Welcome back to Muggles and Mocha. This week is full of Boggarts and rants about Snape… I mean, are you surprised? I hope you’re ready, and I’m eager to hear your thoughts on my ramblings.
In all seriousness, I really enjoyed Chapter 7, “The Boggart in the Wardrobe.” It’s been a while since I’ve read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so it was a fun chapter to revisit. I’d forgotten some of the details, such as Snape being in the room when Lupin’s class came in, ready for their first practical Defense Against the Dark Arts class. The scene that followed was the inspiration for this article, and I hope you enjoy it!
But first, we have our video for the week. Take a look if you’re interested in discussing this chapter as a whole. A little teaser: We definitely bring the question of “Is Snape redeemable?” back into the conversation. Check it out, and remember, there are spoilers starting now!
Today, I want to shine a spotlight on a moment that might seem insignificant at first glance—the brief interaction between Lupin and Snape. This small conversation works to set the stage for Neville’s boggart experience and gives us another Snape-related situation to fume about. We’ve already sat through a potions class with him where he tormented Harry, Ron, and Neville. In Neville’s case, this bullying was pretty extreme—Snape fed some of Neville’s potion to Trevor the Toad, and if Neville’s potion failed (as Snape expected it would), the beloved pet would have been poisoned.
AND THIS MAN IS A TEACHER.
I digress. That’s not exactly what we’ll be talking about today. We’re going to focus in on Snape and Lupin’s dialogue and analyze what this interaction tells us about their characters. We’ll also take some time to discuss how their pasts influenced the men they became.
Ready to get serious? Okay, let’s go!
In this chapter, Lupin brings his Defense Against the Dark Arts class to the staff room so they can practice the spell for banishing Boggarts—Riddikulus!
When they arrive, Snape is in the room. Now… this is actually something I’d forgotten over the years. Just as the class trudges in, Snape makes a quip about Neville Longbottom, who he’s just spent the previous class torturing in front of his classmates. Here are bits and pieces of what Prisoner of Azkaban says:
As Professor Lupin made to close the door behind him, Snape said, “Leave it open, Lupin. I’d rather not witness this.”… “Possibly no one’s warned you, Lupin, but this class contains Neville Longbottom. I would advise you not to entrust him with anything difficult. Not unless Miss Granger is hissing instructions in his ear.”
Neville went scarlet… Professor Lupin had raised his eyebrows. “I was hoping that Neville would assist me with the first stage of the operation,” he said, “and I am sure he will perform it admirably.”
Neville’s face went, if possible, even redder. Snape’s lip curled, but he left, shutting the door with a snap.Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – “The Boggart in the Wardrobe”
As I said, it’s a short, to-the-point scene. However, there’s a lot we can learn about these two characters from this moment that goes further than Snape = Bad, Lupin = Good.
First, let’s start by looking at Snape. Snape doesn’t like people. This is kind of a simple statement, but I challenge you to pick out a person in the Harry Potter universe who Snape likes, besides Lily.
Anyone? I’m genuinely interested in hearing your opinion on this because, personally, I couldn’t think of a single person Snape likes, much less loves.
Because of this, it isn’t hard for us to believe he would dislike many of the children he teaches, and for the ones he hates… Well, they don’t have to wonder how Snape feels about them for too long. Neville knows this more than almost anyone. However, beyond this, it’s shocking to consider the lengths Snape will go to hurt a person he hates. Neville is thirteen—very young, impressionable, and easily affected—and Snape still chooses to humiliate him in front of his class, threatens his pet, then ridicules him in his next class. Again, in front of everyone, including his new teacher.
All of this combines to give us a pretty bad scene with Snape that doesn’t create too many fond feelings toward him.
Then, we have Lupin. At this point, we don’t know too much about Lupin, which means this scene has an even bigger effect on us because it’s developing our core impression of him, which is something we need to keep in mind. Before now, we’ve only seen him fight off the dementor and save the kids on the train, which was obviously a great first impression. Now, we see him passive-aggressively stand against Snape through kindness during one of Snape’s worst moments so far in the book. All of this means Rowling is trying really hard (and succeeding, in my opinion) to have us view Lupin in the best light possible.
From this scene, we learn Lupin is kind. Another simple statement that gets right to the heart of the matter. More than that, we see Lupin doesn’t hesitate in the face of Snape’s aggressive, biting statement and demeanor, which usually catches people off guard, at the very least. Instead, he is unperturbed and immediately comes to Neville’s defense—a young boy he doesn’t yet know.
