Rereading the eavesdropping scene in PoA a little while before the release of OotP, I belatedly found a that number of the details about that conversation were striking me as distinctly strange.
In the first place; it suddenly seemed extremely odd to me that Remus Lupin’s name never came up, not even once in that conversation. Despite the fact that he was supposedly the fourth wheel of the Marauder’s “vehicle”, and despite the fact that he had recently returned to the school and was teaching there, as a colleague of three of the five people speaking, and, consequently, given the context of that conversation, would have been someone who might presumably be on their minds.
Particularly given that all three of them had been on staff throughout the Marauders’ school days, and at least two of them are assumed to have been members of the Order of the Phoenix as well (we still can’t be sure about Flitwick) and Minerva at least would have known of Lupin’s condition. But for all the notice Remus gets in that conversation, he might as well never have existed. All things considered, that’s fishy.
Second; I suddenly noticed that Cornelius Fudge seems to have known an awful lot about the Potters’ private lives — despite the fact that was only a Junior Minister in the Magical Catastrophes Department back when they were killed. And it doesn’t sound like this was something he only learned later. (A Junior Minister? Only a dozen years ago? Just how old is he, and who was his patron?)
Was he a family friend of the Potters’? Did he pick this up in the course of the investigation of the wrecked house? Or was he one of Dumbledore’s contacts in the Ministry and picked it up from the scuttlebutt within the Order? The Ministry and the Order did work together during that period, so he didn’t need to be a member of the Order to have been in contact with it. But, then why is he informing Order members like Minerva and Hagrid — who one might expect to already know — of his knowledge now? Also fishy, although probably a fish from some other sea.
Most likely he was just trying to impress Rosemerta.
Third, and most to the point; everything that anybody seems to say about the relationship between Black & Potter; “double act”, “inseparable”, “you would think they were brothers”, etc. really didn’t sound at all like the kind of friendship that opens itself up to outsiders. Or, at least, not to outsiders on anything close to the same level of involvement as that of the two insiders.
In fact, what this relationship sounded most like, even back in Book 3, was Fred & George Weasley — and their occasional pal (and distant third) Lee Jordan. This comparison turns out to have registered with Harry as well, although we are not informed of this until he was a couple of years older, in OotP to be exact.
And it was at this point (shortly before the release of OotP) that I abruptly realized that if we are playing at the usual fanon game of shadow ghosts and generational parallels, in many ways it was not Remus Lupin who was Black & Potter’s “Lee Jordan”.
Remus was their Neville.
So just how did Black & Potter (and Pettigrew) treat their “Neville”?
Well? How does the current Trio treat Neville? It all depends on when you are talking about them and which one of them you are.
If you are Hermione, you take him under your wing and do what you can to help him get through the worst of his difficulties. You (probably) also tend to mildly bully and order him around for his “own good”.
If you are Harry, up to the end of Goblet of Fire you gently brush him off when you can and are rather distantly kind to him when you can’t. That a change was in the offing was telegraphed toward the end of year 4, and in Order of the Phoenix, we can see that Neville had finally begun to venture out of his shell. But while he certainly had Harry’s underlying trust, insofar as any of the other students did, he still had a long way to go before Harry would automatically turn to him to get his input on matters of importance. And, by the end of the series, Neville so totally outclassed Harry that the whole issue had become moot.
And, if you are Ron, up to sixth year you mock him behind his back.
• • • •
Taking this back 20-some years;
James pitched in and tried to find a way to help Remus through the worst of his difficulties. Not necessarily because befriending a Dark Creature was the kind of thing he’d been brought up to do, but it was a challenge, y’know?
Sirius leaped into the project with both feet — chiefly on James’s account — but also because the project WAS such a wonderful challenge. And, besides, having a friend who was an honest-to-ghod Dark Creature that even his family would have been wary around (and loud in their disapproval of) was just So Cool.
Peter took a deep breath, and waded in as well, so as not to be left behind.
And Remus was eternally grateful.
But you will notice that until the Patronus coaching started bringing up the sludge at the bottom of Harry’s memories, and the “ghosts” of Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black started walking the halls of Hogwarts castle, Remus Lupin was putting as much distance between himself and “the old days” as possible.
