Was Lupin’s Desire to Join Harry Cowardice or Heroism?

Today’s Promptly Potter episode focuses on Chapter 11 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, titled “The Bribe,” in which Remus Lupin finds the trio at Number 12 Grimmauld Place and offers to join them on their mission. Harry sees this offer as a cowardly attempt to abandon a wife and child, but might Lupin’s actions actually be in their best interest?

Lupin is clearly struggling with self-loathing and shame regarding his marriage and offspring. He admits that he feels they would be better off without him and has an ulterior motive in joining Harry besides supporting the cause. Even so, there are indeed valid reasons for him to do so. Lupin is correct that he would be a valuable asset to the trio, skilled and experienced at far more advanced defensive magic. He can likely make a greater contribution by aiding them than by staying home with Tonks. Additionally, Voldemort’s defeat would mean a safer world for Lupin’s child and for werewolves, and Lupin is willing to put himself on the front line to make it happen.

The conversation takes a turn into what makes a good parent and how one can best care for their kids. Harry, having lost his parents, firmly believes that the most important thing is to be present. “Parents,” he tells Ron and Hermione, “shouldn’t leave their kids unless — unless they’ve got to” (DH 215). While Lupin argues that James would have wanted him to stick with Harry, Harry snaps back, “My father died trying to protect my mother and me, and you reckon he’d tell you to abandon your kid to go on an adventure with us?” (DH 214). But Lupin is trying to do the same thing: protect his wife and child, even if it means sacrificing his life. His behavior is not so different from James’s, even if it means being away for a while.

Tonks’s name is thrown around many times in this conversation, but we never get to hear her perspective on the matter or learn what happened just before Lupin arrived at Grimmauld Place. Did he simply walk out the door and not tell Tonks where he was going? Did he declare his intentions and have a row with her, slamming the door behind him while she begged him to stay? Even if she wanted him to stay and his intentions were not noble, a short time away helping the trio might be all Lupin needed to calm down, feel useful, and reassess. He might have been able to both speed up the search for Horcruxes and have a chance to think about the future. His status as a werewolf might have made him more of a target and put Tonks and her mother in greater danger. Tonks’s own father goes on the run because he is Muggle-born, but his actions are treated as necessary self-preservation rather than abandonment.

The alternative is that Tonks actually approved of and encouraged her husband’s plan. When Lupin insists that Tonks will be perfectly safe at home with her parents, it occurs to Harry that Tonks is “a member of the Order and, as far as Harry knew … was likely to want to be in the thick of the action” (DH 211). She probably feels disappointed and guilty that she can’t be more involved because of her pregnancy, particularly following the death of her mentor, Mad-Eye Moody. She would want to do everything in her power to help the war effort and would want her husband to do the same. It might even have been her idea that Lupin could do more good helping Harry than staying with her.

Tonks herself joins the Battle of Hogwarts despite having a baby at home, making the same choice as her husband. When Harry sees Lupin again by using the Resurrection Stone, Lupin says that his son “will know why I died and I hope he will understand. I was trying to make a world in which he could live a happier life” (DH 700). His belief that he should leave his family because he was a source of shame might have been misguided, but his commitment to the cause is something he shared with his wife and with Harry’s parents.

Was Lupin acting out of pure cowardice, or is there legitimate rationale and even heroic substance behind his desire to join the trio? Share your thoughts below or on social media with #PromptlyPotter.


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Laurie Beckoff

My Harry Potter journey began in 2000 when I was six and continued through a bachelor's thesis and master's dissertation on medievalism in the series. I'm a Gryffindor from New York City with a passion for theatre, fantasy, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.