In contrast to Snape, we see a character who is highlighted as a “good person” in Harry’s eyes in a pretty major way, as he’s placed alongside a “bad person” who is shown in one of the worst lights we’ve seen him in thus far.
However, even though I’ve written about six paragraphs about this moment so far in this article, this is a surface-level view of the situation. Do I believe Lupin and Snape’s actions in this scene reflect their personalities pretty accurately? Yes. But I would also like to look a little deeper and ask some of the harder questions—how did Lupin and Snape get here? How did they become the men we see in this chapter? We do discover more about them later on, and I believe some of their backstories might shed even more light on this scene…
As I read this chapter, I started thinking about the effects these two characters’ childhoods had on their lives. Duh, you might be thinking. Of course, our experiences, from every time in our life, make up who we are. However, these two characters are particularly interesting because I think their outcomes were closer to being similar than we might initially believe.
Besides their natural personalities, what are some of the differences between Lupin and Snape’s experiences before now?
Once again, let’s start with Snape.
I’ll try to keep this brief, as we’ll be doing an in-depth analysis of Snape’s childhood later in the series.
- Snape was raised in an unhappy household, and even though we don’t know all the details of his homelife… “unhappy” is probably putting it lightly. We know his parents fought, Snape was neglected (if not abused), and he couldn’t wait to get out of his house and go to Hogwarts.
- At Hogwarts, Snape was isolated. He didn’t have many friends at all, and the ones he did have were cruel and didn’t truly care for him—future Death Eaters. He had no one… except for Lily Potter. Lily was his friend and the woman he loved, but this friendship ended during their fifth year at Hogwarts after he called her a Mudblood. Along with having no one who cared about him, Snape was bullied by other students, including the Marauders.
- Snape, friendless, went on to become a Death Eater and was unknowingly the cause of Lily’s death. Devastated, he dedicated his life to avenging her and watching out for her son.
- From what we can guess, Snape spends eleven years dwelling in his own misery, sorrow, and hatred. He continues to have no friends, no one close to him. The other members of the Hogwarts staff don’t seem to like him very much.
- Harry looks like James. Go figure. Now, the child born from a union he detests resembles Snape’s most hated rival, James. Snape believes this boy acts like James as well, which doesn’t help matters.
This is what we have before this chapter in Prisoner of Azkaban, the events that have formed Snape into the man he is today.
Next, let’s look at Lupin.
Something to keep in mind: We don’t know nearly as much about Lupin’s early life as we do Snape’s since we get the opportunity to experience Snape’s childhood through flashbacks. However, we’ll work with what we have and use a bit of educated guesswork along the way.
- At five years of age, Lupin was attacked by Fenrir Greyback, a werewolf who was seeking revenge against Lupin’s father, Lyall. Lupin’s parents did everything they could to find a cure and did their best to give Lupin as normal of a childhood as possible. This implies they cared heavily for their son and did what they could to make his life, which they knew would be difficult, better. Nevertheless, he was isolated from the rest of the world due to his parents’ (and the Wizarding world’s) ignorance about how to handle his lycanthropy.
- Lupin is given the special opportunity to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. From what we know, Lupin was the first werewolf to ever attend Hogwarts. The reason I suspect this is because the Whomping Willow with the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack was created for him to use during his times of transformation, which means there wasn’t already a place available for potential werewolf students to use. Lupin struggled with the fear of isolation and abandonment from his classmates if anyone were to find out he was a werewolf. He’d lived a shameful existence up to this point in his life, and he hated who he was. This curse—both the lycanthropy and his struggles with self-worth—would follow him for the rest of his life.
- He was especially afraid of losing his best friends at Hogwarts if they found out his secret—James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew. However, upon learning of his “furry little problem,” his friends didn’t merely accept him with open arms—they worked to become Animagi in order to be with him during his transformations, which were extremely hard on him at that time without his monthly potion to help. And so, Lupin had three great friends to lean on during his years at Hogwarts.
- In his early twenties, Lupin worked with the Order of the Phoenix against Voldemort in the First Wizarding War. Due to his werewolf status, he wasn’t as trusted as the rest of the order—even by his friend, Sirius, sadly—which is why he didn’t learn of the prophecy about Harry and that Pettigrew was the Potters’ secret keeper. When Lily and James were killed and Sirius and Pettigrew were subsequently “killed” and imprisoned, he lost all of his friends.