For the longest time, I was not convinced that the relationship between those four friends had not gone rather sour after the werewolf caper, at least from where Lupin was standing. Before James Potter died, anyway. He already wasn’t a bit comfortable with his “friends” discussion about his condition in the hallway after sitting the OWL, was he? Even though he was the one to play court jester and start making jokes on the subject.
Five years later, James and Sirius had suspected Remus of being the spy in the Order, after all. I’m not convinced they were all that subtle about those suspicions.
And for that matter; by that time Remus may have been spying. On the werewolves. For Dumbledore.
• • • •
Another thing that I abruptly realized, and this was well before we were offered that trip into Snape’s Pensieve, is that If the Padfoot/Prongs dynamic was anything like that of the Weasley Twins, the function that Remus and Peter performed in the Lee Jacobs position was pretty clearly split between them. Remus was the friend one turned to for quiet observations and conventional advice. For ego stroking and a willing second in one’s most destructive mayhem there was no one more up for the task than Peter.
It also finally occurred to me that although James may have been the apparent leader of the pack, he may quite frequently have been playing George to Sirius’s more reckless Fred. Raising the question of whether Severus Snape was simply Black & Potter’s Percy?
With the revelations of OotP and HBP behind us however, and most particularly that of DHs, we have a bit more context to work from. Snape was not their Percy; not even close. He was not the “nearest and easiest target”. He was never some “shining example” to which they were compared and perpetually found wanting.
Severus Snape was the competition.
Or, James’s competition, anyway.
He was also a clear and present threat to their intentions.
And in DHs we also finally got the initial confrontation between them on the Hogwarts Express. It shifts our perceptions slightly.
Rowling seems to have left a fairly major factor completely out of the equation when she gave us the Prince’s tale. She was working inside a very narrow focus by then, but still. It’s enough to make one wonder whether she was trying to whitewash 11-year-old James (hard to believe since she seems to have gone out of her way to paint him as an irredeemable jerk every other time he shows up).
Point: we see an encounter between Snape, Lily, James, Sirius, and some other rowdy boys on the Hogwarts Express. Even though Lily is determined to blame Severus for her falling out with Petunia — when she was the one who opened up her big yap and threw her knowledge of Petunia's letter to Dumbledore in her face — she still sticks up for him against the boys who had been content to ignore her as she wept in the corner.
Next we get the Sorting, and see her Sorted into Gryffindor.
Then we leap all the way to 5th year with her nagging Severus for trailing after his own housemates, who she dislikes. (Admittedly, she probably has good reason. They don’t sound likable. But she is completely overlooking the fact that they know where he sleeps.) The werewolf caper has (inexplicably) already taken place.
Excuse me, but we have one hell of a gap there (“Mind the Gap!”).
Rowling has hustled us right past something that cannot have been an irrelevant factor over the course of years 1–3 or thereabouts.
James and his friends all seem to have come to school still solidly in the “Girls, ew.” phase of their social development.
Just what is likely to have been their reaction to having that little oddball of a Slytherin’s little “girlfriend” in their own common room? (They may have known where she slept, but they couldn’t get there.)
I think Lily had damned good reason to have formed alliances with Mary MacDonald and the other girls in Gryffindor. And I don’t think that she escaped James’s less than friendly attentions until he suddenly took it into his head to start crushing on her. Even if I do think that James was probably enough of a braggart and blowhard that his “Don’t make me hex you, Evans.” was probably just flourishing. He probably had hexed her in their lower years. And she had hexed him back (both James and Sirius were wary of Lily’s wand in the confrontation that we saw). She and Severus may well have hexed him together.
But we are missing the arc of that whole story.
At a guess, and taking Harry as a model, I would expect James’s turning point to be around the end of 3rd year, maybe 4th. And Lily's status — which was high in Gryffindor House already for standing up to him — only rose higher, as her girlfriends started realizing that he “liked” her. Which is probably when they started trying to talk her into dumping Snape, who they saw as holding her back.
Lily wasn’t about to capitulate to James on their say-so, but they did manage to convince her that Snape was a geek and a loser, and that if she hung out with him she might catch looser cooties.
