupin did a good job as a surrogate parent for Harry.
During the lesson with the boggart in Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin stops Harry from confronting the boggart because he’s afraid it would take the shape of Voldemort. When he learns that Harry was more afraid of the dementors, Lupin is impressed. “That suggests that what you fear most of all is—fear,” he says.
It’s an important nuance. Fearing Voldemort gives Voldemort the power he craves. And, as Lupin says later, “fear makes people do terrible things.” But fearing fear itself can be dealt with. Fear can be overcome. Fear doesn’t have to dictate action. Teaching Harry this at a young age gives Harry the tools to confront the next four years of terrifying obstacles he faces. Because of Lupin, Harry is able to face fear.