Spinner’s End: Homorphus Hopes

by Lady Lupin

As should be quite clear from my moniker, I am a Remus Lupin fan. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, if Remus Lupin were a real person, I might track him down and throw myself at him. Why, you may ask, would a middle-aged woman with a good job, friends, family and a busy, full life seek out the companionship of an unemployed, somewhat melancholy werewolf?

Lupin has integrity. Real integrity. The kind of integrity that takes your breath away. He holds a very high standard for himself. He is loyal, measured in his thoughts, words and deeds, industrious, brave, patient and kind. He probably saved Harry’s life in PoA, by giving him extra lessons and teaching him the Patronus Charm. In turn, Harry saved several other lives with the use of it.

Remus is gentle, helpful, forgiving and compassionate with others, and their faults. However, he is also honest, and says what he thinks (though always respectfully), even if the listener doesn’t want to hear it. He looks back on his school days with some chagrin, having failed to find the spine as a youth to stand up to Sirius and James when their antics turned cruel or dangerous. However, he was also a true Marauder, finding humor, fun and sport in adventures and hijinx.

He has borne the loss of his friends with patience and has continued to stand for what he believes in, no matter what. He is the last remaining Marauder. I refuse to count Wormtail. He is no Marauder, and unless he pays back that Life Debt to Harry in a big way, that is my final word on the subject. Lupin carries the torch for all of them – for what the four of them once were.

But what, you may ask, about his “furry little problem?” Remus’ lycanthropy is one of the more interesting sidebars in the series. As Jo has said, it illustrates on one level the fear and prejudice in most societies against anyone who is seen as different from the current mainstream.

I think it also represents our deepest “monsters.” Those attributes that we’d rather not think about in ourselves – personality traits that we are secretly ashamed of, and hide, for fear of losing the love and approval of those around us. We all have them, whether big or small. Perhaps it’s a thought that we were shocked to have had, or a choice we made somewhere in our lives that we look back on with shame. Perhaps we have a temper, a prejudice, greediness, a lack of ability in some area that leaves us feeling inadequate. Or maybe our monster is a raging envy or resentment. Maybe we harbor an old grudge and find our inner monster devising subtle (or not so subtle) revenges against our perceived wrongers. Whatever our inner monsters, I think that most of us believe, at least in part, that the worst of ourselves is worse than anyone else. Most of us try to push these unpleasant parts of ourselves away, and pretend that they don’t exist, or pretend that we somehow have the power to master them.

Remus doesn’t have that luxury. His monster is what it is, and it will appear, like clockwork, with every full moon. This gives him a bit of an edge, and, I would suggest, has helped to create the man that he is. His monster is known to him. He cannot deny its existence or pretend it will go away. He has to find a suitable way to live with the wolf. He knows this, and takes it on with a stoicism worthy of Marcus Brutus (read Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare). I would argue that it is a rare human being who truly knows his or her own monster as well as Remus does. Knowledge is power, and by acknowledging and living alongside the wolf, Remus has been freed to choose the man he will be, and live by his own moral compass.

HBP gave us the antithesis of Remus in introducing Fenrir Greyback. Lupin and Greyback mirror each other the way Harry and Voldemort do: very similar circumstances and challenges, each facing extreme loss, isolation and difficulties… and each showing, once again, that the HP series is about choice. Remus has chosen to nurture, teach, support, protect, love, honor and defend. Fenrir has chosen to kill, maim, terrorize, taunt, devalue, destabilize and destroy.

Lupin’s innate goodness and patient adherence to his values make me wish for a miracle for him. I keep hearkening back to dear old Gilderoy in CoS, bragging about his Homorphus Charm. JKR cleverly wrote this into the series before we had met a werewolf that we would grow to know and love:

“‘Nice loud howl, Harry – exactly – and then, if you’ll believe it, I pounced – like this – slammed him to the floor – thus – with one hand, I managed to hold him down – with my other, I put my wand to his throat – I then screwed up my remaining strength and performed the immensely complex Homorphus Charm – he let out a piteous moan – go on, Harry – higher than that – good – the fur vanished – the fangs shrank – and he turned back into a man. Simple yet effective – and another village will remember me forever as the hero who delivered them from the monthly terror of werewolf attacks.'”
(161-62, CoS)

If this were the only citing, I would dismiss it, since Lockhart’s adventures were all lies. However, we learn at the end of the book that someone did perform the Homorphus Charm. It just wasn’t Lockhart. When slimy Gilderoy believes that he is about to Obliviate Harry and Ron, he shares the identities of those witches and wizards who really performed the heroic deeds that he has always taken credit for (before he had erased their memories).