And it blew right past us that on that first sighting, Snape had shown up on their radar as a long-haired sissy whose best friend was a girl.
And that he let her boss him around.
Someone who wants to write Marauder era fic could string together a decent, if somewhat tragic tale of a Light that failed there.
• • • •
To digress: sometimes, the apparent shallowness of Rowling's imagination astounds me.
She gives us the Prince’s tale. In which she depicts young Snape positively worshiping the ground Lily walks on — and Lily tacitly agreeing that well he should. She makes pronouncements in post-release interviews that Lily “might” have grown to love Snape romantically if he had renounced the Dark Arts. But she never shows us a damned thing to support it. And indeed what she does show us actively contradicts it. She seems incapable of depicting a Lily Evans who did not regard Snape with some degree of contempt and resentment, whatever the circumstances. It's almost as if the strain of attempting to show Lily behaving like an authentic friend to Snape was somehow disloyal to her memory.
The only conclusion I can draw is that to her they are all puppets and that even if grown Snape is sort-of real to her, young!Snape isn't. And Lily of any age certainly isn’t.
I rather like the fanfic author Arsinoe de Blassenville's take on it (in her WiP ‘The Golden Age’) where Snape's portrait informs Harry that he gave Harry only as many memories as he needed to for Harry to accept the message, and that he had kept all the good memories for himself.
Because Rowling, seems to have omitted to tell us anything of the real story.
• • • •
According to Sirius Black, Snape had shown up at Hogwarts knowing more hexes than half of the 7th years. And let’s all just keep in mind that one of those 7th years was allegedly “cousin Bellatrix”.
I think that probably this statement could have been just a little off-kilter in that Snape probably didn’t actually know more hexes than the upperclassmen, but that he certainly knew a few different ones.
For the very good reason that he had invented some of them himself.
With Book 6 we now had clear evidence that Snape, unlike Hermione, was not merely a precocious little swot able to duplicate any textbook example he was shown. This was a highly resourceful and truly creative scholar with a real knack for the underlying theory of at least two of the school’s core subjects. And an impressive level of control over his magic for a child his age. He was more than capable of showing other First years up.
(Of course, keep in mind that in HBP we were dealing with the über-Snape who really only seems to have existed in that one volume of the series.)
From where Black & Potter — who by all accounts were highly “inventive” types themselves — were standing, this was unacceptable.
Particularly given that the kid who was showing them up was also a scrawny, grimy, unprepossessing little commoner with a lower-class accent and a Muggle address (and, let it not be forgotten, a best friend who was a girl). From where they were standing this was just so wrong, on so many levels.
Remus Lupin’s mealy-mouthed excuses to Harry, some 20 years later, that Snape was jealous of James’s Quidditch prowess, now comes across as highly disingenuous. Yes, I do think that jealousy was probably a fairly strong motivation in the ongoing Snape/Marauders standoff. And it probably went both ways. But I very much doubt that the jealousy was all, or even mostly, on Snape’s side. It also begins to sound very much as though Quidditch prowess was the only thing that James Potter had going for him that Snape might reasonably have been jealous of. At least in their early years. And Sirius Black seems not to have even had that.
Moreover, Snape, having been sorted into Slytherin, allegedly was almost immediately taken up by exactly the people who Black & Potter were most solidly aligned against; which is to say, Sirius Black’s family, and their circle.
And, really, by all accounts Snape was lacking any redeeming factors of physical beauty, charm, “couth”, or background to ameliorate the whole gawky, grubby, unprepossessing package. He had nothing of his own but his wits, his skills, his nasty disposition, and his clever best friend. And it was a few years before James started coveting her.
And ambition. Oh yes. Plenty of that. And he was prepared to put all of it to use. Sybill Trelawney calls him “a pushing, thrusting young man”, and even though Rowling has now painted him a Follower rather than a Leader, I don’t think ambition was something that he simply grew into as he got older.
And he soon had allies, or what passed for it. Fairly influential ones, at that. Just not necessarily ones in his own year.
He never had a chance.
If they were not to completely lose face, Black and Potter couldn’t afford to let him get away with showing them up. Severus Snape had to be shown his proper place!