- Over the next couple of years, Lupin was isolated and friendless, as well as destitute. He was forced to work low-paying jobs since most businesses wouldn’t hire a werewolf, but he would leave those jobs pretty quickly before his coworkers could discover his lycanthropy. During this time, I suspect he began hating his curse even more, and possibly even himself.
- Dumbledore eventually sought him out to offer him the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, which he hesitantly accepted. At this time, he was living in a broken-down cottage and barely surviving. To sweeten the deal, Dumbledore told him he could have an unlimited supply of the Wolfsbane Potion if he taught at Hogwarts, and after learning this, he accepted the job.
This is what we know of Lupin up until his teaching job at Hogwarts.
Something of note: I find it very sweet and sentimental that Lupin’s first lesson was about Boggarts because his father was a world-renowned expert on Non-Human Spiritous Apparitions—which includes Boggarts. He actually banished a couple of infamous Boggarts back in the day! And this is the creature Lupin teaches about for his debut class. Neat.
So, that’s a lot of facts about the early lives of these two characters. See any similarities? Let’s discuss.
Rather than focusing on what we suspect are their natural dispositions, let’s break down how these experiences affected them. Here’s a handy little chart that might help us see the similarities and differences between their stories and an overview of how they view themselves and the world. The last column is my opinion based on what we know of them and their actions in this chapter and others.
|SEVERUS SNAPE||REMUS LUPIN|
|Homelife||Isolated, friendless, unloving and unsupportive household.||Isolated, friendless, but loving household.|
|Time at Hogwarts||Isolated, friendless, bullied.||Struggled with fear of condition, but surrounded by the most loyal friends around.|
|First Wizarding War||A Death Eater; lost the love of his life due to his mistakes.||Order of the Phoenix; under suspicion because of his condition; lost all of his friends during this war.|
|Following 13 Years||Friendless, miserable, isolated.||Friendless, miserable, isolated, and poverty-stricken.|
|Today||Miserable, sometimes cruel, glum, angry.||Self-conscious, worn, wary, but with a spark of hope.|
So, what are our similarities? First, these two characters have obviously been through their fair share of hardship in various ways. They’ve experienced isolation through different points in their lives, and both of them know what it’s like to not have friends.
However, it’s here that I need to focus on the main difference I see. Although they’ve both experienced friendlessness, only one experienced having friends at all—Lupin. Yes, Snape had Lily, but that was about it, and they ran in different social circles. Furthermore, Lupin didn’t only have friends—he had friends who were self-sacrificial to the point of putting themselves in dangerous situations for him. Friends who truly loved him and stuck by his side during the hardest times.
There are also pretty major differences in their homelives. So this means during the most formative times of their lives (early childhood and adolescence), Snape and Lupin had two very different experiences. The lack of care and love Snape experienced during this time undoubtedly impacted the person we see in the books. Likewise, the love Lupin felt, even in the face of fear and isolation, formed him into the man we see. Even though he and Snape had very similar times of misery, heartache, and isolation during the thirteen years following the First Wizarding War, their dispositions are vastly different because of the experiences they had during these formative years as teenagers.
Now, now, I know there are inherent, natural traits to consider as well—outside factors aside, these two obviously have very different personalities. But it begs the question… what would Snape have been like if he’d experienced a loving childhood and had healthy, beneficial friendships at Hogwarts? Would he have been a little more like Lupin? Could Snape have been “better” to those around him—the way he treats others—if he had experiences more similar to Lupin? And what would Lupin have been without these friendships? Would he have become bitter, angry?
Yes, Snape seems like he just naturally hates people… but was he simply deprived of the tools he needed to become a caring, well-adjusted adult?
THESE ARE THE QUESTIONS WE NEED ANSWERED.
So. This scene in Chapter 7 does more than make us hate Snape and love Lupin. It gives us a brief glimpse into the adults these teenagers became and makes us wonder how they got there.
Hopefully, this article has inspired some conversation and thought about these two characters. Don’t worry, we’ll be talking more about both of them before this series is done.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Leave me a comment below! What do you think about Sirius and Lupin’s experiences and how they shaped them? Don’t hold back! We may disagree, but man… what’s more fun than debating the factors that influenced a fictional character’s psyche? I’ll wait.
I truly hope you enjoyed this article, and please join us next time as we discuss Chapter 8, “Flight of the Fat Lady.”
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For now, this mischief is managed.
Before you go, you may have noticed I got the opportunity to feature some work from an artist I really admire. Her Instagram and Patreon information is included in the caption below the art, but here’s her latest Potter-related Instagram post! Please check her out if you’re itching for more Harry Potter content or just beautiful artwork.
Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.