“‘My dear boy,’ said Lockhart, straightening up and frowning at Harry. ‘Do use your common sense. My books wouldn’t have sold half as well if people didn’t think I’d done all those things. No one wants to read about some ugly old Armenian warlock, even if he did save a village from werewolves.'” 
(297, CoS)

In the class where Lockhart demonstrates the werewolf episode, he also assigns the class to write a poem about his “defeat of the Wagga Wagga Werewolf.”

This is an interesting combination of facts. From the excerpts, it seems that the werewolf was not killed, but transformed back to his human form. It also seems to have been permanent, since the village has been delivered from “the monthly terror” of werewolf attacks. Wagga Wagga is in Australia, so our warlock wandered a long way from his native Armenia! The use of the word “defeat” is interesting. Was it just the werewolf that was defeated, so that no further transformations would take place? Was the man cured or was he somehow harmed? Did he survive the charm? Would this be a good thing to happen for Remus, or would it result in some other damage to him?

Since meeting Lupin in PoA, I’ve been on the lookout for an old, Armenian warlock with a bad memory, and an affinity for Australia. Alas, no such character has appeared. The working of the charm is curious. We have seen one Wolfsbane-free transformation described to us, in PoA, and it was fairly horrendous. How did an old warlock manage to hold down a werewolf with one hand and perform an extremely complex charm? Or did he have help, and Lockhart just embellished the story and took credit for doing it alone, to make himself look better? It would take incredible strength and skill to manage what Lockhart describes.

What might be the components of that charm? How is it that Lockhart’s claims to have done it were generally accepted as true and yet it is still thought that there is no cure for Lycanthropy? Does anyone else know the charm? Did the warlock make it up?

As I contemplate everything yet to be tied up by the end of Book Seven, I wonder, what with Horcruxes, Godric’s Hollow, Voldemort, Death Eaters, RAB, Lily’s eyes, Wormtail’s debt, Sirius’ mirror, disarray in the Order, the loss of Dumbledore, Dementors and general panic in the Wizarding World, if there will be time to fit in a cure for Moony? The writer in me says, “Hmmmm… How would she manage that?” It might be too much to hope for.

Another thing that struck me while reading HBP is that Lupin no longer has the Wolfsbane Potion every month, and hasn’t since the end of PoA. He says, “‘But I do not forget that during the year I taught at Hogwarts, Severus made the Wolfsbane Potion for me every month, made it perfectly, so that I did not have to suffer as I usually do at the full moon'” (332-33, HBP).

“I did not have to suffer as I usually do.” I don’t know why it never dawned on me before, that, for the past two years (three, by the end of HBP), Remus has been suffering his usual, full-blown transformations, and not the reduced version granted him by Wolfsbane. No wonder he keeps looking shabbier and shabbier. How difficult must it have been to have a brief respite, a time of fulfilling work, relief from chronic pain and illness, only to lose it within a year? To find a dear friend that you thought you had lost forever, only to watch him die two years later? Remus has been through the mill, and yet he has chosen to retain his dignity, integrity and warmth through it all. If he is sometimes quiet, reflective, a bit worn and forlorn, isn’t it understandable?

Perhaps I should simply hope that Remus survives Book Seven, which is certainly not guaranteed. I think Wormtail is doomed, and I hope that he saves Harry in the process of leaving this world and redeems his own lost honor. But what of Lupin? It is even more poignant to think of Lupin losing his life now that he and Tonks have just begun to find an understanding. I think they are a delightful couple, and was hoping throughout HBP that Lupin was the source of Tonks’ angst. It seems that their strengths and struggles complement each other well. Is it possible that Tonks’ Metamorphmagus skills could help Lupin? Could she transform in a way to administer the Homorphus Charm? Or, could she transform in a way to keep him company during his transformations, as the Marauders did?

I do wonder, given the many ideas and views expressed in the HP books, whether a cure for Remus would be counter to Jo’s overriding message? In much the same way that she introduced the many faces of Death from the very beginning of the series, Jo has likewise shown us time and again that life does not always reflect our ideas of “fair” – that bad things can happen to good people, and that what we do with our circumstances says more about who we are than the circumstances themselves. Perhaps the miracle of Remus does not lie in a cure for his condition, but in the manner in which he bears it.

While a part of me fears that all of the Marauders may be gone by the end of the series, I hope that Remus makes it through. He is just about the last connection to Harry’s past… to his first family. I hope that he’ll be around to share in the victory that so many have lost their lives for. I hope that he’ll live to stand where Lily, James, Dumbledore and Sirius no longer can, watching a victorious Harry finally able to claim and enjoy a full life. I hope that he’ll bring stability and – pardon the pun – balance to dear Tonks, and that she’ll survive to bring whimsy, passion and shocking pink hair to him. And, whether he is cured, or whether he merely has to continue to cope, I hope that he finds peace in the knowledge that his choices have been of the highest order… that if our choices truly do make us who we are, Remus Lupin is a great man indeed.