Only; he just wouldn’t stay in it.
• • • •
In retrospect, it is pretty clear to the reader that Sirius Black was the kind of personality which always needs to be “against” something. And his first line of opposition was always his own immediate family.
And given the general feel that we get from the Blacks’ home, and its whole general Dark Arts-sympathetic ambiance it is hard not to see the younger Bellatrix as having been a general favorite of her aunt and uncle’s. It is also difficult not to suspect that, being some 5–6 years older, Bella was not infrequently “put in charge” of young Sirius and exhorted to keep him out of trouble.
Given what we know of both Bellatrix and Sirius this sounds like a recipe for disaster.
And Sirius was as every bit as good at holding a grudge as Snape is. And James Potter appears to have followed Sirius’s lead on this matter without question. Indeed, James was soon probably given good reason of his own to dislike cousin Bellatrix (they were also cousins after all), and to be determined to thwart her.
I really am convinced that if there ever was a foundation for those alleged “narrow escapes” from DEs that James supposedly had they were originally laid in Hogwarts, and were a direct result of letting himself be drawn into Sirius’s ongoing war with his immediate family. Now that Rowling has endorsed the 1960 birth date it is difficult to see any way in which he and Sirius would have had time to have made such dangerous enemies otherwise.
And, in their first year, Snape allegedly was unwary enough to let himself be taken up by Bellatrix and her crowd.
Well, to be accurate, it was probably someone else in her crowd who took him up, probably over her objections. I doubt she had any use for the little commoner either. Not up to the standards of the Blacks, thank you. The Blacks, after all, have standards.
I’m pretty sure that they dropped him once they felt they’d picked his brains. And they probably didn’t do it gently. But by then the damage was done.
And, I suspect that as Snape gradually ironed out his accent and began to mimic the airs and graces of his “role models”, and generally adopt some variant of the classic “Slytherin manner” this collected him no brownie points in the eyes of such top-drawer scions as Sirius Black (one of the Blacks, you know) and James Potter — both of whom remembered perfectly well the grubby little working-class “tyke” who had arrived on the Hogwarts Express their first year. Like much of the silver-spoon brigade they would happily deal with yobs who are content to remain yobs, but they despise social climbers. Particularly successful ones. And by Year 2 Snape had probably connected with Malfoy, who may have been no friend of Bellatrix’s (a rival, in fact) but was no improvement, either. And, later, neither were Avery and “Mulciber”.
For that matter it doesn’t seem to have impressed Lily altogether favorably either. She may not have been a card-carrying member of the silver spoon brigade, but it’s easier to pose as Lady Bountiful when the yobs are obviously yobs.
And once Snape made peace with his Housemates — which is no more than she had done herself, although she doesn’t appear to have chosen to remember that — and started tagging along after them, he was no longer slavishly following her.
Maybe it wasn’t just James who had a jealous streak.
• • • •
I have to admit that at the end of the series I feel sincere pity for JK Rowling’s Severus Snape. He’s a pathetic figure. Fortunately he isn’t the fandom’s Severus Snape. With DHs, Rowling has served up enough of a travesty (or, more properly, a detailed synopsis masquerading as a novel) that the whole production is easily dismissible by any fan who finds it anywhere from disappointing to flat-out unbelievable, and yet does not choose to simply leave the fandom.
But, really, it’s bad enough that Snape was used and abused by both sides of the conflict. It’s bad enough he had it thrown in his face that his hard work to preserve Lily’s child as an atonement, was all in vain since the child was being raised to be murdered “at the proper time”.
And just what was his reward to be? Not from Tom, Tom probably actually delivered on some of his promises. After all, advancing Snape’s position suited Tom’s plans. No, I am talking about his reward from Albus.
He was to end up with temporary custody of the Deathstick. Which someone would be certain to murder him for. Sweet. Without ever clueing him in on that fact, of course. As if ignorance would be any protection. A pity no one thought to point out that Snape may have killed Albus, but he hadn’t disarmed him. If so, Tom might have kept him around long enough for him to see the end of the affair. But, ghod forbid that Harry should have to actually change his mind about Snape and make some kind of amends to the man, while he lived. (Btw; didn't Arthur Weasley live on for at least half an hour after his snakebite before he was even taken to St Mungoes? And he still survived. To say nothing about Harry who was also bitten by that snake.)
• • • •
And his precious Lily, unconsciously, but I suspect deliberately, sabotaged Severus as well.
We’ve probably all had that kind of friendship at some point in our life. It’s usually a situation where your parents have a friend, and the friend has a kid about your own age, and the two you are just supposed to be friends automatically, regardless. As if friendship were somehow hereditary. It's the “Propinquity Rules” theory of friendship. Never mind whether you actually like one another. That’s immaterial.
So you hang around together, and you get along okay, You make allowances, and and you call yourselves friends. But you aren’t, particularly. Friendly aquanitances, perhaps. It certainly doesn't go very deep.
Except; Lily was Snape’s only friend. And he desperately needed a friend. And it’s not like he had any basis for comparison.
On Lily’s side... well, Lily had magic. She had a lot of magic. She had a remarkable degree of control over it, too, and she loved having magic. And Snape was the only person who gave her a loud, clear message that having magic was okay. He was the only other magical child she knew, and she was bright enough to know that just having magic didn't mean that she had to be like him.
I rather think that a “nice” little girl like Lily would have found a young Snape odd, and — probably — somewhat disturbing. But he was the only wizard around, and she found the association both helpful and informative. She also probably felt more than a bit sorry for him over what was clearly an unhappy and unsupportive home situation that she could recognize wasn’t his fault. And even though he was odd and aggressive and tended to be a bit nasty, he wasn't ever aggressive or nasty to her. So she was always reasonably kind to him. Few people were.
Of course, once Lily got to Hogwarts, and made other wizarding friends, and she learned that yes, he really was odd, even for a wizard, and that other wizards found him disturbing as well, he gradually became an embarrassment. For that matter, once he started ironing out his accent and some of his manners, he became even more of one, since it was harder to excuse the association as his just being a charity case that she felt sorry for. The only other explanation for keeping him around which would have held up is that she liked him. And, when more closely examined, she really didn’t particularly.
But a “properly socialized” young girl doesn’t just dump a childhood friend simply because he isn't “cool”.
He has to give her a reason.
So she nagged him. She nagged him about associating with the very people that he was more or less forced to associate with, people who knew where he slept, and who would have probably hexed him in the dormitory if he broke ranks.
If he had obliged her by counter-attacking, and turning it into a shouting match, that would have been the end of it, and the friendship. But he didn't. He just kept trying to justify himself and draw lame comparisons to the people she was around every day. She had probably been fishing for an excuse to wash her hands of him since some time in 4rd year. He didn’t manage to give her one until the very end of 5h year. By that time she probably resented him like mad.
A true friend wouldn't have dumped her oldest chum over his once having called her an ugly name in a quarrel with someone else. (Did Rowling mean to imply that he had known her for close to 7 years and they had never gotten into a name-calling quarrel? Because that’s how it comes across. Just how likely is that from what we've seen of either of them?)
No. Not unless she was looking for an excuse to do that.
• • • •
Fanon tradition until comparatively recently, held that "the Marauders" were a team of four under James Potter’s leadership.
Post-OotP it looked like fanon tradition was ever so slightly off the mark.
Another fanon tradition that it occurred to me to call into question is the assumption that Dumbledore openly favored them. At least more so than he did Severus Snape.
Did he? Did he really?
I certainly cannot see much convincing evidence of it.
He was willing to throw Sirius Black to the Dementors forever and not even try to discover whether he had really murdered Pettigrew and all of those Muggles. He readily believed that Black was capable of betraying the Order and the friend who was as close as a brother.
With that in mind, I’d have to say that he couldn’t really have known those boys very well, and just maybe he didn’t particularly want to know them.
Post-DHs we realize that Albus Dumbledore was really a pretty cold, and selfish specimen.
And they were bullies, after all. Popular bullies to be sure, but, still, bullies. Albus Dumbledore may take bullies in his stride, but he doesn’t necessarily approve of them.
And he really doesn’t take a lot of interest in the school’s students as individuals. Or, not until Harry came along. Harry has always been an exception.
What is more, it occurs to me that it is damned odd that, apart from Madam Rosemerta, nobody, from drinking buddy Mundungus Fletcher right up to Dumbledore himself, ever questioned that Sirius Black was capable of that kind of treachery. Even people who must have known them better than Dumbledore did. I think that — just maybe — they all knew a loose cannon when they saw one.
And even after arranging for Black’s escape in PoA, if you go through everything Albus ever said about Sirius Black (and there isn’t much) over the course of PoA, GoF, OotP, and HBP, and you look at it with any degree of detachment, you will see that there really isn’t the slightest indication that he held Sirius Black in any degree of affection, for all that he acknowledged his importance to Harry, and was scrupulous to give the man whatever credit he was due.
Well, hey, he does as much for Cornelius Fudge and Rufus Scrimgeour. That’s just good manners.
And I suspect that if we took that back to square one and Book 1 and applied the same sort of detached view to everything that Dumbledore has ever said regarding James Potter we might discover the same scrupulous determination to give credit where it was due, and not the least scrap of personal approval.
I am beginning to think that we have been projecting other people’s enthusiasm, and Harry’s willingness to view his father through rose-colored lenses upon Albus Dumbledore and assuming a partiality which did not actually exist.
Which, until we learned about Albus borrowing the invisibility cloak and not giving it back, or Bathilda’s tales of Albus and her nephew Gellert, I thought might explain James’s otherwise rather unaccountable reluctance to accept Dumbledore’s offer to be his Secret Keeper.
It may still have something to do with it.
• • • •
Hagrid, on the other hand, clearly thought very highly of James Potter. But then Hagrid has a pronounced partiality for “interesting creatures”. Hagrid also has never, over the course of the entire series, had one bad word to say against Severus Snape (not even after the events of HBP, or certainly not in our hearing), and he had an exaggerated veneration for Albus Dumbledore. It is quite possible that Harry unconsciously drew a straight line between two points and assumed that Hagrid’s opinions would have reflected Albus’s. The readers certainly did. I no longer think that plays.
Filius Flitwick and Minerva McGonagall are coming from a somewhat different direction. Both of them can easily be deflected from the main issue of character by their admiration of good spellwork. And Black & Potter, whatever else you might care to say about them were capable of excellent spellwork. For all that both Flitwick and McGonagall were perfectly well aware that the two were troublemakers their cleverness went a long way toward excusing all.
And none of them would have been willing to tell tales out of school against James to Harry. What would be the point? Doesn’t the poor boy deserve a father he can be proud of?
Lily, on the other hand, seems to have been deeply valued by all of her teachers, without reserve. Perhaps it was Lily who was the one who was all but universally beloved. People may have considered James still a bit of a jerk who was chiefly welcomed on her account.
But I think that we may be making a big mistake, when we assume that Dumbledore’s obvious favoritism toward Harry was foreshadowed by a similar favoritism toward James. Because we really have no real evidence to support it. We have all been taking something for granted which I think perhaps we ought not.
No, Sirius was not expelled for his part in the werewolf caper.
Dumbledore probably never knew the whole truth of what that was all in aid of, but he could hardly have overlooked the fact that there might have been a history of being out-of-bounds on the nights of a full moon, on all of the Marauder’s parts. But he couldn’t necessarily prove it. And in the course of the incident it was clear that the kids had become familiar with one of Dumbledore’s secret arrangements which he had no wish to see revealed to the public. And from where Albus was standing, Dumbledore was very much obliged to James for having managed, at some risk to himself, to prevent an outcome that would have ended in an incident that couldn't have been hushed up. And anything like an an expulsion would have raised unwelcome questions.
But I’m not convinced that James was actually rewarded for it, either. We’ve never been directly told that he was. Not even that he was awarded House points for that daring rescue. Unless James was awarded exactly enough House points to make up for the ones that were stripped off Sirius for mouthing off about the willow, so that nobody ever noticed. But that’s another fanon assumption. It’s not in the books.
And, yes, he eventually allowed James to be appointed Head Boy. We’ve been invited to assume that the appointment was James’s reward. I cannot say with any certainty that it wasn’t. But I really do suspect that James might have become Head Boy simply because he was the best candidate for that particular year. When you stop and think about it, as Deputy Head, Albus had allowed Tom Riddle to be appointed Head Boy, too. It’s not necessarily a mark of personal approval.
And Lupin had already demonstrated that he wasn’t even an effective Prefect.
• • • •
As for James’s undisputed leadership within the group; it now looks like there may have been a good deal more complex undercurrents mixed into the interpersonal relationships between James Potter and his year-mates than fanon tradition can readily accommodate. And a lot of their known behavior becomes a degree easier to understand if we suppose that it was not really a quartet, but a pair, plus one, plus one.
We don’t really get the impression that Peter and Remus spent a lot of time hanging out together when James and Sirius were off on some devilment of their own, do we? And, James, for all that he was the acknowledged leader of the group, only led as long and as far as was subject to Sirius’s approval. It was Sirius who led from behind (Slughorn would have recognized that tactic easily enough, it’s rather a specialty of Slytherin House), leaving the responsibility to James — who was perfectly willing to shoulder it. And they all understood this without ever saying a word on the matter. Which makes sense of some of the more confusing subsequent actions of this group of Hogwarts friends.
For one thing, if James Potter wasn’t the absolute and undisputed pack leader, as well as the brains of the outfit, Sirius Black’s over-the-top declarations of guilt and remorse when we first meet him in the Shrieking Shack finally makes a degree of sense. Although you still can’t say much for Black’s emotional stability, he no longer comes across as an amateur tragedian indulging in an exaggerated sense of self-importance which reduces his friends’ deaths to being all about him, but as a trusted advisor in anguish over bad decisions that have needlessly cost his followers their lives.
If James was not the undisputed leader, it also offers some explanation of why Remus was out of the loop. It had been Sirius who suspected Remus of being the spy — and what had been Pettigrew’s contribution to that belief, I wonder?
And then once Remus started hanging out with the other werewolves...
It also makes a hell of a lot of sense as to another reason why the Potters did not take Albus up on his offer to serve as their Secret Keeper. They had never been favorites of his. Moreover, the four of them had thoroughly hoodwinked the Headmaster when they were no more than schoolboys, and they had not forgotten it.
• • • •
This particular interpretation also offers us a hint regarding my first observation of that conversation between the three teachers in the Three Broomsticks.
Remus Lupin was not mentioned in connection to the Black & Potter show because, in the first place, he was always a little outside their charmed circle of two. And, in the second place, apart from his medical condition, I suspect that the staff were inclined to dismiss him as being merely high average, both intellectually and magically. A likable child. Nothing out of the commonplace.
This interpretation, if nothing else, adds a little additional depth to our reading of Remus’s pointed kindness to Neville Longbottom in the face of Snape’s publicly demonstrated antipathy. Neville is another child who is passed over as unremarkable.
Neville has a couple of superior advantages of character over Lupin, however. Remus admits himself to be singularly lacking in the ability to stand up to his friends. And, indeed, every time we meet him over the course of OotP the impression of his weakness in this respect grows. He ends up coming across as a classic “co-dependent” facilitator. And, although this perception of weakness was somewhat toned down in HBP it was back in spades in DHs.
Neville has already amply demonstrated that he does have the quality of being able to stand up to his friends, along with a good deal more social maturity in purely social situations than either Harry or Ron seem to have — at any point in their development. One can pity Remus, very easily. But his inability to bring any degree of influence to bear upon his friends, even when he can see that they are indulging in self-destructive behavior (as Sirius was throughout OotP) has cost him, and them immeasurably. It may well have contributed to costing them their lives.
• • • •
It shouldn’t really need to be pointed out, but I suppose it does: the Black & Potter show and their friends really were not the Trio. Most of the fans’ early determination to try to re-cast them as the “Trio plus one” simply does not hold together. Indeed, if the seven of them, all at the age of 15, were to be dumped together in some AU limbo, you get the distinct impression that James, Sirius and Peter would have mocked the Trio unmercifully. All of that earnestness! And Hermione-baiting would become every bit as much fun as “getting” Snape, and not nearly so dangerous. Hermione, after all, is not actually vicious. And Remus would have pointedly looked the other way while they did it. And tried to excuse his inaction to them all privately afterwards. In hopes that they might still manage to like him.
Up to just about any point in canon everyone still seems to be being grossly misled by Harry’s startling physical resemblance to James, assuming a similar resemblance of character. This is simply not an accurate reading. It is clear to anyone who went on the trip into Snape’s Pensieve that Harry is just plain not like James. Harry is oh-but-definitely his mother’s son (which is not altogether a recommendation). He only looks like his father.
That physical resemblance actually served an essential purpose to the plot in PoA. But it seems only to be serving as a distraction since then, and I eventually began to wonder just what it was consistently distracting us from.
I was unable to come to any solid conclusion.
The resemblance was certainly distracting Harry. Despite the fact that Harry has been told upon more than one occasion that it was his mother who defeated the Dark Lord the first time; the only time he ever asked a question about his mother in the first five books was in the aftermath of the trip into Snape’s Pensieve, when he wanted to know whether his father had somehow forced her to go out with him. He still had yet to ask anyone anything whatsoever about her character.
Which is probably just as well, since she seems to have been a shallow and self-righteous little piece. Frankly, she and James Potter deserved one another.
• • • •
Of course, it is obvious to the reader that at least part of Harry’s reluctance to ask anything to the purpose was probably a long-term effect of having been raised by the Dursleys, whose motto seems to be “don’t you dare ask questions”. (I now rather wonder whether the oh-so-insisted-on Dursleys’ blood relationship to his mother may have given him something of an aversion for the subject.) But, really, the kid was nearly 16, it was about time he asked somebody something. But, no. Instead, all anyone had to do was pluck the same old harpstring about how much he looks like his father and he was distracted from the subject for another whole book.
In Book 6, Harry finally crossed paths with someone who had nothing whatsoever to say about his father, but who was willing to shower him with glowing recollections of Lily. To this reader such a reversal was most welcome. It was well and past time we were given something to reason from, there. Harry doesn’t appear to have been especially willing to stick around and listen, however.
Which also raises the question of just who, apart from Lily, was really involved in the “Slug Club” during the Marauders’ Hogwarts years. Given their supposedly “exceptional” cleverness, and their family backgrounds, James and Sirius would certainly have been eligible for “collection” by Horace Slughorn. But I rather suspect that they might have been no more attracted to the prospect than Harry was. Certainly not given that Bellatrix had undoubtedly been a member in good standing in her day. And Malfoy certainly had been in his.
No. I think that not even with the added attraction of “Evans” would James Potter have considered becoming a part of the Slug Club. Or not, perhaps, until 7th year.
And if Snape was involved, not even then.
But that’s another subject, for some other essay.
• • • •
And in any case, where the modern Trio’s disregard for the rules of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry tends to be an exercise in excessive “earnestness”, those four Marauders of 20 years ago were not slipping out of bounds in an attempt to right great wrongs or discover essential truths; breaking rules for the “greater good”, as it were. They were a classic pack of reckless little scofflaws out for thrills and the opportunity to pull off some amusing mischief.
For all that they were probably an engaging pack of young rascals, they were doing nothing admirable. Having taken the necessary steps to assure their own personal safety, they were recklessly and irresponsibly endangering everyone else’s. That of innocents’ most of all.
It is clear to me that Remus Lupin, at least, heartily repents just about every hour of that behavior by the time we met him. Indeed, I would have said that it is Lupin rather than Snape who constituted the “eternal penitent” of the series — until we got force-fed the Prince’s tale.
Lupin had at least something of substance to be penitent about.
There was certainly no air of penitence about current era Severus Snape. At least not in public. I’m still not sure he truly needs one. He certainly isn’t the only person in the series to have made a disastrous mistake by the time he was 20. And he at least chose to try to do something to attempt to make up for it.
But even Lupin doesn’t seem to have ever twigged to it that for all that he may look just like his father, Harry really isn’t all that much like James in character.
And I was sure that eventually, certain people were going to have to realize that. And not all of those people were named Snape. One of them, in fact, is named Potter.
Not that Rowling seems to think it ever needed stating in plain language.